Posted by Jim Drake on Saturday, June 23, 2007
It's been several days since we've been home, but I have to document for history sake what happened on our final leg home from LONDON.
We boarded the AA plane on time about 10:00 Wednesday morning--thinking that we were going to be home soon. Not so fast--we sat on the runway --AGAIN! for almost 2 hours before they determined that we had an engine problem and wouldn't fly that plane anywhere. They sent us back to the gate and gave us a voucher for lunch--thank you very much, but not enough to get really full on--and then wait for a 4:00 flight. Luckily, we didn't have to wait to rebook--we contacted our Travel Agent Jamie who was on top of the situation and had us booked before we got off the plane. The 4:00 flight soon became the 5:00 flight--and we waited another 2:30 hours on the runway because of traffic into JFK and approaching weather from the West.
When we finally took off @ 7:30 we knew that we would miss all connecting flights to Abilene. At this point we are so exhausted and just wanting to get home. We had to rearrange the kid's schedules again--Diane was always on the phone trying to keep everyone in the loop what was going on.
We laned @ DFW by 10:00 PM and they quickly met us at the gate with a voucher to the Gaylord Texan Hotel (very nice hotel in Grapevine that we've stayed at twice for a Marriage Conference---so we were impressed). To the hotel by 11:00 we were starved and made our way to the big Sports bar (the only thing open) and had the biggest plate of Nachos I've seen ( My heartburn later than night would tell me that wasn't the smartest thing to do)
They scheduled us on a late flight out of Dallas (12:45---which became the 1:30 flight) and then finally home to Abilene by 3:00. We picked up the kids by 5:00 and then back home..finally.
Thanks for keeping up with us during our trip--we enjoyed sharing it with you.
Posted by Jim Drake on Tuesday, June 19, 2007
We landed last night around 9:15---that's the good part. By the time we got through customs and collected our luggage, it was close to 10. Then--the bad part. We waited for 2 hours for our transport to local hotel. We then found out we had to ride an Air Tran half way across the airport to pick up the shuttle (Hello....could they please put that on the hotel web site!) We finally got to our room around 12:15--having been awake for almost 20 hours.
Nevertheless, we start our journey home today. Hope we can make it without delay because of weather in the DFW area.
Posted by Jim Drake on Monday, June 18, 2007
Our only stop this morning was Madame Tussaud's Wax Palace. After a wait of almost 2 hours---we finally got in and had the time of our lives looking at the "almost" real celebrities. Enjoy our pictures--we're getting ready to board. Where are all my comments? I'm a little sad. :(
We're checking out this morning---time for some last minute sight seeing (Madame Toussauds and Sherlock Holmes--things we didn't have time for--maybe a trip to Harrods.) We'll depart later this afternoon.
Hope you've enjoyed the blog. Maybe I can update when we land in NYC.
Hope you've enjoyed the blog. Maybe I can update when we land in NYC.
Posted by Jim Drake on Sunday, June 17, 2007
Ok--so now the surprise can be told. We spent the day in Paris (FRANCE--not Hilton or Texas today). We got a wild hair once we were over here and made plans for a day trip. You may think it's crazy and my feet are certainly agreeing with you right now--but we did it.
We boarded the Eurostar early this morning (8:00 here--about 2AM Tx time) and took the train that goes under the English Channel to Paris. It's about a 2 1/2 ride (and it included another time chage) So we arrived around lunch time to the bustling Gaud De Nord terminal. We definitely knew we were in Paris when we got off the train. We took a quick Taxi ride over to the Louvre' to see all the famous stuff ( where's the Mona Lisa?--ok, there she is---she sure is small. Where's the Venus De Milo?--Ok--where are her arms.) Stuff like that.
We then went to a French Bistro for lunch near there and had some great--Club Sandwiches---ok, it's not Foo-Foo, but we were in a hurry--but we did have FRENCH FRIES (can you beat that?). Some of the best Sparkling water I've had so far.
Then off to Notre Dame to see if Quasi Motto was in--he's on vacation in Texas. Dark church---we've seen so many churches here--this one was DARK. It began to rain (must have followed us here from London) and we decided to sit and be Frenchmen and have a cappucino--yum, yum. It was even better than Rome!
Another Taxi ride after a hike to find one because in Paris--you don't just hail a taxi, stand in line for one and if you cut the line you get sworn at in 5 different lanuguages. But we finally made--off to the Arch De Triumphe. ( At this point most of this must be sounding like an episode of the THE GREAT RACE. It definitely felt like that) Ok--there's the arch--next point. Eiffel Tower.
We got there--got up to the second level finally and saw how much we had traversed the city. Now it was time to come back down, and everyone else had the same idea. So, I told Diane to be agressive and be European and get up there. WE finally made it back to the ground around 6:45 and had about 30 minutes to be back @ the station for our train. Once again we encountered the TAXI line with a self-appointed Taxi General telling us to get back in line. Susie bolted to another area and fought off another man to get us a taxi with a sweet Parisian lady who tried her best to talk to us ( "Paris to London und de deu?" What? What time is our train? No!) We finally figured out she was asking how long it took to come by train. And the funny part was that we were in the back praying because we were down to our last Euros and only had so much for the taxi ( Here lady--here's all our coins) It was enough--but we soon had to change more money to go to "toilet!" Yes it cost 1 Euro to go "doo" in Paris. Hmmm....more tax money for the municipalities in Texas. Just a thought.
Back to Nord for a quick baggette sandwich and a horrible attitude from the attendant at the counter. I'll do my impression of her later. We barely made it to the train...and now back in Merry Old England. WE love England--it has become our second home.
Weird ending was some guy from Prague coming up to me and wanting me to meet him at the American Embassy tomorrow to vouch for his Passport (Uh..no!) We quickly moved away from him, but he was following us for a bit--(Weird)
Here are the pictures from the day (The Louvre, Susie with Venus De Milo, Diane with the Statue Diane, Jim and Diane @ Nortre Dame, Jim @ the Arch De Triumph)
We enjoyed the trip--and now we're satisfied to say that we've been to France. Check mark.
Posted by Jim Drake on Saturday, June 16, 2007
So today was the Queen's "Official" Birthday--the Trooping of the Colours. We made our way down to Buckingham Palace again. We ended up on St. James'Park side--thinking it would be good to see her coming out of the gate and then when she came back from the "Trooping" she'd make the circle on our side (You know---I saw them going out--I'll see them coming back in). NOT THE CASE.
We waited almost 5 hours to see her come and go and get no closer than a half a football field away. But, nevertheless we felt very much a part of the pomp and ceremony of the day. Met many Americans down there--even in a store close to the parade, I was buying a hat (see picture) to cover my bald head and I began talking to an older couple. Turns out they were from San Antonio and have a daughter that graduated with Diane ("its a small world after all--verse 2).
We moved out into the plaza after QE moved out to balcony to see the fly over. Just then as she looked up and we did too--RAIN. It had been threatening on and off all day--but we just stood there and laughed.
We made our way through Green Park to pick up one of the Big Bus of London tours. This is one of those buses that you ride around all over town and can get on and off. We rode around just looking at all of the people in the area for the day. We rode the bus to St Paul's Catherdral and quickly bee lined it to a Pasta place for lunch--we were starved. Finally into St. Pauls to see the beauty---a very beautiful structure and though I don't remember much of Charles and Diana's wedding--I saw a few things that looked familiar.
We got back on and rode around again--very tired. Tried to make it to Sherlock Holmes museum--but we were within in 15 minutes of closing. Will try to get to it on Monday morning before we head to airport.
Ok--so tomorrow is a big day. I don't know whether to break it to you or not....but Mike Mc Williams may be right--I might have to have a few more pages in my passport book. That's all I'll say for now. You can probably log on late tomorrow afternoon and I'll have a few pictures up there.
Posted by Jim Drake on Friday, June 15, 2007
It has been a busy day and we are very tired and in for the evening...readying ourselves for the Trouping of the Colors ( a glimpse @ the royal famiy tomorrow--we have our gowns and tuxes pressed--not!)
We started today by venturing further out on the Underground to the Embankment stop. There we caugh a Catamaran--ship boat which toured us up and down the Thames River. It was great--a tour guide and a trip. First stop was the Globe Theatre--a recreation of the Shakespeare theater. We actually got to see a rehearsal of ROMEO AND JULIET going on as we sat in the Upper Crust seats of the theatre. Then, and maybe now, it wasn't just seeing the play, but being seen there. Very cool and we wouldn't have seen it this afternoon because there was another play going on.
Back on the ship--traveled to Tower of London and dined on some of the finest..KFC...yes, it sounded good and we polished off an 8 piece family pack with a 1.5 Ltr of Pepsi! Hit the spot. And guess what I saw...another Texas Tech hat. RAIDER NATION... I quickly gave the guns up and the man smiled. Sorry you AGS and HORNS...I don't see you over here.
Tour of Tower was great. We had a wonderful, very colorful guide who showed us the highs and lows of the castle. We saw the Crown Jewels and the armor that Henry VIII wore...you'll have to ask for a private showing of these. I'm too modest to put them up here.
And there were stairs after stair after stairs to climb today. THUS the title of this piece--NO MORE STAIRS!
The day ended nicely with a trip back up to Trafalgar and eating once again @ the Texas Embassy Nation! Home sweet home.
Tomorrow is very busy---and Sunday we have a surprise for you. Can't let you know yet what we have in store.
Off to bed--dreams of the Queen tomorrow..
Posted by Jim Drake on Thursday, June 14, 2007
Bubbie (our 15 1/2 year old dog) has an English cousin. We met this dog today as we were leaving Kensington Palace. Don't you think they look alike?
Tonight we made our way to Piccadilly Circus (the Times Sq of London) Many theatres here and the large Video displays like TS. We're in early tonight because tomorrow is a busy day with Tower of London, London Bridge and Globe Thtr.
Night Night Chums
We began the day with a trip on the Tube to the Green Park station and walked through the Queen's Park (just next door to St. James Palace) where we made our way to Buckinghamd Palace to get in line to watch the changing of the guard. We were close by--but so was everyone else. We met a school group from California--who said they noticed our accent (What accent?) and they were reeling from the news their tour guide from UK had left them-quit! and they were only on day 2 of a 17 day tour of Europe! I volunteered to stay--(but they said no!).
Meanwhile, the changing of the guard is full of pomp and ceremony. On Saturday we will get to see the Trouping of the Colors which is the official recognition of the Queens BD in April. Complete with parade and pomp-we'll be there on the mall. However today---amidst the paegentry and such, the Queens Band played a mini-concert of sorts while the changing of the guard took place. Not your regular British Marches and such, but---get this--the theme from DALLAS> Bum Bum Ba Bum Ba Bum Diddy Bum Bum Bum Bum Bum Diddy Bum--(J.R Theme--sing along with me) Then a complete salute to Disney! It felt like a half time show as we were all singing along. Even sang "A Spoonful of Sugar" with some Spanish students and they laughed as we sang it in English while they sang it in Spanish.
We walked across St. James' park in order to get to Hard Rock for lunch--but Que there was 3 hours for lunch and especially busy for the Birthday part of Hard Rock today (Burgers for 60p!) WE then opted for something better---Texas Embassy (A Tex-Mex place in the Trafalgar area---we found the Texas flag most comforting. Lunch was great and very much like home (in fact we smelled a little like Body O (you Snyder folks will laugh when you read this). We even met a young girl and her dad from Texas. She had a TEXAS TECH sweatshirt on.. will be attending there in the fall as freshman. RAIDER NATION!!! Get yer guns up! What a Small world ("it's a small world after all, it's a small world after all...never mind)
Then off to buy some gifts (see picture) and then a trip to Kensington Palace (Diana's former home) to see an exhibit about her--very nice--but it was very stuffy and hot in there.
Posted by Jim Drake on Wednesday, June 13, 2007
We attended the musical BILLY ELLIOTT here tonight @ Victoria Theatre in the heart of London. After a brisk ride in a taxi to the theatre (he took turns and curves like I've never seen before) we arrived a little early and walked around a bit. The picture of us in front of the sign is just before we went in to the theatre.
The musical follows the film version by the same name. Very interesting and wonderful, wonderful music (by Elton John). We really enjoyed it and the theatre is very different here in UK than in US. During the performance we heard several people talking to the characters on stage --like they were wanting to interact with them. This was very interesting. Then at intermission they sold ice cream and cold drinks just like the movies back home. Not usually seen in the US theatre scene.
All in all a wonderful way to end our very first day in London.
On tap tomorrow is the changing of the guard @ Buckingham Palace, a tour of Kensington Palace with a Diana Exhibit and Sherlock Holmes museum.
Thanks for reading
Today was our first official day in London. We had a great ENGLISH breakfast at the hotel. (Have you ever had Baked Beans with Breakfast). No-it was seriously good stuff and set us up for the day. We hopped the TUBE (the Underground rail system here in UK) and rode to Westminister. We saw Big Bend (see picture) and then spent most of the morning/afternoon in Westminister Abbey. I didn't realize that most of these churches are crypts and cemeteries for the noble--I mean you almost stumble over every tomb and grave in the crooks and crevices of the church. Saw the burial place of William Willburforce (AMAZING GRACE Movie), Elizabeth 1 and Mary 1, the Coronation Chair, and Poets Corner with none other than Chaucer and Handel's burial spot. I even sang a little of MY REDEEMER LIVETH ( I had to join in because the tour guide in front of us asked the question if anyone knew the song! I did--see Layne I do have a song for every situation. Then a quick prayer time @12:30 in the Abbey--very peacful and restful. An ah-ha moment here---the reverance in the place is certainly about God--but with all of the bodies buried in there--you don't speak or talk loudly. Maybe that's the beginning of the issue of "quietness" that we struggle with in church today. In the past--it was quiet because it was a cemetery ( and sometimes the modern church does seem to resemble it's predecessor--but I had never really thought about this before)
On to the part of the Abbey which housed the monks--very peaceful and beautiful. Ended the tour of Abbey just sitting outside wathching different people and laughing. It was good to sit and be still for a while.
Back to Parliment area---we could have gone in to Parliment but the Que was 1hour--instead made our way to Jewel Tower only to encounter about 30 English school children on a field trip---we waited for them to clear out--but not before a quaint conversation about school ( uh--they get 2 weeks off for summer break, my kids better never complain again!). We listened to their conversations and their accents--very charming. Then we made our way upf some of the most steep stairs I've ever seen to see the exhibit for the Jewel Tower. Very nice--but we were hungry.
Made our way back via the Tube to our hotel area. We had discovered this morning that just south of us about a block are a bunch of bistros and shops and Thank The LORD_-STARBUCKS--(see picture)
Posted by Jim Drake on Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Flight left @ 6:15 PM EST.... returned to GATE @ 11:27 PM.
We're officially grounded---don't know why... there was some weather in the area.
Sleeping in the airport on a cot tonight... fly out again in the AM @ 8:30
We'll extend our stay by a day to accomodate for the the loss.
Just another traveling story for Jim Drake
Posted by Jim Drake on Monday, June 11, 2007
We've arrived in NYC and are awaiting our flight to England. It's been a hurry up kind of day. Our flight out of ABI sat on the ground an extra 30 minutes due to a de-icing problem (hello--it's June and we don't need de-icing unless we're going to the edge of the atmosphere thank you). Anyway, landed @ DFW and had about 10 minutes to traverse from Term. B to C--across the airport---run, run, huff, huff. Then we grabbed a Cold McD's to take on the plane with us. Landed here around 2:05 Texas time.
Now waiting to link up with my sister and head across the pond. It's 9:20 PM already over there so I suspect after supper--which I hope is soon on the flight that we'll get some sleep and land there around 7:00 Tuesday morning--where did Monday go?
Plans for Tuesday are to check into hotel and spend the day in the Westminster Abbey/Parliment area before we really crash.
Jim and Diane