London, England

Thursday, July 13

Yesterday, we flew into London Heathrow and found our way to the Underground and to Victoria Station. Getting out of Victoria Station however, turned us upside down and sideways on which lifts to use since we had our large suitcases the lifts were the only way out of the station. It was almost comical. Victoria Station is conveniently located just a block from our hotel. Our hotel room had a very nice view of the city – off in the distance we could see the London Eye, Big Ben, and more.

We purchased a 48-hour CityTour ticket that included a hop-on-hop-off bus and a river cruise. So, today we headed out to find the bus, but first we had breakfast across the street from our hotel at The Giraffe – a quirky little place with brunch and lunch selections.

After breakfast we tried going over to Victoria Station to find the bus, and when that failed, we walked to Buckingham Palace.

No bus that we could find. So we took some pictures and headed over to Westminster Abbey. We had decided early on that, since we only had two days, we would just sightsee and take photos, not go inside for tours – we’d save that for another visit. After walking about a mile around Westminster Abbey we witnessed the Abbey’s bells going off for what seemed like forever. Apparently there was “A Service of Thanksgiving for The Lord Boyce” that had happened and was just then letting out. Lots of Lords and Ladies walking about in their finery. Cool!

We weren’t getting any Internet, which we later found out why – T-Mobile was no longer carried in England! Well, dang. Instead, we’d pop in somewhere and ride their Wifi long enough to figure out where to go. I finally figured out how to pay for 48 hours of England’s hot spots, and signed up for that – it helped, but wasn’t consistent. For lunch we stopped for fish and chips, something I’d been looking forward to, at the Laughing Halibut.

We finally found the bus and gratefully got on the top floor, plugged the provided earbuds in, and sat back and enjoyed the historic tour. The narration was peppered with British humor, which made the tour a bit more fun and interesting. We saw Parliament Square, Big Ben, crossed over Westminster Bridge, saw County Hall, Hayward Gallery, Royal National Theatre, St Mary Le Strand, Royal Courts of Justice, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Shard, crossed over Tower Bridge and saw the Tower of London, Royal Mint Court, The Monument, The Bank of England, Nelson’s Column, National Gallery, Piccadilly Circus, Marble Arch, Hyde Park, Wellington Arch and No 10 Downing Street, plus so much more.

Since it was convenient, we got off at Victoria Station and went to our hotel to crash – we had walked five miles, plus done the tour. Tuckered out didn’t come close. After resting for awhile, we had dinner in the upstairs section of the Stone and Grill located just down the road from the hotel.

Friday, July 14

Today was a typical rainy London day, but we had tickets to the London Eye and were not about to be deterred by a little liquid sunshine. We took the tube over to Waterloo Station, had breakfast at Leon, then walked to the Eye and joined about a dozen other folks in one of the cabs. Even through the rain spattered windows the views were spectacular. It was well worth it – highly recommended.

After the Eye, we walked across Westminster Bridge and over to the harbor on the Thames to catch the river tour we’d purchased with the bus tour. From the river we saw New Scotland Yard, Golden Jubilee Bridge, Cleopatra’s Needle (which held special meaning to use since we’d learned about that gift to England from Egypt when we were in Egypt), the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Tate Modern, Southwalk Cathedral, the HMS Belfast, and City Hall. We got out at Tower Pier and walked past the Tower of London to Tower Hill Station where we got on the tube to Leicester Square. From there we walked a few blocks to see the statue of Indiana Jones! We got a twofer and also saw a statue of Harry Potter.

Once we’d gotten a picture of those, we got back on the tube to Bond Street and walked to the Mercato Mayfair – an old church that was saved from demolition and turned into a small market and food court with lots of very good food vendors. I had my eye on Pasta London where their pasta was handmade daily. I had the tagliolini cacio & pepe with mushrooms (very peppery – yum!), and Alan had the caserecce carbonara with bacon.

After lunch, using the tube, we made our way back to our hotel for a nice nap. For dinner we’d planned to go to The Shakespeare on the other side of Victoria Station, but it was jam packed. I was very disappointed because the online menu sounded perfectly British. We chose to check out Victoria Station’s various restaurants instead and settled on one on the third floor of the building. It was okay, but it wasn’t Brit food. Oh well, next time!

Saturday, July 15

We had a London McDonald’s breakfast over at Victoria Station then returned to our hotel to pack. Checked out and, with all our bags in tow, we went back to the station to await our train. We had a bit of a mix-up figuring which car to be on, but once we got it sorted out we settled in for the two-and-one-half-hour ride to Southampton. We had a bit of confusion again toward the end of the ride when they removed everyone from the train – only to move us to another train to finish the journey. Once we got out of the station we found a cab and took it to our hotel where we rested and had dinner.

Once we’d arrived in Southampton we got a taxi to our hotel and crashed. Tomorrow we cruise!