Thursday, October 15, 2015

Europe 2015: Day One and Two


About one year ago Denice's nephew Billy Ney told us about his plans to take some of his students from Compton High School in Los Angeles on a tour of Europe with a company called EF Educational Tours.  I made the innocent statement that I wished we could go alone.

Well...we did.  And so did Denice's sisters Marijeanne (with her husband Don), Christine (with her husband Chuck) and their cousin Kathy.  Billy brought along his wife Jennifer and their son Maxfield which eventually meant there were more relatives on tour than actual kids from Billy's school.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015 (Day 1)
Milwaukee, WI, USA

Most trips I take seem to start at the crack of dawn and exhaust me with an all day travel schedule to get to my destination.  Not so on this trip where the opposite took place.  Denice and I took an airport shuttle in the early afternoon out to our airport to join the MJ, Don and Kathy for lunch at the Milwaukee airport.  We left Milwaukee at 6:30 p.m. and flew to Detroit which proved to be one of those quick up and down adventures.

Here is your early warning:  I take a lot of pictures on trips.  A lot.  For me, the camera is like a diary.  I already have so much camera anxiety I wandered around the Detroit airport looking for subjects.

We were out of Detroit at 10:00 p.m. for an overnight flight to London, England.  We arrived in London at 11:00 a.m. their time.

I do not sleep well on planes which basically means I try to stay away but occasionally do the head-bob thing or snort a snore when it all catches up.  I did take on my pad the book All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr but I did not read that much.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015 (Day 2)
London, England

One of the nice things about going on an organized tour is that you are catered to throughout and that takes some of the anxiety out of traveling, especially in a foreign country.  With EF, we new two things going into this trip.  One, we would be traveling at a high rate of speed because the tour is paced for high school kids.  Two, we would be staying in hotels selected to fit a high school tour group.  

EF managed to time every one's flights so that all of our party ended up at Heathrow approximately the same time.  Billy's group flew in from LAX while we were joined by two other school groups, one from LAX and the other from Houston.

At Heathrow in London, we met our Tour Director, Rodolfo Gaita.  

The greatest thing that can happen on any tour is that your fall in love with your guide.  You will hear more about Rudy as we go along but it is enough to say that we got a great tour director.  Rudy's job is to guide us from the debarkation at Heathrow all the way to the airport in Rome on our last day.  He will prove to be funny, educational, lively and a consummate professional guide.  

Earlier I warned you I take a lot of pictures.  Here is another caution:  I take very few photographs with people in them.  The reason I do not take photographs of people is because they all end up looking like this:

Kathy (turned away and blocking Marijeanne), Denice, Chris (turned away), Chuck and Donny (blocked by a back pack)

Marijeanne (blocking Jennifer), Maxfield (in motion) and the side of Kathy's head

Here is the classic doorknob shot of Donny (looking like he wants to head butt the camera)

And we finish with the classic Chuck and Donny portrait with someone else's head sticking out of Chuck's.

So I am just going to say right now--do not expect pictures of people and now you know why.

Once we were all gathered together, it was on the bus and over to our hotel to dump off our luggage.  In London, our hotel was the IBIS Earls Court on Lillie Road near a tube stop.  

For London (and next up, Paris) being near a tube stop was very important as this is how we got about these two magnificent old cities.  Navigating is a learned skill but I would say we mastered it as needed.  What I loved most about the tube was it was a great way to see people.  

Today's mission is to get into central London and see the sites.  I have never been in Europe so everything is going to be slightly odd as I am going to see things I have heard about my whole life but never seen.  Like...getting off the tube, looking up and seeing...

Our first stop on the tour is Big Ben, Westminster Palace and Abbey and Parliament.  

There is going to be a hidden theme for this entire trip and involves POWER.  If I learned anything on this trip it is that throughout mankind's history, whether it is through religion, government or war, a minority of people have talked the majority of people into spending an amazing amount of money, labor and time so they can control the people and have all the power.  In other words, it is good to be...

London is very crowded while we are there.  One local told me this is odd because London's school are still in session and tourist season will not start for another week.  You could not tell it from this day.  The American (and possibly world) economy must be doing well as there are a lot of tourist in the central part of London and this will be true throughout the trip.  You can also tell that the Chinese economy is doing well as there are a lot (a lot) of Chinese traveling in Europe.  

No. 10 Downing Street

Household Cavalry

You never know who you are going to meet on a trip like this.  

When we went to Piccadilly Circus we discovered this was playing but we had no time to change our plans and take it in.  

We can cross off Parliament Square, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus all before we headed to an Asian fusion restaurant, Wagamama, for a dinner.  

This is the famed Eye, the Ferris wheel like creation that we intend to ride.  I have to admit I am a little intimidated by the height but I am determined to go up if I can.  

Marijeanne, Don, Kathy, Jennifer, Chris and Chuck

This is what the eye looks like just before you get on board.  

This is what it looks like from inside a bubble as you start the climb to the top.  

Here is a handful of the kids on our trip.

This is the view we got from the peak of the Eye.  

Considering all that we went through including some sleep deprivation, our first two days on our European trip proved to be everything we could ask for.  

1 comment:

  1. Your pictures are great! And I was especially happy to read your great comments about Rudy - we will be on a tour with him next week. Thanks for blogging!