Packing for a trip to England in early April can be tricky. Will it be cold? Will it be warm? Well one thing is certain. It will rain. Hours before my departure I found a stylish Michael Kors black raincoat. I wrapped my olive green scarf from Thailand, complete with elephants, around my neck and tossed a few lightweight dark colored sweaters, black pants and comfy black boots in the suitcase. I was ready for London.
International flights from JFK are the way to go. The roads from Long Island and the terminals are well lit and labeled. Long term parking is s bit of a maze to reach but once parked you easily board the train which circles the airport and brings you directly to your terminal.
We flew Virgin Atlantic and the overall experience was fine. We had a nice selection of movies to watch, 2 small meals on the direct flight to London and unlimited cocktails!
We had purchased tickets in advance for the Heathrow Express, an underground speed train that is non stop into Paddington Station. It was then a short cab ride from many of the taxis queued up outside the station.
Arriving late into London on a Saturday evening, 10:00pm, we had hoped to find a quaint pub around the corner. Weren’t we surprised when we discovered that our posh boutique hotel was immersed in quite the middle eastern neighborhood. We stopped into a small restaurant with people using hookah contraptions outside and ordered 2 wraps. They were tasty but small and since the establishment was Muslim no alcohol was available. We found a nearby store and when caught looking at the wine bottles were told we only had 4 minutes left to buy something- no liquor could be sold after 11! I quickly grasped a bottle with a screw top and hopped on line.
The next day was Easter Sunday so I thought I’d ask the concierge if there was a church nearby. He gave me a very blank look, then said he didn’t believe so but knew there was a synagogue nearby. I said I didn’t think that would help.
Once safely back in the room I sipped my wine and was amused by the variety of different shows on the Telly.
Easter morning we rose and headed towards St. Paul’s Cathedral. I googled and read that they had a service at 11:30am and anyone could go. After being destroyed in the great fire of 1666, Christopher Wren designed and oversaw construction of the present cathedral in the old city of London. We witnessed several brides who chose Easter as their wedding day and then came across Temple Bar which is not a bar. It is part of the original wall that circled London and was the ceremonial entrance to the old city.
After a hearty brunch we took our own walking tour. Crossing over the Millennium Bridge, featured in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince gave way to picturesque views of Tower Bridge. We walked around the Shakespeare Globe then into the Tate museum which is free, but they do ask for a 5 pound ($7.50) donation. Modern Art museums are always interesting.
Next stop was to be a ride on the London Eye. It was great to see lots of people milling about and walking along the Thames. The line for the giant Ferris wheel was enormous so we decided to take a few photos and visit a local pub for lunch instead. We strolled back across the Westminster Bridge and found a 153 year old pub with a view of Big Ben. After a pint we crossed the street to get a glimpse of Westminster Abbey. Weren’t we surprised to arrive just in time for our 2nd sermon of the day. Lots of church services to be found in London on Easter!
We continued our walk until we found a pub that had not yet run out of Sunday Roast. Beef, potatoes and my favorite Yorkshire pudding was the perfect way to top off Easter Sunday. We happily took an Uber back to the hotel and slept soundly for our next day’s adventure in London.
The rain enabled us to relax and have a nice breakfast in the hotel before heading outside. I thought visiting the nearby famous Madame Tussaud’s wax museum would be a nice rainy day Easter Monday activity. Many shops were closed as this is considered a holiday in England. The 2 hour long line in the rain to see famous people made out of wax was a deterrent so we ended up on Baker Street at the fictional character Sherlock Holmes’ house. Lots of cool old stuff and really great if you know all the author’s stories about Holmes and Watson. Fun to visit.
After checking off sightseeing we headed to a pub for an early dinner. The pub was great. We tried the pies and ales, a sampling of 3 savory pies (beef, chicken curry and vegetarian) and 3 small tastings of beer. At 7:30 we attended the opening night performance of “Bat out of Hell” featuring the music from Meatloaf. My brother had that album when we were young and I knew all the words to the songs – in fact I still do! The voices were amazing and they did a great job with the song “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”.
We left the next morning with my brave boyfriend driving on the left side of the road and my knuckles turning white as I held the phone with GPS directions. We headed Southwest to Stonehenge for more travel adventures. Road trip in England: Stonehenge, Cotswolds, Bristol and Bath
Returning to London after 34 years has been a thrill. I’ll never forget my 2 week trip here as a senior with the honor society in high school – especially the night we got in trouble for staying out past midnight because we really wanted to watch Big Ben strike 12. Then in college I have a fond recollection of celebrating New Years Eve in Trafalgar Square before I spent the semester in Nottingham.
I love being able to touch and visit places where people stood hundreds or even thousands of years ago. We are really only here for a minute. It makes me wonder… How will you spend your time here and whose life may you influence?