England: London and York

When: Summer 2013

Where: Stratford-upon-Avon; Stonehenge; London; York

Hotels: Novotel Waterloo (London), St. Deny's Hotel (York)

After getting ourselves together in Wales and finally settling into the vacation part of our vacation we carried on to London. On a side note, we tried doing a day trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see some of the historical Shakespearian fun, but it was a complete nightmare of a tourist trap with insane traffic and NOWHERE to park.  If you go, please either get there early and plan on staying the day or more.  We also did a drive-by of Stonehenge.  Stonehenge is really spectacular if you can take the time to tour it up close, something I did back when I was 18.  Now, it is overrun with coaches and tourists, which really isn't a surprise, but it's hard to ascertain the feeling of awe everyone should get when they see it for the first time when people are shoving their way around the paths.  There was also a lot of construction happening and I think they may be moving the visitor's center to about a mile up the road to help cut down on the traffic situation.  We were going to stop but as we were waiting to park, we had a grand view of the ancient circle so we got Sir's attention and told him to take it in.  He said, "Oh, that's so cool!" before burying his head back into the iPad.  You can't win 'em all.  So instead of parking, Todd hit the gas and we giggled at the flippancy of our actions.  "We'll be back," I say.  London was calling our name.

I had been to London when I was 18 and was itching to go back.  We were only staying a few days so we found a hotel with a garage (cha-ching!) to park the car so we could "do" the city right.  Quick note on driving into the city: you must get a permit to drive within certain perimeters during the week or you'll get ticketed.  This helps cut down on traffic and emissions.  Also, according to the husband, driving in London was nothing compared to the winding roads and spirited drivers of Wales.  The Novotel next to Lambeth Palace was as central as we needed and suited our family fine.  As our son would say, when we asked him what he thought as we entered the lobby, "I like it; It's clean."  That'll do.  It was a stones throw from the River Thames and we ended up walking mostly everywhere, besides our jaunt on the double decker.

The Double Decker tour is one of the most "touristy" things you can do, but we have a tradition of going on a bus tour of every new city we go to because its a fast, efficient, and fun way to orient yourself with a city.  You can also take advantage of the hop-on hop-off feature and get a lot done in a relatively short time.  And since this was a whirlwind tour of the UK we needed to see and do things quickly, while at the same time trying to take in the current and past cultures of the city.  Unfortunately we ran into some very obnoxious Americans (le sigh) who were treating London like Disney World. It's so important that when you visit someone else home town that you respect it and these people were just nasty.  We hopped off that bus and took another and were extra careful to be model and respectful visitors.

London is such a cosmopolitan city, full of vibrancy and life that is somehow anchored in tradition and poise.  We love it there and a few days was not enough time.  Sir (who is now 8 years old, obsessed with gaming, and watches British gamers on YouTube) is hellbent on moving to the UK.  There is no doubt we will be going back, hopefully sooner than later.

From London we set off to York.  We managed to book a small Bed and Breakfast within the historic walls of the old city and were stoked to get there.  We left early enough from London so that we'd have the entire afternoon in York, since it was just an overnight.  When we arrived--and let me quickly add that my husband and I have above average IQs--we could not for the life of us figure out a way into the city!  There are the old city walls in the interior of York and our hotel was beyond them and the only road that was open was full of cars heading out.  After over an hour of circling the city we just kind of went for it.  Meaning we drove the wrong way in, drove on (what I think was) a pedestrian only street, and finally (by the good graces of Thor and any other magical god) ended up in front of our B&B.  York really is a beautiful city with it's medieval stone walls and still standing Tudor buildings.  It seemed to shut down in the evenings and we decided to make it an early night and early morning.  If we hadn't been so tired we may have enjoyed it more and I look forward to returning.  My husband was less keen on York, but I blame it on the long day; long driving days make for grumpy men, in my experience. Rise and shine {and eat a giant, proper, English breakfast} then off to Scotland!

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