So. I have been to London before. In fact, combined with the “before” and “after” days of my tour I did in 2011, I’ve spent about a week in London. But coming back four years later was a totally different experience. Even though I did a lot of the same things, and grandma was there again… This time, I had my mom. And for the first time on this trip, we were a place that I officially knew more about than her (and was able to navigate as such). (By the way, I’ll definitely be writing about my first time at some point, because as a first timer, I got the chance to see everything a tourist could want to see (if they didn’t know any better, anyway). We did a hop on tour, drove around all the main attractions of London. We took photos outside of Buckingham palace and took a selfie with Big Ben. We even ventured out to Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath, 3 classic excursions to take from the big city But I digress… for now)
We landed and were greeted by rain. Mom wasn’t too excited because that’s exactly how Munich had greeted us, and meanwhile it was the beginning of a heat wave back at home. (“This isn’t what’s supposed to happen on vacation!”). Either way, we hopped on the train to get to our hotel and meet up with grandma and grandpa. It’s amazing how easily I was able to remember the way. We stayed at the same hotel I did last time, and though I REALLY didn’t spend that much time in London, something about it felt… Familiar. The people weren’t that different, the routes all made sense, and the sights were recognizable along the way. Of course, it helped that we were finally back in an English speaking city… But let’s not get into that. We tugged our suitcases two blocks down the puddled streets outside Hammersmith station until we reached the Novotel, a hotel I would SO strongly recommend to anyone visiting London. High class, relatively affordable, so wonderfully situated. We later learned that the area is very a very popular nook of town for Australians to settle into as well, though we didn’t come across any ourselves. After meeting up with the g-parents, who from this point on would be my travel companions for 35 days (wow!), we took the train to Piccadilly Circus and bought our hop on tour tickets. Mom was about to see London exactly how I had the first time.
Except… Not quite. Because it was pouring, and eventually we took cover at the front. But seeing a familiar city with somebody new is just like watching your favourite movie with somebody who hasn’t ever seen it, isn’t it? You think you know what’s happening, and then they point out something small that you’ve never noticed before – the way a house is facing, or how funny a certain flower looks amidst the trees. I could tell Mom was really excited to be in England… And I could tell she had her eyes peeled for ole Liz, waiting for the chance to be invited for tea!
We took off after the rain wouldn’t let up and after Mom felt like she had gotten her bearings, and went to a pub across the street from our hotel for dinner. We sat for a good fifteen minutes before we realized that the waiter wouldn’t serve us, we had to go order it at the bar ourselves! It was busy, and loud, and just felt good.
We took a short break from London to do a day trip to Paris the next morning (which you can read about in an upcoming post!), and then were right back at it the next morning, with a train trip to Kensington Palace, somewhere that would be new for me, too. I’d like to take a moment to just appreciate how STUNNING the neighbourhood of Kensington is. It’s old and brick-y and green and so QUIET. I’m used to the hustle bustle of the tourist Center, and the business district of Hammersmith. This was a totally different ball game. We entered the park that the palace is in after walking down the sidewalk and poking our heads into a few little shops along the way. In the park, there were a few mini-league “football” games going on, people walking their dogs, ducks in the nearby lake. I loved it.
I was beginning to feel more and more at home, more than I ever thought I could in a city other than Vancouver. Earlier I wrote about how I fell in love with Salzburg, and I did. This was different. This was a feeling of “wow. I could really live here. The good AND the bad.” Walking through the palace was very interesting (and sweaty!!). We got to see the old living quarters of many monarchs, in particular Victoria and Albert. Victoria is England’s longest reigning queen to date, but our current queen Liz is about 5 months away from shattering that title. It’s strange to think that someday, 50-100 years from now, tourists will walk through the current Royal family’s homes to see how their interior decorator designed their own living quarters.
We went from there to visit HARRODS, aka a sure fire way to feel very, very poor. We walked all the way through, then took yet another bus to Buckingham Palace 🙂 I made sure to take about a million photos of mom there!
That evening, we split off, so mom and I could spend our final night in London together (so sad, her trip went way too fast!). Fun fact: if you go to Westminster Abbey for either worship or to watch the choir rehearse, you don’t have to pay the large entrance fee. So mom suddenly took an interest in choral music and we got to walk down the same aisle that she’s watched so many Royal ladies walk down in their wedding gowns. It was so cool to see that with her – even if we did risk being found out as we made sure to scurry out before the 2 hour rehearsal began!
Of course, we had to finish our time together with a trip to Notting Hill. Yes, we knew it wouldn’t look like the movie. But that doesn’t matter. We got off in an area (which is rather close to Kensington) that, again, was so peaceful and felt like it could be home. We stopped off in the Old Swan pub, had some fish and chips, and cheers’d our trip together. (Okay. I may have cried a bit).
I am so incredibly grateful that I got to share one of my favourite places on the planet with my mom. The next day she went solo to Windsor Castle and Wembley Stadium for a tour, and had a fantastic time, as I took a train to Southampton for a cruise(stay tuned!). I think that travel is so important, and I’ve always wished my parents could go to Europe so that they could see what all the fuss was about. 1 parent down… 1 to go!
Have you ever traveled with a parent? How did it go?