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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Europe - Summer 2012 - London

Part 1 - London

Most photos by Nat.



Our flight was a late flight to begin with, and to make it worse we took off later than scheduled. Our flight finally took off around 11:00 PM. Obviously this was an over-night flight so what sleep we got was on the plane. This first flight was in coach, so needless to say it was not exactly a restful night.

Our flight arrived at Heathrow at about 10:45. Luckily we had no trouble getting our luggage and we were quickly through customs and in a cab on our way to London. I know this is something of a stereotype, but I find it very disconcerting to drive on the "wrong" side. I also noticed something about the cabs I never noticed before (this was my second time in London) - I always assumed all of the London cabs were manufactured by the same company but they aren't. Back when New York had Checker Cabs they were all manufactured by Checker. Even though all the cabs in London look essentially the same, I noticed there are a couple of manufacturers.

Fascinating, eh?



This was the first time that the girls had a separate room from us. The rooms themselves were not bad, although the beds were a bit too firm for my taste. And the bathroom was,,, odd. And no, I'm not talking pampered-american-who-isn't-used-to-european-bathrooms odd. I mean odd odd. Anyway, after a £70 cab ride we arrived at our hotel, The Hyatt Regency Churchill. We had reserved the room using Andie's Hyatt points. We actually had to get two rooms for the four of us and we notedLike the flush lever on the toilet was behind the lid so that you had to put the lid down to flush. And there was a sprayer in the sink. What the hell is that for? And the shower was very confusing - made even worse by the fact that you could not move the nozzle, making the act of taking a shower a unique challenge.


These guys were in the hotel. Don't ask...

After our long, tiring flight we were in no mood to figure out lunch so we the easy way out and ate in the hotel. Usually a mistake and this time was no exception. The food was not awful but it certainly wasn't great, and as you would expect from hotel food it was grossly overpriced. I had fish 'n chips wish was greasy. The fries were also cold, but they were stacked like a Jenga game! Charlotte insisted on taking one from the bottom of the stack. The tower did not topple. Before leaving the hotel we stopped by the concierge to get tickets for the London Eye.



After lunch we headed out to do some site-seeing. It was a beautiful day with a clear blue sky. A work colleague of mine from out London office had provided me with something of a touring plan that would allow us to see many of the highlights of London. With this plan in hand we headed out of the hotel and grabbed a cab. Keeping with the plan we had the cab take us to Downing Street. On the way we passed Buckingham Palace. This turned out to be a good thing.





The cab dropped us off at Downing Street where we were able to see... pretty much nothing. But, we did see 10 Downing Street in there somewhere... After that we walked to Horse Guard Parade to visit with the guards. I have to say it bugs me a bit that so many people walk right up to the guards to have pictures taken - I mean they do have a job to do. Our touring plan called for us to walk through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace, but they were constructing a venue for the Olympics and we could not get through. Later, as we watched the Olympics, we would learn it was the Beach Volleyball venue. Actually, a policeman said we should still be able to walk through the park and we did try but we only got a little way.




We toyed with walking down Birdcage to Buckingham Palace, but it was crowded, hot and  honestly after our long walk we just didn't feel like it. We were also concerned that we would not make it to the London Eye in time for our reservation. So it was a good thing we saw the palace from the cab. Instead we walked down to Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. I have to say that I think that collection of building is one of the most impressive and beautiful I've seen.














We then walked across the Westminster Bridge to the London Eye. We used our vouchers to get our tickets and were about to be escorted into something they called a "4D Experience" but we said we would skip that and instead got in line to board the Eye. We went outside and could not believe how long the line was. It looked like we would be in line for at least two hours. I asked one of the attendants how long they expected the wait to be and they said "about 15 minutes. Maybe 20" I was very skeptical, but we got in line. And you know what? It took about 20 minutes, much to my surprise. So here is a tip - the line for the London Eye goes very fast.



If you visit London, the London Eye is something I highly recommend. The view is amazing!




After our ride on the eye we toyed with the idea of taking a ferry to the Tower Bridge, but it was getting close to dinner time so we decided to head off for dinner. Using Happy Cow Nat located Mildred's Vegetarian Restaurant in Soho. This place was excellent! The ambiance was nothing terribly special but the food was amazing. Sorry, I did not make a note of what we had but it was very good. I you are in London and looking for a good vegetarian place to eat you can't go wrong here.

After eating I started fading fast. I was literally falling asleep while sitting there. The ladies were not ready to call it a night just yet (it was still early), so I caught a cab back to the hotel and they agreed to join me later.

I went back to the hotel and pretty much fell asleep right away. Andie and the girls came back about an hour later but by then i was out cold. They would later tell me that they went to Carnaby Street.

Well, that was the end of our day in London. Next up Santorini!


Next up, Santorini
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