My Big Smoke Vacation

Missed me? Probably not…I’ve been out of the country in the UK since 20 August, and have only just gotten home tonight. Let me give a brief account of the trip which will be followed in the next few days by more than you EVER wanted to hear, I’m sure. The trip was life changing…and I’m so glad I went.

Sunday, 20 August/ Monday, 21 August

Flew from Atlanta to London, landing at London-Gatwick at almost noon due to delays. Quickly found the British Airways desk to ask about a later flight to Edinburgh since I quite obviously would not make the 1:15 leaving from London Heathrow. Was given a “Compassion Fare” for the low low price of $160 USD and took the bus from LGR to LHW to fly to Scotland. Made LHW in plenty of time because my flight wasn’t even given a gate until literally 10 minutes before boarding.

Arrived in Scotland quite tired and feeling icky around 6pm. Was collected at the airport by Ben (friend of the brother in law) after nearly becoming homicidal over the bus maps and lack of sleep. Popped by the B&B for a quick shower and then dashed out again to join a ghost tour of Edinburgh. Finished the tour, had a lovely fish and chips dinner and returned to the B&B to sleep like the dead.

Somewhere on Monday spoke to sister and was told that the other half of the money I’d brought to the UK was not in my suitcase as I’d thought. Had thought myself quite clever for putting half my money in my wallet and MEANING TO put the other half in the suitcase to go with my sister and her husband to the house so that I wasn’t walking around with 300 GBP in my pocket to get stolen. At least it was safe…back in Georgia at their house…

Tuesday, 22 August

Hopped a bus to Rosslyn to see Rosslyn Chapel (any DaVinci Code fans?). Toured Rosslyn and waited for Ben to decide on what to purchase from the gift shop. Hopped a bus back to Edinburgh, retrieved luggage from the B&B and hopped yet another bus to the airport to catch our flight to London. We literally ran through the airport and were the last two heineys in the seats before the plane took off.

Landed in London. Before we’d left Rosslyn I’d spoken to my sister and learned we had tickets to see Les Mis for BIL’s birthday. Figured out the train tickets from LHR to Paddington station, then got hopelessly lost. Learned that the Tube map looks rather like crayola spaghetti when one is as tired as I was. Rung my friend Liz who lives in London for help navigating to our guest house, but looked at the time and realized we hadn’t left enough time to drop of luggage before the show started. Met my sister and BIL at the Tube stop, then headed for the Queen’s Theatre.

Arrived back at the guest house around midnight. Promptly fell into restorative coma on the sofa.

Wednesday, 23 August

Up and out the door quite early to catch the train to Salisbury was the plan. In reality, we arrived at Salisbury around 11am, and all had dinner plans that night. Saw Stonehenge and had a lovely lunch in the rain before riding the bus back to the train and the train back to London. Split up for dinner, with me going to me an old college friend for a lovely evening of girl talk and some WONDERFUL cider.

Three pints of cider down and my “family” has still not called to let us know how they will collect me when done with their dinner. Am quite fuzzy headed and not particularly caring, until both Liz and I realize that there is such a thing as a last train to Dovetail (the guest house where I was staying in Lewisham) and we needed to get my fuzzy self on it.

Got myself from Canary Wharf (dinner) to London Bridge station and once again became hopelessly lost. Panicked for a few minutes about being lost in a foreign country. Found a very nice gentleman that worked for that Tube station who pointed me in the direction of the train (the sign that read National Rail This Way was literally right behind my head.)

Caught the very last train to Lewisham, walked the ten minutes from the train to the house, and again resumed restorative coma position on sofa.

Thursday, 24 August

Actually got up on time and by 9am were all on the train for Canterbury. Toured Canterbury Cathedral, was properly and reverently awed and amazed. Paused at 1pm with the rest of the country (according to signs we saw all over Britain) to pray for peace in the Middle East…quite moving, and for me to say that is quite amazing in and of itself.

Left Canterbury after popping into a small shop for a beef and veg pasty and cup of tea. BIL suggested catching the train to Dover and then going on to Brighton. Somewhere just before Dover, BIL suggested that we actually have dinner in Calais rather than in Dover. Where is Calias, you might ask?


Took the ferry across the channel to Calais. Reactivated my two-years dormant vertigo problem, but the good conversation and comfy chair I had on the way back seemed to keep it at bay. Ate dinner actually in the ferry terminal because we didn’t really have time to go anywhere and still make the last ferry back to England. Giggled a lot at my BIL’s attempts at French and our new stamps in our passports.

Made it back to Dover and took the shuttle to the train station for the long ride back to London, then to Lewisham. Wobbled down the streets to Dovetail house. Rinse Repeat Coma.

Friday, 25 August

Did not get up on time. Took the train to the tube to Greenwich. Saw the Queen’s Residence (?), the chapel and the Painted Hall. Saw the Cutty Sark but decided not to tour it…you can pretty much see all of it for free from outside. Went to the observatory…holy stairmaster, Batman, that thing is perched on the top of a hill. Lost a few pounds and an inch of tread off my shoes on the way up. Left Greenwich to go to British Library for an exhibit my sister wanted to see.

Saw lots of interesting old manuscripts there including something written by Elizabeth I, some handwritten early Beatles lyrics, and several copies of the Magna Carta. Decided to go to Temple Church (again, DaVinci Code?) because Ben wanted to see it. Argued about the proximity of the church to the Library. Unbeknownst to party, Brother in Law knew it was faaaaaaar away but decided to let us walk it because Ben thought it was close.

Two hours later arrived at Temple Church to find it closed for renovations. Had minor meltdown and all four of us melted into the concrete for a few moments. Had planned to hit Tate Britian so I could see a painting by my favourite painter, Waterhouse, that was on display but didn’t have time after failed journey to Temple Church. Instead headed for Hyde Park to try to find fountains from the fight scene in Bridget Jones.

Walked for several million miles through Hyde Park. Found the fountains. Brother in Law and Ben too stubborn and tired to fake fight scene for my sister to take pictures. Strolled on through Hyde Park until Ben collapsed to sleep under a tree while Brother in Law, Susan, and I discussed dinner plans. Decided to head downtown and look for something. Found trendy Italian place. Ate until we almost passed out. Hit internet cafe across the street and then headed to Dovetail house.


Saturday, 26 August

London again. Got a late start. Toured Southwark Cathedral, then headed to the Tower area for me to get a gift for a friend and for Ben to see All Hallows Church which contained an archway built in the 600’s AD. Toured the church and met up with the Verger who was called Terry…and chatted with him for over an hour. Learned the origins of things such as Brits calling the toilet the “loo” and what it means to “knock someone up round morning” and “keep your pecker up” (it’s the same as keep your chin up, apparently). He was fascinating, though a bit lonely it seems for as long as he talked to us.

Left All Hallows and headed for Covent Garden I think for lunch. Might have done that on Friday. Coma no longer restorative, therefore mind muddled. Had lunch and then split up for me and Brother in Law to go to the Tate Britain and Susan and Ben to go tour St. Paul’s Cathedral. Saw my painting, recovered from the puddle of goo I became when I did, and moved on to Big Ben/Parliament where we were to meet Ben and Susan. Hopped the Tube and a bus out to Wimbeldon Stadium to catch the greyhound races. Nearly cried over missing my babes when I got to meet Champy and Daisy, two retired hounds that were part of a meet and greet at the track. Caught the bus and then train back and again tried for the coma.

Sunday, 27 August

Attended service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Am not Anglican/Episcopalian so it was interesting and different. Left St. Paul’s bound for Hampsted Heath, a natural area that was home to many authors including C.S. Lewis. Hiked a bit and then took a lovely nap in the grass at the crest of a hill.

Returned to the house via another train station to pick up my rail pass for the airport for Monday morning. Brother in Law talked a guard into letting us into the currently closed King’s Cross Station to get a picture of me at Platform 9 3/4 (Harry Potter anyone?). Tidied up the house and got to bed rather early.

Monday, 28 August

Finished cleaning the house and headed to the train that would take us to the airport. Arrived at Gatwick, got Ben headed toward the buses that would take him to Wales (he’s still there till Thursday) and found our gate. Susan and I had breakfast in a pub in the airport, then we caught our NINE HOUR FLIGHT back to the states.

Cheers and Thanks to my beautiful sister Susan and her wonderful husband Dave for making it possible for me to go with them on this trip and showing me such a fantastic time in the Big Smoke, London. Have passport, will travel, when can we go back?

9 thoughts on “My Big Smoke Vacation”

  1. Seething with jealousy as friend enjoyed posh overseas extravaganza while I had to tend with vicious swarms of invading ants and high-pitched caterwauls of angry toddler.Hope friend bought me present from London. Friend may have to go back and get one if she neglected me…

  2. Please do note, if you don\’t mind terribly, the paragraph discussing the leaving of half of the money in Austell, which put a severe kink in any plans forthwith to purchase gifts and souvenirs from that point forward. No offense should be reflected, only a startling reminder that said friend is an idiot.

  3. Can you come back NOW please? Hey Amy – we talked about you while we were having drinks that night. I\’m kidding, of course… actually, we spent the majority of our time standing in the rain and running to the toilet. That sounds kinda weird reading it!

  4. what?! WHAT?! I can\’t HEAR you – it\’s TOO LOUD. I\’d write more but I\’m too busy trying to get the bar staffs\’ attention… 😀

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