Update 12/22 1:30 p.m. – I can’t find anything new being posted re: Heathrow on the web, nor on the t.v. news. So I’m going to go on the assumption that things are evening out, that flghts are making it in and out and that no news is good news. The news outlets apparently don’t publish stories on things getting back to normal, only on events at their worst. Using yet another cliche, while there’s good news, there’s also bad news – 20% chance of snow in London today and again on Saturday. It’s all still iffy in my mind, therefore I shall continue to pray, hope, keep my fingers crossed and sing voodoo chants while swinging a dead chicken round and round above my head. It would be much appreciated if you’d do the same.
Update 12/22 a.m. – Heathrow’s second runway is now operational. I just check the arrivals – all flights arriving from the U.S. have either landed or are expected. The only airline that consistently reads “contact carrier” is British Airways. We’re flying Continental. A ray of hope . . . . .
I wrote the post below a few weeks ago, when our trip to London looked certain. However, it’s now December 21st and I truly doubt we’ll be able to make it. We’re scheduled to fly into Heathrow. Go ahead, laugh. Done? Okay then, we’re flying to NJ on Thursday to spend Xmas with my mom and daughter and are supposed to then fly to London on Saturday night. As you may have heard, Heathrow is a refugee camp just now, flights both in and out are in the main cancelled and weekend flights look doubtful. More snow is predicted today for London. Sigh. Seeing as how Gatwick Airport is still running smoothly, I’ve been online to see if I could possibly book flights into that airport instead. The only flights from the NY metropolitan area that fly into Gatwick are connecting flights, with the least airtime being 11 hours. Sigh. So, I’m going to go to NJ and can only play it by ear from then on, checking with the airline and hoping (against hope) that we can make it out. If so, it looks as though it will truly be a Christmas miracle. Keep your fingers crossed for us, say a prayer and read the post below in the hopes that we actually see London.
Keeping my fingers crossed that neither snow or terrorists prevent our landing, my husband, Greg, and I fly out on the night of the 25th to London and will be staying at the Rubens at the Palace Hotel, whose entrance directly faces the gates to the Royal Mews. I suppose staying at a hotel within spitting distance of the palace has a certain cache, but in earlier times the area was not one to boast about.
We find the following overview of the area in London Illustrated with Bird’s Eye Views of the Principal Streets: “In Buckingham Palace Road we are in Pimlico, once noted for its Gardens for public entertainment, of which the chief was known as ‘ Jenny’s Whim.’ The District Post-office, and Buckingham Palace Hotel, one of the largest hotels in London, face the garden wall of Buckingham Palace. Farther west Arabella Bow turns off a little to the north, and the road is continued past Grosvenor Place to Hyde Park Corner. If, however, we pursue our way through Buckingham Palace Road but a little farther, we shall cross a main thoroughfare, the left or eastern side of which almost immediately becomes Victoria Street, Westminster—a, modern street of mansions divided into suites of chambers or flats, which has been recently constructed upon the site of Old Tothill Fields. The Tothill Fields Prison, built in 1834 upon the site of a Bridewell, said to have been erected in 1618, was demolished in 1884. It was of late used for women exclusively.”
|The Library Restaurant|
The Rubens Hotel was purpose built in 1911/12 to house debutantes making their first court appearances at Buckingham Palace and in 1985, thirteen people were arrested in connection with a suspected IRA mainland bombing campaign uncovered by police when a bomb was discovered in the Rubens Hotel, where civil dignitaries and mayors were expected to stay for three Buckingham Palace garden parties.
I’ve stayed at the Rubens before, when I was acting as tour guide during a Novel Explorations Tour. It’s marvelously English – uniformed male staff complete with top hats and gloves, a tuxedo clad pianist in the lounge in the evenings, afternoon teas and beef carved to order. Did I mention the full English breakfasts? And just a few streets away is Eaton Place, where Upstairs, Downstairs was set. You can bet I’ll be taking a stroll over there in order to take a snap for a future blog. Lucky for me, the new Upstairs, Downstairs series will be airing in the UK whilst I’m there and I’m hoping to be able to see at least one episode without having to wait until April, when it’s set to air in the States.
I’ll also be looking for fabulous prizes for future contests on this blog. And I’ll be showing my husband England – he’s never been, whilst I’ve been twice since meeting him four years ago. I’m a tad nervous, as it’s important that he comes to love London, and England, as much as I do. He’s already seriously agreed that we’ll get a place across the pond one day. He is not interested in British history at all. The only thing he knows about the Duke of Wellington is that he has to walk past his portraits a few times a day. He does like watching Foyle’s War, so perhaps there’s hope. And there’s the fact that my daughter, Brooke, who is also not into history, loves London. And England in general.
So I plan on doing all the rounds of tourist attractions with Greg – the Hop On, Hop Off double decker bus tour, the Tower, Madame Tussaud’s, Horse Guards to see the Guards mount up for the changing, Ronnie Scott’s jazz club, etc., etc. I’ve also got a few London Walks on the agenda (if it’s not absolutely freezing), as well as day trips to Bath and Leeds Castle. I mean, everyone’s got to see a real castle when in England, no? Of course, all of some of these outdoor plans may change depending on the weather and the threat of frostbite. There are a few things on the itinerary for me – Cecil Court, Hatchard’s, the antiques market at St. James’s Churchyard on the Tuesday, the Thomas Lawrence exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery and . . . . Apsley House, my place of pilgrimage whenever in London. Brooke actually groaned when I told her I was going to take Greg there, “You’re kidding me, right?” Wrong. Oh, and I suppose I’ll point out to Greg the spot where Brooke is going to scatter our ashes after he and I turn up our toes. I’m confident they will be scattered there because I’m leaving Brooke money
in my will in order to travel to London specifically for that purpose. And Brooke will do almost anything for a trip to London.
We fly out to New Jersey on the 23rd in order to spend Xmas with Brooke and my Mom, then Greg and I fly to London on the night of the 25th. With snow predicted for London at Xmas, I’m packing my warmest clothes and I’ll be bringing my laptop and hope to be able to log on from time to time during our visit – stay tuned for a few “blog postcards” in the near future.