Sunday, June 10, 2012

London: Getting There

The Saturday that we flew to London was the shortest Saturday of our lives (we lost 5 hours due to the time difference).  We left home at 4:30 a.m. heading to the airport for a 5:50 a.m. flight.  Check in was uneventful and I still couldn't fully believe that by the end of the day we would be in London! In London!!!! 
Decked out in glasses and ready to go, here we are on the 5:55 a.m. plane.  We got to see the sun rise which was lovely! (Instagram pictures)
After landing in Newark, NJ, we boarded our plane within about 40 minutes.  It was time for the longest flight of our lives thus far. 7 hours and 55 minutes if I remember correctly.  

The flight was not bad at all.  There was tons of food.  I felt like the flight attendants were coming around with drinks, snacks, or a meal the entire flight. And, my favorite part, there were so many movies and TV show options to watch!! I watched The Vow, which I've been wanting to see for quite some time now.  And I also caught some episodes of Friends and New Girl, even though I've seen them all many times! We were about 1 hour away from London when I decided to watch one more show and that's when THIS appeared.
SCANDAL!  Scandal is hands down one of the best drama television shows I've seen in a long time. Maybe the best period.  So I re-watched the pilot and by the time it was over, we were in London baby!

This is where just having our carry on was great!  We hopped off the plane, made a quick stop at the loo and headed toward the train.  Isn't the girl icon funny? Is that hips or a skirt on the woman? LOL
We took the Heathrow Express which will get you from the airport to central London in about 15-20 minutes.  We arrived at Paddington station and purchased our 7 day Travelcard.  This gave us unlimited access to the Tube in Zones 1 & 2 for 7 days. 
So, listen up, here is my first tip on money-saving tips for London:  If you purchase your Travelcard (or oyster card) from a rail station (you'll know it's from the rail station due to the symbol that you see on the bottom left of the card) you can take advantage of tons of 2 for 1 deals at a good number of attractions--the eligible attractions change throughout the year so just check online and you'll also get a brochure when you purchase your Travelcard).  We had to get a Travelcard to get around on the Tube during our stay so it cost us not 1 red cent extra, we just purposely purchased our card from the rail station in Paddington when we arrived.  We used it to get into the Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral, and the Winston Churchill Museum 2 for the price of 1! 

Now, back to the story.  After purchasing our Travelcard, we headed to our hotel, the Lancaster London Hotel.  The hotel was  PERFECTLY located one block from Paddington station.  We walked from Paddington and were at the hotel in about 5-7 minutes.  It was dark and I didn't have the camera out for a picture of the hotel that night, but here's a picture from the next day:
We checked in and headed to our room!  It was about 11:00 p.m. London time.  One of my favorite things about our hotel were the yummy cookies that were left for us each night.  I'd never had Walkers cookies.  We had four different types and they were all yummy!
Second favorite thing: warm towels! We'd never stayed in a hotel room with a towel warmer.
Next up was charging my cell phone (using my trusty adapter) and unpacking my snacks and clothes!
Around midnight we realized that we were hungry! So, we stuck with the safest thing we knew--ordering pizza. And it was pretty simple, dial 6 and the pizza people brought the pizza and soda to our room. 
I didn't get to take a picture of our room before we started unpacking, but here is a picture from the next day, it was pretty spacious as was the bathroom!  And check out all the windows!
The bottom picture is the room when you walk into the door and walk through the hallway leading into the room.  The top picture is standing in the opposite side of the room.  Oh, and here is a picture I snapped of the bathroom on Saturday night after unpacking. 
So, that is the short version (although it doesn't feel so short when you type it out) of how we got to London! 

Stay tuned,

p.s. During our trip I became a total Instagram fan! It was an easy way to snap pictures of what was going on and share them with friends and family! So throughout these posts you will see some of those Instagram pictues.

Monday, June 4, 2012

London: It's in the Bag(s)....

After many, many, many (and I mean many) hours of going through the pictures from our trip, I have finally been able to tag and label them for blog entries!  So, let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start!)---> Sound of Music reference!!! Love that movie!  Before I could get to London, I had to first pack.... so this post is all about my packing challenge: 1 week in Europe in 1 carry on suitcase.

Early this year I was motivated to pack for the entire trip in a carry on suitcase.  For me, it was going to be a new challenge.  I can fill a carry on suitcase for a weekend trip down the street, so trying to fit an entire week of clothes in a carry on for London was going to be something new for me.  Thanks to Pinterest, I stumbled upon this article and this article and these women inspired me--if they could pack for a lengthy trip in one carry on, then surely I could! 

So here's what went down.  I checked the weather six days before the trip to figure out what type of clothing I would need to pack. 
So much for the 70 degree weather that my research told me I could expect in London in the month of May (or so I thought.  More on the actual weather later).   It had been so long since the weather was in the 50's here that I couldn't remember how cold the 50s were.  I pulled out a few pairs of shoes, a few turtlenecks at varying sleeve lengths, scarves, and a few jackets thinking that would have me covered.  I then laid out different pieces on our guest bed to play around with some outfits and the end result was this.
The flip flops were for walking around the hotel, two pairs of tennis shoes, and boots for the cold days.  

Before I finalized everything I checked the weather again the morning before take off:
Um, so the weather was creeping up on me.  From the 50s and now to the 60s and 70s....hmmm..this can't be good for my attempts to pack as lightly as possible.  So here's what I ended up with as far as clothing and accessories:

4 pair shoes (pictured above; wore the boots on the plane)
2 long denim skirts
2 medium length denim skirts
1 medium length floral skirt
6 cotton maxi skirts
6 white shirts of varying sleeve length
1 blue/white stripe shirt
4 color short sleeve shirts (gray, yellow, black and orange)
3 turtlenecks (1 long sleeve, 2 short sleeve)
8 white camisoles (I wear these every day year round) 
3 light jackets (denim **wore on plane**, brown, khaki)
3 pair of tights
7 scarves
3 hats *wore 1 on plane*
3 belts
Undergarments & 2 sleeping shirts

This sounds like a ton right? I know, I know. But, I fit it all! Layer by layer pictures...

(picture above) I laid 7 wash cloths (one for each day) over the clothes to keep them flat and to be a buffer between the clothes and shoes. 
(picture above) the plastic bag on the left contains non-liquid toiletries.

And to give you perspective on how small this carry on is, I laid a yard stick next to it.  Dimensions: 21.5" x 13.5" x 9.75"
 Here are the clothes laid out in the closet in the hotel closet.
The verdict.  I definitely packed more than I needed.  I did an outfit change one day where I went from a medium length skirt to a longer skirt at night with colder temperatures.  The scarves for layering were great, but I didn't need 7 scarves!  I wore all four pair of shoes but I could've done without the Dr. Scholls shoes (the gray shoes) and stuck with the boots for cold weather (Sunday/Monday) and the tennis shoes for the remaining days (which were HOT!).  I also wore the flip flops in the afternoon when my toes needed some air (they were so thin that I put them in our backpack on the warm days).  I initially brought the flip flops for walking around the hotel, but that never happened unless we were leaving, but they were great for afternoon when my toes needed some air.

I'll point out what I actually wore each day in each upcoming post.  I will say that the layers were necessary.  On the warmest days (mid 80s), a short sleeve shirt was necessary, but on the coldest day (mid 50s) I wore a long sleeve turtleneck, tights, boots, a scarf, hat and jacket and was still a little chilly.  

The Day Pack.
Our day pack was UH-MAZING for both the flight and for our daily outtings.  For the flight to London the backpack held 

the snacks for the entire trip
wet wipes
hair ties
hair pins
folder with copies of all of our tickets/passports (another folder with the same thing was in my carry on as well)
Kleenex (2 extra packs were in the carry on)
empty water bottle
2 umbrellas 
3 empty ziploc bags
London books (1 small book, 1 map)
1 rolled up duffle bag
1 comb

Really, if you are in need of a good size backpack that will hold EVERYTHING and still feel light, this bag is for you. 

these snacks were all in the backpack

(above) side pocket and note umbrellas on the left of the bag
(above) top pouch (notice water bottle on the right of the bag)
 (above) duffle bag that rolls out and is huge! Here is a picture of it filled in the store. Blue duffle.
See the duffle bag behind the snacks in the picture below?

Clearly, it was much lighter when we carried it each day.  But for the trip there, it held so much!

The verdict?  I could've brought way less snacks.  We had so much food on the plane (to and from London) that the snacks moreso came in handy during the trip and even then I only ate 2 of my 10 breakfast packs and a few other things.  So I could have paired down here as well. But the snacks did come in handy and helped us only have to pay for 1-2 full meals each day, depending on the day.

What else?  Troy also carried a carry on and our camera backpack on the flight to London.  So, at the airport going to London we had 1 carry on each, 1 backpack each, 1 travel pillow each and a blanket to share. My carry on also housed my ziploc bag with liquids, a dual voltage flat iron, my hair bonnet, extra documents as I mentioned above, my cell phone charger, and 2 adapters.  

So, there you have it, my packing challenge overcome.  Now, as for the the trip back....sigh.  I'll save that saga for the post on the trip back home.  Luggage caused a big kink in our plans coming back to the states.  But alas, that's enough for now.  So much more to share so please stay tuned and leave a comment!!! 

Packing challenge done and done!,

p.s. one side note, my carry on did not fit in the overhead bin on the United flight to London so our luggage actually flew in the bins in first class.  Troy and I joked that we are so blessed and fancy.  We didn't get to fly First Class on an international flight, but our luggage did! :-)  BUT, I will say that I flew to Miami in April with this same carry on filled to the brim and it fit over head on a Delta flight so I think that United just has small overhead bins and, as such, we probably won't fly with them again unless the price difference is huge.  Because I lightened the load of the carry on for the trip home, it fit in the overhead bin with no problem.

Monday, May 28, 2012

I Heart London

So, I have a really good reason for not posting the past week--we've been in London!!  We spent a week in London and it was super fantastic!!  We have a ton of pictures (over 1600) and lots of stories and experiences!  Please bare with me because I am so behind on entries--Troy's birthday, Charity's graduation, the birth of our nephew--and I want to walk you all through day by day of our trip. 

I am designating blogging time each and every week until I catch up! I'm so excited to share it all with you all.  London is absolutely lovely!  We also spent a day in Paris.  Paris....well, I'll tell you more later. But I will say that I (well, we) enjoyed London WAY more than Paris!  Please stay tuned!


Friday, May 18, 2012


Today I asked Siri for the telephone number to Wolf Camera.  Her response:

"But Shunta, you're already holding a pretty nice camera." HA!  That Siri, such a jealous robot.  At least she helped me find Wolf Camera.

Still laughing at Siri, 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hi, It's Me....

So, since the last time I spoke with you all (1) we've celebrated Troy's 30th birthday, (2) found out a friend of ours is expecting (a baby!), (3) our friends the Airlines gave birth to their first born child, and (4) my BFF Charity graduated and obtained a PhD!!!! I tell you, 2012 is the best year ever!  So, I'll have pictures and posts as soon as I catch up on sleep, work kept me super busy this week so I am in need of catching up on some missed hours of sleep.  This post is being drafted from bed as we speak.  

Goodnight folks,

Thursday, April 26, 2012

As If I Needed Another Project...

After living here for a little over two years, I finally thought I'd show the outside of the house some TLC, starting with the flower boxes which were gross!  I thought they'd be a nice touch for this weekend's birthday party festivities!!  That's right, Troy's 30th Birthday Celebration is this weekend!!

After I finished the second box it began to rain, so hope to finish tomorrow as well as spray the windows and clean it up a little.  Updated pictures to come! 

Green Thumb Grant,

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tiger Tiger Woods Ya'll!!!

I'm in Miami this week/weekend at a conference for work and yesterday I had a first time encounter with the game of golf at a golf clinic! Check out my fancy golf gear from one of the conference sponsors, Mercedes Benz!

What's the verdict on golf? I'll stick to putt putt! While I loved the feeling when I actually hit the ball far and high, that only happened about 10% of the time so...

More from me later. Sending this post from my iPhone in the hotel. I wish blogger would make an app for the iPad.