Bringing the blog back to life... in London!

I'm beginning a travel series while we're abroad in Europe for the next seven weeks (yes, SEVEN weeks!) highlighting trip memories, details, tips, and answering different questions that might come up during our journey. I'm passionate about travel, Timothy is passionate about travel, we're teachers with summers off and we're spending our time before kids exploring the world and meeting new people. Whether it's in our own hometown or halfway across the world, we love to discover new places.

This post will overview some of the things we've done while in London so far, and also give the vision behind our 7 week trip abroad. In future posts I'll be talking about airbnb (love it for so many reasons!), chic and cozy budget traveling, when to splurge and when to save, creating a budget for a European vacation, as well as profiling some of our "top spots" we visit in each city. European travel is accessible for anyone and there are many free and low-cost options to make your travel dreams come true.

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Day 1, also called I hate flying long distances + jet lag. 

I have been looking forward to this trip for months and months and months. Getting on that plane was way worse than trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve Night, because #1 it was cramped and #2 I couldn't wait to land.

I coached myself with meditation tapes (literally!) to try and relax, fall asleep, enjoy the ride... nothing worked. I tried watching movies... I just kept starting them and then getting bored and switching them off. I listened to some of my audiobook. I listened to music. I tried to sleep (to no avail)... ANYTHING to try and make the time go faster! I had a love/hate relationship with the "map" button on the seat back TV. (Those that have flown Internationally know exactly what I'm talking about... it seems like the plane moves so slowly across that map!!) I kept counting down the landing clock by episodes of Modern Family and Big Bang Theory. Finally, I just gave up. I wanted to stare out the window but the woman behind me got mad at me for keeping the shade up when everyone else was trying to sleep (the sun did not set during our flight). Apparently keeping the shade up is bad form... but didn't she know I was bored and needed to be distracted?!

Anyway, we finally landed (after going round and round in circles in the air for 15 minutes because Heathrow is crazy busy on Saturdays at noon and our plane had to "wait in line" in the air to land!) and then spent another good hour going through customs and waiting to collect our bags. We got to our baggage claim zone and were waiting... and waiting... and waiting... we were one of the very last people and were still waiting. Not a good sign. I started to get worried after 20 minute and no bags, and we were thisclose to walking over to the lost baggage department until Timothy realized we had been standing at the wrong baggage collection zone the whole time!! Thank goodness. We rushed over to our actual zone and lo and behold, there were our lone bags just circling round and round, waiting for us to rescue them. Our poor airport car driver had been waiting for over 45 minutes for us, but thankfully for us we were only paying a flat rate...

I got to ride in the front, left seat which was super weird considering this is normally the driver's seat and not the passenger's seat in the US. Our driver was from Turkey and spoke at length with Timothy (I was about to pass out due to exhaustion) about Turkish politics and the Greek currency crisis while I pretended to listen and instead rubbed my throbbing headache and dreamt of a hot shower and a soft  bed to nap on.

About an hour later, we arrived in the Kennington borough of London where our airbnb flat was located. This was our first experience actually renting a room through airbnb (we have rented a full home before but never stayed with hosts ourselves) and I was really looking forward to it for a number of reasons:

1) Its proximity to the city without actually being in the city center. It is located in a borough called Kennington which is exactly three stops on the Tube away from all London's major attractions-- just about 10 minutes of riding to get anywhere.

2) Lior, our host, had great communication with me during my booking process and before our arrival and I was looking forward to meeting him.

3) The home was cute and looked modern and comfortable.

4) Our price in USD was $85. You cannot get a decent room in London for under $130 and that is if you're just staying in a shabby B&B somewhere in the Bayswater or Bloomsbury districts (not the best). Most people spend at least $200 a night on a hotel in London just to be someplace decent.

Side note: We landed on the 4th of July and even though our host is a loyal Londoner, he welcomed us with a "Happy Independence Day" card and American flags on the table. What a gem. :)

Once we arrived, Lior greeted us at the corner of the house and helped us with our bags. Zombie-Fide, I thanked him for his hospitality, rubbed my eyes, and headed for the shower. I needed to wash all those airplane germs off ASAP! He knew we would be jet-lagged, so he had the curtains of our room closed and everything ready for a nice nap. He left us to sleep, and we fell hard and fast asleep. Falling asleep when you land is a big no-no when trying to fight off jet-lag, but I never have and never will obey that rule and hit the ground running when I land. Those kinds of luxuries are for the more fortunate plane sleepers!

Timothy and I woke up just a couple hours later and forced ourselves to get up and wander around London. It was a beautiful 80 degree Saturday, the Londoners were all out and about soaking in the sun, and the energy was electric. We had to go explore and officially take our, "Pinch me, I'm in London!" walk. Lior left us a map with food recommendations so we grabbed a quick bite to eat at a delicious Pan-Asian restaurant in Kennington and then purchased our "Oyster Cards" (tube travel cards) to ride the subways all over London. Since the closest major attraction to our house was Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament, we decided to go there.

Every building here in breathtaking. I often stand and stare at the regality and architecture of such a historical city married to and merged with a bustling metropolis all in one. I never get tired of London. If anything, the more I come back, the more I love it. There is so much to see and discover, even if you see the same sights over and over again.

Timothy and I walked to Trafalgar Square at twilight, listening to some live music, watched some breakdancers near the National Gallery, walked down to Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, took our touristy Westminster Bridge photos & red phone booth photos (because, of course...) and then decided that we were ready to head back for a good night's rest. It was a perfect day to begin our European adventure with.

Our flat in London



Tourist photo!

The Royal "Big Ben"

We're in London!

Timothy on the Westminster Bridge with the London Eye in the background

The Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament and the Thames River

The Thames River


Trafalgar Square



Quintessential London. 

If only you weren't so expensive, darn cabbies...

I love London!!




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