There’s a lot of undesirable aspects to a nurse’s work schedule. We work every other weekend, holidays and through the night.
However, there’s also four weeks of paid vacation. So when I realized I had a week off in November I asked Mom and Dad if they’d like to go somewhere with me (they said yes!). We settled on England because it’s been on Mom’s bucket list for years.
As we walked through the streets of London we discussed said bucket list. Funny enough, she couldn’t remember what else was on her bucket list (she plans to write it down) but thankfully she’s never forgotten England! Because, as it turns out, a week across the pond makes for a lovely late-fall trip for three. The thing about crossing the pond though is that you’re gonna have to get on a plane — unless you can afford the Queen Mary. Mom and Dad flew into New York City the day before our trip so that we could fly together. Apparently Dad isn’t that nervous to fly when he’s alone, but when one of his offspring is on board, it’s another story.
Anna got even me a little anxious by confiding that she didn’t want all her eggs in one basket over the ocean. Above, Dad anxiously reads the New York Times before we headed out. And below he anxiously downs a Long Island at the airport. Note: At this point he was still so nervous he neglected to take the paper wrapper off the straw. This drink is probably the best gift I’ve ever given Mom and Dad. Halfway through the glass, all the nervous energy vanished and they were dissecting the lyrics to “Hallelujah” and almost giddily discussing Papal history.
Honestly, it made me think I should start drinking because they looked like they were having so much fun as the passed the drink back and forth and fought over the remaining ice cubes. It may have been more fitting to have a proper British Gin and Tonic, but, per the bartender, a Long Island is actually five drinks in one. And we needed the big guns to get this anxious family over the Atlantic. An obligatory shot of our dual citizenship. Even Sean’s artistic eye noted the matching nail polish and hat.
I spent the six-hour flight attempting to sleep on Mom’s shoulder and Dad passed the time reading Plato and a book of speeches by Abe Lincoln. To each his own.
After landing in Gatwick on Monday morning and making our way to Victoria Station, we decided to walk to our Airbnb apartment. This is a classic Williams family move. For some reason we start most vacations with a very long walk, saddled with luggage to our hotel/apartment/b&b. Our walk ended up being more than an hour, but it took us through beautiful Hyde Park where school children were playing football and a school group was visiting Clydesdale horses.
At the end of Hyde Park we were delighted to discover our street, Prince of Wales Terrace. And my, what a street it is. It truly exceeded my expectation about what a charming London street would look like. The apartment itself was a tiny studio, but it was just the kind of cozy space we needed for three days.
Mom and Dad slept on the fold-out couch and I was up in the tiny loft bed. Best of all, there were great big windows with views of Hyde Park (and double-decker buses!)
And a balcony where we had breakfast every morning. Once we had settled into our new home, Mom and I headed out to go grocery shopping. There’s something so exciting about a grocery store run in a foreign country. We made sure to examine every single aisle and settled with the basics: butter, bread, milk, tea, beer, oranges and cookies.
Strangely, Dad doesn’t share our excitement about shopping in other countries. I offered to let him be our “bread boy” and fetch the baguettes for our breakfast in the morning, but he politely declined. We began our first full day in London with a proper breakfast tea out on the balcony. As we ate, we were fascinated by this fellow who was washing the windows with this fancy tool. A hose runs through the pole so he can scrub away with a continuous stream of water. Can you believe how clever the English are? I was beginning to understand how they colonized the world.
Above, Dad ponders why America hasn’t invented this window-washing method yet. (Artistic liberties taken. He may in fact have been pondering the Royal Family or an Abraham Lincoln speech or why bread and marmalade tastes better on a terrace in London. No one knows.)
I can’t claim that we ever actually used this guidebook, because it was last updated in the 1970s but I love that Mom and Dad brought it. Every morning, we’d plan the day by stating what we’d each do if we were all alone. Then Mom would mostly plan our outings because she’s the best at such things. I provided the photos and Dad contributed historical facts on any bit of English history that we wanted (and more).
After figuring out the tube system, we headed to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
We never actually made it to London Bridge, but word on the street is that this is the best bridge anyways. We took a guided tour through the Tower of London and Dad brought great pride to the family when he correctly shouted out a few British history facts. The other tourists never stood a chance. Afterwards, we explored the Crown Jewels exhibit and the remaining towers. We were in London for Remembrance Day, so most Londoners were wearing red poppies on their coats all week long. We picked up our own poppies in the church where Ann Boleyn and Sir Thomas More are buried. Not too bad, eh? She just needs a tall black fur hat. Dad continues to fill us in on British history. Granted, the Tower of London is almost a thousand years old so he skipped around a bit, giving the highlights.
Above, Mom wonders why she wasted 20 pounds on her daughter’s visit to the Tower of London. After one exhibit, Mom had asked me what I thought about a particular aspect of it and much to my chagrin I had no idea what she was talking about. (OK, so I didn’t read every single word in the Tower.) Mom was a bit exasperated with me and I remembered why I love being a triplet. If only Katie or Anna had been there, surely one of them would’ve known the answer and my gap in knowledge would’ve been quickly forgotten. That is the great thing about being a triplet; you have the strengths of three people. We emerged from the Tower ready to eat. I don’t recall asking Mom and Dad to pose for this picture. This is a genuine reaction to being in a cozy pub booth, reading a menu of British pies, ciders and fish and chips.
After supper, we walked across Millennium Bridge, along the Thames River and stood in awe under the London Eye. It was too pricey and scary for our liking, but we enjoyed sitting under its glow and watching the people hop on and off. Finally, we walked Russian-style (arm in arm) across the Thames toward Parliament and Big Ben (I know my night photography skills leave much to be desired — working on that one.) We meandered through the streets until we figured out how to take the bus home, a delight in itself. Of course, we sat on the top deck.