**I am alive! I felt this should be heartily exclaimed because (1) it’s a refreshing thing to affirm every so often, and (2) I completely fell off the map due to a nasty flu & subsequent internet-free travel abroad. I’ve been a bad, bad blogger, but on the upside… I am alive!**
Days #11,184-85: After the aforementioned Christmas flu finally released its phlegmy hold on me, the Mr. & I were on our way to London for one of the best- and longest- layovers ever.
Ultimately, we were headed to Portugal to ring in 2013, but the mystifying pricing of air travel meant it was cheaper to stop in London- and if you need to stop in London, you may as well STOP in London, if you know what I mean
The journey actually began on our flight over. Having just watched “The Hobbit” with Sister S the day before, Mr. M & I were disproportionately excited to see that Air New Zealand has immersed itself in full-blown Hobbit Mania.
The hobbit-themed safety video is not to be missed and actually had me giggling out loud. Although that may also have been the fault of my anti-anxiety flight medication and the very strong mulled wine they were distributing while we waited in the departure lounge.
After a sleepless night on the red-eye (on the plus side, I did get to watch the movie “Love Actually” while on my way to London the day after Christmas, which is the definition of Perfection), Mr. M & I were exhausted, a little delirious, and a lot excited about our 24 hrs in London town.
Although I generally hate tours, we were dizzy with sleep and could barely figure out where in the devil we were (“Wait… I might be holding the map upside down…”). So we checked into our hotel near Hyde Park and hopped on a red double-decker bus.
Lingering flu + 4hrs sleep in the past 48hrs + less than a day to DO LONDON = succumbing to the undeniable pleasure of being carted around from one famous sight to the next.
I sat up top in the freezing rain snapping pictures until I started losing feeling in my fingers and realized that while losing my fingers to frostbite whilst climbing Mt Everest might be The Story of a Lifetime, doing so whilst riding a double-decker tourist bus would just be embarrassing. So Mr. M & I stumbled off the bus and warmed up at a small cafe offering up tea and scones.
On our way back to the hotel, Mr. M noticed a Winter Wonderland festival in Hyde Park.
Like a cat, I’m drawn to shiny lights, and besides- I pity the fool who says no to an impromptu festival, regardless of how little sleep one may or may not have.
The choice for our one dinner in London was clear: pub meal! And because I also think it’s sacrilege to visit London and not try fish & chips, I invoked my ‘omnivore while traveling’ clause, and we two stuffed ourselves on the best fried haddock, chips, smooshed peas (why is this not a thing here in the US? Delish!), and beer.
After a dead-to-the-earth, 11hr sleep, we woke up to enjoy a few more hours in London town before catching our flight to Portugal. Stop one: clearly, Buckin’am Palace.
A short walk across St. James’ Park was Westminster Abbey, which I’d heard of but really did not understand until visiting. Is it church? Museum? Aristocratic mansion like ‘Downton Abbey’? Turns out it’s a healthy mix of all (not so much the last) and a World Heritage Site. Westminster Abbey is still very much a working church with regular services. It’s the burial site of kings & queens, of Darwin & Newton, of Dickens & Kipling. It’s also where Will & Kate wed last year, if that’s more your style. The history of this place absolutely blew my mind.
Sometimes I’m lucky enough to pinpoint that weighty but usually intangible, exhilarating, and exact moment of being awestruck, and it almost brings me to tears. It happened while I was standing in front of the three stone steps leading to the coronation stage. Since William the Conqueror in 1066, every single monarch has walked those steps before & after being crowned. Nothing is more simultaneously humbling & exalting than the moment when history hits you.
Because going to London and not enjoying afternoon tea is one of the lesser-known cardinal sins, I convinced Mr. M to spend our last hour in London over a cuppa & a few currant scones. It was magical & Christmasy, and it made me quite sad that we had to leave the city so soon after making its acquaintance.
But we had loved ones to meet and bigger adventures to undertake in Portugal.
Not so bad for a layover, right?
Details of the Day:
Transportation: Well slather me in butter, and call me a biscuit- there’s no need to take a taxi from the airport! Thank you for that, London! Buy an Oyster card and take the Piccadilly line directly from the airport into the city- easy as (eel) pie. Despite small and perpetually crowded underground trains, the tube is a clean, relatively comfy, and very easy way to make your way around the city. Just remember to return the card for your 5£ deposit back when you leave London.
A Delicious Aside: I must admit that I’m writing about London whilst enjoying a pot of tea & scones back home.
It only seemed right. At least once a week, I thank my lucky stars that I live a few short blocks from Harney & Sons, an amazing tea shop + cafe. If you find yourself in NYC, stop in and try their Parisian tea float, an unparalleled and addictive concoction of carbonated Paris tea (black tea with vanilla & caramel) and SoCo Creamery Earl Grey ice cream. Even her Royal Highness the Queen would drool over it.