Saturday, October 3, 2009
Many heartfelt thanks for your warm welcome back! Funny how the super-electronic blogging highway can seem so vast yet simultaneously provide wonderfully cheerful, friendly relationships. Mahalo.
This trip to London provided an older sister and me a continuation of our travels together, something began in 2004 when we first traveled together to Spain visiting my daughter who was studying abroad. This second grand adventure was additionally special for me because it gave me the opportunity to spend time in a fun and sisterly way with someone dear who has experienced many health issues over the past few years.
Just as Churchill orchestrated England's march of troops in the war, we diligently set out to see as much as we could in 8 days. I was the greenhorn to London; she had been there numerous times. So, calculating which tube stops and which sites were in strategic proximity to assure maximum London coverage, we were determined to 'take' London and see all we could within that time frame. And, still leave time to visit a niece, see a play (Lion King - exceptionally done), and even get to Windsor Castle and the Eton School. Oh, even squeezed in a high tea too. A fete accompli!
My observations: The city is super clean, the people are refreshingly polite (they like 'order'), the tubes are easy to get around in and are clearly marked (got a tube map that became my 'bible'). We bought a three-day pass on the tube line - not sure if it's cheaper but it's a lot more convenient. We also bought online prior to the trip a London Pass, which provided a bit of a discount but, more importantly, saved time in lines. The only downside to London is that it is so darn expensive! I mean $75 for entrance for 3 adults into Windsor Palace? The best bargain is live theatre. We paid $65 for an equivalent of 'orchestra' seats. That's about 1/2 of NYC and Boston prices.
Hint: Fortnum & Mason (near Piccadilly) for tea one afternoon at my sister's suggestion - not as exorbitantly priced as other places - many locals and businessmen there - was a refreshing respite from 'touring'.
Even spent time in Harrod's - didn't buy a thing! Caroused the ares of Mayfair, Shepherd's Market, Covent Gardens and Leicester Square. Ate at a few pubs, but truthfully I'm more a wine drinker than a beer drinker (see Gratitude Friday post). Spent time in Surrey, where a niece lives so was afforded the opportunity of somewhat 'living like a local'. It certainly gave you a perspective of a resident - more later on Thames Ditton, the area of Surrey we stayed.
I think it's best to photo essay some of the highlights of our trip in separate posts. In the meantime, a sampling of our itinerary included the palaces and gardens of Hampton (Henry the VIII's summer playground - always intriguing), Kensington, Windsor and the changing of the guard at Buckingham; Eton school, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, British Museum, St. Pauls, and the Churchill Museum.
The grandeur of the palaces, stateliness of the statues and monuments, and the respect for a monarchy that seems a little fairytale to me certainly left an indelible mark.