We worked hard to see everything on the list Laura made for this trip. There were a few things that didn’t happen because of either logistics or time, but we did pretty good. The last big thing on the list was the London Eye. I had decided we should do it on our last day in London -between checking out of our hotel and catching our train back to Paris.
On our last morning, we checked out of our hotel and had them store our bags for us. The best way to get from our hotel to the Eye was via the river. There is a pier directly in front of the Eye. I wanted us to be out on the Thames at some point during this trip anyway -so today was the time.
We walked over to the Tower Pier and waited for the ticket window to open.
Standing there waiting, we had a great photo op for the Tower Bridge.
We were able to get on the first boat leaving that morning and enjoyed the short ride down the river.
I had bought the tickets ahead of time and was able to pick the “time of departure” so to speak. The website had advised arriving early -and we did. It was already getting busy there, so our first order of business was to trade in my voucher for the actual tickets. We looked around a bit, but then noticed that the “express” line wasn’t busy. We walked up and asked how close to our actual time we should be getting in line? The answer was – “You can get in line right now if you like.” It was about 1/2 hour earlier than we expected -but there was no reason not to go, so we did. We literally walked right onto our pod. It moves so slowly you hardly notice it. It doesn’t stop to let you on…you just get on in motion like an escalator.
As you can imagine, the paparazzi got to work almost immediately.
When I had suggested doing this on our last day, Laura was a bit disappointed because she wanted to do it the first day. She decided that we’d done it just right because we were able to spot places we’d visited -like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace- from the birds eye view we had of London.
There was one thing that Laura had put on her list that I had tried very hard to work into the schedule – Abby Road. The problem was that it was off the beaten path and would take some time and effort to get to. The opportunity just never seemed to be right to go for it. I had assumed it was one of the “if we get there, fine…if we don’t, fine…” locations.
But when we were on the Eye at the very top of the circle, I heard Laura telling some ladies that were in our pod that it was a great trip except the ONE thing we didn’t do in London was Abby Road and how disappointed she was about that. So, I started plotting. I had already researched about 100 different ways to get to Abby Road depending on what part of town we were in…so I knew that the only way to do it on this last day was to take a taxi. When I had a chance, I asked Gail if he was willing to put out some big bucks to have a pit stop at Abby Road when we were on our way to the train later? He was…
Fortunately, we’d gotten on the Eye early. That meant we were able to take an earlier boat ride back to the hotel than planned. This gave us a teeny window of time to fit Abby Road into the schedule.
We hopped on the first boat we could -and took more pictures going back.
We got off the Clipper and walked up to the hotel. Laura stopped at the little ice-cream truck that was stationed right outside of the hotel and we used that opportunity to speak to a cab driver waiting for customers at the hotel. We asked what it would cost and how long it would take to go to Abby Road. When we heard his estimate and realized we could do it and still make our train – we said… It is ON! We decided to make it a surprise and so nothing was said to Laura.
Abby Road was quite a distance beyond our train station and the taxi driver happened to drive by our train station on the way. Laura said, “Hey, wasn’t that our train station?” I had to lie and say no, we needed a different one. Then as the ride went on and on, she began to think the cab driver was taking us for a ride to run the fare up. (She told me that later). Then I asked Elton for a little map he had of London and was looking at that to try to figure out where we were and tried to look like I was going to explain what was going on. As I was doing that, Laura started thinking that I knew something was wrong! Shortly after that we drove by a park and the driver said it was Regent’s Park. Laura said -Oh that’s very close to Abby Road! I was thinking, “uh-oh!” But she told me later that she didn’t want to ask if we could drive by because she thought we didn’t have time for it.
Finally the taxi driver pulled up and said, “Here we are. Do you know what to do?” And Laura was like – “What is going on?” The driver said, “Abby Road. Just back there at the corner.” She was out of that cab like a shot.
We really only had a few moments, but it was so worth taking the trouble to go. Laura was thrilled! I was so busy trying to get a picture of her crossing that I forgot to cross the road myself.
We arrived at our train station with about 15 minutes to spare. Just enough time to grab some sandwiches from a little shop -and head for the boarding areas.
Bye bye London!
It seemed like no time at all before we were back in Paris.
Our flight home was leaving the next day, so I booked hotel rooms out at the airport so that we could basically wake up and get to the terminal with very little drama. The “local” train we needed was in a different area of the train station -so we followed the signs, bought tickets and hopped on for the 1/2 hour ride. At the other end, we had a very short walk to our hotel and got checked in. Pretty small room overall, but it was only for one night.
There wasn’t much to choose from nearby so we had dinner there and went to bed early.
Early the next morning, we were up and out and on our way to the correct terminal. In Europe, I’ve found that terminals can often be quite a distance apart. I’ve actually had to ride a bus between them just to change planes. Our hotel was near one terminal that we could have walked to, but our terminal required a short walk plus getting on a sort of tram that took us where we needed to go.
We officially arrived back in the USA at Detroit. We still had one more flight to take -back to Chicago. While we were waiting we went to find a snack. We must have been on “Europe” time for dining because none of us were paying much attention to the time and when our flight was boarding. The restaurant was just a short distance from the gate and when I finally said, “We better get going!”, we could see our very empty gate as we walked out and I thought… “OH NO! We missed our flight!” Turns out we ALMOST missed it. I think we were seconds away from the boarding door being closed. We were so late getting on that someone who was already on the plane had decided that no one would be sitting in our seats for the flight and had already moved from his to our row. WHEW!
At Chicago – we still had the trek to the long-term parking lot to get the car and begin the long drive home. It was a long travel day and we were all ready to sleep in our own beds that night!
So this is the end of my story about our whirlwind trip to France and England. It was different for me to travel with a group this way. It is probably a good thing we are all family – it helped, I think. We had a lot of laughs…and some grumpy moments too! If I have to say so myself, it was a good trip!
Categories: Part 10: Last Day