I've always been fascinated by the idea of traveling around the world, and I'm thankful to be able to fulfill a realistic version of this bucket list item for my 30th birthday. =) Our Round-the-World adventure brought us to 5 countries, 4 continents, covering 36,000 miles in 20 days. It was a great trip and I'll chronologically share about our adventures in the next few posts, so follow along!
Days 1-2London, UK
London was on of our layover cities en route to Cape Town. When we first booked this trip, we were supposed to travel through Istanbul. However, that flight was cancelled and we managed to reroute through London instead, which turned out to be a better option. I've been to London before but hubby hasn't, so our 12 hours layover was the perfect opportunity to explore the city, and even squeeze in a quick meet up!
Huntsville is an expensive airport to fly in and out of, but not when we use frequent flier miles. :) While checking in, we found out that we couldn't check out bags all the way to Cape Town, apparently because our layover in London was more than 12 hours and we were switching to a different airline. That means we had to claim our bags in London and store it somewhere while we go sightseeing (bummer!).
On a side note, I felt like we should have been able to check our bags all the way through to Cape Town because it's on the same ticket and both United and South African Airways are Star Alliance partners, just that the staff didn't know how to do it with our crazy route.
Landed in Chicago after a short 2-hr flight and went straight to the United Club lounge at Concourse F. It was nice to be able to rest and have some hot food at the lounge, thanks to the complimentary United Club membership I got with the United Club Card. :P
Our flight was departing from Terminal 1 so we decided to also explore the United Club at Concourse B (near Gate B6). This lounge was bigger but more crowded, the food was exactly the same.
Our 8-hour red-eye flight from Chicago to London was a lil' disappointing for a long-haul flight, minimal legroom and sad entertainment system. But our goal was to sleep through this flight so it didn't matter. Well, at least they served dinner and breakfast. :P
10 Aug 2017 (Thurs): London Sightseeing
Arrived London Heathrow at 8.30am, cleared immigration fairly quickly with our 'kiasu' skills, collected and consolidated our bags so that we only need to store one bag (cheaper) at the excess baggage. Cost £11 to store one bag at the airport. =.= It would have been cheaper to store our bags at Victoria station, but we didn't want to carry them all the way to the city.
After sorting out our luggage situation, it's finally time to make our way into the city. Bought the off-peak Day Travel Card for £12.30 per person, and hopped on Picadilly line from Heathrow airport to Hyde Park Corner station. The tube ride took about 45 min, enough for a short nap.
From Hyde Park Corner Station, we walked through Wellington Arch to Buckingham Palace. Buckingham Palace was crowded as usual. We then continued walking to Westminster Abbey. It was a pretty good bit of walking and we could have taken a bus for free with our travel card but I wasn't sure which one to hop on. Fortunately, the weather was nice and cool.
Next...London's iconic Big Ben and Palace of Westminster!
Different views of Big Ben and Westminster Palace. Notice the time on Big Ben, we made it there just in time for the 12pm bell chime. Found out later that we were lucky to hear the chime before the clock is silenced for four years.
It was lunch time so we took the Jubilee line from Westminster Station to London Bridge Station and walked to Borough Market. Tried the grilled cheese at Kappacasein, cheese and olive stick at Bread Ahead, and duck confit sandwich at Le Marché du Quartier. Was glad to catch up with my ex-coach/teammate who's now working in our London office. Thanks for coming over to meet us and treating us lunch! =)
After filling our stomach and getting some rest, we continued walking towards Tower Bridge, passing by the Shard and City Hall.
We decided to call it a day after 5 hours of sightseeing, hopped on the tube at London Bridge station and headed back to the airport.
When we were checking in for our flight to Cape Town at the South African Airways kiosk, I found out that I was placed on the wait list, which freaked me out a little. Fortunately, the customer service agent was nice and helped to sort out our situation. Not quite sure what happened to my ticket but glad that they got me a seat after waiting for 20 minutes.
After 2 flights and a day of sightseeing, having access to a lounge was like an oasis in the airport. My United Club membership gave us access to other Star Alliance lounges in Heathrow but we chose United Club, which is considered the best according to this review.
Fully utilized the super private and huge shower rooms to freshen up before the next red-eye flight.
The food and drinks selections were pretty good too, especially for United Club.
Is it possible to see London in 12 hours? Absolutely! In fact, we did it within 6 hours. Here's an evidence of us walking all around London. =P
As usual, I had an itinerary for the trip and a link to our sightseeing route. :P
Thank you London for the sights and nice weather, till we meet again!
Next destination...Cape Town, South Africa!