Staying with the Royal family (well, sorta…)

Well, our journey to London is complete and we are settled in at the very traditional Cavalry Bar tonight at our hotel relaxing before our arduous luxury coach journey tomorrow to the docks at Southampton. Our lodgings this time in the most visited city in the world (as noted by TripAdvisor, I believe) are at the Rubens at the Palace hotel, which is the hotel used by our cruise line. The Rubens is quite nice and our fourth-floor room overlooks the Royal Mews, which is not a stable of purebred Persian kitties but rather a collection of carriages and other conveyances used by the royalty that lives nearby. We are located mere steps from Buckingham Palace, but they didn’t buy our story at the gate about finding family connections to the House of Windsor on, so we weren’t able to crash a dinner party; instead, we wandered around after a much-needed nap dodging tour groups in front of Liz and Phil’s rather bland but quite big house taking a few pictures.

Our flights were good, although our second leg from Keflavik, Iceland to the small podunk local airport in the London area known at Heathrow was delayed due to some issue with an airplane at London City airport (go figure). We landed about an hour late, which was still excellent considering how windy and rainy it was in Keflavik this morning; we hope that weather changes before we get back to Iceland on the cruise. We had beautiful flying conditions last night leaving Denver and watched a gorgeous sunset over the wild north of Canada. We were also happy that we were on Hekla Aurora, the 757 with the wild paint job and “aurora” lights in the cabins.

Speaking of that podunk grass strip known as Heathrow: For years when we have flown into this monstrosity, we have taxied and parked, literally, at gate 300+ and walked for miles and miles through ugly, winding hallways (up and down and up and down again) to get to the Passport control and baggage claim. In recent years, poor Steve pushed me in a wheelchair before I had my knees replaced, losing about 10 pounds in the process (him, not me). We were overjoyed when we learned that Icelandair and a few other airlines scored coveted gates at the new Terminal 2 (The Queen’s terminal), which opened last year. So, when our plane taxied for the mandatory 30 minutes and pulled up at gate 241 we puzzled over the remote location and high number. Sure enough, the new terminal is simply the long hike made more attractive! We walked and walked and walked, using escalators that were immense (going down many levels and then back up again, more than once). At last, we emerged in the cavernous and crowded passport hall, where they noticed my cane and sent us to a shorter line. The immigration official was friendly and quick and we walked a few more miles to the baggage claim, finding our bags and then emerging into the exit area. Our driver was there (we had the cruise transportation package), a nice fellow from Madeira who drove sedately on the M4 and the Great Western Road into the crazy traffic of central London. We did a detour through the embassy area near Harrods because of traffic congestion and finally emerged onto Buckingham Palace road to our hotel.

A note of irony - we are mere steps from the hotel we stayed at in London on our first two trips here in 1980 and 1981. The old rattrap we “enjoyed” back in our youth is the historic and dismal Grosvenor hotel, placed squarely above Victoria station. This inexpensive railway hotel was perfectly adequate when we were in our twenties, but would not be very good now. I have a funny memory of the continental breakfast they put outside our room, containing a soggy croissant and some withered fruit pieces in a plastic box and running into the the room attendant, who asked us if “she could ‘oover the rug, govnah”.

Well, that’s enough for the first day. A few pictures are in order:

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