Hello Goodbye

As John Lennon and Paul McCartney once famously wrote…Hello, Goodbye!

London!  How can seven days go by so fast.? Truly the old adage “time flies while you are having fun” has never been so true.

With grins as big as their faces…wheels up at LAX London bound 3:48 PM on June 18th.  Wheels down at Heathrow 9:40 AM on June 19th.  A UK Customs check and the girls have their very first international stamp in their passports.  Wow!

We get our driver…yes, the flat we rented provided a ride into town and we hit the M4 (freeway).  Crazy weaving around and through tiny city streets and lots of near misses…we reach 137 Gloucester Terrace, W2, London, ENGLAND!

Nella, the landlord, meets us and shows me how to work the kitchen appliances…while the girls find their room.  Keys secured we head out the door the explore our temporary new neighborhood and find some lunch.  Ha!  The Redan Pub is just the place.  Smooth cold beer for grandma, Diet Coke for grandpa and fish and chips for the girls.  Their plates perfect with large chips (French fries) and huge piece of fresh cod and “garden” style peas.  You can order them two ways Garden peas mean whole…Mushy means just that.

Off to Hyde Park for a stroll and hit our first art exhibit at the Serpentine Slacker Gallery.   Groceries next, picking up bake them yourself pizzas and salad makings for dinner at home.  All of us are out like lights at 8 PM.

Introduced the girls to some terms…one being NSD.  No Shit Deal.  We use that acronym when we have to be somewhere at a certain time.  I tried not to do this a lot on this trip, but there were a couple and Saturday morning was one of them.   We had prepaid-timed tickets to some very popular attractions.

We headed out on the Tube for Westminster Station.  Walking up the steep steps the opening reveals their first great sight of the day…Big Ben (OK, it is really Elizabeth Tower…but don’t go all Candlestick Park on me).  I just tell them to look straight up.  They squeal…sending some local contractors working across the street into a fit laughter.  We walk across the Thames on Westminster Bridge and they get photo bombed by a couple of cute joggers.  Photo op with a bagpiper!   London Eye, Thames River Cruise, Westminster Abbey, walking and walking and walking.  Took grandpa back to the flat for a nap and we head out for more groceries…about a four-block walk.

Coming out of the Marks and Spencer grocery market we were laden down with several bags –a single rain drop hits my glasses, by the time we get across the street it is pouring. “London Rain!” we all shout to each other and pick up the pace, but by the time we got to the front door we were drenched.  Everyone still laughing specially grandpa who is warm and dry.  Girls giggling. Another early night!

Sunday, Father’s Day…what better way to celebrate than to take grandpa clothes shopping!  We find him a paper, coffee and a seat and we head out through Spittlefield’s Market and Brick Lane.  Find some cool finds. We take him for an Italian lunch and visit the British Museum for mummies and the Rosetta Stone.   Tired now, carrying some serious souvenirs and it is warm, so we taxi home in a classic black London cab and grandpa gets his afternoon nap.  The girls and I hit the perimeter fence of Hyde Park for the Sunday art sales, find Dim Sum for dinner and head back.  BBC Antiques Roadshow on the telly!

Monday is the big day and it is raining, so we bundle up.

Yeah-Yeah-Yeah…we did the whole Beatles Abbey Road crosswalk thing before breakfast since we have an NSD later.   I asked a workman which crossing it was since there were several.  Found it and photo ops completed.  Wrote on the Abbey Road Studio wall and we are good. Back on the tube.

To the Baker Street Station (I am in heaven) and getting ready for Madam Tussauds Wax Museum and we have tickets for 10AM.  Stop for a “full English” breakfast* for grandpa near the tube station. Get in a long queue and meet so many fake movies, music stars, royalty (dead and alive) and politicians from around the world…even the Dalai Lama.  Then the One Direction bleachers come into view.  Absolute pandemonium strikes.  Really you would have thought they were real the way these two giggled and screamed.  Photos secured from the professional photographer and phones.  OMG.  Then we head through, and I get a photo op with waxy and not really close to looking like President Obama.  Pretty cool!  Then the girls got their photo with the original “boy band” the Beatles…just what we needed after the morning’s adventure.

On to the Sherlock Holmes Museum (it is my turn to get crazy!) The line was so long I just hit the gift shop and grandpa and the girls give me about 30 minutes of time to myself to explore.   Head off to Selfridges to-see-not-purchase some seriously expensive stuff.  Our power converter in the apartment was not working and grandpa is on the search for something to fix it. Our phone batteries are gone, and we are nervous…since posting photos to Instagram and Facebook is now threatened.  We get into a pretty sketchy neighborhood on grandpa’s forced march, we close in our ranks until we find the store and get the goods.  A late pub lunch and we head home early.  Tomorrow is a another NSD.

We tube over to Victoria Station and walk to find the Coach Station (bus).  Off to Stonehenge and Bath.   Our tour guide was a cutie and the girls noticed.  We were able to get very close to the stones at Stonehenge and the Roman Baths were lovely.  The girls were brave and ordered Steak, Mushroom and Ale pies with mashed potatoes at the local pub and gobbled them both down.   Long trip home on the bus and another tube trip back to Paddington Station.  We find an Italian restaurant on the way home. The waiter brings me a glass of wine right away…must have looked like I needed it!

We have another great meal after a long day…estimate 14 hours and the girls are such troopers still giggling and laughing until they fall asleep.

Wednesday and Thursday are made up what we didn’t see days…

Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Covent Garden, National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, more Hyde Park, feeding swans and geese (OK OK that was my thing only…but we got rid of the last of the bread in the flat) Prince Albert Memorial, Albert Hall, Natural History Museum,  Nando’s for lunch (where One Direction eats, unfortunately for the girls…no sightings) Victoria and Albert Museum and two special exhibits, and finally Harrods.  We catch a bus going the wrong direction and end up at the far end of town.  Tube home and more Italian food.

Time to get packing and the girls did a great job.

Friday our final NSD…out the door at 5AM for the train to Heathrow Terminal 5.  With rain threatening, but not appearing, I told the girls London is going to cry because we are leaving.  Caught the Heathrow Express and twenty minutes later we were in the airport paying for our last full English’s in American dollars.

Wheels up Heathrow at 11AM, Friday June 26.  However not too many smiles on this leg of the trip…not angry or mad…just sorry our bit of British fun is over.

Wheels down LAX 1:15 PM, Friday June 26. Exhausted and very happy.

I am pretty sure Lonnie and I accomplished our mission on this trip.  We wanted to show the girls how to travel light, be good/open to pretty much everything traveler, how to interact positively with all types of people, be a good American and help others know we are kind and nice people and so much more.  We did it by example not a lecture. We had long discussions on tons of historical things as widely varied as how the Teddy Bear got its name, who Humphrey Bogart is to tomb robbers in ancient Egypt.  We covered situational awareness in big and small crowds, not to be afraid of pigeons…OK that did NOT work, and how to travel on public transport.  The girls discovered how much more you see on foot than in a car.  Little corners of the fun of statutes and red telephone boxes!  They are great travel companions and would love to get out there again!

I know they enjoyed our trip.  Maybe just not as much as grandpa and I did…but pretty close.

What a ride.

*Full English Breakfast:  two eggs, sausage, bacon, baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and toast.