Seeing London as a Sight Skipper
Yes, you read that right. We are officially ‘sight skippers’. But no worries, we still have a great time traveling no matter what we do or don’t do on the journey. You see as I’ve mentioned before, we’ve both traveled a lot. In fact, although this was a first time for my husband, I’ve been to London several times before including trips for both business and pleasure. And as part of my true confessions here, he is actually the one that’s not so thrilled with being a tourist. Good traveler? Yes. The kind that likes to go to all the popular tourist places and wait in long lines? No, and I can assure you it did not take me the full 35 years of our marriage to figure this out. This realization came pretty quickly into the marriage when, at the time, I was working at Walt Disney World, and every once in a while husband would have to drop me off to work or pick me up. Our conversations would sometimes go like this:
Me. “You want to use my employee pass and take a quick ride on Space Mountain tonight when you pick me up? No lines. No waiting, and it’s free fun!”
Him. “Are there still tourists around at that hour?”
Me. “Well, yes. There are about a gazillion visitors every day here. It’s what keeps us in business. But, by the time you get here the head count should be low - under ten thousand or so.”
Him. “No thanks.”
I could say more, but you get the picture. A tourist he’s not, nor is he fond of large gatherings of same; and come to think of it, the older I get the less appealing this is to me, too. So that’s how we came to be sight skippers. Further, we’re both quite comfortable with this admission. You see honesty is another blessing that comes with both getting older and completing this many years of marriage with the same person. And so, prior to our departure when people would ask me what we had planned for London, Paris and all the other stops we were making on this journey I’d just say “Gosh, we have a full agenda every day. We’ll have to tell you all about it when we’re on the other side.”
So, here we were ‘on the other side’. London, to be exact. With no planned itinerary, just the smiles on our face at landing (have I mentioned all that in-flight champagne and wine?) and the knowledge that we had 24 hours with no set plans other than to have some fun, and that we did. Starting with our hotel, The Pullman London St. Pancras (http://www.pullmanhotels.com/) which was so fabulous that at first we didn’t even want to leave. At all. Ever.
It was only a short wait for our room to be ready during which time we became very comfy watching something akin to the United Nations in action from our view in the oversized plush lobby chairs we had quickly sunk our travel-tired bodies into. You see our hotel was very international, but over there it sounds better when you say ‘intercontinental’. Every desk clerk, concierge, manager and hotel employee we encountered spoke multiple foreign languages and these weren’t just the same old Spanish and Portuguese accents we frequently hear back home in Orlando, FL. They were a mixture of old and new Europe, all quite fascinating. And, may I just say that this international staff was also very service oriented and efficient. We felt welcomed and also that our business was truly appreciated. They struck up conversations with us, offered assistance, drew us maps of where to go and did everything to help us get out and move, but we really liked it right there in the lobby. So much so that I went ahead and ordered a proper English tea so I could linger there a while longer and enjoy the bustling international activities around us. There was an active modern social media center, lots of relaxed nouveau lounge areas, and would you believe an artistic display of English bowler hats? (see photo at end of story)
Eventually we did make it up to our room, and despite the fact that we had less than a day to explore London, promptly took a nap. Oh yes we did. Because that’s what you can do when you don’t have tours to catch or a schedule to keep.
But, we knew we couldn’t sleep the entire day away, so eventually we went out in the world and walked a few blocks to catch a typical double decker tour bus (when in London. . .), but we did check first to make sure there were no lines or waiting. The bus made a huge circle tour around the city and we loved the fact that we could hop on and off wherever and whenever we wanted. Being sight skippers, we didn’t get off too often choosing instead to see most everything from our comfortable perch on top of the bus. Sometimes the route was guided but often we simply were enjoying the natural cacophony of British street sounds. We did manage to take a few obligatory pictures around some of the famous sights, but mostly we just enjoyed the passing scenery either on our bus or from the boat cruise on the River Thames that we caught later caught on. Lovely.
Then our time as London tourists came to an abrupt end when the final bus we were on stopped and announced ‘The tour has ended for today. Everyone must disembark here.’ Once we found where ‘here’ was on the map, we decided to get some exercise and hoof it back to our hotel, further enjoying the very British sights and sounds along the journey. Back in the safety zone of our own ‘United Nations’, aka The Pullman Hotel, we opted for dinner in the hotel’s restaurant (apparently Buckingham Palace hadn’t heard we were in town. Pity.). Before you make judgment on us for dining in the hotel that night let me just say that it was a unique and lovely restaurant, and as previously mentioned here, we loved our London ‘hotel home’. The Golden Arrow Restaurant, was very enticing as its theme was reminiscent of the former sophisticated rail system that traveled daily from London to Paris, before high speed rail, which is what we would be taking the very next day. Not surprisingly, the Italian maître‘d and our Slovenian waitress treated us like royalty with first class continental service, and we were 110% pleased with every course of that meal.
So, did we meet up with any actual royals while in London? No, but we did have a relaxing carefree day making our way around the outskirts of the tourist areas, enjoying lovely weather, people and food along the journey. Besides, you have to leave some opportunities for the next visit, right?
Up next on day 3 – nous allons á Paris!