Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The London Trip

Last Spring, my son came home telling us his English teacher was sponsoring a trip to London. The trip would include a morning at the Globe Theater and two theater shows. We went to the information meeting and the teacher said that because of the short notice, if the tour didn’t fill up, she would open it up and let parents sign up as chaperones. It didn’t and we did.

These school junkets aren’t cheap as they include the cost of the tour guides, transportation, meals, and the kickback to the teacher organizer who gets to go for free. If by “free” you mean spending nearly a year handling paperwork and headaches and then chaperoning thirty or forty teenagers for a week. Somethings are too high a price to pay.

Then, right as the school year started, the teacher called us with some bad news. The school board had published some new rules that parents and spouses could no longer be chaperones on overseas school trips. While the teacher figured we could get reimbursed for the rather significant payments we had already made, my wife had her heart set on this trip. Since she was a teacher, she could still stay on as a chaperone. I was the one that would have to make separate arrangements.

Then the teacher called back with yet another option. She split the tour group in two and all the parents and spouses (including her newlywed hubby) would form a separate “group” independent of the main school tour. We would fly the same plane over and see the same shows, but we would have to stay in a different hotel, take different tour buses to and from the sights, and, worst of all, pretend we had nothing to do with our kid who just happened to be in London the same time we were doing the same things. We said “Go ahead and throw us in that briarpatch.”

So, tomorrow night we will board a plane for London and head off for the beautiful balmy sunny skies of mid-March London for a week. The only other time I had been in London was on a side daytrip near Christmas when we went to Paris nearly five years ago. And, of course, I blogged about that already. It was wet and damp and miserable. The weather forecast for the first three days of this upcoming trip is “heavy rain.” I’m not sure what that qualifies as by British standards, but it doesn’t sound conducive to the walking sightseeing tours we have scheduled.

The tour group intensive itinerary includes the following:
  • Globe Theater
  • Tower of London
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • Changing of the Guard
  • Windsor Castle
  • Stratford Upon Avon
  • Bath
  • Oxford
  • Stonehenge
  • Lord of the Rings
  • The Thirty Nine Steps
In addition to the planned itinerary, a group of us parents came up with a list of things that we wanted to do since we weren’t tied down with the kids including:
  • Portobello Road/Notting Hill
  • Abbey Road
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Tate Modern
  • And, of course, shopping
I’ve been accused of having a bad attitude towards the trip because I grouse about the expense, the lack of transparency in the planning, and the painful logistics of traveling in large groups. We did learn that we had our hotel upgraded from a 66 pound a night fleabag to 109 pound a night American chain, so things are looking up. And with the dollar plummeting, having all our meals paid in advance is sounding like a better deal all the time.

I hope to blog while over there since we are taking my wife’s MacBook and the hotel has WiFi. Just don’t expect lots of pictures until I come back because I hate iPhoto with a burning intensity.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: In the meantime, feel free to tell me what I should be doing instead of what the tour company has planned.


Anonymous said...

The Tate Modern is definitely a must-see if you like art at all. It's in a disused power plant and they use the old turbine room to house exhibitions of really, really enormous pieces of art. Very cool!


yellojkt said...

The Tate Modern is my one must-add. I want to see it real bad. Fortunately it's right next to the Globe, so we can ditch the kids activity and go see that afterwards.

Anonymous said...

Actually, that's not a bad itinerary. You would probably like the Science Museum, which is next to the Victoria and Albert. It's one of the cooler science museums I've seen (at least it was in 1980). If you're in London on a Sunday morning, a trip to Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park can be fun. They don't always have interesting loonies, but there's usually somebody worth a few minutes of your time.

Mooselet said...

I officially hate you. OK, hate is too strong a word... I'm so envious I'm looking like the Grinch. I would kill to go to London. I'd do an all Tudor-themed tour, however (Globe Theatre so I may not be the person to ask.

I think "heavy rain" may be code for 'bring a paddle'.

Lab Cat said...

I was an undergrad in London for three years and lived for 6 months just off Portobello Road. If you go there, go to the far end away from Notting Hill. There it was more like flea market and less of a tourist trap.

Do go and see the Natural History Museum and take a walk in Hyde Park and see Albert's Memorial. Or go to Regents Park. All the Royal Parks are nice to visit.

Wander up and down Oxford Street and Regents Street. Visit Hamley's - five floors of toys.

Don't forget the British Museum, the Tate on the Strand and the National Gallery (on Trafalgar Square).

I would go to York - as I lived there for 8 years - rather than Bath. There is rivalry between these older cities. We (York) are better than them (Bath, Chester).


Now I wanna go home.