Day One (Thurs. July 9 - Fri. July 10, 2009)
If waiting for an upcoming trip feels like death, then sitting in an airport must be compared to being in the hospital, hanging on by a thread. Our trip started officially when I left the house Thursday at 4:30 to go to the bank and then the airport. Naturally the bank I stopped at didn’t stock British pounds. Without much time left to find one that did, I figured we could just do it later.
I sat in the car at Westinghouse waiting for Dan to come out for about 10 minutes. I was shocked that he wasn’t ready… Apparently though, it didn’t really matter. We got to Bradley, had the car parked at Roncari and were sitting in the airport by 6:15 p.m., our flight was scheduled at leave at 8:20. As we sat at the little overpriced airport bar contemplating this wonderful trip that I had planned out to the very minute, Dan did his best to slay any potential expectations.
“You’re not getting a ring on this trip” he said, completely out of the blue. We had been discussing the foreign subway systems. Isn’t he charming? I laughed and rolled my eyes. We’ve been dating for nearly eight years and we’re headed to one of the most notoriously romantic cities in the world, why would I expect a diamond? Perhaps my waiting for his marriage proposal was just preparation for all of the delays I would have to endure in airports during this trip. We left Bradley a half hour later than expected. Fortunately, Philadelphia is known for never being on-time, so we weren’t terribly worried that we would miss the next leg of our journey.
In Philadelphia, our flight to London was delayed by two hours. I complained and whined for about 15 minutes while Dan told me how ridiculous I was for expecting everything to go smoothly. The complaining ended about a half hour after I took some Benadryl. I don’t think I’ve ever actually taken Benadryl for its true purpose; I’m usually just after the drowsiness. I slept in an uncomfortable airport chair for those two hours, freezing. Damn air conditioning. The plane was also cold, but I managed to sleep through the entire 5-6 hour flight. We landed in London about an hour later than scheduled, but were just glad to see that our bags had made the trip with us, and that we were safe on the ground (the flight had been delayed due to mechanical problems with the plane).
There were no issues finding the underground in London as we hoofed around with our luggage. Jumping on the Piccadilly line towards “Cockfosters” did give me a good laugh, but the scene that followed was slightly less amusing. Our metro car was absolutely packed with luggage and people, yet at every stop more and more people piled in. Eventually our little sardine can stopped in the middle of an open field with the unusually rare appearance of a blazing London sun baking us slowly. Dan and I were lucky enough to be standing by the window between cars. There was no breeze, but there was a small amount of fresh air. I probably would have had a panic attack if we were somewhere in the middle of the car. In fact, a few people made their way towards us (and our window) to breathe worried that they might faint. You could hear the collective sigh of relief when, after about 20 minutes, our train moved forward.
Getting off at Covent Garden was interesting. It’s an open-air mall with cobblestone streets. Everything in Europe has cobblestone streets, and it’s not easy to tote around 70 pounds of luggage on cobblestone streets. It was made more difficult by the fact that I led us a mile in the wrong direction, downhill. When I discovered that we had been going the wrong way, Navigator privileges were stripped immediately, and the Danlord become Daniel the Conqueror/Navigator.
When we finally arrived at the hotel and checked in, we secured the necessities: local currency, a decent map, a good teeth brushing and headed back out. We walked to the Tube and took it over to the Tower of London, site number one. Because of the flight delay, we had skipped seeing Big Ben and taking the City Cruise up the Thames. A note about the London Underground: it’s crowded and hot, but exceptionally easy to use and pretty damn clean. The white pants I foolishly wore that day didn’t get dirty anywhere except on the cuff.
The Tower of London was amazing and I could tell that Dan was pretty impressed. We stopped to have a quick sandwich (and a coffee for me, well, espresso). This was the first thing I had eaten since my salad at the airport 18 hours ago. As we walked around the Tower we checked out the Ravens, saw a few beefeaters and read a lot about the Prisoners who were kept and subsequently beheaded there, as well as King Henry VII. Interesting character, Henry; this year marks his would-be 500th Birthday. While we were in the White Tower checking out his many suits of armor, a worker at the Tower started rushing everyone out as it was closing time. We didn’t get to do a Yeoman (Beefeater) tour, which I was really disappointed by, but we did see the Crown Bling. It’s absolutely shocking how many diamonds can fit onto one little tiara. As we were escorted out we began hustling our way over to the Tower Bridge and tried our best to get in before it closed at 5:30, but were unsuccessful. Instead we walked around a bit to see Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral, neither of which we could gain entry to. London Tourist sites just aren’t available past 5:00 p.m., a fact I wish I had known when scheduling my priorities.
As the night was winding down, we went back to the hotel to clean up and get ready to see Chicago. Yes, Chicago in London’s famous West End. The show was amazing, definitely my favorite part of day one and well worth the 70 pound ticket. I mentioned that Dan and I should probably go see musicals more often. As you can imagine, he loved that idea. We shared a small rectangular pizza on our way there, and each drank two Stella Artollis during the show. A whopping 4.5 pounds each… But then again, so was the water. After the show we stopped at an Italian place where Dan ordered a pizza and another beer. I had a nice 4 pound bottle of “still” mineral water. Tasted like tap water, kind of salty. As you can surely imagine, we didn’t have much of a problem getting to sleep once we reached the hotel.