spreadsheets and suitcases

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Europalooza Trip Report Part 5: woke up in England, went to sleep in France

on February 27, 2019

For someone who travels a good amount, the title of this blog post doesn’t seem like that big a deal.  But I was reminded of the huge impact of travel 2 days ago- DD’s school band will be heading to an important performance on the mainland in March, and there was a parent meeting to finalize the details.  I listened to some of the more inexperienced parents and students ask very basic questions about whether you need a passport to travel entirely within the United States (no, and 3 weeks before we leave is way too late to be asking that question anyway!) and what will happen if it snows (life/the performance will go on).  For many of the kids, it’s their first time to the East Coast, though they may have gone to California or Las Vegas.  For some, it’s their 1st time away from Hawaii.  Wow!  Talk about a whole new world.  Anyway, after getting this 1st taste of travel, maybe one day maybe they’ll take the Eurostar and be able to write a blog post like this one…let’s get started!

I woke up in London…at around 5:30am.  I was all caught up on sleep after the whirlwind day before.  Everyone else was still sleeping, so I crept over to the hotel room window and just looked out at the lights of the city.  It was a nice few moments of peace.  I went into the bathroom so I could review the day’s itinerary without turning the room lamps on.  I gathered everything we needed for the day (the Eurostar tix, the passports, the Paris hotel confirmation, etc).  I mourned the loss of the prepaid Hop-On Hop-Off tickets…they were good for 24 hours but I figured we didn’t have time to take advantage of them this morning.  Our Eurostar train left at 1:40p, and we had to be there 1 hour early to check in.  We had a non-negotiable activity this morning that sometimes takes a while depending on the line.  Either way, we would check out and leave our luggage at the hotel until it was time to go to St. Pancras station (part of King’s Cross).stpancrasMy daughter was the next family member to wake up.  We chatted quietly about the plan for the day.  She was super disappointed about the Hop-On Hop-Off tour and asked if there was any way to still use the tickets.  I said it all depended on 2 things: 1) how long we had to wait at Platform 9 ¾, (which involved waiting in line to take our photo and then checking out the souvenir shop), and 2) what time the tour bus started running, and the stop closest to us where we could catch it…obviously something we’d had trouble with the night before.  At least we knew which way NOT to go. Luckily, DH and DS soon woke up, and we started to get ready.  While the kids were dressing/brushing teeth, I ran the plan by DH.  He helped me with the route planning (remember, I’m total crap at deciphering maps), and agreed that we had time to do at least a partial loop on the tour bus.  We gave the kids the news and they were thrilled.  Since we’d all woken up so early, we made good time finishing up the packing and dropping our luggage downstairs for the hotel to hold until early afternoon.  It was 7:15a.

Anyway, bright-eyed after a full night of sleep, we headed off towards King’s Cross station to find Platform 9 ¾  After a nearly 15-minute walk to the station, we entered and were amazed at the ceiling in there!  I love how it looks like a million crisscrossing train routes.kings crossWe stopped at an ATM and finally got some pounds sterling (£).  That task completed, we turned around and were practically right in front of our 1st stop today.  As Harry Potter fans, we were thrilled!

p934-2Here’s a clip from the movie, where Harry witnesses the Weasley brothers going through for the 1st time.  The relevant part starts at 1:25 or so.

There is a photo opportunity and shop, and I’d read that people line up before it opens at 8am.  We got into line just before 7:40, and there were 5 groups ahead of us.  I did not worry about the line being orderly, as there were retractable stanchions and the British are famous for queuing.  I was glad we got in line when we did, though, because by the time 8:00 rolled around, the queue had extended beyond the stanchions, with at least 50 people behind us.

Soon enough it was time to watch the staff preparing for the crowd.  They laid out all 4 House scarves (Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin) and took a few test photos with their camera, which would take the souvenir photo.  You are also welcome to take a picture with your own camera/phone.  They do a cute thing with the scarves, which makes for a fun keepsake…

p934

I see that DH’s head looks really small here, lol.  We each chose a different House scarf 🙂

After purchasing the photo and a magnet in the gift shop, it was time to eat.  The whole thing had taken about 45 minutes, including the waiting in line.  I was pleased with that.  We approached a pasty shop and got a few of my beloved bacon sandwiches to eat as we walked to the tour bus stop.

We got to what we thought was the stop and noticed it didn’t have the “Original Tour” marker on it.  Not again!  To make a long story short, we flagged down an Original Tour bus that was going to pass us by, and even though we weren’t at an official stop, the driver took pity on us and let us on, since we already had tickets in hand.  Thank goodness.

We were on the Orange Route, which is called the “Orange British Museum Tour.”  Our plan: take that past the British Library, the British MuseumPicadilly Circus and get off around Leicester Square.  We’d then transfer to the Yellow Route, or “Yellow Original Route.”  This one would take us to see Trafalgar Square, up towards Hyde Park, back down past Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben, then cross Westminster Bridge on the way to the world-famous Tower Bridge.  From there, DH said we would check the time to see if we could make it back to Kings Cross on the tour bus, or get off and take the Tube instead if we were short on time.  I, like the perpetually 10-minutes late Latina I am, was convinced there was time to stay on the bus.  Spoiler alert: I was wrong.  But DH’s time-sense prevailed, and it was fine.  Anyway, sights!

It was super worth it to squeeze in the bus tour!  We saw a lot of fun stuff from the Orange route, and hopped off by Liecester Square as planned.  Souvenir shopping time!  I found an awesome magnet, and an Underground tea towel.  Once we had all picked up a few things, we made our way to the Yellow Route stop and hopped on.  Luckily, no one was sitting in the 4 front seats of the top deck- score!  The Yellow route was even better because it had live narration from Joe, a local London resident and hilarious storyteller.  We excitedly pointed out the famous sights, including Big Ben:big ben

Oh well, we’ll see it in all its restored glory next time- the restoration work is estimated to be complete in 2021.  And there will be a next time, because the kids REALLY liked London 🙂

We wound up getting off at the Tower of London stop.  I would have loved to go there and visit the Crown Jewels, but, again- next time!  After a quick bathroom break, we hopped on the Tube and went back to the hotel.  It was a longer walk than in the morning, because of the midday crowds. It was about 12:15pm.

After gathering our bags, we decided to once again splurge on a black cab.  We didn’t want to walk the same way back again and we needed to be at the Eurostar terminal by 12:40.  The friendly cab driver dropped us at the Eurostar terminal entrance about 10 minutes later.  We didn’t save much time due to the traffic, but we were warm and saved our feet.  ‘Til next time, London!

Next up: the journey to Paris, we get lost (again), and prepping for Disneyland!

 


3 responses to “Europalooza Trip Report Part 5: woke up in England, went to sleep in France

  1. Gina I Valle says:

    it is like I went back to London again!!! Thank you.

    Like

  2. VivaLaDiva405 says:

    I enjoy the whimsical scarf! Yay London!

    Like

  3. Joey says:

    I wish to visit London someday.

    Like

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