As I mentioned, I had a few meetings left at the office but Mom was ready to sightsee. We walked together to my office and she ventured on her own for breakfast and city photos. On your own getaway, it’s important to remember that it’s OK to separate! Many times, you’ll learn more about the city when you are forced to venture alone, and let’s face it, not everyone will always want to see the same sights. Mom took advantage of the alone time and visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is actually right across the street from my office. I’ve passed by the Cathedral many times and it took Mom to visit once to learn that this is the church where Lady Diana and Prince Charles were married. Way cool!
After my meetings, we headed straight to Oxford Street! Oxford Street is the busiest shopping area in London. Picture New York’s Time Square on steroids – there were people and shops everywhere. The one thing I love about London, there are many familiar stores that are in the States, so you never feel TOO much like a fish out of water. For example, there are plenty of English and European based shops on Oxford Street, such as French Connection or Harrod's, but you look up and there’s Gap or Nike and you feel at home. We landed in Primark, a discount shopper’s dream. Women stock up on fashion basics and trendy pieces at Primark – I got tights for 2 pounds, sweaters for 8 pounds...and could have gotten cool skinny jeans if I were brave enough to try them on. Apparently they have the best prices in lingerie in town but the dressing room lines…oh, the lines. Shopping overseas can pose an issue, as the sizing is different and you don’t have the option to return. Despite the “too crowded dressing room”, we did an appropriate amount of damage….as did the other tons of women with bags and bags of trendy finds :) Luckily, the dollar is SLIGHTLY better against the pound than it was earlier in the year.
Up and at ‘em! We had 3 goals for the day – visit the Borough Markets for breakfast, shop at a London street/flea market (we chose Camden Market) and don’t be late for our 7:30 theatre show of Wicked. We are professional tourists, so we accomplished it all ;)
Borough Market is an outdoor “foodie” paradise. Anything you can think of: meats, seafood, breads, cheese and wine…and everything in between, can be found here, supplied by local vendors. We sampled hot, mulled wine (yes, on a Saturday morning), caramel fudge, sausages, and for curiosity, a Bacon, Cheese, and Bubble Bap. We saw signs for Bubble and Bap combinations at cafes everywhere throughout the market, so we figured, when in Rome, do as the Romans do….or something like that. Here’s another tip – don’t be afraid to eat as the locals eat., as it will give you the best idea of what the local culture is like. So what’s a Bacon, Cheese, Bubble Bap, you ask? Bacon = thick cut, bacon, salty, really more like country ham. Cheese = thin cut parmesan-type of cheese, Bubble = potatoes cooked with cabbage….and all that goes on a Bap, which is similar to a kaiser roll, and it’s intended to eat as you walk around the market. Not a bad combination, quite tasty and filling actually.
All the Camden Market excitement wore us out, so we headed back to the hotel area for Fish and Chips. Most pubs offer lunch of fish and chips (many actually claim to have the most famous fish and chips :)), so it’s not hard to find one that serves up the popular lunch.
EARLY morning up for our tour. Almost a little too early for us to be on vacation but we were determined to see as much as possible during our getaway weekend. Again, we tube it over to where I think the tour is supposed to depart. Keyword is THINK. I got mixed up with Victoria tube Station and Victoria Coach Station, i.e. the bus station… 7 blocks away. And it’s started to snow….no worries. Victoria Coach Station reminds me of a cleaner Penn Station in NY…minus the public restrooms that cost to use :) We venture and find our tour’s departure gate – attitude and flexibility are essential when traveling in a new place. The tour didn’t seem as organized as I’d have expected of a “luxury” tour, but we had fun, nonetheless. In hindsight, I recommend NOT doing a Sunday tour, if Royal destinations are the highlight. (I’d also recommend not doing a walking tour in the cold and rain :) In London, Sundays are centered around church services, so we weren’t able to tour the insides of many of the buildings, the Changing of the Guard is more sporadic on Sundays, and shops are required to close by 6pm. BUT we did sneak a peek at the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, learn a bit of Royal history and have a fab meal at Hard Rock Café. Despite the snow, rain and slightly unorganized tour, it was a great last day.
Another EARLY morning up to catch our flight home. Traveling overseas is great but after a week of being in a different time zone, we’re both ready to see family and eat American food. Our flight leaves at 8:50am, so we reserved a taxi at 6am, to arrive at the airport by 7am with time to shop in the duty free shops.
5:55am – checkout and wait in hotel lobby
6:00am – no reserved cab
6:10am – lobby receptionist doesn’t show reservation. Nice.
6:15am – cab arrives. Drives us to Paddington Station, to pick up Heathrow Express train.
6:45am – depart on Heathrow Express. Note: Express. (15 minutes, we should be at terminal)
7:05am – “Express” train slows and comes to halt. They have detected a trespasser on the train tracks. WTF??
7:20am – Express doesn’t stop at Terminal 4. Look up our Terminal…Terminal 4. Must wait for another shuttle.
7:35am – Arrive at terminal. Yay! Only my boarding pass doesn’t print…we’re scheduled to board at 7:50am. Clerk helps me print pass.
7:45am – At counter to check luggage. Of course, my bag is too heavy. Whip out credit card, only cannot pay at counter. Must pay at “cashier”, way on other end. Clerk slowly handwrites a few receipts. No worries.
7:55am – Cheery cashier, rips up my 10-minute-to-print boarding pass and proceeds to handwrite several receipts for my baggage fee. She must have missed that we have already started boarding AND I still need time to duty-free shop.
8:15am – Finally cleared security and they are doing last call for boarding. Quickly purchase a few “souvenirs” for hubby and hop on plane!