by Frederic Davies

This is a combination travelogue and diary regarding a five day trip from Pennsylvania to London. Remember - two of those days will be spent in the air! It should be said at the outset that this trip seems much more harrowing in retrospect than it did at the time. We have often said that we have no regrets.

My wife and I, both avid anglophiles for many years, had always relished visiting the UK and knew that we would someday. I had retired from teaching, but she was still working at the time we hatched our plan. She would take three days off from teaching and sandwich them around a weekend. We could then fly to London and take care of the "touristy" things so that our future extended trip could be more expansive.

All the plans were made and a Thursday evening flight was in the offing. Unfortunately, so was a forecasted snow and ice storm. I nervously watched the weather forecasts as my wife dutifully went to school. Frantic calls were exchanged between airport, school and home.

Finally, the decision was made to dismiss school early and there was no ice yet. Off we went to the airport as the snow changed harmlessly to rain. No flight problems - only a five hour wait for the departure.

Once onboard we grew more excited. The British Airways flight attendants in their snappy outfits made this trip a reality. Looking at a seven-plus hour flight on a piece of paper and actually experiencing it are two very different concepts. I do not sleep easily on a plane, so my time was taken up eating, reading, watching the movie and resting my eyes. Eventually, our descent was announced and, even with sleep-deprivation, my adrenalin started to flow. We were actually in England!

After the hustle and bustle of customs and securing a taxi, we were whisked to our hotel. No time to waste! Find the room, dump the bags and off to "The Tube." We had researched this part and even had the presence of mind to purchase a pass before we left.


US travellers can purchase a London Underground Travel Pass before they leave the States from AAA. While you're at AAA stock up on traveller's cheques in pounds sterling.

Years of using the Metro in Washington DC had prepared us. We were tubing like professionals in no time. Up out of the ground we came perfectly positioned to walk to Buckingham Palace. Walked by the Horse Guards Barracks and watched an inspection. On to see Parliament and Big Ben. Walked out on the bridge to see the Thames. We still couldn't believe we were really here!

Big Ben
Big Ben

Off to Westminster Abbey where we wandered on our own for a while until we realized the futility and signed up for a later tour. We found a charming pub nearby for lunch, walked around some more and returned for the tour. Our guide seated us in several rows of chairs for an orientation lecture. BANG!! It all caught up to us right there. My wife and I took turns nudging each other as we alternately drifted off to sleep.

Fortunately, it was then time to walk. The tour was fantastic - the sheer scope of the history was awe-inspiring. Poets' Corner, plaques marking the graves of composers I had heard about all my life, the ancient throne and more ancient Stone of Scone (which has since been returned to Scotland). We both were mesmerized and temporarily forgot about our fatigue.

Following our tour, we returned to our hotel and promptly passed out on the bed. So this was the nefarious "jet lag" we had always read about. The sleep was fantastic, but waking up at four in the morning left a little to be desired. My biological clock was quite confused. Eventually, we both awakened at a normal hour, had breakfast and, once again, back to the Tube.

This time to St. Paul's Cathedral where we also cast wistful glances toward St. Martin-In-The-Field and the Tate Gallery. Only so much we could do this trip, however, so we entered St. Paul's and were once again transported to the wonders of the past.

Coming from a country where something two hundred years old is considered ancient provides a flimsy reference for the wonders we saw on this trip. After touring St. Paul's and learning about the Great Fire as well as damage from World War II, we tubed on to visit Harrod's and signed up for their bus tour later that day. We then wandered about, had a nice lunch at Harrod's and returned to the hotel for a quick nap. Hailed a taxi after the respite and returned to Harrod's for the tour, which took about 90 minutes.

The Harrod's tour was a great idea as we were able to see many sights our frantic schedule would not allow on foot.

We had decided from the beginning that nightlife would not be part of our itinerary. As a result, while we deprived ourselves of the opportunity to see a show, we were able to wind down in the evening and get to bed early.

Another educational point - be sure to get the right kind of electrical adapter to avoid having your electric razor simulate a form of torture known only to ancient civilizations. Trust me on this one.

The next day - our last - was set aside to stroll Oxford and Regent Streets to do some shopping. While not the throngs of Piccadilly Circus, these areas were fairly congested.

Back to the Tube and off to the Tower of London. Another amazing visit to antiquity. This must have been a good day as there were no crowds and we were able to spend quite a bit of time looking at the displays with our mouths open in wonder. The guards were friendly and most informative. Loved the markings on the walls from ancient prisoners and the Jewel Tower was simply amazing.

After stopping at a pub near the hotel, we were able to take a leisurely stroll in Hyde Park and reminisce about the events of the last several days. While we were tired, the adrenalin was still working in combination with the wonders we had beheld. An early bedtime allowed us to have breakfast and hail a taxi to Heathrow for the return flight.

As one could imagine, it took several days at home to return to normalcy, or as close to that as we ever get, but no regrets. It was all we could schedule at the time and provided us with some wonderful memories. We'll be back - this time on a more sane schedule.

About the Author
Frederic Davies is a retired educator and amateur genealogist. Find him on the web at

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