Thursday, May 24, 2012

London Times - Day 1

What can a family see in just two days in London?  A Heck of a Lot!

Day One went something like this (I was a bit zombiefied so not sure if we saw all this or just hallucinated it. ):

Photos of today are still sleeping... stay tuned.
We landed at Gatwick Airport (30 miles south of London) and took the Gatwick Express train.  {Budget Break: We had booked tickets online for only £59 for 5 tickets.  This was a fantastic deal as we learned at the train station that regular individual tickets cost around 20 pounds each.}  The train almost lulled us to dreamland after our sleepless 8-hour flight, but luckily, it was only a 30-minute ride.  Though extremely exhausted, we navigated customs, the national train system, the tube, and checked in to our hotel near Euston Station within 3 hours of arriving in the UK.  {Budget Break: We stayed at a Travelodge, which is slightly above a youth hostel.  Needing only a quiet place to sleep for two nights, they provided a small, but clean room with double and sofa beds and a private bath for £225 total.}

After fighting the urge to collapse in the room, we lunched on bangers and mash and fish and chips, and then headed for Westminster Abbey.  Again on the Tube with our handy one-day travel cards (£20.40 for 2 adult’s, 2 child’s, and Emma free) we exited at the Westminster station coming up with Big Ben looming directly above us.  Seeing this icon of London restored our energy.  We strolled along the Thames with incredible views of the London Eye and Houses of Parliament.  As we walked towards the Abbey we dodged many people, Londoners and tourists alike, enjoying the beautiful 80ยบ day.
At almost a thousand years old, Westminster Abbey is not to be missed.  Its medieval architecture and iconic carvings are enough to entertain a visitor for hours, but combined with the history of the building, we found ourselves wandering from room to room in a state of silent awe.  Tickets (£38 for 5) included a handheld audio tour.  Hypnotized by Jeremy Irons’ calm voice directing us to each important vestry or statue, we viewed Queen Elizabeth I’s grave, complete with death mask, and Mary, Queen of Scots’ final resting place in the tomb opposite.  Although beheaded for treason by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, Mary’s son (James I) became king at Elizabeth’s death.  He then erected a tomb for his mom as large as her executioner’s.  He who laughs last…  This is just one of hundreds of stories from history that are housed in Westminster Abbey.  Anabel and Emma were more interested the resent event of Will and Kate’s wedding that took place in the Abbey on Anabel’s birthday last year and Wyatt and Greg loved listening to the ongoing choir practice near the narthex.  I couldn’t believe we were actually here!

After spending almost three hours touring the Abbey, we drifted out to the street heading towards Victoria Station hoping to make it to the room before we keeled over.  We took the number 73 bus instead of the tube so we could continue to sightsee as we traveled.  Sitting atop a red double decker bus, we spotted many of the preparations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee- Union Jacks everywhere, crowns atop lampposts, and crowd-control barricades.  We rode through the City of Westminster up to our temporary base of Euston Station.

We ended our 33 hours without sleep by going to bed without supper and crashing in our room at 6pm.  Did any of this happen or was it all a dream? (Strangely enough, our camera did not work on the pictures with us in them... cue Twilight Zone music...)

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