The first time either my husband or I ever crossed the Atlantic Ocean was in April 2011.
On that trip we visited Barcelona, did a day trip to Andorra, crossed into France briefly and then took the train to Madrid but our first stop as at London’s Heathrow airport. Since we were new to flying to the other side of the pond we were filled with excitement the first time we spend time in that giant airport. We went hog wild buying lot of little British things at the stores.
At that time we felt like going to Europe could be a once in a lifetime experience and since we may never actually ever go into the United Kingdom we should enjoy our time at their airport. But we were fortunate enough to return to Europe in 2012, 2013, 2015 and again in 2016.
Each one of those trips took us through Heathrow airport at least once and with each passing trip we realized that London really did deserve its own vacation. So when we came back from the South of France last April we knew that if we were lucky enough to afford to travel again in 2017 it would be to London.
Even though we didn’t agree with the Brexit vote last summer we certainly were in no position to judge the Brits on their political mistakes, not after the Presidential election of November 8th 2016. So with the exchange rate excellent for Americans and British Airways offering the cheapest flights we had ever seen to London we purchased our tickets, at long last, to travel to London for the first two weeks of April.
As is usually the case when we travel I rushed home from work and we said good-bye to our cat.
Once we arrived at the airport we went through security and enjoyed dinner at the lovely Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. After dinner it was time to wait for our plane.
Over the years we have gotten much better at figuring out how get the seats that best suit us. This time we were lucky enough to get two seats in the upper deck of the airplane where one of us had the window and one of us had the isle. On a 10 hour flight we felt so lucky to be able to sit together but not have to force one of us to sit in the middle.
While a 10 hour plan ride is never easy this one went fairly well. I enjoyed my second dinner; this one served to me by BA, and watched the movie “Jackie”. I had wanted to see “Jackie” in the theatre but had never got around to it. I really enjoyed it and am absolutely certain that Natalie Portman deserved a second Oscar way more than Emma Stone deserved her first for “La La Land”.
After I was done watching “Jackie” I tried to sleep. As is usually the case it wasn’t the best sleep. I drink a lot of water on long flights so I had to get up several times to pee but overall I would say I probably got about three and a half hours of sleep. That was certainly better than the tiny traces of sleep my husband got.
When I woke up I watched several episodes of the 10th season of “The Big Bang Theory”. When we landed at London Heathrow things were familiar for few minutes. Just like we had in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 we landed in Terminal 5. We took the airport train from our gate to the main part of Terminal 5 and then made our way up the industrial looking escalators.
Then things changed. On five previous occasions we had passed by the UK border sign to go catch our connecting flight to cities like Barcelona, Paris, Berlin or Nice but not this time. This time we were actually going through the UK border. I had taken pictures of the UK border sign so many times but time time I got in trouble for it.
I guess it’s one things to take it from a distance when you are in transit but it’s another to take it when you are waiting in line to have your passport stamped. Oh well.
I got my passport stamped first but my husband had the first of many interactions we would have with Brits commenting about the person who currently resides in the White House. Thankfully, she correctly assumed that he didn’t vote for Mango Mussolini and told him to not worry about things back in the states.
After going through immigration it was time to wait for our suitcases. I have had the privilege to fly into the countries of Canada, Peru, Spain, France and Germany and no country makes it more complicated or as unwelcoming at the United States of America does. I wondered what things would be like actually entering the United Kingdom and just like all the other countries I’ve traveled to I found that they were far more welcoming than the good ole U.S of A. We both commented on how nice it was after the 10 hour fight to not have to wait around for another flight that would then take us to our destination city. We were already there…well, almost.
Once we were quickly through customs it was time to decide how to get to our hotel.
On past trips we have always taken a taxi and we certainly could have done it but it seemed silly to do that when we could just take the train. It was still early in the day, only about 5 P.M., so we didn’t see any reason not to give the Tube a try, especially since we could take the Piccadilly line from Heathrow Terminal 5 to the neighborhood that our hotel was in. Not to mention taking the train would a whole lot cheapter. The only problem is that we couldn’t figure out how to buy a ticket. We had pre-loaded Oyster Cards for the London Underground but we didn’t want to use them yet. Thankfully we found a ticket desk with a nice attendant who sold us a day ticket that would get us to our hotel.
The only other time I have taken a train from an airport to a hotel was in Portland, Oregon and that was after a one hour flight. This time I was much more tired but also much more excited. I love riding trains instead of driving and our ride from Heathrow to the South Kensington area of London took about 40 minutes.
I tried to take it all in despite my exhaustion.
When we arrived at our station we had to tackle the challenge of lifting our heavy suitcases us a short flight of stairs to get to the elevator (or should I say lift) that took ups up the street. Upon reaching the street we made our first of many walks from the tube station to our hotel.
We decided to stay at a chain called Citadines. We had stayed with them in Paris in 2012 and Berlin in 2013. We like them because their rooms come with small kitchens and cooking one meal a day in the room allows us not only to save money but to semi-live like a local by going to the grocery store.
When we entered our room we found it had a weird shape a like a Tetris piece. I got used to this strange layout but my husband never really cared for it. I did like the view from our hotel room.
We were both super tired but we knew it was best to get our first bit of grocery shopping out of the way so we walked to the grocery store called Waitrose that was right by our tube station. After walking back to our room from the grocery store we were both utterly exhausted, so much so that we couldn’t gather the energy to go out again for dinner. That first night in London we each made ourselves a sandwich, unpacked what we needed to unpack and relaxed. I took a long hot bath and then we went to sleep. The journey was over and the real adventure would begin the next day.
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Here is a description:
Justin Gomez and his sister, Terri, have never been close. Separated by nine years and distant in adulthood, Justin and Terri have little in common, except for the love of her three children. In the days before they embark on a road trip to visit the father that once abandoned them and their now deceased mother, both Terri and Justin are dealing with unexpected changes in their lives. Justin surprisingly realizes he might want more than a series of one night stands after a first date goes unexpectedly well. After a lifetime of being a strong type A personality, Terri is forced to confront the reality of the end of her marriage. As they hit the road, with Terri’s children in tow, they find themselves forced to rely on and confide in each other following a devastating event. Confronted with memories from the past and challenges from the present, Terri and Justin must dig deep and unearth the truth about themselves and their parents in order to build a new family based on their love for each other.