London, October 1-3

London was a nice ending to our travels in Europe. When we got plane tickets for this part of the trip, we decided to fly home from London for maximum flexibility -- we weren't sure where we'd end up (certainly we hadn't imagined it would be the Black Forest!), and London is convenient from most anywhere in Europe. We hadn't planned necessarily to spend any time in London, but we're glad we did.

We had plenty to keep us busy for two full days:
  • Enjoyment of typical London weather, varying from gray to drizzly to full-out rain. We didn't see the sun once.

  • Several good museums; the British Museum and Natural History Museum were particular standouts.

  • Westminster Abbey, most impressive being secular aspects such as the tombs of numerous British luminaries over the centuries. (Emily wants to mention that she wasn't as impressed as the rest of us -- she was most interested in the "Coffee Corner Cafe" tucked away in the cloister gardens.)

  • Excellent theater. We got last-minute tickets to Wicked, a musical that appealed to the entire family.

  • A visit to the Prime Meridian at the Greenwich Conservatory. See our GPS reading in photo 5 -- pretty cool, eh?

  • Good Indian food, which we've been craving the entire trip.

  • Great disappointment at the Buckingham Palace changing of the guard. Even on a rainy October Tuesday it was packed with tourists -- we thought we might get crushed against the palace fence or injured by wayward video cameras. On top of that, the band was distinctly unimpressive, and the guards seemed to be chit-chatting as they shuffled around. (Edward: What'd the lady serve ya for supper last night? James: Steak and kidney pie, again.)
One feature of visiting London we hadn't anticipated was the kid's familiarity with many landmarks of the city. They've read numerous books set in London, varying from Paddington Bear when they were young, to the Bartimaeus Trilogy more recently, and of course Harry Potter. It was a lot of fun for them just to walk around seeing the places they'd read so much about.

Another feature we hadn't anticipated was how convenient it is to travel somewhere where people speak English (or at least some version of it). Traveling long-term seems to accentuate day-to-day tribulations such as lack of communication. Often it's part of the fun, but we didn't mind a few days where we could communicate with relative ease.

The previous travelog hinted at ultimate success in finding a London hotel. After much searching we happened upon a large British budget hotel chain called Premier Inns. Our particular branch was located right in County Hall, the illuminated riverside building next to the giant ferris wheel (the London Eye) in photo 2, directly across the Thames river from Big Ben and the Parliament Building (photo 3). Even though it's a low-brow place, it's ranked #32 of over 1000 London hotels on the tripadvisor hotel review site, and we concur -- the location is superb, our room was gigantic, and service was surprisingly good. We recommend it to anyone making a cost-conscious visit to London.

Shortly after posting this travelog we'll be winging our way home for a month's hiatus from travel -- attending school and attempting to do some work. As Emily famously said when we arrived in Morocco: Get ready for culture shock.

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