Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My Trip to England (Part 1)

When I was a very little girl and started to learn about far away places, I think it was then that I first became enamored with the idea of England. Dickens, Austen, Chaucer, Shakespeare all filled my head with thoughts of a magical place full of possibilities. So when I was invited to attend ScR@P! as an instructor for Carta Bella Paper I was more than a little excited.

You already know all the back and forth it took to get me there. Tracie Hudson worked magic to put together an amazing event and it was at her convincing that I finally decided to try to make the trip work. I am so glad I did.

Day 1:

We left for the airport the afternoon of November 7th. I typically prefer to fly as early in the morning as possible, but after our initial flights were cancelled we took whatever the airline could get for us. And actually I liked having the ability to finish up laundry, clean up the house, and do a final packing check before heading to the airport. We arrived two hours early in case there were any concerns as I have never flown internationally before (this was my first trip out of the country). The little girl in me loved showing security my passport all fresh and new just waiting for its very first stamp. We sailed through security and then had a long wait at the gate.


This time Brett was the nervous Nelly and I felt calm and excited. As you know, I am NOT a fan of flying; but I think the destination helped me feel more excited than worried.



We boarded the plane and then were off to Minneapolis. I was asleep before the plane even took off, and before I knew it we were landing. With only a 45 minute layover, we knew we wouldn't have much time to wait but as we walked from the exit of our plane to the waiting area for the next plane, they were already boarding. Brett was a little sad that we didn't have more time as this airport offered a beautiful lounge area with the free use of several ipads (that's such a guy's perspective isn't it).

As I am not a fan of flying or heights, I only peeked out the window once on our eight hour flight to London and that was about 45 minutes before landing. Here's a peek at what I saw as we flew towards London:


Because we flew through the night, they turned off nearly all the cabin lights and kept the noise level to a minimum. The flight was great, but man those seats have gotten closer together. I'll admit I had a little fit of jealousy at the guy across the aisle from us who scored three seats together and was stretched out sleeping the entire time.

We landed in London a little after lunch time. Heathrow airport is a crazy maze of what seems to be back alley terminals. As we wound our way through the halls to customs, I wondered where we might possibly end up. But I felt refreshed and excited when I received my very first passport stamp! I had truly arrived.

We took a moment to determine where our hotel was located and hopped the Piccadilly line on the Undergound (the tube) to the Gloucester stop. I have to say that the Underground is the most clean and convenient transportation system I've ever used. Our hotel was a short eight minute walk from the stop, and everything about it was safe and easy (except for the luggage wheel that had broken off some time during the flight leaving Brett to drag a 50 pound suitcase two blocks).



The Regency hotel was everything I hoped it would be: in a beautiful neighborhood, clean, well-kept, and slightly newer. The concierge couldn't help but tease me a little that I dragged my own pillow across the globe. Yes. I really did. I take traveling very seriously (or sleeping while I'm traveling) despite the pillow being an embarrassment to my husband. Hey, you have to do whatever makes traveling easier, and for me it's a big honkin' pillow.

After checking in, we were starving so we found a local restaurant serving Italian food. We saw so many Italian restaurants in London. In fact I heard English spoken less in London than I hear here at home. It is quite the metropolis.

We tried very hard to stay up per many people's recommendations, but by around 7 or 8 p.m. we were spent and both fell asleep.

Day 2:

We woke around 8:30 a.m. and decided that we wanted to take a double-decker bus tour around the city to get a feel for the area and what we might want to explore later. We came prepared for the cold, but it was far colder than this homebody was prepared for. Of course I made Brett sit on the upper deck beside me with the open roof. How can you truly see a city like London without the ability to look up and around? He must love me because about an hour into the tour we were both icicles.

 (We actually took the "Big Bus Tour," but this is similar to what we rode.)

During our tour we passed some of the following sites:


Hyde Park


Iconic Telephone Booths


The Marble Arch


Piccadilly Market (the one place I didn't get back to and wish I could have had more time)


My first view of Trafalgar Square


Lord Nelson's Statue


The famous lions and fountains at Trafalgar Square


Street after street full of architecture like this


My very first glimpse of Big Ben and the point at which I started to feel a little emotional.

At this point the rain began to turn from a light mist to a more determined rainfall, so we took the bus stop near the London Eye so I could stop and get a photo like this:

We spent a while here. I didn't mind the rain. I was in London! I was in a place that was exactly how I dreamed it would be and hoped for my entire life. Visions of Peter Pan leading Wendy and Michael past the clock in the dead of night ran through my head and I couldn't help but smile. The place is truly magical.

Across the river was this amazing building. I kept thinking how much my Dad would have loved to have seen all the architecture being an Interior Designer/Planner. He would have enjoyed all of it.


It began to get dark and a little cold so we took the bus back to the stop nearest our hotel. Not quite ready to call it a night, we walked around the area of South Kensington a bit more. We discovered the Royal Albert Hall. If you  haven't watched the movie "Young Victoria," you will want to before visiting London. I was enamored with all the places dedicated to or built by this royal couple.


It started getting dark around 4 p.m. each evening and many tourist attractions in the city close by 5 p.m. so this was the time of night we simply walked around, ate dinner, or even just recuperated in our hotel room. Before heading back to the hotel we passed the Natural History Museum all lit up. It seemed as it every monument or museum had been built hundreds of years before and looked much like castles themselves.


Outside the museum, there was a an ice skating rink and carousel which would have been fun if we'd had more time.



We made a final stop at Harrod's the famous shopping center. After only five minutes inside the store, I was completely lost and feeling claustrophobic. I've never been in such a large store before, and it was packed with people from every where in the world shopping for expensive watches, to beautiful clothing, to high-end perfume, and even delicious chocolate and food. This was not my favorite place as it was too crowded and hard to find things, but it's something everyone should visit if only for the shop windows and amazing wares sold inside.




After a long day of walking, the cold, the rain, and seeing so many amazing things my head was spinning, so we retired to our room for some much needed rest with a plan to finish the rest of the bus tour the following day so we could see more of the sites we had yet to visit. Already after 24 hours I am amazed at all the history we've seen.

22 comments:

  1. So happy for you! What a wonderful trip (you're making me a little teary!) I can't wait to hear about more of your adventures!

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    1. It made me teary too, Ruth. :)

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  2. Me, too, Jen!! I am all teary eyed and so very happy for you. Such neat photos. I chuckled about the pillow, and totally understand. I am so glad you had a good time and can't wait to read more.

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    1. My husband shakes his head every time I drag that pillow on a plane. But then I'm the one who actually sleeps so oh well. LOL!

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  3. So happy for you Jen!

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  4. WOW! These photos are amazing! Hope to see some of them on your layouts now! :)

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    1. Anya, I'm thinking an entire album might be in order.

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  5. Glad you enjoyed our beautiful city. We loved going to Harrods christmas department as kids.

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    1. Mel, it's one of my favorite places on earth. I couldn't help but fall in love with it. :)

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  6. So fun to follow your adventures through London!

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  7. So happy for you Jen! I can actually see you bubbling with excitement as I read your blog. I can't wait to read about the rest of your trip!

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    1. Thanks for reading it, Paula. It's fun to share in my excitement.

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  8. So happy to hear about your trip! Sorry the weather was yucky, but it looks like you had a blast. We went in freezing cold temps in February 1998 with a shoestring budget as young newlyweds. We could only afford a cheap, drafty hotel that shared a bathroom with other guests so I'm hoping to go again for our 20th anniversary in a couple years and see it in a warmer season with a nicer hotel. :)

    P.S. I usually bring a pillow from home when I travel too. Sounds like you did much better with the jet lag that we usually do. I can remember consistently falling asleep at 5 or 6pm and then want to wake up at 4 or 5am, way before breakfast was available. ;)

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    1. Mendi, I deliberately stayed up really, really late so that wouldn't happen. But now I'm waking at 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. and am exhausted just a few hours later. But I can't complain can I? :)

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  9. Great pictures Jen. Will follow your story with interest
    Love
    Mary Queen of Scots.........Just so you know who I am

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    1. My "Warwick" castle friend (said in my best Scottish accent). :)

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  10. Lovin the photos Jen - so glad we made the magic happen xxxx

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  11. Hi,You go to England is easy. I want to see you come to Brazil, and to come here just to see me.

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  12. It is probably the longest post of yours I've read. It had to be a great trip for you))
    I don't remember London tube (but I do remember their city trains - there were no drivers in them and they went sometimes over the streets and I was so-oo impressed). If you ever come to Moscow (well, who knows) you should check the metro here - it's a piece of art and a great trasport system at the same time.

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