Booking a last minute trip to London and Paris through Gate 1 Travel, this vacation would include many first experiences for me. l would be exploring two of the most popular travel destinations for the first time and managing my travel through an independent tour package. I could not pass up this deal where I would spend three days in London and then three days in Paris for under $1400, including round trip flight from Columbus, flight to Paris from London, transportation to and from the airport, three excursions and the additional single supplement fee (which is usually outrageous!).
For London, my tours included bus transportation throughout the city, a ride along the Thames and a day touring Bath, Windsor and Stonehenge.
In Paris, I booked the Hop On/Hop Off bus which also included a river cruise down the Seine, a night tour of Paris and a day in Versailles. Granted, I am taking my chances by traveling in February for the weather, but I am up for the challenge.
The day of departure arrived and for starters, the flight coming in from JFK was delayed. I would not be able to make my connection. The gate agent stated that I would need to come back tomorrow and that they would rebook me for an earlier flight. In hopes that they would help me reach my destination by tomorrow morning, I explained that I was traveling light with a carry on and wanted to see if there were other flights traveling to Heathrow. I was so happy when Rodney was able to reroute me through Atlanta. The flight was currently boarding and was only a couple of gates down from where I was standing. I would be arriving an hour and a half later, so I called Gate 1 Travel and they made arrangements to have a driver pick me up at my rescheduled time.
Arriving in Atlanta, I needed to reach Terminal E and we had arrived in Terminal B. Everything was running smoothly to reach my gate in Atlanta and shortly after taking a seat in the concourse, Zone 3 is called and I board the plane, eager to find my seat. I am so relaxed and looking forward to take off. What a crazy start to my trip, but it is all working out in my favor.
I decided to watch The Girl on the Train and soon after leaving Atlanta, we are provided dinner which includes pasta, shrimp cocktail, salad, cheese and crackers and a brownie. I order a couple of glasses of white wine (included with the flight, sweet!) in hopes that I will be able to fall asleep sooner. Unfortunately, it seemed to have the opposite effect and I could not manage to find a comfortable position. Another ugh. After the movie, I play a couple of games of Bingo and rest before I realize that daylight is slipping through the window.
This was possibly one of the worst landings I have ever experienced, not by any fault of the pilot, but apparently we had wind gusts of 30 to 40 miles per hour. I was so happy to be on the ground and ready to bolt for ground transport.
Customs and immigration take less than ten minutes and I am in search of the driver after reaching baggage claim. Total chaos erupted at ground transportation with little men holding little signs feeling like a complete idiot trying to find my name. I finally found Fernandes and we would be waiting for a newlywed couple and another lady traveling solo.
I am so happy that I picked up my winter coat and scarf at the last minute and of course my umbrella as the weather forecast predicted rain, rain and more rain. Our driver explained that the winds were exceptionally strong and unusual for this time of year. Leaving the Heathrow Airport, the industrial character is apparent until we reach the West End, where I will be staying at the Ambassador Hotel for the next three days.
I checked in at the front desk and learned that I was too early to secure a room, but that the hotel staff was working quickly to help accommodate the group that was waiting in the lobby. I was asked to take a seat and they would call me as soon as my room had been cleaned. I picked up a few brochures and reviewed some of the additional tours available and within minutes I was dropping off my luggage and heading out into London to find a bank to exchange some money and then off to find a place for Fish and Chips and a pint (fun touristy stuff right there!).
Not yet directionally acclimated, I thought that I could find the Thames River where I could reach Westminster Abbey. Somehow, I managed to walk in a circle in an hour’s time, but found the MetroBank where I exchanged $100 for British Pounds (72 BPs to be exact). By now, I am irritated with myself (for getting lost) and starting to feel hungry, so I asked the bank attendant if she could direct me towards a restaurant with fish and chips, which was easy enough. Just around the corner is the Earl’s Court Tavern Taylor Walker and within 20 seconds I am entering the pub. I place my order for a pint of Punk IPA and the Ultimate Fish and Chips (not settling for anything less than ultimate on this vacation!)
Either I was extremely hungry, or this was the best fish I had ever tasted. The batter was perfectly crisp and warming me up on the inside. I had as much malt vinegar as I wanted for drowning my fish and fries, careful not to contaminate my peas. My bill came to a little over 18 BPs without the tip and the pub begins to fill up for happy hour.
Exiting the pub, the wind has picked up and my hair is flying in every direction possible. The sky is spitting rain and I am being pelted by dirt and any type of debris that can be picked up in 30 degree winds, so I was happy with my decision to turn in early. There were several apartments and pubs where the local police were assisting with flying debris from balconies and windowsills. I am ready for a great night’s sleep so I can wake early to watch the sunrise down at the Thames. The weather is once again calling for rain, so I will wear my skinny jeans, a black top and have the opportunity to break in my wellies.
So I arrive at the hotel, enter my room, unpack my belongings and turn on the television (my first mistake because I wanted to turn in early). In addition to watching an episode of the Kardashians for a bit of diva inspiration (I do not have cable at home, so this was luxury for me). Flipping through channels, I happened upon the Ladies of London, where I watched a couple of episodes back to back. Seriously, now I will need to find the Eclipse Bar so I can order a watermelon martini and isn’t Sophie the most amazing Brit with her fabulous hair?
Needing to have at least a couple of hours of sleep before the early dawn, I finally switch off the telly and feeling a bit knackard (tired), I enjoyed an amazing night of restful slumber.
Have you been to London? What fun “touristy” things did you attempt during your visit? I would love to hear all about your adventure if you would kindly leave a message in the comments section below. Many thanks for reading about my first day (short as it was) in London and wishing you many Happy Travels!
Where to Stay:
The Ambassadors Hotel
16 Collingham Road
Kensington, SW5 0LX
London, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 20 7373 1075
Photo Credit: Ambassadors Hotel London
What to Do:
Watch Ladies of London on the local television station!
Check out my later posts for a list of amazing attractions in London!
Where to Eat:
Earl’s Court Tavern
187 Earl’s Court Road
London, SW5 9RL
Telephone: +44 20 7370 2760