14.08.2010 - 15.08.2010 66 °F
Saturday about 1:30pm, Mom, Elaina, Allan Michael and I headed West to Charlotte for our 6:25 flight on US Airways. We arrived at the long-term deck a little after 4pm and without much ado got checked in and due to a free coupon I had just received for a day pass to the US Airways Club, had about an hour to relax and chill out in comfort prior to boarding. It's a good thing we had that bit of time to enjoy some complimentary beverages and snacks in comfort because that sure wasn't the case after we boarded the aircraft.
We originally were in the last row. I luckily was able to check in early and rebook us to "preferred seating (translation $30 more per seat for an already outrageously priced ticket" so we could all sit together somewhere other than the very back. I had to do it, I couldn't have made it the 8 hour trip on the last row. We barely made it in the "preferred seating" arrangement. Contrary to travel years ago, when there seemed to always be empty seats to allow most folks to spread out - there was literally one extra seat on the entire plan. So we were scrunched.
The kids were excited about the plane ride for about 10 minutes - then starting asking when the movie would start (take note - about 1 hour after take-off for some reason). And also note - gone are the days of a free headset for international travel - $5 per to enjoy the movie and other entertainment (luckily I had some from prior trips so didn't have to shell out $15 for headsets). Also gone are the days of complimentary beer and wine. Oh well, those were the days.
I think we got about 8 ours of sleep (combined, across all 4 of us - not a piece). And finally we arrived on time (actually a bit earlier) from our scheduled time. We got through customs and there waiting for us was Maureen (Sean's 1st cousin).
The kids said the car was funny looking and the steering wheel was on the wrong side ( citroen) and then we were driving on the wrong side. It was great fun catching up with Maureen on the drive to her house in Surrey (near Hampton Court Palace).
So I guess we arrived at her house about 9:30 local time this morning. It was an unusually sunny day so we decided to go ahead and go into the city for the day. We did get in and went on the river cruise, hop on and off but that's about all we got done on the preliminary agenda list for today. We were all quite tired and out of sorts so just as well we didn't try to take in a lot of sites as I doubt any of us would be able to recall the details. We did get a bit of a tour while on the river cruise (we just went from The London Eye Pier to the Tower Pier (got of there and walked around) and then back again and got off at Westminister Abby. We saw the Tower Bridge go up twice (supposedly a very rare occurrence compared to a few years ago).
While we were walking around the Tower Bridge area, Ricky Suggs (a friend of Mom's who is from Benson and is now married to a Duchess and lives in London) met us out in the area and walked around with us a bit giving us some more hisitorical tips.
At about 3:00 we decided we were done so we started making our way back to Surrey. We did very well on the overground (got on at Waterloo Station and took it all the way to end at the Hampton Court Station - about a 35 minute ride). Maureen had driven us to the station to go into London and got us on the train and told us to stay on until it didn't go anymore so that was pretty easy. When we got back tonight, Mom and I realized we hadn't really paid attention to where Maureen drove as she dropped us off so weren't sure how to walk back to Maureen's house (about a 10-minute brisk walk). Luckily Maureen had taken Allan Michael and Elaina out for a walk this morning and Allan Michael remembered the way home and took us right to her street.
We got back to Maureen's (she's not here - off for a Holiday with her beaux - but we did get to spend a couple hours with her this morning and got to see Eddie before he went to a 3-hour futbol practice). Before she left she was nice enough to cook us a roast chicken, roast potatoes and green beans so we had a nice dinner about 7:30pm - got kids in bed and now are chilling out trying to stay up until our "normal" bedtime before crashing for the night.
So - apologies for the rambling and what I'm sure will be typos and grammatical errors. My mind is a bit of blur right now from lack of sleep.
Overall it was a beautiful day in London. Temperature is perfect - probably about 70 degrees, a bit cooler at night.
So - about time for bed now so I'll try and upload some shots from the first days of arrival.
Tomorrow we are planning to head back to the Tower Bridge area and do the things were had on the tentative itenerary (Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Jewel House, HMS Belfast and hopefully and afternoon tea). We are supposed to meet Ricky in the afternoon. Will let you know how it goes.