Monday, May 25, 2015

European Experience -- The Beginning

On May 6, my wife Mary and I left our cozy Kentucky home for an 11-day vacation to Europe -- London, Paris and Roma, to be precise.

We made our decision last December to take that 10-hour flight across the big pond and make one of our trips of a lifetime. As you grow older, time is of the essence and one has no clue what the future holds in terms of finances, health, and other personal issues.

Three months earlier, we took another "trip of a lifetime" when we took a rail vacation to the western part of the U.S., making stops in places such as Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and Yosemite National Park.

The initial stages of our trip were relatively uneventful other than me having a pat-down by a TSA official at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington. Mary and I figured out what set off the alarm when we reached the boarding area -- my top-of-the line Timex Expedition watch. 

The boarding area in Concourse E for our flight to London
We flew to the impressive Charlotte Douglas International Airport, where we had about a 3 1/2-hour layover. It gave us time to get a bite to eat at the Stock Car Cafe and then wait for our US Airways flight to Heathrow in London. 

Before boarding our flight, we took advice from some friends who recently traveled to Italy and moved our watches ahead five hours to help acclimate ourselves to the time change in London. We wanted to lessen the effects of the flight as much as possible.

On the way to London
We touched down at Heathrow around noon, local time. We were sent to the Customs and Border Patrol section. During the flight, an attendant was handing out forms. My ears were ringing,  Mary  was sleeping, and I thought it was for a credit-card application and told her I didn't want one. Well, it turned out to be a form that had to be filled out before going through Customs and Border Patrol at Heathrow.

Fortunately, a young woman on our flight seated behind us told us as we got off the Airbus what we needed to do. She guided us to the proper area to pick up another form and stayed with us until we were cleared to proceed to the baggage area. Her name was Francesca, originally from Shawnee Mission, Kansas, an ex-patriate who has lived in London for nearly four years. She also gave us some advice on places to see during our stay. 

H10 Waterloo Hotel
Our tour company had a driver waiting for us just off from the baggage area. I don't recall his name, but he was a Somalian who has lived in London for 13 years (and has a brother living in Minnesota, whom he hopes to visit later this year). He certainly knew how to negotiate the narrow highway in heavy traffic on our 45-minute trip to the H10 Waterloo hotel, even pointing out some of the historic sights along the way. 

We were exhausted when we finally checked into our room and unpacked, but after a quick nap, we had renewed energy when we met 34 fellow travelers at a welcome dinner, hosted by our experienced, cordial and knowledgeable guide Valerio, an Italian citizen.

More on the London visit  in my next post.

Until the next time...

(Some images from the trip can be seen at my Facebook page. And if you go to Facebook, please like Kentucky author Michael Embry page as well.)


  1. I hope you saw the real London and not just the same old things they trot out for the foreigners.

    1. I'm sure we saw a lot of the standard tourist places, but my wife and I did a lot of urban hiking to see other places. Of course, some of the old things for locals are new things to visitors. I did enjoy London though.

  2. Europe has really such an historical background. Its always awesome to visit these places. Nice post :)

  3. Europe has really such an historical background. Its always awesome to visit these places. Nice post :)