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Trip Report I see London, I see France... Nikki's trip report

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London and France Trip Report, July, 2005


I have just returned from a two week trip and hope to write my report before I forget everything. My husband Alan and I had vouchers from Air France from being bumped in February, so we used them for tickets from Boston to London and from Paris to Boston. The plan was to spend a week in London with Alan and our older daughter, who graduated from college in May. My daughter would fly home to her summer job and Alan and I would fly to Toulouse and drive for a week through the French countryside, ending up in Paris for our flight home. I have been fantasizing about the French countryside ever since I was last there, in 1990, and the opportunity to get there again had finally arisen. But first, a visit to London, which we visited last summer for just a few days and which we wanted to see again, and where we wanted to visit with relatives.

We left Boston July 6 on two separate flights. Alan and I were on Air France, but our daughter was flying on American, since that was a better price when we added her to our plans a month or two before the trip. Our flight connected through Paris, and our daughter's flight was non-stop to London, so we met at Heathrow. We landed on July 7, at 8:30 AM.

We didn't know anything was wrong. Neither did anyone else. We met up with our daughter as arranged (with the help of Fodorites who had given us directions for getting from one terminal to another). We had arranged for a car from justairports.com, and the driver arrived shortly after we did. As we drove in to London, we hit traffic, and the driver turned on the radio. We heard that all the underground lines had been shut down. The radio announcers knew nothing more than that, and they were speculating about the reasons. We thought this sounded like an extreme state of affairs, but the driver shrugged it off. They're always having problems with the underground, he said. Stuff like this happens all the time.

The traffic didn't get any better, and we passed lots of people waiting at bus stops, trying to hail cabs. I felt extremely fortunate to have booked a car. The radio announcers said that the transit authorities were attributing the problems to a power surge. Then we heard about the bus. By the time we got to our destination it was clear that there had been bombings.

I had rented an apartment off Sloane Square from the rental agency A Place Like Home. A representative was waiting for us and just about to leave us a note, as he had other clients to check out of an apartment and we had arrived so late. But he let us in and showed us around. He said it was clear that the bombings were a terrorist attack, but that they were used to such things in London, that we shouldn't let it bother us, and we should enjoy London. Then he left.

We turned on the television and watched in amazement as the story unfolded. The rental agency had a plan for telephone calls which allowed us to call the U.S. for a very reasonable rate, and we spent a lot of time calling people at home that day and reassuring them that we were all right. We also received quite a few calls from Alan's relatives in London, and Alan's uncle appeared himself on the doorstep after walking quite a distance through London to get there.

It was quite a start to our vacation. We spent a lot of time on the trip reading, listening to, watching and discussing the news, both among ourselves and with many people we met. I felt privileged to be able to discuss these things with people as the events were unfolding and to get the perspectives of people living in London as well as the viewpoints expressed on the news. I will not soon forget this experience.

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