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London, England was the Trip of a Lifetime
The perfect opportunity
Have you ever been asked to go somewhere even semi-interesting and talked yourself out of it because you thought going would be inappropriate? For example, you are invited to a wedding in London, England for a couple you have never met. Usually I would tell myself absolutely not. But this time I said "See you there." Don't ever talk yourself out a great opportunity to see the world. This is why I call myself a wanderer. After this trip I caught the bug... Wander Lust.
Just to give a little background
This is my relation to the couple. My mother's friend's daughter who moved to London, England from Oregon is the bride. My mother and her friend, Pam, had visited her daughter the year before in London and Pam's daughter and her fiance just adore my mother. Everyone does. The next year they were so kind to invite my mother to their wedding, my sister and me. The last vacation we all went on together was over 15 years ago.
Our family trip begins
We took Aer Lingus which is an Irish airline. This airline was friendly and had satisfactory food. From New York to Dublin is about a 6 hour flight. Be ready with your passport and ticket for customs in Ireland. They are very impatient and if you are not ready they call people behind you until you are. Then we took a shuttle flight from Dublin to London which took about an hour. I suggest getting up and walking around or your rear end will go start to hurt and go numb. The trip was completely worth the pain but I still suggest taking a short walk. The sight from the air is spectacular. Ireland is so deeply rich green with beautiful cliffs next to the ocean. Flying over London was equally as great but you saw old gorgeous buildings and landmarks.
Landing in London
Getting our luggage and since we already went through customs in Ireland, we immediately found a taxi. I suggest you change your currency at the airport and at the American Express counter. They gave me the best deal for changing my money back which was a fixed rate because the difference changes daily. You can monitor the currency exchange rate on an app called currency. Beware of the drivers. When they see tourists they increase the prices. In front of you! A tip was not paid to that driver after I asked him about the price increase and he refused to bring it back down. The English have a less vulgar way of telling us how they feel. Like, "Go do one" which pretty much means go f*** yourself. Don't worry though. The taxi drivers are the only rude people I encountered in England and only 2 out of 6 were rude.
Our first night
Our first night we stayed in a hostel. It was necessities only. In our room we had 2 bunk beds for the 4 of us, My mother, sister, Pam and I. There was a sink and a locker for our luggage. The bathroom was down the hall and down a small flight of stairs. Breakfast was provided and it was amazing to see how many people from different countries all stayed there. The cost was very inexpensive. Between the 4 of us we only paid about 30 pounds each.
The Old Bell Hotel
The next day we took the tube (subway) to the couple's flat (apartment) where we became acquainted because they offered their flat to us for free while they went on their honeymoon. From there we took a taxi to Paddington Station. From Paddington Station to the Swindon station then took a taxi to Malmesbury. We stayed 2 nights in the oldest purpose built hotel called The Old Bell. Even though this hotel is in the country there were no screens on the windows. NO BUGS came into our rooms! I couldn't believe it. Next to the hotel there is a church. If you happen to go there feel free to walk in. A very nice man who was involved with the church choir told my sister and I so much history about the church and England itself. Basically telling us that England did everything first but Americans took all the credit. He told us that the first king of England is buried somewhere on the grounds but no one remembers where. After our polite tongue lashing from this man we went to a small restaurant just through the cemetery gates of this church and ate dinner. I highly recommend trying bubble and squeak. It was delicious.
The Opportunity that brought us to London
The wedding was only steps away from the hotel at the most exquisite garden called the Abbey House Gardens, also known for the naked gardeners. Yes, there are clothing optional days there. Don't worry everyone at the wedding was fully clothed. After the ceremony we were free to roam. This garden is a beautiful maze of surprises. We found a tortoise relaxing under an umbrella, haunting statues, the biggest chess set I have ever seen, and much more. I must have taken at least 150 pictures of the garden alone.
Let the games begin
The day after the wedding we took a train back to London, settled in the flat and began sight seeing right away. If you do anything in London please go on a bus tour. The ticket you buy is good for 24 hours. If you don't get everything done in one day you can continue the next day as well. You can get off anywhere you want and there are bus stops everywhere for the tour bus to pick you back up. We saw the Tower of London which is the oldest building in London. We then got onto a tour cruise and saw all the landmarks along the Thames river. The boat dropped us off at Parliament. We went to Harrods which was great and stressful at the same time. Harrods must be the size of entire city block. My mother and I lost my sister and Pam. We lost them for 4 hours. Harrods doesn't have an intercom system so if you go and lose someone go to customer service on the bottom floor and leave a note. The changing of the guard for Buckingham Palace takes place every morning. The alternative style section of Camden Town. We had just happen to walk down an alley and found a town within a town. It was fantastic. The Greenwich Market offers a lot of beautiful merchandise and multi-cultural food. And of course, Stonehenge, please schedule a day to go there. I suggest going early because it took over 2 hours to get there and we just made the last tour. If you get there for the earlier tours the bus stops off at the Salisbury Cathedral where the original Magna Carta is kept. The shortest route from London to Salisbury is taking the train from the London Waterloo train station to Salisbury and the tour bus is right outside of the Salisbury train station. London's subway system was difficult at first to learn but once you understand it you feel like you own the city.
The ride home
We took the same airline home as we did going to London. But... we had a 12 hour layover. Being that my mother is 100% Irish we didn't mind spending a night on the old sod. Our friends in London booked us the cheapest room in Dublin which was in a not so nice area. Our driver said that this neighborhood of Dublin was like the Inglewood of L.A. except they don't shoot each other every night. Both drivers in Dublin were incredibly funny. But do a little research about the area where you stay if you're ever in Dublin.
Take that opportunity
This was my first hub and I hope you all enjoyed it and found it useful. I look forward to your comments. I hope I get a few comments from some London enthusiasts. Take care everyone.