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Mind The Adventure - Our First Trip to London

27/08/2005, By Mike Turvey

Reader Rating: 2.9 from 17609 votes

Boudicca Statue

Before July of 2005, neither my wife nor I had ever owned a passport. We had often, in the last few years, discussed taking a trip abroad, but it seemed that each time we seriously considered a potential location, some major home repair or family crisis would divert our vacation funds, or some political turmoil in the country we were considering would discourage us from pursuing our trip. Five years ago we decided we would do whatever it took to make our dream happen and visit England.

As a teacher of high school English for over 30 years, I felt I needed to see England at least once, and having made the decision to come to England, we began reading as many British newspapers as we were able to purchase on a weekly basis in the local bookstore. We also became devoted listeners as well to the nightly BBC America broadcasts. What we read, and heard, were a lot opinions that we seemed to have in common with the British people.

We were bolstered in our decision to take the trip and intensified our research and planning for what would turn out to be the adventure of a lifetime. This decision and the subsequent planning began in the year 2001. By the end of 2004 we had finally secured the budget we felt we needed to support spending two weeks in England.

St James's Park

We felt two weeks to be the minimal amount of time essential for us to really experience the people and the place. It didn't take too much effort to discover an abundance of attractions and activities sufficient to fill an exciting agenda that could easily stretch over four months. Reducing that list to a mere two weeks was a daunting task.

We spent the intervening years researching every aspect of the trip, transportation to and inside London, lodging, dining, festivals and recurrent special events, museums and galleries, entertainment, and possible day trips from our intended London base. We accumulated over 300 websites, found and subscribed to seven informative online services, including the multi-faceted London Lantern, and read 10 guidebooks from cover to cover, several times.

By departure time I sincerely believe no one had ever been more completely prepared to experience their first trip to England than we were. Neither the Romans, nor the Normans, nor even the Blue Badge tour guides knew more of the land we were about to invade.

Fountain in Trafalgar Square

As it turned out, the preparation for getting around London was time well spent since the terrorist bombings of the public transportation system which occurred six days before we were scheduled to arrive, somewhat disrupted our daily transportation plans. For example, the number 30 bus and the Kings Cross station had both figured heavily in our pre-plans for daily travel from our hotel in Bloomsbury into the City, and had both been bombed. The bus attack had occurred only two blocks from our hotel, and the Kings Cross station was a short walk in the opposite direction.

We had a serious decision to make. Should we postpone this long planned trip, or forge ahead? We had purchased travel insurance that covered terrorist activities in our destination country and would reimburse us the full amount we had spent thus far, including airline tickets, tickets to attractions, etc.

Chelsea Physic Garden

We sought travel advice from the U.S. State Department, the BBC, and my two cousins who live in England, one in Oxford, and the other in London. We studied and weighed the options open to us. One of the things I've taught my students consistently over the decades is that it's not as important what happens to you, as it is how you deal with it. I called on that belief as we made this important decision.

We had observed in several of the news reports, the calmness with which the London authorities and citizenry dealt with the attacks and their consequences, and it was impressive. No one panicked. No one appeared to be abandoning logic, or overreacting in an out-of-control manner. Everyone was focused on what they could do, and got immediately to work dealing with the tragedy.

After noticing this attitude over and over for several days I commented to my wife that those persons who had sought to terrorize someone by their attacks, had evidently picked on the wrong bunch of people. The Brits weren't buying into it. My wife agreed and we decided to continue our plans to come to England.

The British people, through their handling of the terrorist attacks, had become even more attractive to us than they had been prior to July 7th. We were not going to miss the chance to spend two weeks living among these people. What had been planned as the trip of a lifetime, had already become the adventure of a lifetime.

Now that we have returned home and can look back on our first trip outside the USA, we feel uniquely qualified to offer our advice in several areas to potential travelers to the UK. (To be continued next month)

Mike Turvey

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Re: Mind The Adventure - Our First Trip to London

By Mike Turvey 01/09/2005, (Rating: 2.9 from 16583 votes)

Yes, I know I twice misspelled "their" as "there". It is an embarrassingly elementary mistake for a teacher of English. Nothing devastating, but something that should have been caught by me, and I therefore apologize for the poor writing model.

Editor: And should have been picked up by me - now corrected.

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Re: Mind The Adventure - Our First Trip to London

By Chas Bailey 02/09/2005, (Rating: 2.9 from 16547 votes)

Hi Mike,

As a Londoner I really enjoyed reading about your decision to still visit our fair land despite the attempt by the Terrorists to disrupt my and kill people in London. Your dead right about them picking on the wrong people, if Adolph couldn't stop us a few mad maniacs have no chance.

London is like a phoenix, it always rises from the ashes bigger, better, and stronger as our history testifies to. Anyhow I really cannot wait for part two of your adventure next month.

Chas Bailey.

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Re: Mind The Adventure - Our First Trip to London

By Mike Turvey 27/09/2005, (Rating: 2.9 from 16580 votes)

Thank you for your note. It was funny, but one of the clearest feelings I had about England was that it was America, all grown up. The experience that causes one to slow down and think before you act, the attention to tradition and detail even in the way plants and gardens were laid out, caused one pleasant smile after another. I hope to find a way to return someday.

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Re: Mind The Adventure - Our First Trip to London

By James/Missouri USA 02/09/2005, (Rating: 2.9 from 16476 votes)

I too spent years planning our first trip to England so I can relate. In fact, I enjoyed reading about your research and planning. When we took our first trip in 1998 it was almost as though we had been to London before. Did that take away from the adventure? Not at all. I look forward to reading your further installments.

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Re: Mind The Adventure - Our First Trip to London

By Mike Turvey 27/09/2005, (Rating: 2.9 from 16417 votes)

As your geographical neighbor, living in Kansas, I share your sense of the need to plan and the exultation at finally arriving in the land of history books and literature. It WAS an adventure in every sense of the word. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm anxious to see if my recommendations are anything like yours.

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