As many of you know, John and I have a tradition of traveling during the holidays and spending the new year in a new/special place. Since George was only 2 1/2 months old last December, we didn’t take our annual trip and spent the new year at home for the first time in twelve years. Since George is bigger now (14 months), we figured the 2014 holidays was a good time to get back to exploring.
When we began planning our trip, we had a few parameters: (1) direct flights only; (2) minimal language barriers; and (3) cultural exploration AND relaxation were musts. After considering a few options, we decided to visit London and Paris. John and I made our first visit to London in 2007 and visited Paris in 2007, 2009 and 2011…but can you ever visit either of these places enough?
Let me be clear, arriving at the decision to travel wasn’t easy. Honestly, I was terrified.
What if George got sick? Would we find things for George to eat? Would George sleep? Would we all get cranky from lack of sleep and argue constantly? How would George handle the flights? How would we handle them?
And the list of worries went on. We almost considered canceling the trip a few days before Christmas when it was clear that George was teething again. However, everything became clearer when prayer and common sense stepped in.
I’m a firm believer in the notion that life happens at the edge of your comfort zone. So, while all my fears were valid, there wasn’t a single one that couldn’t be overcome with planning, prayer, patience and deep breathing. There are toddlers in Europe…so if they and their families could survive, so could we. In fact, this trip taught me that not only can we survive, we can flourish, in unfamiliar and adverse settings.
Now, one last disclaimer…the way we travel may not work for everyone, but it works for us. There are lots of ways to travel – luxury, budget, middle of the road, spontaneous, pre-planned, booked by a travel agent, booked by the traveler, etc. – and what you will read about reflects the ways that we want, need, and choose to travel.
We flew United’s Dreamliner from Houston to London on Christmas Day. We left Houston at 9:00 PM and landed at 11:00 AM on December 26th.
To our delight, we were upgraded to first class for our 8 hour flight several weeks before the trip. George and I sat in a row with two seats and John sat in the aisle seat in the row across from us. George was the only baby in first class and fortunately we did not receive any rude comments or looks from our fellow passengers. Maybe because it was Christmas? In preparation for the flight, we made little survival sacks for our seat mates that included Alleve, ear plugs, candy and a note from George explaining that he was a good baby, but that he might be making a few sounds along the route. The bags were a big hit!
Folks appreciated the gesture, but were emphatic that we didn’t need to feel uncomfortable or as if we didn’t belong.
To my surprise, George slept in his car seat for the majority of the flight. I nursed George before we departed and he fell asleep. I put him in his car seat and he didn’t make a sound. When he wasn’t sleeping in his seat, George slept on my chest. It was very sweet and I loved every minute of it. I didn’t get much sleep, but I passed the time by cat napping, people watching and looking after Georgie.
Our flight was uneventful and we arrived in London without incident. They offered dinner and breakfast service on board, but I passed on both. To be honest, I was too worried about George to mess with it and didn’t have much of an appetite. But, as is always the case, I clearly didn’t need to worry about George — he was fine. Also, because we flew business class, we were given “fast pass” tickets to expedite the customs process. Score! We flew through customs and baggage claim at Heathrow and met our driver (prearranged by me via our hotel concierge) outside the “Arrivals” area. Within thirty minutes, we arrived at the Parktower Knightsbridge, a Starwood Luxury Collection property.
Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived, so we popped into the hotels Hyde Bar for a quick-lunch. George napped while John and I ate and made a game plan for the rest of the day. Our lunch was delicious and after an hour, George woke up and we fed him lunch. Since our room still wasn’t ready, we hit the streets for some shopping.
Because it was Boxing Day, an infamous shopping day in London, the streets and stores were packed. We stopped by Harrod’s, LK Bennett and a few other stores, but they were too crowded to enjoy the experience. We did a bit of exploring, then made our way back to the hotel.
When we checked on our room it still wasn’t ready. The issue? We were being upgraded to a suite and our room was still occupied by another SPG Platinum guest who was taking advantage of the 4:00 PM checkout. The hotel staff was awesome and without prompting, gave us a double upgrade and gave us the key to one of the nicest penthouse suites in the hotel, The Sloane Suite. I’ll post more about the room and hotel later, but we were totally blown away by it all.
Once we got into the room, I unpacked and John supervised George stretching out his legs and exploring our new digs. After a while, I laid in bed to nurse George and we both took a three-hour nap together. Amazing!
To keep things nice and easy (and lazy), we ordered room service for dinner. Our food was excellent and we had a nice time catching up and planning for the next day.
John and I took showers before giving George a bath. Never underestimate the rejuvenating power of shower/bath! We all ended up crawling into bed once we were clean, hoping for a full night’s rest.