Vacations by Julie: LondonMarch 17, 2009
The first week of May in the year 2000. All of my vacation dreams and fantasies were about to come true… I was going to England!
Very few places resonate with me as much as Great Britain. So planning for this trip was something that I threw myself into with gusto. Hours were spent surfing the web and reading tourist guide books. I learned about currency conversion, British English (in many ways very different from American English), public transportation, and so much more. I was only going to be spending six days in the land of my ancestors, and I wanted to make sure that I made the most of it.
The absolutely coolest thing I learned was that nightly, the Tower of London has a Ceremony of the Keys, as they have done for 700 years. A small number of tickets were available, but you had to write a letter in advance to request that you be able to observe it. Wrote the letter, got the tickets. It was absolutely the coolest thing we did on the trip!
Whenever possible (and fortunately most of the places we went made it possible) I bought our tickets in advance. This was FABULOUS because it meant we didn’t have to stand in like to purchase tickets when we arrived. I had a file folder set up for each day of our trip, with the tickets we would need, maps/directions on how to get there, hours of operation, and any other pertinent info. I realize that makes me sound like a freak, but I’m okay with it. I find order to be very soothing. 🙂
The Ceremony of the Keys was the first night we were in London. In the six days that followed, we saw:
- the Millennium Dome in Greenwich
- Madame Tussaud’s
- Warwick Castle
- Highgate Cemetery (yes, we toured a ceremony on our trip to London — it was a gorgeous place)
- Hampton Court Palace
- a production of The Tempest (starring Vanessa Redgrave) at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater
- the Tower of London (day tour)
- the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and
- Legoland Windsor.
Remember, all of this took place in less than a week. Are you tired yet? I was…
The last day of our trip, a Friday, was the night that Dan and I were booked to go to the Globe. Based on recommendations from Rick Steves (who, BTW, is brilliant at what he does), we bought “groundling” tickets. Groundlings were the people who were too poor to afford real seats. In other words, it was a big open “pit” area surrounding the stage where people stood to watch the play. Rick Steeves said that the groundling tickets afforded the best view because you could atcually touch the stage. He was right, but I would not recommend being a groundling after 5 or 6 days of walking nonstop through tourist attractions.
By the time the play was over, I was exhausted. And when I saw that the Underground station was closed, I totally fell apart. Thankfully, Dan kept his wits about him and took me to a nearby McDonald’s, where he thrust an ice cream cone in my hand (smart guy!) and attempted to come up with a plan on how to get us back to the hotel.
We were in luck, as it wasn’t so late that the entire Underground was closed, just that one particular station. We were able to get back to the hotel, but it wasn’t until this point (our very last night!) that I realized just how tired I was.
And there were still so many things that I wanted to do but didn’t have time for — the British Museum, Norwich, Stratford-upon-Avon, Hever Castle, the London Eye, Stonehenge, Westminster Abbey (especially to see this), to name just a few … I could easily spend another week two weeks month there.