Since this blog covers where and what in the world, I’ll be doing a series of posts by long time friend Skip Mays about their 50th wedding anniversary trip to London and Paris in October. They live in Rhode Island, we live and Phoenix, and we got together in Paris. It’s a small world. Fran’s smiling face always lights up a room, so I placed it at the top of the article, rather than when she was actually toasting–editor’s prerogative.

Skip is so descriptive, I felt those of you who love travel would enjoy their journey..

Our Day In London by Skip Mays

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Fran Mays toasting at at the longest champagne bar in the world at St. Pancreas

As has been our preference for years, our journey included a morning flight from Boston that would deliver us roughly at dinnertime across the pond.

The trip from Boston to London was uneventful except that British Airways changed equipment from a 777 to a 747 sometime between Saturday morning when I made my seat selection exactly 24 hours before flight time (BA won’t let us peons select seats until 24hr before). I had carefully researched our seats and had scored the exact seats I wanted…until we got to the airport and I saw the 747. Fortunately, the flight was only half full so our dilemma was short-lived and we had a row to ourselves. Still, it was not the newer 777 we had anticipated.

At Heathrow, we arrived at BA’s spiffy terminal #5 and had to find our way to Terminal #3 (International Arrivals) to meet our son Chris who was arriving on American Airlines (also from Boston). Free shuttles everywhere except Terminal #3, bummer.  Being experienced travelers, Fran and I pulled out our handy Oyster cards (prepaid London Transport cards you wave over the turnstile and they magically open) and grabbed an Underground train to Terminal #3, where we waited ten minutes for Chris to appear. Whew!

Took the Heathrow Express to Paddington and hailed a cab to the Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch (a neighborhood in northeast London that’s becoming known as the Silicon Roundabout because of the high tech businesses that have moved into the area within the past decade). We had originally planned to take a cab but decided to take the Express because of traffic (our flights both arrived almost an hour early and rush hour was in full swing).

London was far too brief.  We opted to forgo the green slime after dinner Sunday night but we showed Chris where it was the next morning. (Green slime is a “standard” drink at the Casita, a local watering hole the size of small closet in Shoreditch, London. It’s reportedly made of some gawd-awful mixture of tequila and pasture grass to which our so-called friend Peter introduced us a couple of years ago). Lesson to self – be careful what Peter tells you to drink. Chris just shook his head and smiled.  We ate dinner and breakfast at the Hox. Food was ok but the service was awful–VERY slow and inattentive staff.  Chris didn’t seem to mind. The bar was filled with a variety of short skirts that caught his eye and we had to drag him away.

Monday morning we walked around the immediate Shoreditch neighborhood and showed Chris the West-end antique place nearby, very impressive. Peter and Brent introduced us to this place a few years ago and we all agree it is like the back lot of a Hollywood movie set. It’s an old, gothic church that been gutted and reconfigured to accommodate complete rooms from castles, sprawling estates and manor houses throughout the UK. Need a library from a seventeenth century castle? No problem, take your third left. Need a gargoyle for your front lawn? Second right. Anything and everything (well almost) for the interior designer.

Unfortunately, our London visit was scheduled as a layover to allow us to catch our breath before heading to the Continent.  We decided to leave for St.Pancras (the Eurostar train station) a bit early and that turned out to be a wise decision. Traffic was gridlocked around St P’s because someone on a bike got smooshed by a bus and the cops blocked everything for the surrounding four blocks as a crime scene. A Chinese fire drill came to mind. We bailed out of our cab about five blocks from the station and hoofed it from there (past the crunched bike and the blue tent covering the remains of the rider). It looked like a movie set with a thousand cops standing around waving at people and directing cars to go in circles. By the time we got to St. Pancreas (the local pronunciation), we decided we had earned a glass of Champagne and rewarded ourselves accordingly at the longest champagne bar in the world (the length of the Eurostar Train) at St. Pancreas. Very civilized. That’s the Eurostar over Fran’s shoulder in the photo above. Next stop, Paris!

I hope you’ve enjoyed Skip’s post. Feedback is always appreciated.

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