After being gone a few days short of a month, we are home. It’s not often we take a trip such as this and we relished most of it. Much planning and thought went into this yet, there was also spontaneity. We learned much during this trip and about our traveling style, where we are willing to scrimp a little and where we are willing to spurge a little. The great news is that we came home still speaking and still loving each other.
I’m not planning on going into a lot of detail about the planes we took or what we had to eat unless I feel that it is important. On this flight from IAD to Heathrow we flew Business Class on points. On previous United flights I, in my opinion, will say that I have never felt like we have had great service or food. This crew was a little different – they seemed friendly. Yes, friendly. Turned out that they were a British United crew. No wonder they were friendly. United Business Class on this 767 was narrow and I knew that prior to our flight nevertheless, we were able to stretch out and get a few hours of sleep. So, no complaints from me.
As I mentioned before, we learned that we had to pick up our luggage since our connection was over 13 hours. We found Baggage Express in Terminal One, where we would be departing from, and brought our bags there. The charge was 10 pounds per bag for 24 hours. We gladly paid the twenty pounds to leave our bags there for our day of exploring in London.
London – what can I say. It was amazing. This was my first time there and I sought all sorts of advice from people. How to get into the city, what to do, etc. Against all the advice that we received, we decided to take the Tube into the city from Heathrow. We did it for several reasons. The Heathrow Connection and the Heathrow Express were quicker and much more expensive. Additionally, it dropped you off at Paddington Station and you still needed to get to the sights that we wanted to see by Tube. Conversely, by taking the Tube in we got off exactly where we wanted to and in this case it was the Westminster stop. Riding the Tube gave us a little time to close our eyes and feel a little more rested after our overnight flight.
Before we left the states, we downloaded a map of the subway stops and then plotted what we wanted to see and where they were located in relation to the subway stops. We also downloaded a map of London and highlighted what we wanted to see. We also downloaded a quick self guided walking tour in central London from TripAdvisor. Over planning perhaps but we didn’t want to waste any of our time figuring out what we wanted to see and where it was located. We decided to see a few of the more famous sights and then the afternoon would be spent at the British Museum. You know what they say about the best laid plans.
When we exited the tube, the first sight we saw was Big Ben against a glorious blue sky as we stood at the entrance of a bridge over the Thames. We saw Westminster Abbey, Parliament, and walked down to Lord Nelson’s column. As we were walking around we decided to forego the British Museum. It truly was a beautiful day, cool breeze, sunshine and we knew that we would be on another airplane ride for the flight to Johannesburg. I just didn’t want to give up the day outside as worthwhile as the British Museum would be – that will just have to wait for another trip.
With that decision taken care of we enjoyed our stroll through St. James Park, walked over to Buckingham Palace and viewed the Queen Victoria Memorial statue sitting in front of the gates of Buckingham Palace.
The one place that I hadn’t been to yet was Harrods. Yes, I wanted to go there just to see it. Here are some of the sights from Harrods:
After this we headed back to Heathrow on the Tube. We were tired. We retrieved our suitcases, checked them in, went through security and to the South African Airlines Lounge where they had great hot food, drinks and most importantly showers. The shower to me was better than a box of Godiva chocolates – it was heavenly.
With a long trip like we were in the middle of, I found that I liked having a long layover like we did in London (should have been 15 hours but was 13 hours due to late take-out). Having time in London allowed us to see a city that I hadn’t been to before as well as getting outside walking around in delightful weather breathing in the fresh air and feeling the sun on our faces. We felt re-energized as we began our final leg from London to Johannesburg.