We are back from our fabulous vacation! We were back for 2 days, not even over the jet lag yet and my sister arrived from Nova Scotia for a 2 week visit. My brother from Calgary and his family took the opportunity to come for a short visit also while she was here. She doesn’t get to come to BC very often as it is a long journey from Nova Scotia. She has gone home now after a fun filled and busy 2 weeks. She no sooner left and I boarded a plane to go to the north of BC to see my daughter, son in law and my 2 grandchildren. They had just moved there from Alberta in July and I had not been to visit and see their new home. I had 11 days with them and have just returned. So I finally can sit down and begin to tell you about our trip to the UK and the Baltics. The day we started our vacation was spent just finishing up packing the last few items, cleaning up the house and cleaning out the fridge. Our neighbour drove us to the airport and we left to go over to Vancouver at 5:30 pm. Then a bit of a wait there and we took off for London at 9:00. Our vacation of a lifetime had begun! I was beyond excited! The flight from Vancouver to London took 9 hours or so. Did not get a whole lot of sleep on the plane and we landed at 2:20pm London time. I had pre arranged a car and driver to take us into London to our hotel. Was really glad we did that. For the sake of an extra $50.00 it made the process really stress free. Heathrow is a very large and intimidating place (at least for us!) We made our way to immigration and our driver called on the cell phone to tell us he was waiting and exactly where he was located. He had a sign with our name on it so we found him easily. We didn’t have to try and find the train or tube while hauling luggage. He had the car close by, so off we went. So easy and worth a bit of extra money to us.
We arrived at our hotel at about 4:00 and checked in. We just dropped off our bags in the room and went out again. We were tired and jet lagged but we wanted to get onto local time so didn’t want to lie down and have a nap. So out we went to explore the area near the hotel. Our hotel was right across the street from Victoria station, so super convenient for getting around London. We went over and checked it out. Wow what a busy place! There were buses, trains and subway all coming and going from there. Tons of people bustling about, lots of food places and stores in there too. We bought our Oyster cards from a machine and preloaded them with money. Oyster cards work on the tube and buses which we would need for the 2 full days ahead.
We left the station all armed with our cards for the next day and took a walk around the few blocks surrounding the station. We found a nice pub just a block from our hotel and went in. We found out that if you just want a beverage you order it from the bar. This pub had a lovely dining area downstairs that was a bit quieter so we went down there. Had a nice meal and tried my first British beer. It was excellent! By the time we had finished we were done in, so back to the hotel to try and sleep as we had a big day planned for the next day.
The first couple of nights I did not sleep very well. Had a bit of jet lag issues I guess. But no time to worry about that. Next morning we had a hearty breakfast at the hotel. Most places we stayed included breakfast which was really good. We needed that for the full days we had. We took the tube over to the Tower of London and arrived there about a half hour before it opened so we could get ahead of the crowds. So glad we did that. Tower was great, we spent about 3 hours there. One of the Queens guards was on the grounds and talked about his job and what it is like to live at the tower. He lives there with his family. He was very interesting. We toured all through the buildings and saw the crown jewels. Had a lovely tea and a scone in the tea shop. Then off to Trafalger square and then over to Churchills War Rooms. Again we could have spent endless time there it was so interesting. But we had about 2 hours there. The war rooms are exactly as they were left at the end of the war. There is also a museum all about Churchills life. Loved it. We had reservations for dinner that night which was lovely. Then exhausted. Next day we went on the bus to the British Museum. It was nice to bus instead of tube where you don’t see anything. You could spend days at that museum. It is fabulous. We spent about 3 hours there. Then we walked all the way down Oxford St. Popped into Selfridges which was neat. Went into Marks and Spencers also. Then bused back to the hotel. Our hotel was about a 20 minute walk to Buckingham Palace so we walked there. It was too late when we got there to go in for the tour. You pretty much can’t get into anywhere in London past 4:00. But we walked around the outside and took pictures and hung out there for a bit. It was nice to just be there. Dinner at the pub and then we had to get ready to leave the next morning.
We really only had 2 days in London which of course is not nearly enough. We saw a few of the hotspots but only a drop in the bucket. But was happy to be there and see what we saw. The rest will have to wait for another trip! I do know from the time we were there that I want to go back. London is so full of history and awesome old buildings which I love. There are a lot of people there and it is really busy everywhere. We are small town people and not used to that so it was slightly overwhelming for us, but we got on quite well. The research I did ahead of the trip so paid off. To go with no plan would have been disaster I feel. The research also paid off when it came to the budget. We stayed pretty much bang on to the budget so my estimates were accurate. It is a good feeling to know that the budget is on track as you go through your holiday. So first phase done and on track.
We had arranged transportation from London to Southampton to board the cruise ship with 2 other couples from our ship. That worked out fantastic. This all happened through the website Cruise Critic. I had been reading the forums on there to find out information about cruising and the ports we were going to. Ended up hooking up with a lady on there who was organizing some transport to the port. Worked out fabulous. We had a little van and driver who picked us all up at our various hotels. We all were staying in the west end area, and hotels were all close to each other. Traffic was quite heavy so it took about 3 hours to get to Southampton. One benefit of this journey was that the other 2 couples were very experienced with cruises. We learned a lot from them while chatting on route. We arrived at the port at about 1:00 and boarded the Celebrity Eclipse. Off to the Baltics! Stay tuned for a report all about the cruise.