Monday, February 28, 2005

A cry for help...

Help, help, help!

My family and I are off to England for a much-anticipated 12 day vacation next week. Six days in London will be followed by a potentially harrowing six-day road trip in a rental car gallivanting (or should I say "careening"?)around the English countryside. Being a big-city lover myself, I am thrilled to have all that time to explore London. Steve lived there for a semester in college and has been dying to take me there since the day we met. After eighteen years of telling me how wonderful a city it is, he has finally decided to stop telling me and to show me.

For all of my European travel, I have never seen London. I have been under London, but I have never seen it. Here’s my rather odd story: Although I spent many hours on the tube beneath London's historic streets during the summer after my junior year in college, I was never able to make my way out into the world above ground in London. That was in 1986, nearly twenty years ago now - yikes, I’m getting old. I was traveling with a group of college students to various European countries checking out churches and missions organizations. I spent the next semester in Madrid – where I fell in love with Spain, the Spanish language, and a certain young man whose wife has since issued a restraining order against me, but that’s a topic for another blog. Back to my London story – while on that summer tour, I passed through (well, underneath) London from Dover on my way to Oxford. Then I made the return trip to Dover. Several weeks later, I passed through/under London again on my way up to Northamptonshire to visit a friend I’d met in Oxford. I ran from the platform at one train station down the stairs into the tube station, rode across town, and exited the city on another train from yet another station. I think it was at Victoria station during one exchange that I left my backpack with a friend and ran to an open door facing the open air. I looked up and down the street quickly then sprinted back to my bag in order not to miss a close connection.

This trip promises to be much more promising. My husband has taken on the job of tour director for our adventure. Lest there be any mournful shaking of heads and worrying that our daily rounds will be limited to rugby matches and darkened pubs, my husband has a stellar trip-planning history. For our honeymoon he planned a three-day layover in San Diego, complete with visits to Coronado Island and Tijuana, Mexico, on our way to Hawaii where we stayed for seven days on the tiny island of Kauai. Plus he is the one who makes all the airline and hotel reservations for my annual solo treks. This man knows his way around True to form, he is pulling together an impressive list of sights he wants to guide us to and through, and I am looking forward to our trip tremendously.

True to my own form, however, I am planning a few solitary getaways while we’re there. I will place a call to the National Gallery in the next day or two to reserve a ticket to the Caravaggio exhibit they are hosting at the moment. I am meeting up with a friend I haven’t seen in over two years; she lives in Connecticut but because she is an American Airlines flight attendant, she has made plans to meet up with us in London and will spend most of her layover with our family. What she doesn’t know yet is that I am planning to sneak off alone with her that Friday night so we can see London under the lights. Kim, bring your dancing shoes! With my recently developed addiction to collage making, I’m looking forward to perusing a few paper shops there, snagging a few uniquely English magazines, and whatever restaurant take-away menus, promotional cards, and matchbooks that aren’t nailed down. Plus all the receipts, maps, and museum and abbey entrance tickets will make for memorable journaling and scrapbooking upon our return.

Here’s where my call for help comes in. I would like to make an appeal to anyone who has been to London: Please send me ideas and suggestions. Send restaurant, shop, and gallery recommendations. While I realize that six days aren’t nearly enough to see such a splendid city, much less my few hours alone, the more guidance I receive with regard to London’s “must see” sights, the better my experience will be. And don't be afraid to send a few "out of the way" places for me to check out; there's nothing quite like the insider tips offered by someone who has abandoned the road most often traveled and cut a new trail of their own.

Write soon, my much-revered travel advisors; we leave Wednesday, the 9th.

Ta-ta. Or is it “cheerio”? See, I’m learning how to speak their language already.


Anonymous said...

Hi Gail, Joanne here. So excited for your London/England trip! I'm thoroughly an Anglophile--if you want to experience family-style eating at a Japanese ramen bar, you should check out wagamama. Like most London establishments, it's minimalist and features clean lines, but i loved grabbing a quick bite to eat there. there are 5-6 locations all over the city, so you should be able to find one--don't remember exact locations anymore.

if you like markets, camden is a great one (urban, colorful and gritty), a little northeast of the city centre. One of my favorite moments in London is walking through Hyde Park during sunset (on a sunny day)... it is so beautiful!

have a wonderful time over there... i will look forward to hearing what you think about England when you get back. I'm jealous--I love Caravaggio, and the National Gallery has some great ones!

Anonymous said...


As a reader you might enjoy a book I read 1 or 2 years ago if you haven't already read it. Its called "One Year Off" by David Elliot Cohen. The sub-title is "Leaving it all behind for a round-the-world journey with our children". Loads of laughs. I've enjoyed your writings so much.


GailNHB said...

Virginia, thanks for your suggestion. I have read that book and would love to live out that story with my own children. Perhaps someday I will. Actually I wrote a couple of blog entries about it back in the fall. I cannot say for sure which month, but if you click on each month and check out the titles of each blog, you'd be able to find it. Blessed Easter, Gail

GailNHB said...

Virginia, I found the two blogs. They are on December 7th and 14th. I hope they are a happy reminder of a fabulous book.

Thanks again, Gail