Our original travel menu did not include England as we had the privilege of traveling there a few times before. However, several budget airlines use London as a hub making it inexpensive to visit from just about anywhere within Europe. We did a little research and found that we could sandwich a visit to see one of Elizabeth’s MBA program classmates in between the Royal Ascot races and Wimbledon tennis tournament. Thus, England found its way onto the menu. It turned out to be quite a royal treat for us to be back in London once again.
We didn’t have any royal connections to get into the “Royal Enclosure” nor did we have the proper attire to even get into the Grandstand at the Royal Ascot race meet. However, that didn’t stop us from having a grand time in “The Heath Enclosure” that is located within the infield of the racecourse. We marveled at the Royal Procession and have to admit that seeing the Queen pass by right in front of us was a real treat. We also had fun chatting it up with some of the locals. We didn’t have any luck picking winners but had fun cheering our horses on in defeat just the same.
London is a magnificent city that attracts droves of tourists to its popular attractions. We found it much more pleasant when we got off the beaten path a little bit. We were thinking about going to see a play in London’s West End until we discovered that West End Live was providing free performances the weekend that we were there. Given the global appeal of Michael Jackson, it was only fitting that we caught the “Thriller Live” ensemble.
It was a special treat for Elizabeth to catch up with one of her UCD Smurfit graduate school classmates in London. We met up with Andrea Ramoino and his girlfriend Renata at an English pub for dinner and some World Cup football action. It turned out that Renata is originally from Lithuania and she provided us with several recommendations for our upcoming visit there.
We knew that we’d be able to queue up and wait in line for hours to acquire general admission tickets to the Wimbledon grounds but it would be a long shot to obtain Centre Court tickets at an affordable price. However, luck was with us when we scored some last minute tickets released on Ticketmaster. Once again, we had a real treat getting to see last year’s men’s champion Andy Murray kick things off. He was the first Brit to win the championship in over 75 years and the crowd was out in force to welcome him back. One of the things that really impressed us was how supportive the crowd was for Murray’s opponent whenever he made a fine play.
The value of the dollar reached a 5-year low against the British Pound resulting in very pricey lodging. Fortunately, we still had enough hotel points and certificates in reserve to use for all of our nights in England. We spent our first 3 nights at the Heathrow/Windsor Marriott as it was close to our arriving airport and Royal Ascot Racecourse. Our Marriott Rewards status enabled us to take advantage of their executive lounge for free breakfast and evening drinks and hors d’oeuvres both of which were very good. The a/c was fair. The wifi and fitness center were both very good.
When we signed up for a Hyatt credit card, we received 2 free nights at the hotel of our choice anywhere in the world. So, why not go in style. Thus, we moved into the center of London for a 2-night stay at The Churchill Hyatt Regency. This was conveniently located in London’s West End. The a/c was good. They had a nice gym and the wifi was excellent.
We relocated to Croydon and the suburbs for a 3-night stay at a Hampton by Hilton. It was conveniently located for us to use mass transportation to get to both Wimbledon and Gatwick airport where we departed from. The a/c was fair. The wifi was good. The fitness center was small yet adequate.
London offers up a great diversity of food and we took full advantage of it to enjoy Italian, Thai, Japanese and Pub foods such as fish and chips. When we learned that McDermott’s in Croydon served some of the best fish in chips in the UK, we sought them out and found them to be the best that we’ve ever tasted.
It was great to be back in a country that imports and offers wines from all over the world. We headed to Gordon’s Wine Bar in London to sample some of our favorites from around the world. We also made sure that we hoisted a few pints in the English pubs.
We flew British Airways from Vienna to London. It was nice to become reacquainted with the amenities of a full service airline using jetways and offering free food and beverage service for a change. We rented a car for the first few days from Avis. This time, we landed a Peugeot 208 and we were back on the other side of the road. It was really weird readjusting from kilometers back to miles per hour for the first time on our trip. Once we turned our car back in, we relied on the full spectrum of trains, metros, trams, buses and taxis to get around.
When an Italian recommends an Italian restaurant; that gets our attention. Once Andrea learned that we would be staying in Croydon, he relayed that his favorite Italian restaurant in the UK is Bagatti’s in Croydon where the made-to-order lasagna is worth the wait. So, we had to go there to give it a try and it was the best lasagna that we’ve ever tasted. In fact, it was so good that we returned for more a few days later. Grazie Andrea!
For Your Amusement:
The fee for parking at Royal Ascot is a hefty $40. However, when we go to the races at Saratoga Springs, we usually park on someone’s lawn for a modest fee. So, Elizabeth did some research and found us a spot in a local’s driveway for just $15 via the website: https://www.parkatmyhouse.com
The British do a great job of helping us look at things with a different perspective so that we don’t get run over.
Highlights: Royal Ascot and Wimbledon.
Next Up: One of the most beautiful places we’ve ever visited in the world is Switzerland. When we uncovered a cheap airfare to Geneva, we pounced on it.