of the Seas
July 18-August 3, 2002
Before I begin my
report, I thought that I would address some of the questions that
people tend to ask – mainly, why I do this and how I remember so
many details?I do these
trip reports as a strictly personal thing – it is a way for Jim and
I to remember our trips – I put a copy of the report in the albums
that I make with the photos from each of our trips.I carry a notebook with me at most times, especially on tours,
taking notes as I go along. I also do research on the places we will be visiting before we
leave home to give me some background information and I incorporate
much of this information into the report.I must look very serious while taking my notes, since on this
particular cruise I was asked by the crew if I was from the main
office of Royal Caribbean – guess I was making them nervous!I was also asked if I was writing a book.
I make my reports
available to others since I find it so very helpful when others post
their trip reports on line.It
helps me to make many of my decisions of what to do and what not to
do.When reading this,
please keep in mind that this is only the opinion of one person and my
opinion is not gospel.What
one person may enjoy another may hate and what I find distasteful
another may enjoy.
For the past several
months I have been on the AOL Cruise Critic Message Boards,
communicating with people who will be on the cruise with us.We have been writing back and forth for several months, now,
and have been counting the days until this cruise.Now the big day has arrived and we are finally on our way.
The limo is right on
) to pick us up.Now the
fun begins – our driver is going way out of his way to supposedly
avoid traffic – actually is going in the wrong direction!Yes, he does finally get us to the airport but it takes twice
as long as it should have taken.Thankfully,
we have had plenty of time to spare so still aren’t rushed.
We arrive at Philadelphia
airport and get a porter -- he takes our bags into the terminal, and
we are on a very long line waiting to check in.Jim must have tipped him very well because he comes back and
tells us to say nothing and follow him – he takes us to the First
Class check in – so there is no waiting.Naturally, he earned a second tip!I can hear other people on that long line asking how we were
able to do that – so nice to feel special at the start of a trip!As anyone who has read any of my past trip reports can tell
you, I have yet to master the art of packing lightly.I’ve been known for having overweight bags and having to
repack to redistribute the weight of each suitcase in the airport. US
Air is a pleasure – no questions asked and nothing said about the
weight of my bags. Our US Air flight
leaves right on time at .
London We arrive at Gatwick Airport at 8:55 AM
(20 minutes early) and our driver (we booked the pick-up through our
hotel) is there waiting and whisks us right to the Millennium
Bailey’s Hotel in the Kensington section of
London.During the ride to the
hotel, I notice that in England there are yellow traffic lights both before the lights turn red or
green – different than in the states.I love seeing the English houses – so many have gardens with
such pretty flowers.Most
of the homes seem to have white lace curtains at the windows.Even see one house that is painted with blue polka dots!
Upon arrival (11:00 AM), our room is ready so we are able to check right in.This hotel was booked through Royal Caribbean.Millennium Bailey’s is a converted townhouse and quite old
world and charming.The
hotel is located right across the street from the Gloucester Road
Station -- so in a very convenient area for getting around
London.The lobby is small and
warm with hardwood floors, crystal chandeliers, and furniture that
appear to be antiques.The
ceiling is high and carved and there is relief work around the top of
the lobby walls – white with gilding -- quite attractive.There are fast food restaurants in the area, several pubs and a
24 hour grocery store.
Our room is pretty
– dark woods and crown moldings with high ceilings, but on the small
side.The bathroom is very
small and it is difficult to close the door when you are in there.The bath tub is the narrowest that I have ever seen. The safe
doesn’t work but the air conditioning works almost too well –
I’m not complaining because London is having a heat wave! We drop off our bags and freshen up and then it
is off to explore London.
We ask the concierge
about getting a cab to
Covent Garden--his suggestion is to
take the tube across the street.He
gives us a map and explains exactly how to do it.The
underground transit system is very well marked and extremely easy to
use.This gives us a
chance to experience a bit of the local flavor.Jim and I have been to
before but this is our first time in London,
The British capital
is more eclectic and electric than it's been in years. There's almost
a feeding frenzy setting out to prove that
London is the most pulsating, vibrant city on the planet, even rivaling
for sheer energy, outrageous art, trendy restaurants, and a nightlife
equal to none. Newsweek
hailed London as a "hip compromise between the nonstop newness of
Los Angeles and the aspic-preserved beauty of Paris--sharpened to New York's edge." Wine Spectator proclaims more modestly that "The
sun is shining brighter in London these days."
The sounds of
Brit-pop and techno pour out of Victorian pubs; experimental theater
is taking over stages that were built for Shakespeare's plays; and
upstart chefs are reinventing the bland dishes British mums made for
generations into a new and inventive cuisine; for the first time ever,
Brits are even running the couture houses of Dior and Givenchy. In
food, fashion, film, pop music, the visual arts, and just about
everything else, London stands at the cutting edge again, just as it did in the 1960s.
assured: traditional London still lives, basically intact under the veneer of hip. This ancient
city has survived a thousand years of invasion, from the Normans to
the Blitz, so a few scenesters moving in isn't going to change
anything fundamental. From high tea at Brown's to the changing of the
guard at Buckingham Palace, the city abounds with the culture and charm of days gone by.
Discovering London and making it your own can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you
have just a little time. London is a mass of contradictions. On the one hand, it's a decidedly royal
city, studded with palaces, court gardens, coats-of-arms, and other
regal paraphernalia. Yet it's also the home of the world's
second-oldest parliamentary democracy. (Iceland
was the first.)
Jim and I arrive at
at the suggestion of my daughter, Deirdre, who spent a semester here
– she feels that this is the type of place that I will enjoy. Covent Garden
today is London's best example of urban renewal and one of its hippest shopping
districts. In the footsteps of Chippendale and Dickens, you can wander
about and discover colorful street stalls, an array of boutiques,
shops selling one-of-a-kind merchandise, and all the while enjoy the
city's best sidewalk entertainment. When
you're parched, plenty of pubs in the area will quench your thirst,
like the Nag's Head, an Edwardian pub that'll serve you a draft
Guinness and a plate of pork cooked in cider.
From here, we take a
cab to British Airway’s London Eye – I purchased tickets for
before leaving home.The
London Eye is a giant observation-wheel with capsules that hold about
25 people.It was built to
give a panoramic view of the city and looks like a huge bicycle wheel.The London Eye was previously known as the Millennium Wheel-- its structure has changed the London skyline.
Tonight we walk down
the street to a very nice Pub (Public House) called the Hereford Arms.I order the bangers and mash (leek sausage with mashed
potatoes) – delicious.Of
course, I had a pint to go along with it.Decide to try dessert which is something made with treacle –
find out later that treacle is molasses and it was much too sweet.
Slept like a baby and
today we are up bright and early. There is a
continental breakfast included with our hotel package but it is served
too late for us to make our tour -- I booked a tour from home, called
Historic and Modern London with Golden Tours for today.Royal
has a hospitality desk in the hotel and they are offering a similar
tour – believe that the only difference between theirs and ours is
that we go into Westminster Abbey and they only drive past it.Their tour leaves from our hotel and ours begins with an pick-up at the Holiday
Inn across the street (about a half block walk).
The tour bus takes us
to Victoria Station where we line up in the correct area for our tour.The bus we are assigned to is packed, only four empty seats
left. Our guide gives us a bit of information on London.He explains that
London is made up of two cities –
Westminster and London City. London City was built by the Romans and was known as Londinium – Roman medieval
London still lies below the streets.These
two cities are surrounded by 30 boroughs.We are here on a Saturday which is a very good day to tour the
city, since there is very little traffic to contend with.
We pass houses with
portico fronts -- the homes of the rich and famous.Seventy percent of the buildings in
were destroyed in the bombings of World War II so there are many
modern buildings.We are
told that 90% of Londoners use public transportation.We see both the old and new Scotland Yard – the name Scotland
Yard comes from the name of the street where the first police
headquarters were housed.We
pass the ‘Banqueting House’ – the only part of Henry VIII Palace
remaining.Next we pass
and Nelson’s Column.
is the heart of the West End
(circus comes from the Latin word for circle) with a large fountain in
the center.Pall Mall
(pronounced Mell) is where there are many Gentlemen’s Clubs (they
are now open to both men and women).We see Her Majesty’s Theater where ‘Phantom of the Opera’
opened and is still playing. Our guide tells us
that the museums in London have the best toilets (thank heaven for small favors!) and some of the
best shopping.We pass St. Martin
in the Fields Church which is used for concerts.
used to be three times as wide as it is now – The Strand (now a
street) was at one time the shoreline.
Fleet Street is where all London’s printing was done. The Cheshire Cheese is an old pub that was
used by the press and it still survives today, however the newspapers
have been moved to Canary.
London is loaded with flower boxes, with some gorgeous profusions of color in
them.We pass the Royal
Courts of Justice, which is very impressive -- it is here that the
barristers wear the wigs and robes to court.
Our first stop is at St. Paul’s Cathedral.We don’t
go inside but have a tour of the outside. At the east end of
the cathedral is the American Memorial Chapel, honoring the 28,000
U.S. service personnel who lost their lives while stationed in Britain
in World War II. St.
belongs to the nation and toLondon.
Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer chose to be married here rather
than the royalWestminsterabbey to show that they were the
people’s prince and princess.