August 26, 2015

Our Summer 2015 European Adventure - First stop, London

Earlier this year we started discussing our vacation plans and both Sean and I agreed "no big trips." We had some projects we wanted to do around the house and thought that investing our time and money into those endeavors should take precedence over a "big trip".

In February we attended the Home and Garden show and while enjoying a delicious lunch at Loulay, one of our favorite French restaurants, we both agreed that we couldn't fathom the thought of NOT going to France this year. So there you have it - a confession of just how weak and easily swayed we are. Forget about the long list of projects - who needs new bathroom flooring? It can wait!

Sadly, I was unable to make miles work for business class tickets this trip, so we plunked down the cost of a new arm and leg on coach tickets. Since our eventual destination was Nice, France and there's really no direct route there, I was finding flight schedules that required us to change planes several times and that did not sound like a good time to me. So I decided a direct flight from Seattle to a European city would suffice and we could then get ourselves to Nice from there, so that's how we looped in a few days in London. Sean has never been to London so I thought that would be a nice departure for him since he can actually understand the language and read the menus.

We did upgrade on Delta to "Economy Comfort" which landed us in a bulkhead with plenty of leg room. It was well worth the $250 and we passed the time during the 9-1/2 hour flight easily between watching movies, reading, doing puzzles and sleeping. We landed at Heathrow at 1:10 PM local time and didn't feel too bad. After clearing customs and collecting our luggage we were off on the underground towards our apartment in Chelsea. Although I hadn't planned this convenience, the tube stop nearest our apartment was on the Picadilly line, a direct line from Heathrow, so it was lovely to not have to change trains anywhere.

I found our apartment rental on VRBO. It was fairly small (330 s.f.), but just fine for the two of us and had all the modern conveniences we could want. I paid £640 for 4 nights, which is about $1,004, which is a big chunk of change for lodging and much more than I would normally pay for a nightly rate, but London is very expensive against the US dollar. You can view our flat here.

By the time we got situated in the apartment, it was almost 3:30 PM and food was calling. We found a nice pub down the street and had a pint and some much needed nourishment.

The weather was partly cloudy with a threat of rain. Unfortunately, the weather forecast had changed from being warm and sunny during our stay in London to wet and rainy. After our meal, we headed to the grocery store that was conveniently a block from our flat and bought some supplies for our stay.

We were really dragging our feet by the time we arrived back at the apartment and a nap was high on our list of activities. As much as you try and avoid the whole jet lag thing, it's inevitable it seems. We easily fell asleep and forced ourselves to get back up two hours later. After a shower and some coffee, we both felt much better, but still a little foggy.

As typical for me, sleep was evasive that first night in Europe. I was awake again at 1:30 AM after only sleeping for less than 4 hours. I passed the time between 1:30 AM and 6:00 AM getting some work done and found myself back in bed for another 4 hours at 6:00 AM. I was a little alarmed when I awoke and it was already 10:00 AM; seemed kind of wasteful given our long list of things we wanted to see and do during our brief stay.

The weather forecast looked like rain would hold off during much of the day so we thought this was our best shot at an open bus tour. I always enjoy these "hop on, hop off" bus tours. It provides a nice overview of the city (without walking miles) and I always learn things about certain landmarks and neighborhoods that I might not have otherwise.

This particular tour included a "live" guide as opposed to the headset kind and he was quite hilarious in his commentary. He filled up our time stuck in traffic with some interesting facts about London that you probably wouldn't find in many guide books.

Cock Lane, near Holborn Viaduct, didn’t get its name due to any association with poultry, but because it was the only street to be licensed for prostitution in medieval times. Other unusual street names in London include Ha Ha Road in Greenwich, Hooker’s Road in Walthamstow, Quaggy Walk in Blackheath, and Cyclops Mews. Street names that sadly no longer exist include Shiteburn Lane, Pissing Alley, and more than one Gropecunt Lane, which as the name might suggest, was associated with prostitution. We snickered every time we were on the Tube and the voiceover indicated we were on a train bound for "Cockfosters." Yes, we are 12.

The nursery rhyme Pop Goes the Weasel refers to the act of pawning one's suit after spending all one's cash in the pubs of Clerkenwell.

The Beatles played their last gig on the roof of Apple Corps at 3 Saville Row. It’s now an Abercrombie & Fitch store.

London has some really interesting architecture. One of their newest skyscrapers has been dubbed the "walkie talkie." You can see it in the picture below on the far right. Then there's the famous bullet-shaped building the locals call "the gherkin" because it was originally lit up with green lights like a pickle.


We also saw some interesting "public art" in some of the parks and squares. Apparently local artists can exhibit their art pieces in these public spaces as a way of advertising they are for sale.

We finished our bus tour and had returned to our apartment just about the perfect time before the rain started. You can view some of our London photos here.

Cheerio mates!


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