Tuesday, July 23, 2013

DAY #9 - London, Why Not?

After watching a ton of movies on the flight from Johannesburg to London, we finally landed in Heathrow around 7:15am. We had around 8.5 hours to kill (which we scheduled on purpose), so we wasted no time getting off the plane and planning our next step. The best part was that we had checked our luggage all the way through to Los Angeles, so we didn't have to wait for a baggage carousel to spit out the bags, then go find a locker to store them. Nope, Julie thought of it all, and already had her iPad out and ready to guide us to the hub of London.

We jumped on the Heathrow Express to get into town, then we jumped on to the Tube and made our way to Westminster to see the most iconic of all London landmarks - Big Ben. As soon as we got out of the Tube station, we were hit with some warm weather (and it was still only 8:00 in the morning. We walked around the surrounding area, doing the touristy taking photos of the Parliament building, some statues and cathedrals. From there we walked down to Trafalgar Square where we went in search of Julie's favorite thing - snacks. We stopped at a local cafe chain and grabbed a pastry and some juice and walked over to the fountain in Trafalgar Square and did some people watching.

Kinda odd that the only Nelson Mandela statue we saw was in London...

Big Ben

Beautiful building in London

Not wanting to waste any time, we finished our snack and started walking down the beautiful streets and alleyways that led us to the main street that looks straight down to Buckingham Palace. We angled left and walked through the park along the water, watching as people fed birds, napped on the grass and enjoyed the nice weather. The park was extremely quiet and peaceful. We followed the pathway all the way to Buckingham Palace, where there was an inordinate amount of people standing around as if they were waiting for something. We at first thought maybe the Prince and his wife Kate had their baby, but that wasn't it. We never did find out what it was, but Julie, having been there before, said it was way more people than she had seen last time she was there.

What's wrong with this picture?

Buckingham Palace

We sat down in the neighboring park and planned our next move. Julie had done a ton of research in the lounge at Gomo Gomo before we left, and did something that I thought was incredibly smart. She knew we most likely would not have WiFi walking around the streets of London, so every Google Map or website she pulled up, she took a screenshot and saved it as an image on her iPad. She had about 25 pages of websites and maps saved, and it made it very easy for us to navigate around town. We jumped on the nearest Tube station and set out for St. Paul's Cathedral.

Being there on a Sunday, St. Paul's Cathedral was not fully accessible as there was a mass while we were there. We were able to go inside and see the intricate architecture, stained-glass and rich history seeping out of the walls. After a short tour, we walked down to Leadenhall Market, the area that supposedly served as the inspiration for Diagon Alley, the magical street in Harry Potter. Unfortunately, being a Sunday, it was completely deserted, and we didn't quite get the effect we were hoping for with the hustle and bustle of the local businesses.

Blue trees outside St. Paul's Cathedral

We made a quick walk down to the water where we were able to see the London Bridge. The weather was getting increasingly hot, and the jet-lag was slowly starting to set in for me. We made the decision to ride the Tube back to the airport, go find one of the nice restaurants inside and have dinner, then wait for our flight.

Lego map of the Tube stations!

We boarded our flight with no issue, and before we knew it we were on our way back to Los Angeles. Julie slept a bit, and I watched another four movies to pass the 11 hours of the flight. After a long flight, some frequent trips to stand and stretch my legs, some bad airline food, and weak attempts at napping, we finally landed in Los Angeles. We made our way through customs relatively quickly, and then the moment of truth came...

Would we get our luggage?

For those of that know our travel history, my only two international flights have resulted in the airlines losing at least one piece of our luggage. So as we sat there, watching more and more bags spit out of the baggage carousel, are suspicions began to rise. But then, as if a mirage, our two bags popped out within seconds of each other, and we had everything that belonged to us! A minor victory seems so much more important when you're jetlagged and wanting to get out of the airport.

After an uncharacteristically long shuttle ride back to our car (the airport was slammed and our driver had to make more stops), we got to our car, loaded the trunk, and settled in for the two-hour drive home. It didn't take long for the wife to fall asleep, and I would be lying if I said I didn't have to slap myself in the face a couple times on the drive to keep me awake as well. But we hit no traffic and the drive was very easy. We pulled up to our house around 10:30pm on Sunday night, after having left Gomo Gomo Saturday afternoon (and gained nine hours in the process). 

It was the trip of a lifetime. Neither of us would do anything different if we did it all over again. We had great food, great people and great experiences over the entire trip, and within days of being home, it didn't take Julie long to ask the question...

"So where do we want to go next?"

No comments:

Post a Comment