July 6-7, 2019: Pursuing Fish & Chips

Here we were on July 6, 2019, headed to London for the start of our United Kingdom-Ireland trip. At this point, we were excited to be traveling internationally. It was our first overseas trip together after ten years of marriage. However, the week leading up to the trip had left some lingering stressors.

My last day of work was on July 5, and Tiffany had left her teaching position the previous month. These weren't rash decisions, but all part of our plan to sell the house, buy an RV, and begin traveling the U.S. The two-week trip through England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland was the anniversary trip we planned five years earlier, so it was the perfect springboard for the rest of our travels. However, life doesn’t always go to plan. Just days before we were set to leave, the offer on our house had fallen through.

So, less than seventy-two hours before we boarded our flight, we had decided to cancel this trip. After all, we weren’t sure how long it would take for our house to sell. The responsible decision would be to use the money we set aside for the trip to give us more time until the next buyer came along. We spent a whole day looking up cancelation policies and telling our families about the change of plans. But the following morning, we each woke up feeling compelled to take the trip anyway. And we’re glad we did!

Fifteen hours after leaving Phoenix, we finally landed in London! Our first order of business was to obtain our Oyster cards, the pre-paid public transit cards we would use throughout London. That London Underground train leaving the airport was our first (but definitely not last) train ride.

I remember that the train seemed very rickety and made noises like a wailing ghost. It had a certain excitement to it! Tiffany focused on watching locals and listening in on their conversations- all of them with British accents! That train ride was our first treasure. When we departed the train station, we made our first journey to the Tavistock Hotel, only a short walk.

This hotel was recommended to us by two of Tiffany’s former school teachers, Mr. & Mrs. Hodgson. The room was small, but it certainly met our needs. The hotel provided a teapot in the room and a full English breakfast downstairs every morning. The location of the hotel provided easy travel to many sites throughout London. To top it off, we could even grab a Pokestop from our room! Since we didn’t have mobile service and relied on Wi-Fi, this was a special treat.

Pokemon Go is a game we highly recommend for travelers of all ages. While it seems like a silly distraction, the Pokestops were actually a tremendous resource for finding historical spots around every city. They give the name and a brief description of each location and have helped us learn more about every place we’ve traveled. Seriously!

By the time we made it to our Tavistock hotel room, it was almost 1:00 pm local time. We felt exhausted from the trip but knew we wanted to avoid jet lag by sleeping at a regular hour. Tiffany was also very excited about the prospect of going to the Evensong church service in Westminster Abbey. After a cup of tea and a ten-minute power nap, we headed back out and for the rail station. At this point, the station was very crowded. Still, everyone queued up into orderly lines, as though the entire British country had made a pact to follow proper recess rules for the remainder of their lives- line up quickly and quietly so that everyone can get where they want without a fuss.

We made it to Westminster Abbey, and there was a large crowd outside, with tourists from around the world photographing the majestic building alongside us. Just two years and one pandemic later, it’s surreal reliving those memories. It’s hard to imagine crowded London with empty streets, as they have been during the Covid city-wide shutdowns. The hustle and bustle that we found in London was a testament to the importance of this city!

Westminster Abbey hosts an Evensong church service every Sunday that is open to the public. The service itself was beautiful. We worshipped in the same room that saw monarchs’ coronations since 1245. Tourists cannot explore the abbey before or after the service. However, the experience of worshiping in a historic church was incredible. For thousands of years, people worshipped here. What a reminder that our lives are just “...a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” -James 4:14

Big Ben was being renovated while we were there, so this is what we saw. Maybe next time…

Again on the advice of the Hodgsons, our first British pub visit was to The Lord Moon of The Mall for dinner. While there is much to love about British pubs, we especially liked that we could just pay for our meal right away and then leave whenever we wanted. Imagine never waiting around for the check again!

Any visit to England must include fish & chips! Those that know me well know that I very much dislike peas. And by dislike, I mean hate. It was astounding to taste these peas and not find myself gagging with disgust. They actually weren’t too bad. I didn’t eat them all, but I ate like half (which was 100% more than I expected to eat). Thankfully, we found flavorful food throughout our trip.

By the time we made it back to the Tavistock Hotel, we were exhausted. And it was only 7:00 pm local time! We were ready for sleep and excited to awake the next day and continue our adventure!