Two weeks…fourteen days…January 31st through February 14th, flights are all wide open, which is good for those like us who fly standby. No seats available equals no trip.
Luckily there are seats available for my family of seven.
We have a nine-hour flight ahead of us. We are going to London first, then Ireland, Amsterdam, and Paris. It is the trip of a lifetime. The best parts? I’ll take you on the trip with us. We all packed in backpacks and don’t really have a clue what we are doing. Technically we are backpacking through Europe. I have always dreamed of this!
February 1st, 10:23 am (4:23 am in Arlington, TX)
After landing at London Heathrow, we take the Heathrow Express to our airport hotel, to check in, drop off our bags, and decide what to do first. By the time we are ready to head out, it is noon in London, six in the morning at home.
All of us hop on the tube, London’s version of New York’s subway, and ride it for 40 minutes to Westminster Abbey. The gothic church is absolutely stunning. The architecture is a work of art in itself. Although I am sure it is just as amazing inside, the street-view alone is enough. It is mesmerizing to think that we are actually all here together looking at this famous historical sight.
From Westminster, you can turn 90 degrees and see Parliament. Big Ben is attached to the Parliament building, unfortunately however, it is under construction for a “makeover”. Luckily, I have seen it before. Big Ben truly is all it is made up to be.
Having been on the move for so long with little sleep and nothing to eat, we are starving (and dozing off). I pull out my phone and map us to the nearest restaurant. We start walking to a little place called “Grand Caffé Concerto” with really no idea of what it is. After a few blocks we arrive, and the restaurant is decked out with fancy golden chandeliers. It was way too fancy for our dragging feet and layers of wind-breakers, but we were desperate for energy and food was the key.
Kyle, Dad, and Katy order fish and chips… we are in England, so that was a given. The rest of us got burgers dressed with Pesto sauce, much to our surprise. We would soon learn that Pesto is a British favorite; they put it on everything. Another big thing in London is their “tomato sauce.” If there was a spectrum with hot sauce at one end and ketchup at the other, this concoction would be smack in the middle.
After eating, we make a beeline back to the hotel, more than ready to hit the hay.
And we do, immediately.
February 2nd, 3:46 pm (9:46 am)
Back on the metro. A very late start. We all have a serious case of jet lag.
We go to Kensington Palace, where Prince William and Kate Middleton live. It is beautiful there. Walking through the gardens and seeing all quite a few people on their afternoon jogs or bike rides. The biggest difference between them and us, is that we are freezing and they seem completely fine. Seriously… it is FREEZING. The rain is cold, the wind is cold, my nose is cold. But when on the other side of the world you suck it up and bear it for the sake of being on the other side of the world.
My family is not good at planning ahead, we are known for doing things very last minute. So of course, we decide we want to see a Broadway musical… tonight. Dad and I pull out our phones and begin frantically searching for cheap tickets to Wicked while Mom and my siblings are looking in Harrods. The show starts in two hours. Thankfully, we find tickets.
I call Kara and tell her to meet us outside at the stop-light. We begin the race to The Apollo Victoria, the theater where Wicked is showing. Remember, it’s freezing and now dark outside, and we have to take the tube/walk on foot. Walking into the theater catching our breath we get in line for the tickets.
It is 6:38… 52 minutes till show time.
My cousin Hailey is studying abroad in London this semester and she is a theater major. If we are all here we might as well see if she can come, right?
I text her, asking if she wants to join us and purchase a ticket for her.
She almost immediately responds with, “Yes please!” and hurries to get ready. At 7:01 she gives us an ETA of 25 minutes. From her flat, she has to change trains to get to the theater.
She makes it with 9 minutes to spare.
The show is incredible, as always. I highly advise seeing it, no matter where you are. My 12-year-old brother, Kaden might say otherwise, though. He falls asleep during Act One. And then again after intermission.
February 3rd, 7:57 am (1:57 am)
Everyone is packed for our flight to Ireland tonight, which we actually just booked last night. We are checking out this morning but the hotel is letting us leave our bags here while we are in the city.
Today we are hitting the sights, as quickly as possible. Hailey is meeting us. It is literally a walk-by and move-on kind of day. We see the London Bridge, a big grey stone bridge with bright turquoise accents. It is actually the same thing as Tower Bridge.
The Tower of London, is on the North-western side of Tower Bridge. It is where the crown jewels are kept. The Tower of London has had many purposes over the years since it was built but is now a museum. The London Eye is on the opposite side of Tower Bridge, on the South shore of the Thames river. The London Eye is a giant 443 feet tall Ferris wheel, the second tallest in the world. It is a huge tourist attraction because of the view of the city. While we are walking around we decide to eat at the Sherlock Holmes pub, which we just happen to walk past. Kyle is a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, so he is ecstatic. Inside, it has posters and news clippings on the wall that correlate with the book, movies, and TV show.
The restaurant is set up as though Sherlock Holmes and all of his adventures are real. On the second floor, behind our booth, there is a room set up like a crime scene, which is actually kind of creepy, yet really interesting at the same time. On our way back to the metro station, we run into a march for the NHS which we think has something to do with low wages for Nurses, but we are not entirely sure.
We say bye to Hailey and get on the tube. It’s back to the hotel for our bags, then to the airport.
We’re off to Ireland, the next leg of the trip, which will be recorded in my next vacation log. I have to turn on airplane mode now, talk to you when we land!