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Our Magnificent Journey
Chapter 6
Europe 2005
London, Paris, Normandy, Prague


Carol and David  
04.22.05 - 04.23.05
Friday / Saturday
Days 1 and 2
The Journey Begins
Here we go again. As if in a dream, the reality (and associated stress) of the world of work has been replaced by the Disneyland world of the adventure of travel. And so begins another chapter of Our Magnificent Journey...
Cody smiling goodbye...

Up at 3:30 am, full of pre-travel energy. Long, sad farewells to Cody. Last minute checks and re-checks. The taxi arrives. The driver's (PJ) nails were insanely long and multi-colored. Five minutes later we arrive at Arizona Shuttle, where we gathered with several members of the Sojourners, a group of church members (Christ Community Church) on their way to Ft. Lauderdale for a weeklong cruise to the Bahamas. We enjoyed visiting with Jim and his wife, and after an easy, smooth 2-hour ride, found ourselves at the Delta International departure gate at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Check-in was easy and we passed through security surprisingly quickly.


We have accumulated so many frequent-flyer miles that we were able to upgrade to first-class and already we have been able to bypass several queues as if we truly are special. Nice way to start this first leg of our journey which takes us from Phoenix to Atlanta, where we have a two-hour layover before the flight to London.


We boarded the Delta 767, flight 222, and eased into our spacious seats, eagerly looking forward to becoming airborne towards Atlanta and then onto London. However, due to a thunderstorm in Atlanta, our great steel-winged bus sat on the hot Phoenix tarmac for over an hour. My bride of ten years and I ordered bloody Mary's and toasted to adventures to come.

Carol settling in for the flight

The 3-hour flight to Atlanta was uneventful and pleasant. We watched Jennifer Garner in the throw-away movie “Elektra.” Dinner of roasted chicken sandwiches, salad and chocolate cake was delicious. The Delta 767 was not nearly as “fun” as the Continental 777 we are used to but we enjoyed the ride. Due to the storms around Atlanta, the pilot had to “drive around the block” several times to burn up valuable fuel and waste precious time. We arrived in Atlanta at 7:00 pm just in time to catch the Hartsfield Airport train from concourse A to concourse E. No layover here – we were boarded onto a Delta 767 which had a much roomier, plusher first class section and we were immediately handed mimosas to welcome us and warm us – Delta likes their planes cool.


We could not believe the legroom in first class. There was at least 5 or 6 feet between our seats and those in front of us or behind us. The service is exactly as we had expected in the stratosphere of first class – we were pampered the whole 4,233 miles from Atlanta to London.


I find it difficult to sleep on planes, especially with massive amounts of trip adrenaline rushing through my veins. The only people awake through the night and the wee hours of the morning were me, the flight attendants and, hopefully, the pilots.


The 767 cruised peacefully 36,000 feet above the Atlantic. This is a familiar flight path for us having made this trip several times over the past few years. Although we have usually flown via Continental, Carol had trouble booking our departure on that airline (though we used Continental miles) so we flew Delta instead. We have no complaints.


I enjoyed following our flight statistics and progress via the onboard GPS system displayed on larger screens through the plane as well as on our private entertainment centers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going first-class. What could be wrong with being pampered for 8 hours with all sorts of delicious food, drink and hot, moist, scented towels.


We touched down at Gatwick Airport, south of London, right on time. We deplaned, cleared immigration immediately, and quickly bought tickets for the Gatwick Express train, where we met and chatted with Lynn and Andy from Minneapolis, who were in London for meetings with their mates from British Telecom. I was surprised to learn that BT had a presence in Minneapolis. We enjoyed the 30-minute ride and conversation then bid our new friends good luck and melted into the soup of humanity inside old Victoria Station. Carol bought Tube tickets and several stops later we found ourselves in Holborn. We walked a few blocks in the lovely and oh-so-welcome misty, gray, cool London weather to our first hotel, the Bonnington on Southampton Row. Since we arrived in London, I have noticed that among the thousands of people we have already mixed and mingled with, I am the only person wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt. Most folks are bundled up in warm sweaters, jackets and scarves, but I, having just left the too-soon summer heat of the Tucson desert, am just loving every second of this cool, damp air. I intend to savor it, since two weeks from now, we will be returning to a blast furnace.


We arrived at the Bonnington too soon to check into our room, but we were able to check our bags, and we rested in the lobby, which gave us time to catch our breaths (we have already walked miles) and time to catch up in our journal.


After a short rest/catch-up in the hotel lobby, we walked past the Bloomsbury Park Hotel where we stayed in '99 and around the corner to the Swan, an historic pub we visited on that trip. We sat and had a pint of Guinness while we spoke with Peter, the barkeep, a student from Poland. Peter was charming and gave us some tips on Prague, Poland and Turkey. He was in Poland working on his PhD on the economic impact of national civil war but suddenly his professor died and his work is now on ‘hold”. We wished him good luck, then walked across busy Southampton Row into Bloomsbury Park, with its wonderful rainbow-colored flower gardens and impressive central fountain.

Carol, Guinness and a map
Peter and Carol at the Swan
As I was snapping a photo I noticed an elderly woman staring at me. She apologized and explained that she thought my long hair was “beautiful”. So as I thanked her for her compliment, Carol snapped our picture. She was from Italy and spoke English with a thick accent, and was very gracious. We wished her well, then walked the few blocks north to the Charles Dickens Museum on Doughty Street, well worth the 5 pound (each) admission. Having just re-read both Tale of Two Cities and Oliver Twist, I was eager to learn more about the man who was so able to capture the essences and flavors of not only 18th century London, but revolutionary Paris as well. We spent about an hour in the museum and the video in the basement was most informative.
Wonderful woman and David at Bloomsbury Park
Flowers at Bloomsbury Park
Charles Dickens House

After the museum we wandered through many side streets of Holborn. We came across a shy young Cinderella all gussied up for a costume party, then found ourselves back on bustling Southampton Row. We checked into the Hotel Bonnington, rested and showered. At this point, we have been up for nearly 30 hours.

Shy Cinderella

Slept for about 2 hours, then dressed for a cool and delicious London evening. Out into the brisk London air, we walked down Southampton Row to Long Acre and into Covent Garden, where we window-shopped and then found Belgo Centraal, famous for its mussel dishes. The wait was about an hour but the staff kept us entertained. I called Carol's folks and then Dan to let everyone know that we had arrived safely.


To start our dinner, we ordered Belgian beer – this is a Belgian restaurant, and when in Rome... Carol ordered the Thai Mussels and I had the “Classique” dish in cream and garlic. Mine were superb but Carol's were outstanding. The French fries with mayonnaise were delicious and we ordered bread ($3) to sop up the broth. Dinner was delicious and cost $75, which we determined was about double what the cost would have been stateside. Worth every pence, though.

A two-fisted beer drinker
Carol enjoys the mussels at Belgo Centraal

After dinner we did more window shopping and then made our way to crowded, lively Covent Garden Market. A young fellow played some fairly amazing finger tapping on an electric guitar that appeared to have been fitted with a special “stick” type pickup. He was very talented and we put some coins into his guitar case.

Street musician at Covent Garden

Next we located the webcam that we have been watching online for months. It is located in the southeast corner of the square, behind glass, facing the bench marked with the round museum sign. We waved to no on in particular and took a self-portrait.

Yet another self-portrait

It was now 8pm (12:00 noon Tucson time) and we decided to get some sleep after a long, full, fun first day of travel. A short 30-minute walk found us back at the hotel where we literally crashed into bed...

Pedometer reading for today - 7 miles

Next Day


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