We visited fourteen cities during our Europe trip. The only city I don’t need to visit again is Brussels. But in the defense of that city, it was the last stop on our tour. In fact, it was probably the best city to visit last because we didn’t feel any pressure to see anything. We could just relax and enjoy the mussels, fries, and waffles.
Our first city didn’t allow us to relax. London could take years to explore. While we used our time wisely and saw quite a bit, the list is much longer of things we didn’t see compared to what we did see. That’s what return trips are for.
London is the perfect first city for an American visiting Europe because there is only an accent barrier. The tube is very easy to use even it if is a bit expensive. Taxis are a great way to travel because the drivers have to go through a great amount of training to become a cabbie. Public museums are all free. In other words, it’s a very accessible city for a foreigner.
When we arrived in London, we had been up for about 24 hours. Cristina slept a little on the plane; I didn’t sleep at all. After we got through with customs, we went to the underground station at Heathrow. Luckily, two tourists were returning home but still had a day on their travel card (however, we recommend the Oyster Card as it is pay as you go) so they gave them us. I think we both knew at that point fortune was smiling at us on this trip. We knew we were going to be ok.
Our hotel was right next to the Euston station. I mean right across the street. We immediately went take showers to refresh ourselves. We were determined to stay up until at least seven or eight London time. We knew if we took a nap, jet lag would be a major problem. We had to get out of the hotel, so we headed to the Victoria Station. We were taking a tour the next day, and I figured it would be a good idea to see where we needed to be the next morning. Also, Victoria station is in a nice starting point to see some sites. It was a little chilly out, high 50’s, and it was misting quite a bit. This was another fortunate thing because the weather helped keep us alert and awake. After finding the bus station, we walked to Buckingham Palace. It wasn’t crowded at the time, so it was easy just to walk right up and take pictures. This was, by the way, my first time out of the country, unless you count Shreveport as another country. I wish I was a good enough writer to tell you what I was feeling the moment I saw the palace and the guards. Basically it was a “oh my god this is really happening” type of feeling. I studied history in college with a focus on European history. This was really one of those moments I had waited my whole life for.
We then walked to the area of Big Ben getting to see #10 Downing Street on the way. We got a bite to eat at a small café that may or may not have been called Churchill’s. I got fish and chips; Cristina may have ordered the chicken. At this point we were so tired we were both getting a little delirious. We made it back to the hotel, and around 7:30, with the help of Tylenol PM, a deep sleep found us. The next morning we were refreshed and ready to see London.
Cristina’s sister Cara and her husband were with us for the next day. We had signed up for a tour that included a trip on the London Eye. Luckily, our tour guide was excellent. First stop was the Tower of London. Cristina has given enough money to Philippa Gregory for the author to buy half of Wales which means this was a very exciting moment for Cristina. Our yeoman was very knowledgeable and told us how to make best of our limited time. We did get to see all the parts of the tower we wanted (and were allowed) to see. We then took a river cruise on the Thames which was great for picture-taking. After viewing the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, we then had lunch at the Saint near St. Paul’s Cathedral. I ordered a crayfish salad sandwich (menu spelling not mine) which was better than I expected. Cristina ordered a meat and cheese board. In all the research I did the one thing I didn’t come across was that when you order lemonade in England you will get a Sprite. We then went in to St. Paul’s. Our tickets included a visit to the Whispering Gallery. A climb of two hundred and fifty-four steps. Seriously, for those of you looking for advice for your own European vacation, I have two words: stair master. At the top, we did separate and we said the word “New Orleans.” Why New Orleans? Because every other couple was saying I love you and we want to make sure that this thing worked, that’s why. After driving through the city, we then went to the London Eye.
Now, I didn’t mention this when talking about the gallery, but I’m afraid of heights. Actually, I’m afraid of falling. Unless I’m enclosed, heights are a scary thing for me. However, the London Eye wasn’t horrible. Actually, I highly recommend it. In fact, pay the extra money and get a fast pass. The lines can be very long. The views are breathtaking.
We then went eat in the theater district with my future in-laws at a Garfunkel’s. The food was ok but like the website says it tries to be all things to all people. That doesn’t really seem like a good idea. We parted ways with Cara and Darin and headed back to the hotel on foot. This was a great idea. We got to see pretty much all of West End. We wanted to see a play but we were tired and the next day we would be heading to the English country side to see Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath.