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“The Starry Neighbor (Neighbour?) Chronicles: Pining for the Fjords” – Anthem of the Seas, July 8th-15th, 2022


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Man, this London trip has been busy!! Also the wifi in this hotel is terrible, so that is not helping. The results on my laptop are even worse!

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so anyway, we were at the Tower of London up to closing time, we hung out in that area because we had tickets to go up to the observation platform at The Shard. This is a 72 story building, and is the tallest in the UK. The observation deck on the 72nd floor is 800ft up! You take two elevators to get to the top. Each ride is 30 seconds. Once at the top. You have 360 degree views of the city, and it’s open to the air. There is seating all around, and a bar as well. 
The Shard

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The kids being goofballs before heading up

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Views from the top, Tower Bridge 

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St Paul’s Cathedral 

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The London Eye and Houses of Parliament 

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After coming down off The Shard, we had all run out of fun and were pretty tired. After spending the week in temperate Norway, we were not ready for the heat of London. At this point we were past the time the hop on and hop off busses were running, so we headed to the metro station to grab some metro passes. We approached two of the workers to inquire about the visitor Oyster cards (subway passes) and the reduced rate card for Lyida. (11 and under ride for free, 12+ students are 1/2 price) The two workers looked at Lydia and said, she looks 11 to us, and to just get two adult cards and call it good. We said works for us, and we now had our transport arranged for the rest of the trip. 
 

The underground (subway) in London is very good and easy to navigate. Trains are quick(though there have been some delays due to the heat) and all of the magic attractions are within zone 1 and 2 which are the cheapest fares.

We returned to the hotel tired and weary. Pizza delivered to the hotel hit the spot for us that night!

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11 hours ago, GregD said:

Views from the top, Tower Bridge 

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We were in London for a few days at the end of March when we went over to the UK for our daughter's graduation. You seem to be pretty much hitting the same sites we did!

I got this one of Tower Bridge from the top of the Shard. Because of the time of day and the position of the sun, you can see the shadow of the Shard superimposed on the bridge.

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Sorry, this will be a long one!!!

We woke Saturday ready for a long day. We are all Harry Potter fans so we had a Harry Potter walking tour scheduled. While not as impressive as the tour to the studios that @Lovetocruise2002 and her family did, this was still a lot of fun. It was also a good way to see more of London. The idea of the tour was to see some of the sites that inspired J.K. Rowling when she was writing the books as well as areas that the movie was filmed in. @Lovetocruise2002 check with D13 and see if can recognize some of these places.
 

We met our guide along the Thames River in Minerva Square. Fans should get the reference there. 
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We all got together in front of this statue…..look familiar?

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Our guide was fun. He asked everyone if they were fans, and what house we were in. Of course we all knew our houses. Johnny and I are Gryffindors while The Boss and Lydia are Hufflepuffs. Our guide sorted us all into houses because during the tour there would be questions and challenges and points would be awarded. Thankfully we had a Harry Potter ringer during trivia on the cruise because we had lots of banked knowledge.

Once sorted we were off. First stop was Borough Market. This area was used in the movie, and was also really great to walk through. We had made plans to try to get back here for some food grazing, but unfortunately it never panned out.

Here are some Of the amazing stalls.

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In this area, was the filming location for The Leaky Cauldon. In book three when Harry rode the Knight Bus and it stopped outside The Leaky Cauldron, this is the location that was used. Obviously the Taco Restaurant was removed digitally🤣

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This building on the third floor was used for all of the filming of the interior scenes.

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As we continued our walk, we got to take a boat ride on the Thames, which was fun, to get to some other locations.

Some fun trivia. J.K. Rowling had requirements for the studio before they could buy the rights to make the movie. The first one was that all of the actors had to be British, and all of the filming had to be in the UK. That brings us to this location. Does this remind them of anything?

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How about here?

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For those who aren’t up on their trivia like a certain D13. This is where the scenes where Harry, Hermione and Ron had to break into the ministry of magic, as well as where Harry used the phone booth to enter in movie 3. They digitally moved that overpass to try to “confuse” and disguise the filming locations, but people are smart and easily figured these out. Just like Borough Market, and a few more.

Interesting thing to note. In the books, the first time Harry goes to the Ministry of Magic (Government building/politicians work here etc for the world of magic) Harry gets to use the visitor entrance which is via the iconic red phone box. When he has to break in at a later time disguised as a ministry worker, he has to use the “employee entrance” which if you read the books/saw the movie was by “flushing himself” down a toilet. This gives you some insight to how J.K. Rowling viewed the world…visitors get a phone booth, politicians flush themselves down the toilet……

The next location was across from Trafalgar Square.

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This should scream Gringotts Bank to you! Interesting story. Remember back when J.K. Rowling demanded that everything be filmed in the UK? Well the original scenes in Gringotts were actually filmed just down the street, in a building that houses the Australian Embassy. The producers had to get special permission, not only from the Embassy, but from J.K Rowling to film there. They were only able to film there for the first movie because the Embassy did not give them permission for later films. The producers ended up taking thousands of photographs and rebuilt Gringotts on the studio lot.

Our next location was this little street.

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J.K.Rowling worked in a building here and walked this alley daily. This became the inspiration for Knockturn Alley. They attempted to film here, but it was too narrow, so again thousands of photographs were taken, and this area was built on the studio lot for the movies.

Next up, this street was the inspiration for Diagon Alley

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This street is lined with small local shops and bookstores. Local rules will prevent any changes to this, so you won’t see a national chain type store on this street. Some more trivia for those not in the know. J.K. Rowling had sent the first book to many publishers and was turned down by all of them. When the publisher who actually did publish the book received the manuscript, the publisher didn’t actually want to read it, so he gave it to his daughter. 3 hours later she came back to him clamoring that she loved it and wanted to know where the second book was!
 

The first thing that the publisher did was tell her that nobody will buy the book if she uses her full name and see that it was written by a woman. Sexist, I know, but that was the reality when the books came out. They were thinking along the lines of J.R.Tolkien and T.S.Lewis. J.K. didn’t actually have a middle name, so she used the initial for her Mothers name. Unfortunately her mother dies before the first book could come out. The publisher only did 1000 copies for the first edition, and we all know what happened next. As a “lesson” keep an eye out in local book stores for new first edition fantasy books from unknown authors. You may end up rich! A first edition Harry Potter book recently sold for over $300,000!!!

Our tour ended here

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We have not seen the show yet……but we will. This show takes place 19 years after the events in the last book, and is in two parts totaling about 6 hours!

Sadly, we didn’t not make it to Kings Cross Station…..the crowds there get really busy, and it was getting hot, and we were hungry and the kids were getting restless.

Thanks for reading this long one…..more to come!!

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25 minutes ago, GregD said:

check with D13 and see if can recognize some of these places.

I have already directed her to this post. 

27 minutes ago, GregD said:

For those who aren’t up on their trivia like a certain D13.

That's me remember? I am a troll. Only knew one answer. 😆

Walking tour looks fun. We debated between doing this on our last London day. In the end, afternoon tea and toy stores won. lol

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On 7/16/2022 at 5:44 AM, Lovetocruise2002 said:

We were laughing at the reports on TV yesterday while chilling at the hotel re: the heat wave. Where we are in Ontario, I work in a non-air conditioned school, with a class full of 13 year olds, in over 40°C (100°F) some days in June. 

When I was a child (and rode my dinosaur to school-ask my kids), we had no AC in NC schools.   We also did not start school until the tobacco had all been cropped because the farmers relied on the high schoolers to help.   This meant that we were usually in school through a good bit of June.   When temps reached a certain level, they let us out of school early.  I don’t remember the temps but I remember it being very hot.  Plus high humidity is a given in NC.  At a certain point it equalizes but 90 degrees with 98% relative humidity and no rain is really miserable.  
 

Our first RC cruise was out of South Hampton in September 2017, a very hot time in London.  We spent several days post cruise in an unairconditioned boutique hotel hotel.  It was hot but bearable. I cannot imagine what it’s like this week.  

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On 7/16/2022 at 11:55 AM, Ray said:

Yeah its funny watching this! 

Its the same in winter England gets 1" of snow and it comes to a stand still and people get heating allowance if it gets a little bit cold. 

Yet other countries manage to survive in extreme heat or 2m of snow with temperatures dipping as low as minus 50

I can relate to this too.  Most of NC shuts down with a quarter inch of snow.  Several reasons:

1. We get very little snow and none of us know how to drive safely in it

2. We get so little snow that it makes more economic sense to shut down on the rare occasions than to invest in snow plows 

3. Most of our “snow” is really ice. 

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38 minutes ago, Fairlynew said:

I can relate to this too.  Most of NC shuts down with a quarter inch of snow.  Several reasons:

1. We get very little snow and none of us know how to drive safely in it

2. We get so little snow that it makes more economic sense to shut down on the rare occasions than to invest in snow plows 

3. Most of our “snow” is really ice. 

Most of the Carolinas will shut down if a weather forecaster says a word that rhymes with snow.  Milk?  Gone.  Bread? Gone.  Beer?   Still some left.  

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55 minutes ago, twangster said:

Most of the Carolinas will shut down if a weather forecaster says a word that rhymes with snow.  Milk?  Gone.  Bread? Gone.  Beer?   Still some left.  

I'm born/raised FL moved to NC for college and never left.  First year in college it was calling for snowed I happen to be grocery shopping and the casher asked me were was my bread/milk, didn't I hear snow was coming. 💭  We got sleet for an hour then it was sunny.

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After our tour ended we headed off in search of food. Our thoughts were, let’s find one of the REALLY old pubs in the city and eat there. A quick Google search later brought us to here.

This pub is called The Lamb and Flag. It’s been a pub since the days of Charles II. Known as the “Bucket of Blood” for its prize fights in earlier days. The inn has been host to such historic figures as Samuel Butler the poet Dryden (who was attacked by rogues outside the pub) and Charles Dickens, who worked nearby.

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The view outside the pub

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Our meals

Fish and Chips

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Lamb Sausages

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Meat Pie

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With our bellies full, we headed off on more adventures!

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After lunch we were off for some more exploring. We headed back to Regent St and made it to Hamleys. Along the way we passed The Palladium Theater, where Beauty and The Beast is. This is a favorite of The Boss.

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Other sights….

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We ended up at Hamleys!

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spot the baby hippo that’s coming home with us!

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At this point we were all very hot, sweaty and tired so we headed back to the hotel to rest and recharge. There might have been a bit of time traveling too..😴😴😴😴😴

That evening when we were ready for dinner, we wanted to try one of the Indian Restaurants so we found one that was highly rated on TripAdvisor. It’s called The Rajdoot  on Paddington St. Nearly 2000 ratings and it’s 4.5 stars, so how bad could it be? 
 

We hopped on the tube and headed off. We had a nice table outside, and we were not disappointed by the food. Like idiots of course we ordered WAAYTOO much food! It was delicious though and if anyone heads across the pond you should check it out.

We had meat samosas and chicken pakoras as a starter.

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Mains included Chicken Biryani, Chicken Tikka Masala, and their Rajdoot special 

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of course there was Naan, that didn’t make the photos.

with full bellies we ambled back to the hotel and called it a night.

 

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Sunday we woke to head off to Windsor Castle. We walked over to Paddington Station from the hotel which was very easy and went to purchase our train tickets. Everything we read said the journey is about 45 minutes, so when the option for First Class tickets showed up for 35£ round trip for all of us we said why not. If you do this journey, don’t bother with the first class. You do have to change trains in Slough, which we knew, but the ride to Slough was only about 18 minutes, so it’s not really worth the extra expense, not that it was much, only about 7£.

The seats were nice though….

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Once you arrive in Windsor. As you step out of the station, you are already facing the castle walls, and it’s a short walk up the hill to the visitors entrance.

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Here we are walking up the hill. You exit the castle there on the left, the visitor entrance is further up.

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You do go through airport style security, which is understandable, and then you are clear to enter. All the tickets come with a multimedia audio guide which is very informative, and helps you navigate the castle and grounds. 
 

Shortly after getting you multimedia guide, they have this layout of the castle. As you can see, it’s huge! Only a very small part is actually open to the public.

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it’s hard to see here, but the Queens standard was raised on the flagpole, which means she was in residence.

Grounds keepers have been replaced with robots.

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St George’s Chapel

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Interior courtyard.

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We were not allowed to photograph anything inside the castle, but needless to say it was amazing! You get to see state apartments and ceremonial rooms, where the current Queen hosts dignitaries, historic rooms of Charles II and so much more. There was no changing of the guard ceremony that day though.

 

 

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After our trip through the castle, we headed into the town of Windsor for some lunch and ended up on a tiny street and chose Clarence Brasserie and Tea Room for an afternoon tea.

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While it’s no afternoon tea at The Savoy, this did hit the spot and was very tasty.

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For the airplane nerds out there, I believe this was one of the many A380’s that flew overhead.

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After lunch, we wandered a bit more, then headed back to London for some more exploring. We booked anytime train tickets which gave us great flexibility.

Once back in London, we headed back to Borough Market for some grazing, only to find it closed. Many of the other things to do were also closed as well.

We ended up wandering along the Thames. 
we boarded The Golden Hinge, a full scale replica of the first English ship to sail around the world.

Its quite tight below decks….No Star Class accommodations here!

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We saw Shakespeare’s Globe Theater 

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We crossed the most hated bridge in London, the Millennium Bridge.

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We also came across the ruins of Winchester Palace.

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At this point in the day, everyone was running out of fun, so back to the hotel we went.

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3 hours ago, GregD said:

While it’s no afternoon tea at The Savoy, this did hit the spot and was very tasty.

Trust me, Hubby would way rather have had your afternoon tea. Lol

After looking at your pics, if I ever go back to London, I really need to block off time to go to Windsor Castle. 

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38 minutes ago, Lovetocruise2002 said:

Trust me, Hubby would way rather have had your afternoon tea. Lol

After looking at your pics, if I ever go back to London, I really need to block off time to go to Windsor Castle. 

Windsor really is stunning! I had blocked off a whole day, but we really didn’t need it. It’s about 2 hrs to go through the castle, longer if St George’s Chapel is open.

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11 hours ago, MicDay said:

I'm born/raised FL moved to NC for college and never left.  First year in college it was calling for snowed I happen to be grocery shopping and the casher asked me were was my bread/milk, didn't I hear snow was coming. 💭  We got sleet for an hour then it was sunny.

Yes, our joke  when the weather reports call for snow is that the grocery stores must be overstocked on bread and milk.

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After some recharging and procrastination Lydia had chosen to try a ramen place for dinner. We chose Bone daddies Ramen Bar in St Christopher’s Place. This was a fun and lively street with lots of restaurants, anchored by a shopping center. It was right of the Bond St Tube stop, so very easy to get to.

We forgot to let the camera get its first bites, but we did get one of Johnny shoving his face full of Ramen.

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The kids both got a chicken Ramen. The Boss got what’s called the T22, which is Pulled chicken, cock scratchings™, onion, beansprouts, nori, spring onion, shiitake mushrooms + Clarence Court egg

I got the classic Tonkotsu which is Chashu pork belly, spring onion, bamboo, beansprouts, burnt garlic + Clarence Court egg.

It was a nice night out, so we took our time enjoying it before the impending heatwave came through.

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Monday morning came and so did the heat. So what did I have on the schedule? A 3 hour walking tour!!!🤦🏻‍♂️ This tour was titled palaces and parliament and we got to see quite a bit of things.

We met our guide in green park which currently isn’t very green, and began our tour. Our guide was very funny and charismatic. He had plenty of “true stories” to tell about working with a catering company and has apparently worked at events the Royals were at. He and I were joking back and forth during the tour, as well as the kids, so we all had a great time. This wasn’t a private tour, but we seemed to engage with him the most.

Our first “house” we saw was Spencer House….yes, that Spencer. 

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we headed to Buckingham Palace to see changing of the guard. 
 

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The ceremony was altered due to the weather. Our guide had proclaimed that he had no idea what they just did, but it was very different from normal. We all still liked the pomp and circumstance, it’s not like we know any better.

After this we headed into St James’s Park, which offered some shade and welcome relief from the heat.

We met some of the residents there, and took in the scenery.

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We then moved to St James’s Palace

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As we headed for Admiralty Arch, we passed this monument of the previous King and Queen Mother. Apparently the birds do think too highly of him.

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Duke of York Column

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Then we passed Admiralty Arch on the way into Trafalgar Square.

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We used the water in the fountains to cool off. The water is treated and safe for doing so.

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We got a picture of the kids with the Lions

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Fun factoid, the bronze for these lions and plaques on Lord Nelson’s monument were made by melting down the French weapons after they were defeated by the British.

At this point it was getting really hot!! 
We headed down Whitehall and Parliament street. We stopped for a picture with the horses at The Household Calvary Museum

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We passed 10 Downing St

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And ended in Parliament Square Garden, which gave us great views of Westminster Abbey 

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The Statue of Winston Churchill

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and the Houses of Parliament, and the tower that holds Big Ben

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Thankfully, the tour ended here because we were starting to crisp up in the sun, so we headed off in search of lunch.

 

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Lunch brought us to a pub seen earlier this trip, and we just had to make a stop!

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The location doesn’t have anything to do with the history of the stories, it is just themed around them, and there is a collection of items and memorabilia.

It helped that the food was good because they were out of some of the beer I wanted…..I made do with a second choice though.

The Boss has a chicken salad

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I had a beef pie….probably not the best choice on such a hot day…but oh well.

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The kids ended up with Mac and Cheese

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We were fully sapped from the heat today so we headed back to the hotel for showers and some AC.

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Tuesday was our final day in London, and arguably the day that The Boss was looking forward to the most. Today was the day we had rented the car for our trip to Highclere Castle. If that name isn’t familiar, it’s the castle that Downton Abbey and many other films, shows etc were filmed at. This was a big adventure day too because I got to get a crash course(thankfully only figuratively) on driving on the other side of the road.

Planning for this day was quite some work. Getting the tickets to the castle was the easy part. We also chose with our admission, a picnic lunch to go with our tour. What became fun was trying to figure out the rental car. All of the places close to the hotel did not have any available cars for the day we wanted. We also wanted the car for as much as possible for the day. I had set times of 9am-9pm. This also limited choices, because other close places did not have after hours drop offs. Renting from Heathrow became our only option at this point.

One added bonus was this gave us the opportunity to have a low stress dry run by using the Heathrow Express to get there and back without the additional stress of first time use, bags etc etc.

I can say that using the Heathrow Express is the way to go! For those not familiar, it’s an express train ride from Paddington Station to Heathrow airport. It takes 15 minutes to get to the central station between terminals 2 and 3, and continues on to Terminal 5. The train runs appropriately every 15 minutes. If you know you want to use it, you can pre-book online and if you do it far enough in advance, tickets are as low as 15£ and kids are free. Far cheaper and faster than an Uber.

Once at Paddington Station it’s very easy to find the right train. Just follow the purple dots!865456CB-5E09-4216-A2BF-9027AF348A2E.thumb.jpeg.edce0778a16b6f5818d0a7272550eaae.jpeg

Don’t forget to….

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The train was fast and comfortable. Once at the central station, we followed the signs to terminal two. As you head up the escalators, you pass all the bus stops adjacent to the main terminal entrance. We needed stop 7 which was the shuttle to the Enterprise lot on the perimeter road.

I had reserved a premium automatic car since it was only 20£ more than their standard automatic. Which gave me the choice of a Mercedes C class or similar.

Waiting for me was this fun car. An Alfa Romeo Giulia. Sadly it was only the Q2 and not the Q4, which has a really fun engine in it.  A 2.9L twin turbo V6 with 505HP. Oh well, this one still had some pep in it, and handled very nicely. 

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I quickly got used to driving on the opposite side of the road, and after one GPS good we were off!

After about an hour we arrived at the castle and despite the heat, The Boss was thrilled.

The Castle is just amazing!

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We got to wander all around the grounds and gardens.

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After exploring outside, we grabbed our picnic box. I came beautifully presented 

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Inside

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Menu

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Following lunch we toured inside the Castle. Photography is not allowed as the Castle is still the home of Lord and Lady Carnarvon. If that name is any familiar, this is the same family that discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun. There is an exhibit in the castle dedicated to this. 
 

Since I can’t show you pictures here, just go watch Downton Abbey. Nearly all of the interior scenes are filmed in the castle and you can see how amazing it is.

We could have easily spent all day here, but it was approaching 106 degrees so we needed to cool off. We piled back in the car in search of some frosty beverages and more adventures.

 

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1 hour ago, Lovetocruise2002 said:

Nice car! Hubby and I were wondering how you would do driving, great to hear it went well!

It was a nice car. I have a thing for Alfa's so when that was sitting in the lot I was really excited. The driving really wasn't bad. My GPS goof was that I was in the wrong lane at one point and basically took an exit instead of staying on the highway. 

The roundabouts are what required the most concentration to go left around them, and not right, other than that, it was relatively easy.

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Once back in the car we ended up at a shopping center at Starbucks for some frosty beverages. We also managed to grab a small carryon size suitcase for all the extra items we accumulated and to make the packing to go home easier.

We had plenty of time left with the car and after our drinks and time in the store with AC we had cooled down enough to be up for more adventures, so off to Stonehenge we went!

My stepmom, who grew up in England, jokes that Stonehenge is just a bunch of rocks, and doesn’t get the appeal, so of course we were sending messages back home that we were off to see rocks!

It was a nice drive there, and once we arrived, a weather front passed through and the temperature dropped significantly so being outside was much more enjoyable.

While being a bunch of rocks, it really is interesting to see, and then when you find out that they moved these stones over 400 miles to get them there makes it that much more impressive. There is more to the site than just the rocks too, so there is quite a bit to see and do.

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They have a map of the whole area and what is involved.

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We had some fun with the pictures too

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We wandered the gift shop and found some fun souvenirs 🤣

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Sadly, our final day was drawing to a close, so we headed back to London.

We got the car back to LHR in one piece and headed back to the hotel via the Heathrow Express. The trip back was just as easy and soon enough we were back at the hotel for packing…..worse day ever….again

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That evening, while packing, we ordered pizza from Pizza Express right by the hotel, I do NOT recommend….it was not good.

I’m not sure if I had mentioned earlier, but our hotel is in what’s called Paddington Basin and that are has recently been redeveloped. There are quite a bit of new buildings. The area was the end of a canal that was in use from 1801. 
 

It really looks nice in the evening.E5F55651-FA45-44A0-BD9F-F30028A806EB.thumb.jpeg.35d7f8675d3d7ab9521c56e27ec7269c.jpeg

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Paddington Station is also quite nice

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Wednesday morning came way too quickly. Based on news reports and advice from @Lovetocruise2002 we chose to get to Heathrow 4hrs early for our flights.

We left the hotel at 5 to give us plenty of time to make the short walk to Paddington and get to the airport in case there were issues. This proved to be fortuitous because all of the elevators were not operating, so I got to play Sherpa at the two stair cases to lug the have suitcases down. (It really wasn’t that bad)

This is the walk we did. With everything new, the sidewalks are nice and smooth, and it takes you right to where you need to be.

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The first trains 5:15 and 5:30 to Heathrow ended up being canceled, so we ended up on the 5:45 and we’re off. So far, stress level low…

We stepped off the train a few minutes after 6 and headed to terminal 2 to get fully checked in and turn over the luggage. 
 When we got there, there were lines out the door. That was for check in area B, we needed C which thankfully was still inside. Here is what it looked like inside….stress level rising, but not much we knew we still had time, and the line seemed to me moving okay…

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What must have been a Heathrow record, we made it all the way through check in and security to the departure lounge by 7:20!! So 1hr 20min from stepping off the train to sitting on my butt sipping coffee, stress level waaaaay down!

While waiting for our gate announcement, I wandered a bit and looked at some really fancy watches. The guy at the counter barely acknowledged my presence because me in my jeans and t-shirt definitely didn’t look the type🤣🤣🤣

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The second one from the left, bottom row was 30000£!!!

I almost had to buy this scotch. I live in the village of Scotia, which was founded by Alexander Glen, who was from Scotland, but at 400£ I thought I better not….

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Throughout the day, all of our flights were fine, no big delays or issues.

We flew back via Dublin, so we got to do US Customs there which was pretty easy, and made our arrival at Philadelphia as if we were domestic travelers.

By the time we departed for Albany we had been up for many….many…….. hours. This one fell asleep while waiting to taxi, and didn’t wake up until after we landed.

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With weary bodies, but heads and hearts full of wonderful memories we arrived home and crashed in our beds….

It was a wonderful trip that I will look back at so fondly. It was an absolute pleasure sailing with @Lovetocruise2002 and her family, they are some of the nicest people out there….except for that one kid while driving bumper cars🤣

Thank you everyone for reading and following along to our adventures! Now I wish I had a genie to take care of the mountain of laundry I have to do…..

Oh….I almost forgot….this happened too!!

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