London, EnglandAh London, my third trip to the capital of the British Empire. I won't bore you with the details of the history, as it's all here in this trip -> London, 2010.
The ArrivalFlying in to Heathrow with the family, taking up half of the first class cabin on a British Airways 747, and annoying many pomey (aka 'I am proper and I went to OXXXXFARD') speaking British people, it was a nice ride for me. The kids didn't really sleep because they were so excited.
We went to the arrivals lounge after clearing customs and had breakfast and showers. I quickly took the bus from the airport to the hotel, where I had picked up my pre-ordered Oyster cards for the bus and subway. It felt great getting there and asking "Are there any mail or messages for me?" and there were!
I returned to the airport and collected everyone, and we retrieved all the luggage and used the travel cards to get back to the hotel and check in.
I had booked a junior suite with 3 beds and when I got there they put me in one with only 2. I said wait a second, this was guaranteed in the reservation, and they said "Sir, that we don't guarantee". I pulled out my reservation, which I had printed out for every hotel on the trip before hand, and right on it was "Guaranteed. King bed, 2 sofa beds". Tip, print out your reservations and bring them with you, always. Although you don't need copies to check in, situations like this make it worth the extra effort.
The Next DayEveryone slept pretty soundly that night! The next morning, I realized that I didn't have international adapters for my Macbook, apparently forgot to pack them, so first stop was Convent Garden and the Apple store. After that, it was down to the Strand for Twinnings Tea; their "pick your own loose tea" is just great.
Day 3Today was the One Direction concert and my teenage daughter's English pen pals came up to London to see it, so we went off to Wembley so she could meet her friends face-to-face. While she hung out with her friends, we ate at Nando's Chicken. They are quite good, and there are some locations are in the States now.
After they met and chatted and cemented friendships, we took the overland train to Kew Gardens. This was amazing. Managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is said to house "the largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world" according to their website (www.kew.org). The 300 acre World Heritage site houses numerous conservatories dedicated to different types of plants, several ornamental buildings, Kew Palace, galleries, museums, a laboratory, herbarium, and center for forensic horticulture.
Day 4So I just shot from the hip and decided we would go to Notting Hill as I heard it was quaint. It was, but also on weekends, it's home to a massive market street of collectibles, crafts, and food. This was a very lucky occurrence for the entire family. Seriously, go to this - it's a very English experience.
Travel DaySo having experienced some smatterings of London, it was now time to get ready to go to the next stop, Paris.
SummaryLondon, even on my third trip, still has new things to see and do. It really speaks to me as a person and I feel a connection to the English ways.
Pre-buy a certain tube zones (I did zone 4, and used the bus outside of that as it's covered in all zones) for a few days travel card. This is crazy cost effective especially if you feel like jumping about a lot.