One of the great things about living in Europe is that Europeans truly believe in vacations or holidays. When we first moved to The Netherlands, we did not meet any of our neighbors for about a month because they were all gone on holiday. One neighbor came rushing over after they had returned from a month long holiday to say hello and to say they would be gone for the next two weeks because they were leaving for holiday. That’s when I began to understand that they do truly love their time off.
Not only do they believe in time off they believe in making it as affordable as possible so that people can travel around Europe. People choose from a variety of plane, trains and automobiles to get to their destinations. But as American’s, our pleasure is finding the airline tickets very inexpensive to travel to the many new sites to see. This holiday…. Accession Thursday, a lovely four day weekend that we decided to spend in London, England. Our ticket price… 100E round trip, left right from Eindhoven. After a short 45 min. flight across the English Channel we were in the United Kingdom. Ya got to love Ryan air who announces their arrivals by sounding a horse racing starting gate trumpet if they are on time. They pride themselves with being on time and claim to be the number one on time airline in the world.
As we trained in from the airport to London I couldn’t help singing Chim Chimney, Step in Time and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I swear I would have become a chimney sweep if someone had asked me to right then. I was giddy with delight. Two trains and a short walk from the station, we found our hotel. We gathered our thoughts and made a plan. First stop a little shopping on Oxford Street and then take in a show, Rock of Ages! I should have listened a little better when they said no flash photography or video recording. I did turn off the flash on my camera, but I guess that wasn’t good enough as I got yelled at immediately to shut it down or it was to be taken away. (But not before a few little shots were taken). The show was fantastic!!
After a well-deserved night’s sleep, we headed off to do some major bucket list checking off. After walking along the Thames River we hopped aboard the Big Red double decker hop on, hop off tour bus. I’ve learned that this is a wonderful way to not only see the sights, but to listen to so many details that I didn’t know before about each area. Ok, and yes, the riding around when the feet are too tired to move is a big plus too! Perched above the city, we were able to drive past with ease the places we wanted to see and get off the bus at the places we wanted a closer look at. Past the London Eye (yes, we wanted to go on but somehow ran out of time), and past Big Ben!
First stop… Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guards! We had been told to arrive early but our first bus was over crowded pushing us to wait for the second one. Not a problem, we’ll just jaunt over this way (by jaunt I mean what seemed like a 10 mile hike) to catch a different bus. But we arrived in time to get positioning by the gate. After a while of bonding with a few thousand of my closest friends the ceremony began. Just like in Washington DC at Arlington National Cemetery where they do the changing of the guards at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the guards guarding the Queen’s residence are real soldiers. They are not ornamental. It was very cool and I was so happy I was able to see this! At one area there were guards out near the people. I stepped up to the young man and said " I know you're not going to answer me, but I write a little blog called American Girl in Holland and I would like to put a picture of you in it." He smiled slightly, nodded slightly, and I stepped in for the picture! I love all the pride and pomp of traditional ceremonies.
We next strolled through Green Park, passing along the way the Horse Guards. Then we walked to St. James Park, past the beautiful pelicans, Duck Island and the Duck Island Cottage. This beautiful cottage is home to the London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust.
After a lovely lunch in Piccadilly Circus (I just LOVE the names here), we went on a walking Harry Potter Tour. I haven’t read any of the books and the movies were good but my kids are the real fans. Many, many nights were spent waiting in line at midnight for the opening of a new movie or the release of a new book at the local bookstore. The sleepless hours were well worth the excitement on my children’s faces. I love the fact that J.K. Rowling wrote wonderful books that turned the children of the world, and my own children, onto the love of reading. Our guide was wonderful and led us through the streets of London not only pointing out various places where movie sets had taken place but also infamous people or places that had been there before.
For dinner we headed toward the Hard Rock Café, or let me say this… the Original Hard Rock Café. Yes, London is the home to the very first Hard Rock. Me I was in search of a little slice of America. Mission accomplished! The perfect hamburger. And as an added bonus, the girls were able to see Kim Kardashian coming out of her hotel. They had noticed a crowd gathered and asked what was going on. Of course they wanted to wait five minutes to see if they could see her. Two hours later they made it to the Hard Rock victorious and with pictures as well. A hamburger and a Kardashian, sounds pretty All American to me.
On our last day we casually spent time seeing the last few places on our lists. I really wanted to go inside Westminster Abbey, but they were charging 16 pounds a person. So I settled for more time outside and a visit to their store. Every church we have visited has of course been free. You can make donations of course but charging.. hmmmm. Oh well. My oldest daughter has been doing some work on our family tree via ansestory.com. Apparently my family goes back to King John. So, I’m sure the next time there’s a royal wedding I’ll be getting a nice little invite in the mail. J
After a few short days in London, I’ve come to one conclusion; I definitely love this city and will be back. This American Girl says “Jolly good ‘ole chap, well done London!”