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We leave and arrive.

Sunday, July 11, daughters Laura and Stevie and Laura’s squeeze Alex escorted us and surprisingly little luggage to the airport, waved goodbye and abandoned us to our fates. We checked in, flew to Chicago, changed planes and took off for London Heathrow at 4:00 in the afternoon. This means that we were flying during the entire truncated night, and landed at 6:00 AM on Monday. We were in London! We actually did it! Let’s start with a long, long line of weary people waiting to get their passports checked! OK!

Passports checked and properly admitted, we shouldered our luggage, found the Tube with no trouble, and boarded to begin a 40-minute journey to our hotel, The Sanctuary House Hotel, near Westminster Abbey. This was our splurge; it was pretty pricey, but was in an excellent location, so we decided to throw caution and dollars to the wind and reserved for three nights. Of course, arriving at 7:00 AM guaranteed that our room was not ready, so we dropped our luggage and departed to find breakfast first, and then London.

We found a diner-type place close to the hotel and discovered our first cultural difference. In the US, you walk into a restaurant, even a small, family owned one like this, and you’ll be greeted, seated and coffeed within a few minutes. We waited for service for what seemed like a long time. It finally came, but this slow response (and forget trying to actually pay for food) seemed to be the norm. No big deal, but different.

So, fed and thus fortified, we set out and found, not far away, Buckingham Palace. Yes, the real thing. Just… there. It’s surrounded by a tall black iron fence in front of which a constant stream of tourists smiled for a camera. Of course, I didn’t have my camera with me (a mistake that I did not make again) so you will be spared. This time.

After checking back in with the hotel (room still not ready), we wondered back out, feeling more and more lightheaded. We decided that we were in the market for a commercial tour, preferably on a double-decker bus, so we did a little comparison shopping between the two main businesses, and opted for The Original Tour, found the bus, climbed up to the top and settled in just behind the guide. He was a funny guy (unoriginal jokes, good delivery) and quietly sang “She’s Always A Woman” between talking about various sights, and talking to us. I finally sang along with him. Then we talked about music and covers.

Our room at the Sanctuary House

Our room at the Sanctuary House

My recollections become a little more hazy at this point. I know we got off the bus. We got our room in the hotel. We ate lunch. We got back on the bus. We were falling asleep at this point, in second-long intervals during which I actually dreamed. We got off the bus. We went back to the hotel and ate dinner, and managed to stay awake until about 9:00 PM, at which point, we crashed. We’d been mostly awake for 30 hours or so, and Morpheus finally triumphed.

End of Day 1.

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March, 2010

Vicki and Paul sit at their dining table.  Vicki speaks.

“We have a lot of United flyer miles saved up.  Why don’t we use them before United goes belly up?”

Paul: “OK.  Where do you want to go?”

Vicki:  “We have enough for Europe.  How about England?”

Paul:  “OK.”

And the die was cast.