Suffice it to say, a week in London offers virtually endless possibilities. That is the amount of time allocated for the trip where attending Wimbledon was the centerpoint (see last post). But that was just one day’s activity!
I’ll start with how we flew to London. I’ve often talked about booking mileage seats for international flights. The number of miles to fly into Heathrow is officially crazy, not to mention the taxes. Arguably the worst route is LAX-Heathrow. But if you begin heading east from LA, the number of miles is less. Often by a lot. That means, find other cities with non-stop flights to LHR: Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, and (bingo!) Houston. Why get excited about Houston (in the summer especially)? A chance to visit with longtime dear friends as a bonus for this trip. Even with the addition of round-trip air from LAX to Houston on United, the spend was less than originating in LA. Below, with various members of the Zeidman family in Houston (who tried their best to get us to divulge the nature of the trip – to no avail!)
After a fun overnight catching up, we had a uneventful flight into London. “Uneventful” is a word that cannot be assumed these days. Both our LA and Houston drivers shared with us the turmoil their schedules have been subject to recently. It is very difficult to plan with so much air travel disruption.
It’s always a big and time-consuming endeavor deciding on a hotel (for me, anyway). Consideration includes location, cost, amenities, hotel size, etc. Staying a full week in one hotel is highly unusual for our travels. We tend to move every 3 days or so. Accordingly, even more thought went into this one.
I chose the Baglioni London for a few reasons. It was one of the most “affordable” among the Amex Platinum offerings; it has just 60 rooms (definitely prefer smaller hotels); and I like the location for walking (near Kensington Palace). It’s also a member of Leading Hotels of the World, through which I often book. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the hotel along with their top-notch team. In particular, the concierges were extremely helpful and very knowledgeable.
Like the recent trip to Singapore, I booked an international outpost of a beloved LA restaurant – Pizzeria Mozza. We managed to keep awake long enough our first evening to thoroughly enjoy the meal while adjusting to the time change. The delicious food below:
The following day took us back to Heathrow but for an excellent reason! Getting our rental car (for the day) and driving on from there to Wales. Why Wales? Why not? We’ve been to all the other UK countries. But it wasn’t just to have a “look about”in the area. The route provided us an opportunity for another first: visiting Stonehenge.
Back to the Wales visit, the country has an entirely different language. I mean, it is barely understandable. And it’s full of consonants with few vowels. Try deciphering the one below while driving!
After lunch in Cardiff, Wales – chatting with a local
I mapped our return route to see the historic site Stonehenge. It is quite amazing — a monument made of stone assembled thousands of years ago that attracts more than a million visitors annually. It is well worth the trip.
And then a trip highpoint (for me at least): Highclere Castle — the filming site for Downton Abbey. Getting there is fairly easy via train from Paddington Station, then a short cab ride. I pre-booked our tickets and we arrived with time to walk around the immense grounds and visit the gift shop (no purchases!). The first glimpse below. Don’t you half expect to see Carson walking up the path??
Photography is prohibited inside (wink, wink), but a very nice person took the photo below at the entry. (The entry doors seemed larger on the show!) Once inside, the path is pre-ordained to include the main “great” room, reception rooms, upstairs bedrooms and the well-known and familiar grand staircase. The downstairs kitchen was filmed off premises.
Several iconic areas below that are easily recognizable from the show:
A few people asked me if tourists are allowed inside. Many grand estates in the UK are only able to exist with the funds raised by people who are curious enough to pay for a visit. Highclere has been in the same family for 8 generations and encompasses 5,000 acres. That requires a lot of “pounds” to maintain!
The rest of our London (and beyond) adventure in the next post.