London

November 6-10, 2014

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About 3 weeks before the Cowboys were supposed to play the Jaguars in London, I started thinking about how cool it would be to travel to see the game. I could do the trip for really cheap. The biggest obstacle would be finding someone to go with me. Susan really didn’t want to go and felt like she couldn’t be away from home. I asked around and found a taker in Greg Losher. I was a little suprised, as Greggo hasn’t been out of the country very much and hadn’t been to Europe. When he agreed, I knew it’d be fun showing him the sights and doing some new things too.

Our flight left on Thursday night. We made it to the airport early and went to the Centurion lounge. They had to massages appointments left for the night, so we took them. Greg got a female masseuse and I got a very talkative male who wanted to solve all of my problems by giving me an exercise routine.  Even so, it was still a good way to start an 8.5 hour flight. I booked the tickets using AA miles at the saver-off-peak rate of 40,000. I was got our seats in the bulk head so we were able to stretch out and rest some on the flight over. On Friday around noon, we landed and took the Heathrow Express into London. Our hotel was about a mile away. Instead of taking the tube or a taxi, we decided to walk so we could get a taste of London. We walked through Hyde park. It was windy and chilly and the park was kind of over grown. We went by Speakers Corner, but nothing was going on. It’s always a bit weird crossing traffic in London, at first, but we got the hang of it quickly. The hotel was the Hyatt Churchill. I had a free Hyatt night certificate that was going to expire soon. The room wasn’t ready so the agent walked us to the lounge. The lounge was very fancy and everyone was dressed in work attire, I felt underdressed. The “gentlemen” in the lounge were doing business and Greg overheard that they were buying and selling ships. They were dressed in business attire and I was wearing sweatpants.  The room was ready in 30 minutes, so we went took our bags and settled in. I almost burned the hotel down when I plugged my phones in to charge.  I used an adapter from the hotel to plug my phones in.  Next thing I know, we hear a loud boom and the outlet is smoking.  It lit one of my chargers on fire, singed the bed and knocked the power out in the room.

I had one thing I wanted to see on this day, and that was the Churchill War Rooms. We look the tube enroute to the War Rooms. Out of the tube, we saw Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Parliament and the Thames. The Churchill War Room was kind of neat to see, although it was short and not really worth the price we paid. After the War Room, we say 10 Downing street, the Horse Guard, Trafalgar Square, Covet Garden, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. We were starving and stopped in a pub to see what food they had.  The menu looked good, but we noticed it was full of mostly men sitting very closely to each other.  We decided to move on.  We ate at a pub called the White Swan. We got Fish and Chips and an appetizer plate. It was really good. Back at the hotel, we stopped by the lounge. They had just put up the food for the evening, but the attendant went in to the kitchen and brought some out to us. After walking for many miles, we crashed hard.

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Saturday morning, we got up and had a really good breakfast in the lounge. Then we took our bags and changed hotels. This time we were staying at the May Fair hotel. It was in a very fancy neighborhood. The staff wasn’t the most welcoming, but it could have been because of the way we were dressed. We started out for some sight seeing. We walked over London Bridge and saw the Tower Bridge. Then we went to the Tower of London. The crowds were huge because it was Remembrance Day in England and it was the 100 year anniversary of the start of WWI. The moat of the tower had an exhibit of 800,000 poppies, 1 for every British life lost during the war. We toured parts of the Tower. Because of the crowds and the time, we didn’t get to stay as long as we might have wanted.

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Tonight we were going to a English Premier League soccer game. The only game in town was West Ham vs. Aston Villa in West Ham. I read that their stadium had a good atmosphere. We got there early enough to walk around and see the vendors and get some food. The food was not very good. Our seats were really good and we had a great view. The fans were into from the start and on the edge of their seats the whole time. The West Ham fans sing a song called “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.” During the song, the stadium pumps bubbles all over the place. It was quite a catchy song and raucous atmosphere. The game was a 0-0 draw, but it was really exciting and had non-stop action. West Ham has a good team this year and had many scoring opportunities. After the game, we headed back towards the hotel. It was still early, so we stopped off at a casino to play a while and then a grocery store. I bought lots of English chocolate for the kids in our church group. Walking back to our hotel, late at night, we passed Emmitt Smith and his wife, getting out of a car and going into a hotel.

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Sunday morning we wanted to view the Changing of the guard. We got to Buckingham palace about 30 minutes early and waited. We did see the mounted horse artillery go by in parade fashion. At one point we saw two heavily escorted Rolls Royce cars leave the palace. The one that was on our side of the street zoomed by and I was 99% sure it was Princess Kate Middleton. Is saw her wearing a hat like she was on the way to church. About 30 minutes later, the cars returned, this time, we see clearly that it was Kate and Prince William. The other car, on the other side of the drive was the Queen. Later we found out that they were returning from the Centaph Remembrance memorial service. After a while, a policeman informed us that their would not be a Changing of the Guard on this day.

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We weaved our way through all the people and parades and saw the Westminster sights again. We passed the statue where they had just finished the Centaph ceramony with the Queen about an hour prior. Around Trafalgar Square, we stopped to eat at a Mexican food place called Tortilla, similar to Chipotle. We were starving and it was awesome. After that, we went to the hotel to grab a nap before the Cowboys game.

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After our naps, we tubed it to Wembley. The tube was full of football fans and when we got off, there was a huge, sea of people, walking into Wembley. There was a lot of Cowboy gear. There was even more random NFL jerseys. The people of London and all over Europe were just excited to see some NFL football, reguarless of who was playing. Wembley was a huge, really nice stadium. It was intereseting looking at the consessions to see what foods they sold. One of the more popular items, were Krispy Kreme donuts.

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The game was awesome and the NFL and Wembley put on a big show. It felt like a big deal, like an All-Star game or Super Bowl. It was fun watching and listening to the English fans. They didn’t entirely know what was going on. To our left and right were people from Dallas, but all around us were English folks. The Cowboys won the game, easily, and it was entertaining.

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Monday was our day to fly home. We had a few hours before our flight, so we rented bikes. The big cities all have these public bike stations all over town where you can rent bikes. We rode all around Hyde Park, saw Kensington Palace, and then rode around Buckingham Palace. It was alot of fun. After an hour and a half, we returned our bikes.

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We still had some time so we walked down Piccadilly street and looked at some shops. We found a crepe place for a snack, then off to the airport. In the security line at the airport, we were right behind Michael Irvin. We later stopped to talk and got a picture with him. He was on our flight back to Dallas and it was a big deal to the Cowboys fans.  The flight back was smooth until we had to make an emergency stop in Chicago for a passenger who was having a medical condition.  Due to this, we arrived home about 2 1/2 hours late.  We had a great time on this trip.  Greg enjoyed his first European adventure and now know more about England than what he saw on National Lampoons European Vacation.

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