I had a last minute work engagement in December that resulted in a missed Brandi Carlile concert. As a consolation for working up until Christmas Eve, Col and I decided we’d go see Brandi in London. I know…poor us.
We planned the trip with a combination of miles and non-rev travel and quickly realized it is super expensive (even when your’re flying standby for almost free) to fly home from the UK (several hundred dollars in departure taxes). So, we planned a whirlwind trip that looked like this:
- Tuesday afternoon – Depart US for London
- Wednesday afternoon – Land in London
- Wednesday night – See Brandi Carlile
- Thursday – See London in a day
- Friday – Travel to Dublin
- Saturday – See Dublin in a day
- Sunday – Depart Dublin for US
It was agressive, but we figured it would still be fun. We flew over on miles, and I was able to get us some Saver awards on United that meant we’d fly LAX to LHR on the 777-200 in BusinessFirst. It was worth the extra miles to have lie-flat beds, as the flight is about 10 hours and we planned on a late night at the concert. Flights were uneventful and enjoyable.
We landed in London, passed immigration and went straight to our hotel. We paid the premium for the 15 minute Heathrow Express train into Paddington Station, which was only about three blocks from our hotel. I had booked the hotel via Booking.com, which I will never do again. The reviews were all pretty good, the rating was high and the photos of the rooms looked nice. Other than a modern, updated lobby, the hotel was a dump. The room was tiny, which is to be expected in a city like London. But, when we pulled back the duvet and found several short curlys, we were thoroughly grossed out and spent the next two nights sleeping in our clothes.
We showered and changed and headed out for the concert. The show was in Islington, which was about a 30 minute tube ride on two lines from Paddington. We had expected Londoners to be polite and courteous. I think that’s the impression most Americans have of the Brits. Well, we threw that preconceived notion out the window. Over the two days, I found the people of London to be mostly rude and unhelpful; they made New Yorkers look like Georgia Peaches. People had no problem putting their hands on you to shove you out of the way so they could go through a turnstile first, or pushing you off the train to make room for themselves. It was nuts.
The concert was awesome as usual. A local band called Holly and the Wolf opened. We really liked their sound and Holly’s vocals are amazing. But, after nearly 18 hours of travel, we needed something a little less mellow. So, we were happy when Brandi came on stage and started what turned out to be a two hour set. It was a fun venue and we can happily say we’ve seen her play on two continents now.
Thursday was a long day, and we basically hit every single tourist hot spot we could to see all the iconic sites. In all we walked nearly 14.5 miles over the course of the day, but we did see Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Parliament, all the bridges, including Tower Bridge and the London Tower. We did a quick pass through one museum, and capped the night off with a ride on the London Eye, which was really cool at night. Even if Col found it a little unnerving. We finished our night with an amazing meal at Noor Jahan, a great Indian restaurant about four blocks from our hotel.
Friday morning found us up bright and early for our departure from London. We booked a rail/ferry combo through Virgin Trains, so we took the underground from Paddington to Euston station for our direct train ride to Holyhead on the coast. The train was clean and comfortable, and the combo ticket was only about $50 USD per person. The train journey was about four hours, and we got to see some amazing views of the English countryside and Wales. And, a lot of sheep.
We departed Holyhead on Stena Lines for the three hour or so journey across the Irish Sea to Dublin. I was impressed by the size of the ship; I was expecting something similar to the boats that ferry passengers to Catalina Island in California. But, this was a fairly large ship with many decks, free wifi and a nice bar and restaurant. We cruised over to Dublin under mostly sunny skies and calm waters, enjoying the view and the ride.
Next up…Dublin in a Day!