I am a proud, pasty grandson of English immigrants. I have always loved all things England. I root for the national team in every sport whenever possible. My favorite football (soccer) team is Liverpool F.C. and I like the Royal family. So, when we booked our Mediterranean cruise, I insisted that we go to London also.
When our plane took off from LAX, I had been up for nine hours. When it landed in London I had been up for twenty hours. It was a rainy day when we landed which,for anyone who uses a power wheelchair knows, can be disastrous with the chances of shorting out one of the many components. I was both tired and nervous about this. I was looking forward to getting to the apartment we were staying at asap. Then I was blindsided by the car service that I had lined up weeks ahead of time. Our driver shows up, takes a look at my wheelchair and tells us he cannot transport my chair. He thought I had a folding chair. Even after I filled out a questionnaire that they sent me requesting all of the specs for my chair. I even sent them follow ups confirming that they knew about my chair size. Then, they even went as far as to blame me for the mistake. So we end up spending the next three hours trying to find an accessible taxi (more on this later). Finally, with the help of my friends at Sage Traveling back in the states we arrange transport. Our taxi drivers, Mick and Eddie, see our distress and they take over. They took us through town and basically gave us "the tour" and then drop us at our flat. While we were riding in, Mick, points out that ALL taxis in Britain are handicap accessible. I look out the window and, no kidding, every taxi has a space for my chair to roll into. At this point I realize, I was meant to meet these guys. We even talked football (not throw-ball which is American football). Not only did they do their jobs, they made us feel welcome like family. Exhausted, my attitude has now made a complete one eighty. I am now excited, somewhat re-energized and ready for London. After I get some sleep.
I go to bed at nine-thirty, twenty eight hours after I last slept. I was so tired I punched the sandman on the way to my pillow for being late. An hour later, Deanna comes in crying (jet lagged) and telling me how she blew up my wheelchair battery charger. I go out and yep it won't charge. Fortunately, it had a full charge and will get me through the next day. I then go back to bed and then the sun comes up. At four in the morning! England is farther north than Southern California. I am awake after six hours of sleep. I look outside and the sun is out and I can see the London Eye from my window. I am ready for the day. I go on Facebook and post how excited I am. Then I scroll down my news feed and I see how horrible the trip has been for Deanna (jet-lagged). Then a little number pops up in my notifications which I click on. It's our friend, Misti, asking if I am on the same trip as Deanna. I respond 'Yes I am!'
Slowly, one by one, the rest of the group get up and all I keep saying is "We're in London!" Finally, we head out to see the sights. We proceed to the nearest underground station, take the elevator (lift) and get on a train. Then we get off that train, take the lift to another area and get on another train. We do this again, but this time there is no lift! The underground is way behind the buses and taxis in regards to wheelchair access. So we back track on the second train and end up at Westminster station and decide to take the bus to Trafalgar Square. We come out and right across the street is Westminster Abbey and Parliament with the Great Clock with Big Ben (the bell) inside. While the others are trying to buy a bus ticket I just sit there in awe of this clock tower. It takes everything I have to stay in the moment and to just be with Big Ben. It was like I was all alone amongst tens of thousands of Londoners, tourists and German football hooligans. The European Champions League final was being played that night in London between two German clubs. The fans were dressed in their colors and singing and chanting and the whole place was so electrified. We spent the rest of our day doing the hop on, hop off bus tour (Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London being my favorites).
My thoughts on London? Awe inspiring architecture, slathered with rich, unfathomable history. Topped off with a genuine feeling of a welcoming warmth and a side of melancholy. Why melancholy? Because I am genuinely sad to be leaving this beautiful city and wonderful land of my ancestors, knowing I will never return.
Well, now it's up to Barcelona to snap me out of it.
Oh London, you were my first (European country to visit) and you have a very special place in my heart! But..........Barcelona is the hot Latin european cousin of London. She flirts with you! Entertains you! Takes all of you money and casts you aside like so many others before. And you love it!
We then had to meet the women for a bus tour. All of the architects who built this city are great, but Gaudi (Spanish architect) is brilliant! Look up Sagrada Familia.
Now, bring on the cruise!