London

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London London London

Contrary to what I mistakenly told the customs agent (who gasped at our supposed wealth), no we weren’t staying at THE SHARD, the most impossible British nickname as well as the most expensive building in London. THE SHARD was our landmark (see picture below) for finding our budget hotel located about a half mile away. Our actual hotel was a sensibly priced accommodation with ‘accommodation’ right there in the name, though we sprang extra for a room with a window.

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The Shard in the distance

On the train ride from Gatwick airport to the Dover St. neighborhood of our hotel, a very friendly very large black lab wormed his way onto my lap and into my paper bag filled with Cody’s breakfast sandwich and coffee. The owner said the dog needed cheering up and was being taken for a ride. I couldn’t object to that.  But this would be the first of many misadventures traveling with Cody’s food on public transport because somehow, I’m always the one tasked with carrying it. (Tip for Americans in Europe: you don’t see a lot of “snacking” or taking meals on public transportation. Try eating you food before you board or just getting something afterwards for a less stressful travel experience.)

Overall, it was a well timed trip for several reasons. One, the pound was at its lowest because of the Brexit vote so we had more bang for our buck. Two, it was our Thanksgiving holiday so we had a four day weekend that didn’t fall on the typical Friday-Monday, giving us different travel fare options than we were used to. Three, it was their Black Friday week, so whatever shopping we wanted to do included a discount of some sort. Four, we got to see Big Ben before it’s scaffold-ed up for restoration.

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Speaking of Thanksgiving, the food we ate in the UK was less boring than people lead you to believe (oh, and much tastier too). Our four day menu included fish and chips, roasted chest nuts, sausage and potatoes, sausage and bread, and still more sausage to fill Cody’s heart until it’s ready to implode. In fact, our Thanksgiving meal was at a cute little Victorian pub, The Roebuck, near our hotel, made up of pumpkin risotto and beer and cider. The servers were less than aware that they were also the providers of holiday merriment as feast we did and all alone in London at the reasonable Thanksgiving hour of 4 pm.

On a very productive day-trip through The English Bus company in a small group with a great guide, we saw Stonehenge (which was eerie and bright in the sunlight, making me look strange in pictures, like myself but also unlike me at the same time)

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Bath, a most beautiful Jane Austen-esque place with a Christmas market in full out loveliness, caramel fudge, flights of cider, and salty meat pastries (plus Cody’s first taste of mulled wine, yum!)

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Royal Crescent – channeling my best Jane Austen
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Bath Abbey

and the Secret Place (seen by flashlight through the misty darkness). I cannot reveal more. If you’d like to take a tour outside of the city on your trip, definitely consider this company!

The next day we had the Tower of London, filled with many people and jolly, story-telling guards and crown jewels you conveyor-belt-ed by but could not take pictures of.

 

In search of Mary Poppins for a nephew’s Christmas gift, we went to Saint Paul’s Cathedral but there were no birds to be fed or snow globes to be bought.

We stumbled upon the Monument of the Great Fire, big and imposing even among the other buildings and learned some new, albeit tragic, local history.

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Churchill’s War Rooms were waiting for us next. We strolled the underground WWII sanctuary and hub for military strategy, looking at old furniture as it had been left, including Churchill’s  wooden chair scratched and stretched to anxiety. We walked past the closet-sized rooms where people lived and breathed in the dust for a couple years. I was most struck by the journal page of a secretary filled the max with to-do items on D-Day. See also the sense of humor graffiti and maps with very important pins and string below:

 

Our trip, as already alluded, also included some Christmas shopping, which accidentally led us to Oxford Street where we tried not to get flattened by the crowd while also looking at pretty Christmas lights and watching street performers.

Well, I suppose that’s it for now.

Itinerary Details:

Mode To and from Overnights Accommodation
Air Round trip Jerez (XRY) to London (LGW) London Accommodation London Bridge

Day 1: Explore neighborhood near the Shard,  Oxford Street shopping, including Lush and Boots

Day 2:  All day trip to Stonehenge, Bath, and the Secret Place with The English Bus company

Day 3: The Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Churchill’s War Rooms

Day 4: hurry home

Things to consider buying: Bath bombs and shampoo bars from Lush, British drugstore makeup from Boots and Superdrug, caramel fudge in Bath, and Teapigs tea (favorites: Peppermint and Jasmine Pearls!)

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