spreadsheets and suitcases

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Europalooza Trip Report Part 4: back on track with traveling fun

on February 21, 2019

Having gotten let through into the part of Hyde Park where we were going to be ice skating, we piled our backpacks and the rolling bag onto poor DH and the kids & I dashed into the tent.  It was a nice, heated room where we could exchange our shoes for skates and check our personal belongings (purses/cameras were not allowed on the ice).  Everyone out on the ice looked rosy-cheeked and happy!  We were soon to join them 🙂

I was somehow cold from the weather/nearby ice rink and sweating from the exertion and adrenaline of rushing to be on time.  But I was determined to have fun.  Prior to the trip, I had looked up our UK shoe sizes and included them in the itinerary.  I relayed that information to DD so she could request the skates from the desk attendants.  At the desk, she asked for those sizes, and I guess the attendant heard her accent and assumed she meant American ones, and did yet another conversion of sizes.  She came back with skates that wouldn’t fit, and I had to go to the desk and exchange.  We got the skates on and realized we would need to check our little day bags as well.  I grabbed a credit card and some USD and stuck it in my inner zippered jacket pocket with the passports.  Remember, we had rushed and had absolutely no time to go to an ATM to get cash in pounds sterling.

Here’s where a small sign would have helped me avoid a disappointment.  Online research indicated that PENGUINS were available to help young/unsteady skaters.  Like so:

New Years Eve at Winter Wonderland

As with most fun things, they are limited and available only on a first-come, first-served basis.  They cost £5 to rent, which was fine with me.  DS was VERY excited about the penguin.  I think you know where this is going.  There was no sign about being able to reserve the penguin while you were inside the tent.  We got out and walked toward the ice, and saw 1 available penguin remaining.  I spoke with the attendant next to it, saying that I would like to use it.  He said, “£5.” I said, “Ok, can I pay with a credit card?  I only have American dollars in cash.”  He replied, “You’re in the UK.”

I will say up front that this was absolutely the only instance of anything even remotely reaching “rude” we experienced on this trip.  And it was mild.  Well, you can take the girl out of New Jersey, but you can’t take the New Jersey out of the girl.  So I said, “thanks, smartass,” and turned around to go back in the tent.  I asked the folks at the desk if I could pay for the penguin rental there, and they said sure, but in those few minutes someone with cash outside grabbed the last one out from under me.

So I had to break the news to DS.  He was quite sad.  I said, well, you’ll just hold me and DD’s hand, and you’ll be fine.  OMG.  He was so unsteady on his feet, slipping and sliding constantly.  It honestly broke the tension of the morning, and I was crying with laughter.  He mentioned the penguin a few times as we passed other children using them, but quickly got over it as he tried and failed to stay upright. There was a fun photo spot on the ice, and I wound up buying the 6×8 print, which came in a nice paper booklet/frame thingy.

ww skating

We really had a great time skating for about 40 minutes.  By then we’d had enough, and were HUNGRY.  We got all our stuff back, and heading out to meet DH, who had been on the rink viewing platform with all the bags, bless him.  We looked around and starting just buying random foods from different stalls.  We got a shawarma, a piece of steak, some mini-donuts, a few drinks, and a hot chocolate. We had a potty break, and walked around the huge Wonderland.

The kids begged for a few rides, and since they had behaved so well thus far, we said sure.  They got on this very cute ornament thingy:

This is not my video- mine wouldn’t load.  BTW, the weather you see there is how it stayed the whole time in London and Paris.  It was great- I didn’t need my sunglasses at all.  The sun came out in Sevilla.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

DS also rode the lovely carousel.  We made our way to the souvenir shop where I got my mandatory magnet, a Winter Wonderland Santa hat for DS, and the first of many keychains on this trip for DD. All in all, we spent about 4 hours there, and had a nice time.  But we still had all the stuff, and were ready to go to the hotel and freshen up from the travel.  We made our way to the side of the park where my memory of the Hop-On, Hop-Off map said the stop was.  We saw a bus go by, but missed it.  We waited for a little while more, but quickly got impatient- I had set aside something in the budget for a classic London black cab ride, and we decided to go for it.  Hailed one, and got dropped off at the hotel a little while later.  We didn’t see what direction we needed to walk to get to the King’s Cross station from the hotel…a fatal mistake we would pay for later…

Our room at the Kings Cross Crowne Plaza was ready- and big, and clean, and comfortable.  We settled in a bit, and started thinking about dinner.  DD and I wanted to try the famous periperi chicken Nando’s, but we struck out.  It was Boxing Day, and some locations were open, but not delivering.  We wound up ordering from room service, and had some pretty good and filling food.  A pleasant surprise, and not that expensive for a London dinner: £44, about $56.

The food gave us a second wind, and it was only 6p.  We decided to try and get on the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus from Kings Cross and just ride around in the dark to see the Christmas lights.  We set off…the wrong way.  We honestly got pretty lost.  It wasn’t all bad- we got a photo in the traditional phone booth, and stopped at Boots where we bought some moisturizer, as this cold air was making our hands all chapped.

phone booth

DD loved the booths!  She kept the door open though, because it did smell like pee in there, ew.

But we swore if we went one more block this way or that way, we’d find the stop.  We slowly walked over a mile, and wound up by St. Paul’s Cathedral!  It looked lovely at night.  I had a Mary Poppins musical memory…

Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul’s
The little old bird woman comes
In her own special way to the people she calls
Come, buy my bags full of crumbs


I didn’t have any way to feed the birds, or even a tuppence, though, bummer.  The kids had reached killer fatigue, we didn’t see the bus stop we needed, and DH and I had been awake for too many hours.  It was time to give up on the bus tour and sleep. We went to the main road by St. Paul’s and hailed another black cab.  15 minutes later, we were back at the hotel where we bathed, set up the bags for the next day, and blissfully fell into bed at around 9:30p.

I later mapped our wrong turn.  Feast your eyes!

wrong way london

The next day held the promise of a bacon toastie breakfast, Platform 9 ¾, and a journey to Paris!


2 responses to “Europalooza Trip Report Part 4: back on track with traveling fun

  1. Gina says:

    Love it!


  2. VivaLaDiva405 says:

    You are OWED A PENGUIN. The universe will make it so.


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