After weeks of preparation and a full day of packing, we left for London today!
Following a cab ride to the airport, we took the short flight from RDU to Charlotte (about 15 minutes in the air) to catch our *much* longer flight to London-Gatwick.
The flight to Charlotte was a little bumpy (and delayed), due to the remnants of Hurricane Katrina that were in the area, and the fact that it’s impossible to get above the storms at the low altitude allowed for a short flight.
Once in Charlotte, we made ourselves comfortable in the international terminal and had a couple of bagel sandwiches (scrumptious!) while awaiting the departure of our Airbus A330 to London. This flight, too, was delayed because of weather.
Once on board, we settled in for our 7.5 hour flight across the Atlantic. The lack of sufficient leg room and luggage storage was quite surprising, considering the overall size of the aircraft. Luckily, there was a vacancy in the center overhead compartment (across from our seats) for most of our luggage, and we were able to *cram* our tote bags under the seats (just barely). What else could possibly go wrong? Well, nothing major, but the video on demand system required a *30 minute* reboot during the flight…huh?
Our “dinner” consisted of typical airline food (soggy pasta and mystery meat were the delicacies of the day!)? Once our meal was served, we tried to get some sleep for the remainder of the trip, but the crying children a couple of rows behind us made that dream increasingly difficult!
Around 9 AM GMT (4 AM EST), we descended for our final approach to Gatwick. The weather was unusually clear for a London morning! Once on the ground, we went through customs and then to caught the Gatwick Express train to London’s Victoria Station (30 minutes). We decided to also buy a one day London Underground (“Tube”) Travelcard for to avoid making an extra stop for tickets at Victoria (we were very s-l-e-e-p-y!).
Upon arriving at Victoria, we took the Tube to Bond Street Station, near to our first night’s hotel (the London Marriott Grosvenor Square). I arranged almost all of our hotels through Priceline, which saved us well over $1000! Go me….getting deals is one thing that I’m known for. The Marriott was very nice, despite construction in the lobby, and the room was much larger than either of us expected. The front desk attendant allowed us to check in early, which was greatly appreciated since it allowed us the ability to shower before heading out for the afternoon. We decided in advance that we would resist the temptation to sleep in order to become acclimated to the new time schedule. Instead, we embarked on a double-decker bus tour from the Original London Bus Company. This provided a high-level overview of key London attractions and was very low-key for our tired selves. We first exited the bus at Westminster Abbey, where we followed Rick Steves’ tour from his self-named guidebook that we brought along. The Abbey was not at all crowded, which allowed us ample time to take in its breathtaking architecture and historical icons. From the Abbey, we once again boarded a similar bus and circled the city, stopping at Leicester Square for a bite to eat at an Italian Restaurant. This provided a good vantage for people-watching in this active part of the city. After dinner, we concluded the day with an evening cruise on the River Thames, which gave us a new perspective on the city and allowed us to wind down before our next busy day.