London Calling

Although we loved Egypt, it was time to make our way back home, stopping in London and New York on the way. We caught a cab in front of the hotel and were disappointed when the bell boy negotiated our fare at a 50 Egyptian Pounds ($9 US). We had wanted to haggle on our own because we were sure we could have gotten it closer to 30 Egyptian Pounds, but it was a long way to the airport and the driver was a nice enough fellow.
On the way to the airport Caleb asked “how long is the flight?” and Dave responded with, “It’s long; five+ hours to London”. Caleb did not hesitate in his retort, “Dad, that’s not a long flight. I have had bus rides longer than that. And besides, we can barely watch two movies in that time”. Such is the life of a seasoned traveler (and recalcitrant Waldorf Student).
Five short hours later we in the back of a London taxi on our way to the upscale suburb of Kensington.
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At $70 US for the taxi ride, this was to be the beginning of our sticker shock in London.
We dropped our bags in the shoebox that would serve as our room and headed out to find dinner. The cold front had hit London full force and we had put on every layer we could find, but it was still freezing.
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Some hot cocoa at the local pub helped out a bit
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The cost of being back in the first world struck us hard the next day. Our time in Thailand and Egypt had shaped our perceptions of money in two ways: how far a dollar will go and how much further you can take it by haggling. The dollar is weak against the British Pound right now and it put a serious strain on our budget. We had been aiming at $100 per day on our trip (not including airfare) and had managed to meet that goal on most of the trip (even in Australia). But London was not cheap for tourists, and unlike in Egypt and Thailand we could not haggle down the prices; we just had to take it with our approximation of that “Great British Reserve”. Dave decided to keep track of our expenses on our first full day in London (in USD):

Hotel with two twin beds $245.00
Bus Tour of London 110.00
Taxi to Breakfast 7.00
3 Croissants and tea 20.00
Bus to tour start point 7.00
Morning Snack 8.00
3 Sandwiches 17.00
Taxi from Bus Tour to Hotel 9.00
Bad Indian food for Dinner 72.00
Total $495.00

Clearly we were going to have to reset our budget expectations in London (it ended up costing more for 5 days in London than it did for a month in Thailand).
Our first full day in London was a whirlwind. We got a bus tour on an open-top double-decker bus that included views of Regent Street
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Picadilly Circus
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And Trafalgar Square
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We got off at the Houses of Parliament
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And snapped a few photos of the “Ice Cube Family”
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In a couple spots
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Unfortunately, this pesky clock tower kept sneaking into all of the photos
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We actually saw the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, enter the House of Parliament in his Range Rover while we waited for the next bus. He did not stop to say hello.
Next it was on to London Bridge this time inside the bus (the cold was getting to be too much for us on top).
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This is a view of the famous London Bridge:
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No, it is not the picturesque structure in the background; its the railing you see in the foreground in the photo above. The one in the background is the iconic Tower Bridge, which we went over next.
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Then it was on to Trafalgar Square, “The Center of London”
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We ended the day at the incredible London Museum. It turned out to be a great way to wrap up all of our time in Egypt; many ancient Egyptian treasures are on show at the London Museum having been “acquired” (read: stolen) in years gone by.
Caleb was captivated by one of the most famous pieces in the museum: The Rosetta Stone. All of the decoding he had been doing at Luxor and Giza would not have been possible without this artifact and he seemed to understand its significance
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The rest of the Egyptian collection was a knockout
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Including part of the Sphinx’s beard (apparently the English could not bring the whole thing home so they settled for this little piece).
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We also went to see one of Dave’s favorite treasures, a chess set he remembered seeing on his last visit to the Museum (at the age of 5). Carved out of walrus tusk, the famous Lewis Chess Set was probably created in Norway around 1150 AD (See some more details at the Museum’s site)
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They are HUGE in Luxembourg
Day two in London would prove even more expensive than the first day – mainly because we had purchased tickets to see “Mary Poppins” on the West End. We started the day with a fun surprise at the hotel we were staying at; there were some fellow Portlanders’ staying at the hotel, namely the members of the band Pink Martini! We chatted with them for a while and got a photo with some of them.
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Pink Martini is a well-known Portland band that has an International/Big Band sound. They are popular in Oregon, but it turns out that they have absolutely raving fans in places like Turkey and Luxembourg (their next stop on the tour). Apparently the fans in these places sing along to every song and scream as if it was the Beatles on stage. Who knew?
We went to see the fabulous production of “Mary Poppins” and the kids thoroughly enjoyed the show. The sets were amazing and the singing was wonderful. Anna begged to go backstage after the show and we got our program signed by Mary Poppins herself!
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Our last day it was onto the London Underground for a trip to the famous Covent Gardens
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Covent Gardens is a hot spot for street performances and we saw a couple great acts, including a acrobatic Japanese couple:
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And a Persian Charlie Chaplin:
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Caleb, of course, had to pull out his juggling balls and managed to make a few quid:
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The next day we were scheduled to fly out to New York on a 4PM flight with Virgin Airlines. Our flight was 5 hours delayed, so we had a long evening in the airport followed by a 6 1/2 hour flight to New York. The kids took it like the true travelers that they had become and we had a fun time at the airport.

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