Travel to London, A 1% City

Our trip started in London. We only had three days with the first day a blur; nobody slept on the red eye going over.

Staggering around the Tower of London with serious jet lag.

We knew that we were going to make mistakes on this trip, and would chalk up those errors as a learning experience for subsequent trips. The first mistake was make making a firm schedule or reservations for the first day. We needed a nap, but instead we put in ten miles criss/crossing the city, because I had already purchased nonrefundable tickets for the Tower of London and had booked a table at some Gordon Ramsey gastropub. Both were lovely, but I was too exhausted to remember much.

Lesson 1. Don’t expect that anyone in my family will sleep on a plane. Lesson 2. Don’t make reservations for Day 1. Lesson 3. Don’t make reservations for anywhere. They’re totally unnecessary and cramp your style.

The last time I was in London was the early 90s. It has changed quite a bit. Back then, my boyfriend at the time used to talk about the rough crowds in the pubs where he tended bar. Cockney guys who would drink too many beers while watching soccer matches and then regular beat each other in the face with their signet rings. Left a mark, apparently. It had the corny Queen tourist stuff, just as now, but it was mixed with granny traditions and a working class vibe. Punks in big hair and big boots were common place.

Cranes and St. Paul’s

Now, it’s no different from New York City. Just as New York has changed and lost it’s gritty artist, music scene, so has London. Even with Brexit, the city was still booming. Construction cranes were everywhere building luxury apartments and work spaces.

Rather getting a “plowman’s special” at a family pub with a warm beer like I did on previous trips, we ate in hip restaurants with chilled Italian beers and modern interpretations of English classic fare. We ate really well.

One night, we sat at one of those open air pubs drinking with Jonah, who was very, very pleased to be of legal drinking age. At the next table, was a group of girls about his age. They clearly weren’t backpackers staying at an $8 a night hostel like I did at their age. Dressed in heels and nice outfits, they were probably doing a summer abroad through their private colleges or had an internship.

Drinks at an underground pub with no signs. Only locals know about it. Got loaded there.

I met up with a friend of mine who works in the financial industry there. Her son, who went to a fancy private school in Westminster Cathedral, is now at an exclusive, but surprisingly cheap by American standards, college where he consorts with the children of Russian oligarchs who have homes in several cities, including New York, and vacation homes in Sardinia. Over flaming cocktails, she told me about the lifestyles of the ridiculously rich.

The ridiculously rich aren’t tied to one country, but many. Places like London and New York City are just one their homes. Their money has changed the landscapes of those cities for both the good and the bad. Don’t waste my time with nostalgia for the old 42nd street; it was a dangerous dump. But places like this have squeezed out ordinary folks, as well as the artists and creative types. Local culture has been lost to Gucci handbag stores and faux culture.

Clowning around at the Tate.

Since we live so close to Manhattan and my husband works there everyday, London didn’t feel like a huge adventure. The museums were lovely and would go back to see the ones that we missed on this trip, but it wasn’t a trip into a different culture. After three days, I packed up the few evening outfits that I brought for the trip, and we got on a train in King’s Cross for Scotland.

Vacation Blogging To Come

Edinburgh Castle

We have returned from ten days in the UK. I still have that lovely vacation feeling and am not ready to think about serious matters. I don’t even want to talk with anybody on the phone yet.

I’m going to download my camera and my memory for the next couple of days. I’m even going to do a sponsored post later in the week for the first time, because my writing about packing for travel last week got some notice.

Travel Packing

We are flying out on Thursday for ten days to London, Edinburgh, and Inverness.

Were our vacation plans inspired by the Outlander books (read them three times) or the television series? NOOOOO. But I have to say that I did learn a ton about Scottish history from reading those books.

The weather is going to be crazy when we’re there. Ranging from the low 80s during the day in London to the low 40s in the Highlands at night. Because I prize high mobility, we’re only taking carry-on luggage and backpacks. We need clothes for mucking about during the day and different outfits for nice restaurants in the evening. So, packing must be done very sensibly.

The boys and Steve have finished packing (with a lot of oversight from me). I haven’t yet commit to my outfits. The options are draped over a chair awaiting final decisions. The color scheme is black, white, denim, and pink. I have a summer dress for London that will work with black tights and a sweater in Scotland.

Honestly, I adore packing. It gives one an excuse to buy new stuff. I like the exercise of reducing one’s possessions to the core essentials. I like figuring out how to re-purpose outfits. I like shrink-raying one’s toiletries into a little bag.

I even like the slight element of danger – what happens if it’s too cold and you don’t have the right sweater?!!! what happens if you get invited to join Prince Harry for Pim’s and all you have are some nasty shorts and a t-shirt?!!! Those anxieties increase the challenge level of packing, so that’s fun, too.

This year, I have invested in packing cubes. I explained them to Ian as dresser drawers for your suitcase. How anal retentive am I? Well, I’ll tell you…. I bought cubes in different colors for each family member. Green is Jonah, Red is Ian, Black is Steve, Pink is me. And then everything I bought for the trip – backpacks, power converters, travel toothbrushes, also conforms to the color scheme. Nice, huh? I can tell you my entire family sighed in deep relief, when they learned that there will be no mistaking their backpack for another person’s backpack.

(more later)

Vacation Planning

I’m a little burnt at the moment. I finally pushed out two articles of drama off my desk yesterday morning. I’ve been happening at the same as the end-of-the-school year half days and music performances and thank you notes. With the college kid home, I’m back to having to cook pounds and pounds of food every night. And my insomnia has been ridiculous lately.

So, I haven’t been in top blogging shape. Sorry. No writing about schools or politics today. I can’t take it. Instead, I’m going to bore you with talk of our upcoming vacation.

With Steve on the speaker phone, we spent the morning coming up with an itinerary for our upcoming trip to the UK — three days in London, three days in Edinburgh, three days in Inverness.

The London trip will be all the usual stuff, but it will be fun to do it with our kids. It’s our first family trip to Europe. So, it will be the Queen’s house, Big Ben, and all that. I want to show the boys the dead knights at the Temple Church and the genius of Christopher Wren’s St. Paul’s. I want to walk through street markets and buy some meat pasties.

We’re going to be a lot more random when we get to Scotland, but we’ll definitely hit some whiskey distilleries and roam through small towns in Highlands. We’re renting a car, so we’ll be very mobile. And we’re staying in Airbnbs for the first time.

I hope the places that we booked in Edinburgh and outside Inverness are as awesome in real life, as they are on the Airbnb website. We’ll get much needed space; because there’s no way that all four of us want to squeeze into a double queen bed hotel room anymore. They cost the same as a hotel. And they are so, so, so cute. OMG. I can’t even deal.

[Ian’s calling me to take him to swim lessons. More later.]