1999 was an extremely productive year for the Hamilton’s. Steph and I both enjoy some success (Steph‘s far greater than mine), and thru her extremely hard work and endless hours on the road she had accumulated a ton, actually 3 or 4 tons of United Air miles, and copious Hyatt reward points. Steph suggested that we use the miles and points to visit London for Christmas that year. After reviewing schedules, it was decided that we would depart on 12/21/99 with a return date of 12/31/99. Steph made travel and hotel arrangements using the miles and points she had accumulated. Steph also made arrangements for the family to have a day tour (highlights would be Bath and Stonehenge), and Allison figured out the points-of-interest we would visit while in London. I helped pull it all together, and was in charge of SLJ’s.
We took the redeye from Dulles to Heathrow, leaving at 1130pm (or so) and arriving in London Heathrow at about 8am (or so). Once we cleared customs our car took us to the Hyatt in Downtown London. It was an extremely scenic trip into town and we enjoyed many of the classic sights of the London suburbs, row houses, and other building leading to our hotel. Our driver was extremely informative, giving us a history of the city, the different parts, what to expect, and what the city had done to spruce itself up for the millennium. He went on to explain that much of the city had 100’s of years of grime (from all the coal fireplaces) power washed off to bring the sparkle back. The efforts by the city, were seen throughout our trip, London was beautiful.
While the day started gray and overcast, the sun was peeking out from time to time. Also we had been forewarned that this was rainy season and to dress accordingly (which we did), it was in fact December, and it was cold in London. We arrived at the Hotel around 10 am or so, and were informed that we could not check into our room until at the earliest 3pm. While we had hoped to get into the room, we all realized that might not be an option and had made plans accordingly. Allison had pre-selected some places to visit to kill time before check-in. The hotel kept our bags and promised they would be in our room when we came back. So off we went…..
At my request our first stop was Madam Tussaud’s. I had been there some 25 years earlier while on active duty in the Navy. On that particular Med cruise, the ship had stopped in Portsmouth for 5 days, I was lucky enough to spend a night in London with a couple shipmates. We visited the gallery and I was taken by it and had talked often of it to Steph and Allison. We spent an enjoyable hour or so viewing the wax figurines. I again (because I have told this story every time I talked about my only other trip to London) recounted the story from my 1st trip to Madam Tussaud’s. Where I saw this old guy sitting backwards on a chair smoking, and how I walked up to the old guy to tell him he shouldn’t be smoking. Only to realized I was talking to the wax figurine of Picasso.
Our whole goal this morning was to make it long enough so when we got to the hotel later we could immediately check-in take showers. Then it would be off to dinner and an early bedtime. So we left Madam Tussaud’s with Allison taking charge of sites to see before 3pm. Allison’s 1st thought (and a good one) was to visit at least one of the many museums in London. That plan was dashed immediately when we were told that all the Museums (National) were closed until after Christmas. On to plan “C”, would visit public places that we had a reasonable expectation would be open. Thru Allison’s guidance, we visited several parks, and looked at many building, but for me to list them would make me a liar, because I just don’t remember what we did that day (understand that it’s sometime after 1pm London time, we were tired, dirty, and working towards cranky), but I know we did it on the top of a double-decker bus (freezing our butts off) when the ride coming to an end at Trafalgar Square.
We decided we were going to walk around Trafalgar Square (it had been freshly scrubbed and looked beautiful), then head to the hotel, we figured if nothing else we could sit in the lobby by the fireplace until our room was ready. As the 3 of us got off the bus, a lady (turns out she is a Foreign Correspondent for CBS News) with a microphone in her hand and a guy with a camera asked “Are you all Americans?” We answered yes, to which the Reporter said, “We are with CBS News, and want to interview you for tonight’s evening News.” With Allison and Steph standing in front of me, and the reporter began asking us all manner of questions regarding the millennium, if we thought there would be any interruptions because of 2000 being days away, did we feel safe travelling with potential worldwide computer problems, why we chose to come to London, and on and on, each of us had an opportunity to answer the woman’s questions. She also asked if we were at all scared travelling as Americans, given recent problems around the world. To this we answered we weren’t scared at all, that what we had seen of London so far it was beautiful and the folks were very friendly. The CBS Reporter thanks us and that was that. When we got home, we were called by several friends and family members saying they saw us on the evening news. We were told that Steph and Allison had 95 pct of the speaking role and I was the bobbing head in the background. CBS had promised to send us a copy of the tape (we had to sign a waiver), but they never did. We spent the next 45 minutes walking around Trafalgar Square, before heading to the hotel.
We arrived at the hotel shortly before 3pm, but were checked in immediately and shown to our room. There were some minor issues with the room which the staff immediately resolved, and finally it was shower time. After we were cleaned up and had a little nap, we were off to find a place for dinner. After dinner back in the hotel room the family played it’s 1st game of Yahtzee (for this trip), which became a nightly ritual. It was a great first day.
Over the next couple posts, I will be talking about Bath England, lunch at a 1500’s tavern/pub, Allison “Macgyver” Hamilton, Harrod’s and Stonehenge in the pouring rain. I will talk about Christmas Eve at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London, the world’s biggest ferris wheel, the changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, and a few other sites. Oh Yes! There is going to be a paragraph long fart story. Folks we have it all LOL LOL.
As always your thoughts and comments are welcome. Please take care, Bill