Saturday, August 18, 2012

Serendipitous London vacation

How does one end up in the place where millions long to be?  Just dumb luck or serendipity brought us here.  We were on our way home through France and England, and happened to have a not long enough connection through Paris' airport so our bags didn't make it to the aircraft before takeoff time.  In this time of supposed terrorists, there are rules about bags and travel.  You need to travel with your bags.  Because we missed the Paris flight, we were unable to arrive in London with time enough to check bags and fly home.

As I stood at London Heathrow with a very tired Omar in hand and heard that there were absolutely no seats until Wednesday (4 days later), I was a bit panic stricken, but it didn't take long to find my bearings and make a plan.  We went to the information desk and had a hotel booked for one night at the Grange City Hotel, right near the Tower of London.  Because all the cheap rooms had been booked by those with a real plan, we were lucky to get an executive suite at 409 British pounds, plus another 89 pounds transportation to the hotel.  The room was really nice, complete with a tub shower, and a stand alone shower, office, queen bed, flat screen TV, and even a tea closet where one could find everything for a good "cuppa".  There was a basement pool that was gorgeous, and had I not had Omar with me, I might have indulged in the free aromatherapy sauna.  The doorman was in crisp uniform.  A young man delivered our bags using a separate elevator.  We were in the lap of British luxury.

After a swim, we went for a walk along the Thames.  We could see the Tower of London from our window, so we walked around it for a closer look.  The bridge was all decorated for the Olympics.  Throngs of tourists and Olympians filled the streets and sidewalks.  We were looking for a place to eat and Omar stumbled right into the Denmark camp- that is, the place where all the TV interviews are done, Danish fans and family gather to greet Olympians with drinks and food.  It was a pizza place!  Imagine our luck to find a foreign gathering I could understand and pizza for Omar!  We met about a dozen young athletes and enjoyed the festive atmosphere.
This is what Olympic athletes look like
Tower of London

The next morning we had the restaurant breakfast (included in the price, thanks very much) and ventured out to see what all the crowds were about.  We happened to be 1 block from the men's Olympic marathon course!  Omar was much less thrilled than I was so we watched for a short while, played in the park, ate some fish (me) and chips (Omar) and awaited our saving grace of a friend-  a classmate of Abdul's living in London. She accepted us into her home for the remaining 3 nights and offered a couple of amazing tour guides while we were there- her nephew and daughter.  I used to live in England while I was in the Air Force in the early 1980s, but had not seen as much of London as we did in these couple of days.  We rode double decker buses, rode the newish London Eye ferris wheel, visited exhibits in the British museum, saw all the traditional landmarks including parks, palaces, squares, Big Ben, and the Queen's guard.  This was certainly a trip to remember.  How very fortunate we were to be at the right place at the right time!
mens' marathon





street performer in Covent Garden
Tour guides Fathia and Ali with Omar
Amazing pods hold 25 people and travel 30 minutes around a wheel that is 443 feet tall



view from the London Eye
One of the Olympic mascots
Lots of things to see at British Museum



This was a hand wash outside the museum




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