Yesterday, we left for a long-awaited trip to London. Our dear friend Jonathan, only 43, passed away unexpectedly in December, and this weekend is his memorial service, hosted by his British family in London, where he grew up.
We left Lake Mills, WI (home) around 4pm, picked up our friend Eli and headed to Chicago O’Hare airport for a 9pm flight. Poor Eli had been up since 2am that morning. He was visiting family in Arizona – had an early morning flight to Wisconsin, and had one hour after finally getting to his home in Lake Mills to unpack from Arizona and repack for London before we picked him up.
We joked that Eli would have no problem sleeping through most of the seven hour flight to London, being as sleep-deprived as he already was.
Of course, sleeping on a transatlantic flight is never as easy as it seems. The three of us had fitful 20-minute naps on and off, but we hardly felt that we had had a “good night’s sleep” once we landed at Gatwick.
But, we had arrived at last!! Since our plans were to see Jonathan’s family the second day of our arrival, we spent the first day taking the Gatwick Express (train) to Victoria Station and then trying to walk to our hotel with all of our luggage from there. Billed as a “short 9-minute walk from Victoria Station to the Melita,” we realized that didn’t account for being encumbered with suitcases whose wheels grabbed and settled into every crack in the pavement, leaving Victoria Station from the wrong exit and having to walk around the complex to find “Start,” and a general silliness that only a lack of sleep will provide. We made sure to take note of which buses seemed to follow our path to the Melita (London red double-decker Line 24!) so that when we make our way back to Victoria Station and the Gatwick Express to start our journey home to the states on Monday, it will be by bus and not on foot!
Eventually, we found our way to the Melita and brought our luggage up a few flights of narrow Victorian stairs to our room, with the help of one of the hotel staffers. The beds looked VERY inviting to these sleep-deprived travelers, but NO!! We were not going to waste our first of only four days in London by napping off our jet lag! So we set out to explore our temporary neighborhood (restaurants and shops everywhere!) and ended up eating at The Cask Pub and Kitchen in Pimlico, where we proceeded to have several beers to wash down our lunch.
Next, we hopped on that magical Route 24 red double-decker London bus and commandeered the top deck front window seats to see a bit of London from our high perch (something Randy had done with Jonathan when he visited him in early December). They kicked us off of #24 at the end of the line, but luckily we were stopped across from a lovely wine bar, so in we went for a few more beverages and some almond-encrusted goat cheese balls.
Upon emerging from the wine bar, we saw an old friend from the states – yes, her name was STARBUCKS – and since Eli and I can never say no to her…another beverage was enjoyed (albeit non-alcoholic this time!).
We hopped back on #24 for the return trip to the Melita. It was dusk by then, and the lights of the city were beautiful. Back past Parliament, past the Savoy, and Westminster Abbey we traveled – again perched in the front row of the top of the double decker. Beautiful. Magical. London.
At 8:30pm, we arrived close to the hotel. What should we do next? Back to The Cask for more of their expansive offerings of beer? Some nightlife? WE ARE IN LONDON!
Nah. We opted to head back to the Melita and rest our weary heads for the night, so that we would be a bit fresher for the next day. But after all of that beer and wine (WAY more than this girl normally drinks in a day!), no one was in need of Tylenol PM to sleep!