Hello London

Tuesday, July 21, 2015
We have been home from our amazing 9 night trip to Europe for about a month and I am just now finding time to sit and sift through pictures and blog. It has been a crazy season.

We had an awesome time abroad. And I can't wait to spend the next little while sharing all the pictures and adventures from it. I had never been to Europe at all and Andrew had not been in quite a while). We decided that we wanted to make it mostly an urban city trip, spending most of our time in London and Paris. Working with our travel agent we found and booked one hotel in London for the first 5 nights of the trip and one hotel in Paris for the subsequent 3 nights (notice that doesn't add up to 9...one night was spent on an airplane). We stayed in the cities except for a one day excursion out to the English countryside and one day at Disneyland Paris.

While we were away, Perry spent the week with Granna and Granddaddy. He had a blast and I am pretty sure did not really even notice we were gone. When we FaceTimed with them he would look up and say hi to us and then immediately go back to playing. I know he was loved on so much and totally spoiled.

It was not exactly a relaxing vacation. But hey you can sleep at home when Europe is not waiting outside your door. And when it is daylight until 11 pm and 11pm actually feels like 3 pm to your brain...it is just really hard to make yourself go to sleep at any kind of decent hour.

There is just so much to tell and show. I think my best plan is to walk through things day by day with what we did and saw. Then maybe compile all the foodie stuff into one post for each city.

So here goes....and I apologize in advance for the total photo overshare.

We left Huntsville in the evening, flew to Atlanta and then on to Heathrow International overnight. We slept some, enjoyed some not so yummy airplane food, read tour books and anxiously awaited the first glimpses of London.

When we landed it should have been the middle of the night "America time" but it was actually 11 am in our new time zone. So the struggle ensued to keep ourselves awake until evening time. We got through customs (which involved a lengthy discussion with the custom agent about what a genetic counselor is) and got a taxi to the hotel. Heathrow is a ways out of the city and we had an awesome taxi driver who talked to us and told us about what we were looking at as we drove through the city.

Our hotel was amazing (pictures below). We stayed at the St. James' Court, which is a Taj Hotel literally half a block from Buckingham Palace. The rooms were huge and had free wifi, free breakfast, and warm towel racks in the bathroom. It was great. And the location was just perfect for being within a quick walk from just about everything and situated in between two tube stations so getting to the far away stuff was no problem either.

After we got checked in and got showers because we felt icky after traveling all night. Then we forced ourselves to not take a nap and go out and explore the city. We walked by Westminster Abby, Big Ben and Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Horse Guards, and Buckingham Palace. Walking felt good after being cooped up on a plane.

The most exhilarating part of the afternoon was that there were a few thousand other locals who also thought it was a good afternoon to be hanging out near Big Ben and Parliament. In the form of a socialist protest (exhibit A: top right photo above) and we had to swim upstream in a thick swarm of angry Londoners to get through. It was rowdy to say the least. Little did we know this was some foreshadowing and strikes became quite the theme of our trip.

After our walk we headed over the Thames for dinner and a spin on the London Eye.

We loved the ride on the London Eye. The views were great (albeit a little dreary since it had been raining) and it was a relaxing way to spend some time after dinner. The rotation takes about 30 minutes so you really can't feel yourself moving at all. We had pre-purchased tickets online ahead of time which we were super glad we did. It allowed us to walk right past a pretty big line of people and walk straight on to the Eye. They have lots of different ticket options and what we went with and what worked well for us was the Flexi Fast Track ticket, which gives you express entry at any time you want on a specific day. I knew I wanted to do this on our first day but had no idea what time we would get there and want to do it so this gave us lots of flexibility but still let us skip the lines.

By the time we got off the Eye it was getting late and we were very ready for some sleep. We walked back to the hotel, set our alarms and immediately fell fast asleep.

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