Supper was served none too soon at The Jugged Hare. The atmosphere was pleasant, and the food was acceptable. (With English food, I couldn’t tell what was “normal” from food that was just bland. Maybe English food is all lacking in robust taste. I am not sure I can offer a fair opinion until I discuss it with a friend or two in England. I mean no offense.)
I learned several new things while Bela and the rest of the tour group went to see Mamma Mia. Rich, an intriguing conversationalist, was kind enough to keep me company. I learned that a “shandy” is half beer and half lemonade, for example. I don’t drink alcohol, but I thought that was amusing. I also learned that there was a proposed tax on “fizzy drinks.” I was outraged! How dare they charge more for drinking a soda than a bottle of water. Discrimination!
After the group was done watching Mamma Mia, we (thankfully) boarded a bus to the hotel. NO MORE WALKING!!!! Bela was in a much better mood because she sat beside a lady who shared candy with her. Bela and the lady had a delightful conversation while they enjoyed seeing the show (again, for both of them).
Once back at the hotel, things got hectic because our room keys had been deactivated. Only one of us had a key that worked! Bela was rooming with three girls from the Texas group, and they were all locked out.
Things finally got straightened out after about twenty minutes, and we were able to get in bed. The next day I discovered that since Bela snores, she had kept the girls awake! (I snore too, and I sleep like a rock!) One of her roomies was epileptic, so she really needed her meds and rest time to be functional. No problem! We all were very considerate of students who needed accommodations. I had originally asked if Bela could room with me, but I was told it would cost us $300 extra! Students were four to a room while adults were two per room.
Avis, the leader for the Texas group, and I thought Bela could bunk in my roomsince it was an unplanned situation. My roomie, however, did not feel comfortable with a student in our space even though the student was my 18-year-old daughter. Plan B was then hatched. My roommate was kind enough to bunk with her students’ moms so we could at least have time to figure out what would work.
Rich’s hands were tied concerning the room situation. Final word (approval) had to come from the main office. We thought things were fixed in London, but the drama continued even after we arrived in Paris. Let’s just say things were finally fixed to our satisfaction after Avis and I both threw fits and refused to pay extra for the room Bela and I had to ourselves. My former roomie got a single room (great for her!), I got to room with my girl (great for us), and Bela’s former roomies could rest (great for them!). The point was there was no way we could have predicted the situation and/or planned for it! Nobody was at fault. After the rooms were decided, I could feel tension oozing away….More adventures coming soon!
After the Pax Lodge activities, we boarded our bus to find our own lunch spot. (Bela and I spotted a Pizza Hut sign, so we went four flights below street level for some tasty food.) There was time to spend a few pounds after lunch, so we did some shopping. Traffic was “chockablock,” so we were a bit delayed after we met up again at the bus and proceeded on a three-hour tour. Unlike Gilligan, we did not get stranded. We did, however, get wet.
I learned that snapping a decent picture is nearly impossible through a window while zooming by the attraction…in the rain. I also learned that taxis had high ceilings in them to allow men to climb in without removing their top hats. Despite the fashions of today, tradition is tradition.
We got out near Buckingham Palace for a photo op. Bela stayed on the bus, but I took the cameras and represented the García family. Janet, the tour guide, and our bus driver, Noel, were very nice and helpful. Our time in London was precisely scheduled—much to my dismay—so we spent quite a chunk of time walking. Dear Rich, our
babysitter full-time guide, walked like he was late for a fire. By the time we arrived at our supper destination, The Jugged Hare, Bela was in tears. Her ankle brace had rubbed a blister on her, and her hip was throbbing. At this point, Bela was ready to go home (as in back to Nebraska). In spite of the drama and fatigue, I took some cool pictures that I’ll share. More later!
London was awesome!
The next day was reserved for a trip to Pax Lodge for a special pinning ceremony. I surprised Ysabela by buying a Bernard Bear from the hotel, so he went with us; the bears were being sold to raise funds for a children’s hospital. People buy a bear, tour London with him and take pictures to share with the hotel staff. The hotel has a wall dedicated to Bernard’s travels.
I stayed around Pax long enough to get some pictures, then I took off for the nearest café! I did take Bernard with me since Bela and the other girls (from various tour groups) were playing games and learning more about the Pax Lodge history.
I learned that the flags on the building represent the home countries of the directors and the volunteers. Any Girl Scout can apply to volunteer at Pax Lodge. The young ladies we met were quite enthusiastic and happy to share their experiences. I was fascinated by the pins on the board. Before I went for coffee, I bought a bird for Ysabela. They were made by a volunteer with scraps of fabric and embellishments. As a quilter, I love that idea.
I walked a few blocks with Bernard tucked in my purse to find coffee and some quiet time. When I travel, I need time to myself to process what I’ve seen and experienced. I met Luz at the café. She spoke Spanish, so it was nice to visit with her. She was very kind. I stayed there long enough to savor my coffee and write in my journal. I made it back to the lodge by eleven, and we headed out on the bus to explore and eat lunch on our own.
One thing that really surprised me in London was hearing many languages being spoken. I had expected to hear a lot of the Queen’s English, but that was simply not the case! I enjoyed the diversity around me, and so did Ysabela. That being said, now back to our adventure….
While Rich dashed off to purchase tickets for Mamma Mia (for 38 pounds each), I took advantage of some shopping time after Bela and I sampled fish (haddock) and chips. Ketsup cost extra, so we did without it. It was much like the batter fried fish we get at Long John Silver. We went to the M&M store and grabbed some neat things along with the chocolate. Bela got chilled from the rain and wind later, so she unwrapped her blanket and used it like a rain coat. We bought two on sale for three pounds each when I paid for Bela’s huge bag of candy.
Bela was so tired by late afternoon, but she wasn’t alone; my feet ached, but we still had to keep moving on and off the metro. The poor kid actually fell asleep while Rich tracked down two of the girls who got misplaced. It took him about an hour to get back with them.
At least Bela’s shopping trip was successful. She was pleased to find a flag and a London iPhone case. I couldn’t find a case for my phone, so I was a bit disappointed. We made it to Hult for supper where we had pizza. It was pretty tasty after such a long day. Some of the older ladies and I were nearly worn down to a nub after so many hours spent walking around London. We made it to the hotel (finally) around seven. (Keep in mind that we flew out Sunday after lunch and it was now Monday night.) I was rooming with Laura, a Girl Scout leader. Laura had emailed me prior to the trip to introduce herself which was kind of her. I was thankful that Laura had a spare adapter so I could charge my phone! Bela was rooming with three girls from the Texas group. They had been discussing anime all day, so they had bonded a bit.
We hit the showers, then I perked up enough to go to the hotel bar for some American coffee. It only cost me a pound. I smoked a couple of cigarettes, then dropped off Bela’s medicines.
On my final smoke break of the night, I met a girl named Charlie Alex. Her boyfriend, George, was caring for his little sister—Marla, two years old, green eyes, red curly hair. Her picture was adorable. Charlie asked me questions about the United States, and I listened to her explain why she was unhappy with the decision to leave the European Union. She opined that it will limit economic opportunities for her generation. Chatting with Charlie was a nice ending to a very hectic day.
I have been away on vacation with my teen, Ysabela, for 10 days, but it feels like a lot longer! I’m happy to be home and blogging again. In this series of blogs, I will go over the trip day by day to share the experiences with you all. I kept a journal just for that purpose since I had so many people interested in our travels.
July 10, 2016: We were lucky enough to be transported by friends to the airport, so that saved me a lot of parking fees and stress. We made our flight, but it was a bit sketchy. Dawn, one of the flight attendants, was there, but she wasn’t a bit helpful. The plane shook and made odd noises—enough to alarm Bela. I reassured her, but I was a bit concerned until things evened out. Since our flight took off late, we barely made the connecting flight in Chicago. We were the last ones to board. That part was very stressful, as you can imagine!
After we got settled in on the flight across the pond, Jeffrey Alan made us feel at home. This plane was so much different from the others we have taken! First class was WOW! Bela and I decided that one day, we will travel to Europe in that section! We kept going to the “regular people” seating. Each row was divided as such: 3-4-3. Dinner was a sight! I chose pasta, Bela wanted chicken, so we were both satisfied. Each tray had the main course, a small bottle of water, a roll, salad with pomegranate acai vinaigrette dressing on the side, a small wedge of cheese and crackers. I ate almost everything while I watched Allegiant; Bela tuned in to see a Goose Bumps movie. We had time on the flight for about three movies if we stayed awake for the entire seven-hour flight. We definitely felt spoiled. Supper made us look forward to breakfast!
Flight information showed Chicago to London as 3939 miles which translated into seven hours and 20 minutes. I enjoyed my headphones and blanket. Daddy’s Home was my second movie choice. I did end up sleeping some.
July 11, 2016: We landed in London around nine in the morning (their time, not ours). It took forever to get through the passport check. Once we escaped that, all I wanted was a smoke! I left Bela with an EF Tour lady while I found a smoking area. After so many hours without one, I felt a bit dizzy afterward.
The EF Tour lady took Bela to Richard, our babysitter/guide/go-to guy, and he finished collecting the rest of our group. We dropped off our luggage at the bus while he passed out our Oyster cards. Oyster cards are used for public transportation. We saw a lot of the metro today! We literally walked miles. One lady had a FitBit and said we had already walked almost three miles, but she didn’t have it on all day. We definitely got in way more than 10,000 steps.
We saw buskers in Trafalgar Square and hoofed it over to Covent Garden to view some awesome statues. Our final destination for the day was Premier Inn in the Shoreditch area of town. More pictures and info to come!