Back when Kelli was a high school freshman, neither of
us had yet to travel outside of the United States.
And a short trip into Canada while visiting Niagara
Falls when I was younger doesn't qualify. So I made
a deal with her. As a graduation gift, she could pick
anywhere in the world for a vacation and that's where
we would go. Over the years, her destination selection
changed numerous times. First it was France. Then
it was Italy. Then Japan. As she entered her senior
year, I put on my Regis Philbin hat and told her that
she was going to have to come up with her "final
answer", since I would soon have to begin buying
plane tickets and mapping out our plans. Finally, she
decided upon Great Britain. That sounded great to me,
if at least because we'd be able to understand and speak
the native language. So we bought ourselves a copy of
Rick Steves' Guide to Great Britain and London, and
started planning our itinerary. We decided to spend
our first five days in the London area, and our final
five days in other parts of the U.K. We would have
prefered to stay longer abroad, but our budget was not
unlimited, and we knew we'd be facing a big college bill
just a few months after our return as well.
So ten days was all we felt we could
reasonably afford. We researched our guide book, and
I spent many countless hours scouring the Internet for
sight-seeing tips, hotel suggestions, and transportation.
I decided early on that I did not want to drive
in Great Britain (driving on the left-hand side is just
plain wrong, man!), so we would have to use
public transportation (subways, trains, buses, taxis)
in order to get to places outside walking distance.
Eventually, after many months of work, our tickets were
purchased, our hotels confirmed, and it was time to make
some lasting memories together!
As much as I would have preferred to fly out of BWI
(it's just fifteen minutes away), there weren't any
direct flights to London from that airport. Therefore,
we were forced to fly out of Dulles International
instead. I wasn't keen on paying the ten-bucks-per-day
fee for overnight airport parking, so I called up a
buddy of mine who lives in Reston, and worked out a plan
for me to park my car at his house during our trip.
That saved us over a hundred bucks right there!
Kelli decided she wanted it to be daytime when we landed
in London, which meant taking the red-eye at 9:45pm.
Flight time was just over seven hours, but with the five
hour time difference, it meant we would arrive at 10:00am
London time (although it would still feel like 5am to us).
And did it ever. Neither of us were able to sleep on the
plane that much, so we were both pretty tired upon landing.
We quickly got our luggage off the baggage belt, and headed
down to the airport's TI booth. A month earlier, I had
signed Kelli up for a special 16+ Oyster photo card, which
would give her special discounted rates on all the Tube
and Light Rail transportation fares. Even though I had a
confirmation number, I was worried that they might not have
her in the system due to some "we're from America" overseas
snafu. However, they found her card right away, and after
I purchased an Oyster travel card for myself, we were ready
to head to London.
I decided early on that we would stay at Bed & Breakfast
hotels rather than more expensive mainstream ones. This
was done primarily to keep lodging costs down, and also to
hopefully give our stay a more personal touch. I chose one in
central London called
Cherry Court Hotel
that had been given good reviews online.
Its website had already told us which tube line we should get
on to take us to the station nearest the hotel.
Unlike the D.C. metro system (which has the train drivers
speaking nearly unintelligable stop and destination information),
the London Underground has a pleasant pre-recorded
woman's voice telling us clearly that "This is the District
Line, with passage to Cockfosters", and our personal favorite,
"Mind the gap!".
Kevin pondering how he'll fit in the shower
Dining at Jenny Lo's Teahouse, our first meal in London!
Kelli on Westminster Bridge, with the London Eye behind her
Big Ben (well, actually the tower than contains Big Ben)
We got to hear it chime at 2 o'clock! It was loud!
Hmmmm. Which way should we go? Let's go left!
This cathedral is monstrously HUGE! Look at all the tiny people!
Getting ready to enter Westminster Abbey
Check out the carvings above the main entrace door. Simply magnificent!
"One day, I shall build a house such as this!!"
Lack of sleep has made Kelli delusional while in the College Garden