Meghan and I began our trip to the UK by spending a few days in London. We had bought a London Pass before we left (which I highly recommend because it saves you a ton of money on the big tourist places and gets you to the front of the line sometimes too).
Anyhoo, we tried to sleep on the plane so we’d be ready to go as soon as we landed. I even bought those NyQuill sleepy time pills. All they did was make me giggle, though, so we were pretty tired when we landed. Couple that with the fact that there were probably 9,000 people all trying to go through customs the exact moment we were and you can imagine why Meghan’s first impression of London left her feeling like this:
We had to wait at the bus station adjacent to Heathrow because the tube tickets we bought weren’t valid until 9:30 and, even though we were two women traveling on our own, the English tube man would not let us through. So we went and had a coffee with pigeons.
After we finally made it to our hotel we dropped off our bags and went to the sights.
We went on the boat tour that ended in Greenwich, and we decided we would walk up a very steep hill to see the Prime Meridian.
Except when we got up there you had to pay like $20 each to go into a time Museum. So I guess technically we were straddling two hemispheres, we just don’t have pictures to prove it.
We were pretty exhausted after that so we just went back to the hotel. It was hot for London, probably around 80, which wouldn’t be a huge deal except no place is built for weather above around 65 (and I’ve been to England lots, it is regularly warmer than that. Also, every year they complain about “heat waves” and drought, um - that’s just summer people). Our hotel room was super hot and I had to shove a wadded up newspaper into the window hinge to keep it open, so we decided to eat our dinner that we had bought from the nearby grocery store outside.
While out there we saw a man in the house next door lift an arm chair from the third floor balcony by rope. And then lower it, And then lift it. And then lower it. And then go inside and make a lot of noise. And then start the whole process over again. I’m not sure what he was up to, but it was probably not legal. At that point Meghan was convinced all of Europe was full of nothing but crazies.
We survived the first night and went to the Tower of London the next day.
After that and a few other places we went to tea. I had found a deal on line for buy one get on free on afternoon tea, so I booked it. It was in the Montcalm hotel. When we got there (after getting a little lost) we gave the girl our name and sat down. It was a lot fancier than I thought it was going to be and we basically looked like sweaty homeless people compared to everyone else.
Meghan didn’t help the situation.
When our bill came they hadn’t given us the discounted price so we asked about it.
Turns out this restaurant was so much fancier than I anticipated because we were at the wrong place. There was a different Mountcalm somewhere else. I batted my eyelashes and Meghan flexed her arms and we were able to get them to give us a discount though (I think they were worried we might actually be sweaty homeless people and they didn’t want a scene).
After that we wandered around a bit more, did some shopping and then Meghan went up the London Eye (I had just gone with my family at Christmas).
The next morning we packed up, took the train back to Heathrow, and picked up our rental car. Meghan had booked it with her military discount and had opted in to the insurance. The girl insisted it was impossible to pre-pay insurance when booking from North America, told us there was no way we could access the internet, and then tried to change us an extra $50 a day for insurance. We managed to get the price down a bit and decided we would deal with it later and just get driving already.
I had to drive. On the wrong side of the road. It, was, terrifying. Like, the most nervous I have ever been to do anything in my life. I was sure we were going to get in an accident. I don’t know how we didn’t blow out a tire, I hit the curb so many times the first few days. It wasn’t as bad as I had worked it up to be, but it was still completely unnatural.
The first stop on our drive was to Windsor Castle, which was only about 6 miles from where we picked up the car. Except we turned the wrong way down a street and it ended up taking us more like 30 miles.
Anyway, once we got there and parked (my god parking is difficult when you are on the wrong side of the freaking car) it was lovely. And the Queen was in residence. I didn’t see her though.
On the other side of the gate was the Queen’s private apartments. There was a little button there with a plaque that read “Press button to open gate”. Obviously they take security seriously.
After the castle we got on the highway (much easier to drive on) and headed to Cardiff, Wales.