Well I am home! Actually I have been home for a week now but thanks to the recirculated air on the plane ride home, I caught myself some lovely germs and have been sick - BLAH! VACATION was worth this cold though!
Here is a summary of the trip broken in to 2-day segments or I will never get this all out ! Pictures to follow this weekend...
WED: July 4th
After a 24 hour delay (Nice try terrorists) we finally found ourselves sitting in the terminal at Dulles International Airport, waiting to board BUSINESS CLASS on British Airway! We had voluntarily paid more for Economy Plus having flown in coach in 2004 on AIR FRANCE and decided more legroom was worth a few hundred dollars over two trans-atlantic 8 hour flights.
So how did we end up in BUSSINESS CLASS? Luck of the draw, sympathy for a re-booked flight, the booking agent at the desk was in a good mood? We don't really know but we were very happy! Needless to say, the flight was perfect! The champagne flowed freely, our meals were served with silverware and glasses and the seats reclined to a bed. I actually slept comfortably on a plane for the first time in my life. Definately a great way to start our vacation!
THURS: July 5th
We arrived at Heathrow at 7AM London time (2AM EST), we expidited through customs quickly (another Bussiness Class perk) and went straight to baggage claim. As we waited for our bags, we talked with some fellow passangers who were also upgraded to Business Class. Turns out they lived less than a mile from us in Alexandria AND they were in London to see the Tour as well. It's a small world after all!!
WIth bags in tow, we stopped by the AMEX Currency Exchange, got enough cash to get us started and followed signs for the UNDERGROUND (aka the Tube or the London Metro system). Being savy DC Metro commuters and having mastered the METRO in Paris, Jim and I had no fear of the UNDERGROUND. We bought ourselves two seven-day passes for Zones 1&2, where we would spend most of our time while in London, and a one-way fair to get us to our hotel and off we went.
We were at Victoria Station in less than 40 minutes and Jim pulled out the Garmin GPS to get our bearings and very quickly we were walking the half mile to our hotel. The Luna Simone Hotel was exactly what we had hoped for. While the room was small (one double bed and a private bath), it was clean and the price was just right. Our room was on the front of the building so the traffic was a bit loud at times but most nights we were so tired, we never really heard it for very long. The other perk to the Luna Simone was that is was a 10 minute walk to the Metro, there was a BUS stop right outside the hotel and it smack dab in the middle of Westmister-Victoria section of London. It turns out, this is quite the expensive little neighborhood to live in, even now a days, because back in the day, anybody who was anybody lived in Westminter to be near the Queen. (Queen Victoria that is....). Even today, the neighborhoods we strolled though were riddled with nothing but BMWs, Volvos, Mercedes and Porshes. Jim had no lack of verhicles to admire.
We took it very easy on Thursday, choosing to simply wander the neighborhoods, finding the local Bank ATMs and the grocery store. We knew it would take a little time to adjust to the time change. We wandered about for a bit and then went back to the room to consult our guide books and decide on dinner. We picked a local Wine Bar & Resturant that was listed in our book, called ahead for a table, and then headed out into the London weather. It was classic, 60F and light sprinkles of rain. With umbrellas in hand, we made our way to the resturant. We sat and had an excellent dinner. We both got glasses of a great Argentinian Malbec and Jim had the fixed price meal while I went straight for my first serving of "Bangers and Mash" (Pork and Herb Sausages with Mash Potatoes and a Onion Gravy). The meals were wonderful and our waitor gave us some great tips on how to adjust to the time (stay up as late as you can manage tonight) and the recommendation that we stick to the local, small resturants and pubs if we want to have some great meals.
We managed to stay up until 10:30pm, not too bad when you consider that the sun sets at 10PM when you are that much closer to the north pole in summer.