Flight from KC to London
The months of prepping was about to pay off. The plan fare, train tickets, Air BnBs, and traffic routes…all of it coming together on this one day. Just one drive to KC and then we would be off the continent; it was the start of our tour de Europe 2018.
It’s always good to have a plan but Reagan and I wanted to be light on our feet and play this trip by ear. Sometimes the unexpected moments are the most memorable ones.
Our first stop, Iceland.
The hardest thing about long flights is getting to your destination on time. Our flight departed Kansas City International for Keflavik via Iceland Air. It was a smooth flight, but we were already feeling the jet lag. The first flight was 7 hours, but London was 6 hours ahead. We left the states at 6:30 pm and would arrive in London by 9:30 am local time. This meant sleeping as much as we could during the flight.
The rain in Iceland fell sideways with 40-degree temps. How pleasant. I kept that in mind when I remembered Iceland would be the last leg of our 20-day trip.
The Icelanders spoke good English, but the currency exchange rate threw us for a loop. 100 Krona is 1 USD apparently. We grabbed a bite to eat as we waited for our connection. Couldn’t help but notice a familiar-ish looking group of guys on our flight…we later found out it was 2000’s alt rock band Puddle of Mudd! Not the most famous in the world but still a cool, little quirk to our journey. Before I could wonder why Puddle of Mudd was in Iceland Reagan and I were back in the air and headed to Heathrow in London.
Pro-tip #1: rent a personal hotspot! We didn’t have phone service when we touched down in London for some reason, but our Wi-Fi was a lifesaver.
Also, pro-tip #2: post-Brexit Britain does not accept Euros! We found this out the hard way when the subway ticket kiosks wouldn’t take the Euros we brought from the States. Luckily our credit cards saved the day.
After a short bus ride and some walking, we arrived at our Air BnB. The first thought in my head was, “Shit, we’re in the projects.” But upon closer inspection this borough wasn’t the worst place in the world. That’s kind of the exciting part about Air BnB; you get to roll the dice a little bit. After our journey we were starving. It was time to venture out into the streets of London for food.
Day 1: London
Our first meal in London was around the corner at a great restaurant called the Elephant and Castle Pub that we called home each night. After some grub it was time to test out British Uber (side note but Uber is frowned upon in London and many European cities). Our driver picked us up and we were headed to Buckingham Palace. He was a nice guy who showed us the ins and outs of the city. He recommended that we save our money by taking public transit our walking everywhere we can. Good advice.
We reached Buckingham but there was a huge formal event going on. People dressed to the t and pulling up in Rolls Royce and other luxury cars. Unfortunately, we did not run into the Queen, but we strolled around the River Thames and visited the Mall where we ran into an army marching band. These guys were the real deal. The intricacy and precision of their marching was impressive.
And of course, we visited the London Eye, the famed Ferris wheel. The size of the thing is spectacular! 443 feet tall and it took us about 30 minutes to complete a full circle! The view up there was beautiful. From across the river we saw another familiar face, Big Ben. Turns out he was getting a facelift that day because he was surrounded by scaffolding. After all the walking and sightseeing we were beat. It was time for dinner and then bed.
Day 2: London
Day two began with a 40-minute walk to the National Gallery. The museum was at the top of our list since my wife is an art teacher. We were dazzled by the star of the exhibition, French Impressionist Claude Monet.
After sampling the gallery, we grabbed lunch and split for Piccadilly Circus (basically a major road junction in English terms). Piccadilly could be likened to London’s Time Square; flashing billboards, shopping, galore, and of course excellent people watching and street performers.
We sat on the steps of a fountain and listened to the live music and performers for a moment. It was nice to just sit, relax, and take it all in.
Due to all the walking we became pros at Google Maps. For example, did you know if you tap the camera icon on the app it signifies a sightseeing spot? This really came in handy filling in some parts of the trip. We often let the app take us on a wild goose chase across the city.
Last for the day was the infamous Leake Street Tunnel, London’s largest street art area. The tunnel became famous when Banksy hosted the Cannes Festival here in 2008 and invited 30 artists to turn the tunnel into an everchanging gallery. The results are amazing and beautifully organic. You look to your left, right, up and down, and all you see are different murals and graffiti. We stumbled onto some street artists leaving their mark on the tunnels.
All along the tunnels are various restaurants and pop-ups, in fact House of Vans was throwing a punk show while we were there! It was awesome seeing the crowds of people embrace the art and graffiti. Thanks, Banksy!
After another day it was time to wind down and pack everything up for our next stop: Paris.
Be on the look out for Chapter 2 of our adventure and don't forget to shop some favorites on our store!
Story by: Jeremy Lux
Written by: Eric Gasa