When taking my second trip to Paris, I decided to take the leap and hook in a couple days to jolly ole’ England and hit London. I hadn’t been there and with all the hype of the (then) Royal nuptuals taking place in only a few months, I thought it would be the perfect time to swindle a side trip to this great city.

With the itinerary already set in place for activities in Paris, it left me and Erin a short amount of time for London. After deciding our best option was to fly there we realized we’d be hitting the ground running since it worked out to be that we would have less than 48 hours in London. That’s not much time to see anything, but we were glad to take the option.

Now, not being familiar with European airlines, we booked Easy Jet, a discount airline with incredibly reasonable rates. And that’s just what we were looking for…  a cheap flight for a rediculously quick trip. This is where the motto “You get what you pay for” comes into play.

Yah, there’s a reason these people are running to the plane…

We hopped the train in Paris to the airport, checked in, and were seated in the lounge area waiting for the boarding call. The announcement comes, and immediately about 80 people started lining up. We thought they were nuts.

The people who line up for any flight as soon as the gate agent calls for pre-boarding always baffled me. Suuuure, get the in the lineup so you are the first one on the plane and you can sit down for 30 minutes while the rest of us get on. It’s not like the first ones on the plane get better food (or any food in most cases), a better seat or get to the destination any faster, right?

Erin looked at me and said, “What seat are you?”

I looked at my ticket, ” Hmmmm… oh… 35 I think. I guess each seat is numbered individually, not the row itself.”

The people in the line start moving and after the majority were gone, we joined the last of the passengers and went to the plane. Imagine the shock when we got there and realized it was sheer chaos. I wasn’t in seat number 35…. that must’ve been my ticket number. The seats on this plane had no numbers, they were on a first come, first served basis. It was a freakin’ free-for-all. People were pushing and shoving and getting angry with one another, it was like we were all kids and someone had broken a pinata full of airplane seats and everyone was scrambling trying to get one. It was nuts. No damn wonder people were lining up inside the airport. Erin and I somehow managed to find two seats together and sat down. My nerves were shot and I was frazzled. How on earth did this whole rediculous  no-assigned-seat idea come together? All my life we’ve heard how refined, how well mannered, how socially proper the English were, so what the hell was this???

We arrived to a foggy day in London, took another train and were on way to the city centre. We were smart enough to book the London Pass which gave us admittance to many London attractions for one low price – that is, for as many as we could squeeze in during our stay. We also bought tickets for the London double decker bus hop on – hop off tour. I couldn’t very well go to London and not get on the double decker bus.

I made it to London!

Travelling with Erin is like travelling with Rand McNally in human version. She maps out cities in her mind weeks, if not months, before we ever arrive. It helped that Erin had previously been to London once already and she never forgot a detail. Nope. Not one.

Imagine my delight when while strolling through Picadilly Circus I stumbled upon one of the greatest places on earth — Whittard of Chelsea. A freakin’ tea/coffee/hot chocolate store. I’d hit my hot-choco-holic shangrila. This place was too good to be true. Tins of hot chocolate in all sorts of heavenly flavours… cinnamon, rocky road, coconut, orange, and others. It was unreal. I loaded up with three cannisters, one each of Luxury Dark, Cinnamon and of course the Coconut. After all, I had no idea if the rest of our tour of the city would bring us to another one of these amazing stores. Turned out, Whittard of Chelsea is to London what Tim Horton’s is to Canada. They were just about on every street corner.

My Hot Chocolate Shangrila….

We made our way through the city on our double decker bus, wind in our hair, fog in our eyes, and we blew past famous landmarks and highlights…. Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and the Parliament buildings.

We took a ride on the London Eye (that did wonders for my fear of heights anxiety), the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels, and of course Covent Garden. Erin waited all day to get to Covent Garden. While I was in heaven over my hot chocolate purchases, she was eagerly awaiting her arrival at the Thornton’s store – a popular chocolatier. No damn wonder. It was unreal. Somewhere around £45 later, we were armed with sufficient confectionaries for the night (yes, that’s right, she loves chocolate like I do…).

It was getting late and we still had to hit Harrod’s. There was no way I was going to London and not going to Harrod’s. It was just as I’d dreamed…. it was over the top in every way, but over the top in a really really good way. I loaded up on Harrod’s memoriabilia… loving every bit of it… bags, keychains, passport holders, chocolate bars, coasters, jams, mugs, etc.

We awoke in our hotel the next day and made our way back to the airport for the return flight on “cattle airlines”. It was then, as we stood in the line for boarding that we realized we could only take ONE carry-on onto the plane. One. We had three each. If we had more than one, we’d have to return to the check-in counter at the front of the aiport, pay the fee for checked baggage, then check the surplus bags, and potentially miss the entire flight. So we had a really big problem.

We’d already positioned ourselves to be near the head of the line when they opened the gates and allowed everyone out to the mad scramble to the plane, so now we just had to figure a way to combine our three bags into one each. It was no easy feat. I’d be prepared to leave behind clothes, but there was no way I was leaving behind my new London stuff. No way. I already felt a loyal committment to my purchases and if they couldn’t go, then neither could I. We could hear the gate agents as they approached people with more than one bag, advising them to return to check-in. They were getting closer to us… we were getting panicky… could we do it? Could we stuff things so much as to get down to the limit? The guy in front of us was told to go back to the check-in.

The lady looked at me and Erin. Then I too, looked at Erin. She looked “puffy”. Little wonder, she was wearing all her clothes, all at once. I wanted to laugh, but didn’t dare as we were being given the “once over” by the lady. I’d managed to stuff most of my contents into the large Harrod’s bag I’d bought the night before. It wasn’t easy to do. I was wearing everything else… my jacket pockets were stuffed with individually wrapped truffles and packets of fudge, I’d also managed to put on two sweaters, and if I had access to a couple of paperclips I would have transformed two of my big hot chocolate cannisters into a pair of earrings. I was desperate, what can I say. We passed the inspection and got ready for the “running of the bulls” to the plane. I wondered if the airport authority knew the charades that happened with this airline, I mean, people nearly being trampled to death to get a seat.. surely there must be liability issues here. And hey, I was willing to do the trampling if it was necessary… come hell or high water, we were getting seats together.

It’s surprising how quickly Erin and I moved despite being weighed down with clothes, Harrod’s items and chocolate. We managed to get two seats together…. and our third seat-mate appeared to be a young British businessman who sucked back quite a few drinks during the short flight. Hey, can’t blame him, if it was his first time on this airline his nerves were likely shot like mine were.

Regardless of the whole airline escapade, the trip to London was spectacular. Can’t wait to go back… and maybe have more than 48 hours the next time.

Okay fellow readers… my enquiring mind wants to know….What’s YOUR favorite thing about London?

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