London! London! London! I still gush when people ask me how it was because, oh, wow, you guys, it was totally worth it.
For starters, we really couldn't afford (financially) to take this trip. It was a terrible idea from a budgetary standpoint, but you know what is really expensive? A DIVORCE. So I decided to scrimp and save and pinch pennies and take every last holiday and birthday present I've received over the last 5 years and put it toward our trip. Since I stopped working four (!!!) years ago, we've cut out so many things- trips, dinners, clothing, shoes, haircuts, dry cleaning, babysitters, and anything else you can think of, and lately I've realized that there are some things we really shouldn't be cutting out.
Somehow and somewhere we need to find the money to hire a babysitter, even if it is once every couple of months, and spend a bit of time together as a couple. We need to continue to go out for pancakes every Sunday, because we've done it for 12 years and it is important. It means something to us. We need to go sit in a coffee shop and have an actual conversation without little people interrupting us or demanding our attention. We shouldn't have taken the trip, but I needed to walk with Josh, talk with Josh, hold hands with him, spend time alone. It was magical.
For starters, I was totally flexible on where we would go, as long as the tickets were a good deal, and London ended up being the best deal (although sheesh, I didn't realize the British Pound was quite THAT strong). British Airways was the airline, and we both highly recommend it.
Then, I knew I wanted to rent an apartment because we've done that before, and it's worked out well for us so far. I found a flat in Fulham, which is a suburb of London right on the "Tube" (subway) and lots of bus routes. Fulham ended up being a really cute and trendy suburb full of shops and restaurants. The flat was an entire floor of a woman's house, and we had access to a full kitchen, bedroom and private bath. Best of all, it was less than HALF the price of even cheap hotels in London. Housing is expensive in London!
The place was great, very clean and comfy and large, and the owner was very friendly and kind, and even brought up electric blankets and trays of tea when it turned out to be colder than anticipated. The only strange thing, I will admit, is the knowledge that you are in someone else's house, with the owner sleeping directly below, if you get my drift. I felt the teensiest bit awkward about the, um, romantic parts of our vacation. We had complete privacy, but still, it is weird. When we rented an apartment in Prague, we never even met the owner, and probably I'd opt for something closer to that in the future, but I can't deny that the owner was incredibly helpful and generous throughout the trip. We were a 10-15 minute bus or Tube ride into the city, depending on where we were going, and it meant I got to sit on the top floor of a double decker bus multiple times a day. Yay!
Day 1: Christmas Day
We left on an 8am flight, and remember, Josh STILL didn't know where we were going! I'd spent all of last night packing for the two of us, and stressing over forgetting something crucial. Like gloves or his jacket, or enough pants, or something like that. At one point, I made a joke about us bringing back a little "souvenir" (i.e. a baby) and naming her London, which, what the hell was I thinking because I totally thought I gave it away?! But I realized fairly quickly what I'd done and then said we might be naming our souvenir Guadalajara, or Paris, or Rome, so I made a good attempt at covering it up. No worries on the souvenir, though! I made sure of that.
Anyway, my mom drove us to the airport in the morning and I'd pre-printed our boarding passes, so we were able to go through security, get a coffee, sit in a centralized location in the terminal before I revealed we were going to London! And he claims he was surprised, so yay! I'm never doing another surprise trip again, though, because UGH, the stress!
As we took off and the plane turned over the water, I did have a moment of panicky OH MY GOD WHAT ARE WE DOING? I was leaving my babies and crossing an ocean. To another continent. For SIX days! What's done is done, though, and I told myself not to spend another minute worrying about it and just enjoy the luxury of reading a book and watching a movie and eating a meal in silence! The flight was fabulous, and Josh and I had an empty seat between us so we spread out and relaxed. We landed at Heathrow at 7:30pm, but after security and customs, we didn't get out until around 9pm, at which time I stood at the exit doors of the Heathrow arrivals terminal and stared at the signs and pinched myself thinking, holy shit. I'm totally in London.
Oh, and I should mention, we somehow, shockingly, traveled with only a carry-on, which was a freaking miracle and I still don't know how we did it. 6 days of clothing (plus extras, just in case) packed into a tiny roll-aboard, but I highly recommend it. We didn't have to worry about lost luggage or waiting for bags, and I felt like such a jet-setter with this tiny bag. Plus, we were moving around the city before and after on public transportation, so small bags made everything much easier.
I'd tried for weeks to find a flat to rent that would take us on Christmas day, but London apparently shuts down for Christmas, including the Underground and the buses, and the taxis charged exorbitant fees to get into the city, so I finally bit the bullet and got us a room at the Heathrow Hilton for the night. I was disappointed not to be seeing London that same night, but honestly, it was great. We didn't have to rush and were able to walk into the hotel within a few minutes, check in, and grab some tea and dinner before it got too late. The hotel was modern and luxurious and totally sufficient. We turned on the television and breathed in the British accents and lounged in the comfy bed, and planned our day tomorrow. We skyped the kids before going to bed, and then turned in by midnight London time (7pm Boston time) so we'd be on the right schedule. I was exhausted, but didn't sleep great that night, probably due in equal parts to the time change and the excitement.
Tomorrow, we'd finally be in London. I could have screamed in excitement!
Day two- tomorrow!