The excitement I felt once our group had passed through all the different cues inside Heathrow International Airport that led out the door to London was almost tangible. My traveling companions included Charlotte (my mom in love), Peggy (our dear family friend), Paul both of their and now my dear friend), Trudy (my sister in love) and my dear friend, Wilma.

The flight was overnight and a bit weary, but not without it’s humor. Paul watched “Bridesmaids” on the way over and I kept getting tickled as I watched over his shoulder at all the funny parts of the movie. It is always funny to hear someone laughing hysterically with headphones in their ears! Paul, who has the most incredible sense of humor, kept us laughing from the flight over until the last morning. I will be sharing some of his much loved southern phrases as I remember them, for the next several days.

During the flight, those of us who had never travelled internationally were surprised to find that in addition to our passports, a Border Force Landing Card had to be filled out in order to be admitted into the country.  Funny, we (Me) thought we had all finally filled it out properly the second time, when we noticed that at the top it said, “Please Print in Capitals.” So…. Wilma who had already been to the flight attendant twice for new forms; goes off to bring back a whole new stack of cards to be sure the form-filling-out-challenged-group from Alabama would be amongst the “Welcome-to-England” caravan and not the stuck-in-Customs-or-Security chucked out Alabamians. We all had a good laugh at our pile of trashed forms to hand back to the attendant when they came round.

Waiting on our very first bus ride in London, England.
Waiting on our very first bus ride in London, England.

Our travel agency was Collette Vacations booked through APT and the tour was called “British Landscapes,” advertised as the “Land of Downton Abbey.”  Above, our Tour Manager, Brian McCormick was getting us prepared for London. Without further ado, let me just say that Brian and our bus driver, Ray, were top-notch professionals and did an excellent job of trying to keep 42 people safe, on-time and happy – not an easy job!

We arrived at our first of five hotels early morning on November 8th and had most of the day to tour London on our own.  Our little group of 5 (Charlotte, Peggy, Paul, Trudy, and me)  chose to tour the Tower of London and see the Crown Jewels. Wilma had seen it before, so she took the time to rest after our long, overnight flight and possibly all her trips up and down the aisles for new forms.

The Tower of London didn’t disappoint. The crown jewels (which of course we couldn’t photograph) were magnificent, as were the grounds and buildings.

Peggy, Paul, Charlotte and Trudy.
Peggy, Paul, Charlotte and Trudy.
Guard at the Tower of London, called a Beefeater.
Guard at the Tower of London, called a Beefeater.

 

 

View of London Bridge from the Tower of London.
View of Tower Bridge from the Tower of London.
Two "Beefeaters"
Two “Beefeaters”

After the Tower of London, we attempted to get in to the pub that Brian had recommended, but it was too crowded and there were no seats. After our long plane ride, tour through the Tower and a mist of rain that started, we moved on.  But not without, a picture to be sure we remembered it for “next time.”

Trudy and Charlotte
Trudy and Charlotte

We loved the name, but ended up having champagne in a little pub, called All Bar One, just to celebrate our arrival in the “mother country.” That was my feeling throughout the trip… No… not that I wanted to be “Hung Drawn and Quartered,” but this…

If New York City is Hometown, USA to this traveler, then the United Kingdom must be Home-country to the western hemisphere. Yes, I know we revolted, had a tea party and declared our independence, but I felt at home. I loved every cobblestone, centuries-old building, thatched-roof home, pasture filled with sheep, cathedral, palace and pub. I know I won’t do it justice, but please come back as I try to share with you, the trip of my lifetime – so far.

As empty-nesters, we’ve found our youth again. Riding bikes near the beach with the wind blowing our(my) hair was one of the most fun days we’ve spent together in a while. I highly recommend it.

Ready-ing our bike legs at Peg Leg Pete's
Ready-ing our bike legs at Peg Leg Pete’s in Pensacola, FL
Gangway folks, two hearties are at the helm.
Gangway folks, two hearties are at the helm.
Bicycles for Two
Bicycles for Two on the beach.
Look, how far we've come!
Look, how far we’ve come!

Oh, and the sights we see.

A gorgeous day at the beach.
A gorgeous day at the beach.
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A very friendly heron.
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Up close and personal.
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Boardwalk in a lovely neighborhood on the bay.
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Some very blessed folks’ backyard.
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A rare sight these days. A collie, named Caesar. He was so sweet.

We had a beautiful day together. A day outside the box was so refreshing. Riding bikes makes you feel 20 years younger. Enough of this and I could even be 20 pounds lighter.

Oh, and don’t you think my photography is much better? Thank you, Stephen Savage!

 

 

Union Jack
Union Jack

Well, it’s only 6 more days until I leave for my very first trip out of the US of A. I’m excited, a tiny bit nervous, and a little panicked. There is so much to do when traveling out of the country.

  1. Apply for passport at least 2 months in advance
  2. Notify credit cards of international travel.
  3. Research cell phone expenses while out of the country.
  4. Research exchange rates for currency, so you are aware of added expenses.
  5. Shop for and plan clothing for weather at your destination.
  6. Be sure you have comfortable shoes for walking on cobblestones.
  7. Measure your luggage to be sure it’s the right size and weight for airline as well as coach travel.
  8. Purchase or borrow electrical converters so you don’t burn up your appliances or set the hotel on fire.
  9. Pack your medication in it’s original RX bottle, in order to get it through customs.
  10. Prepare your camera for the trip, making sure batteries are charged and SD cards are empty.

Our luggage requirements are small, so I can’t pack much. This will be a true test in traveling simply, staying in cozy hotel rooms, appreciating the beauty all around me and creating “home” where I am. My website in living color.

I have no idea whether I’ll see the “crown” or not, but regardless, I will see London, a castle, the English countryside, Stonehenge, and parts of Scotland, with 4 people that I love.

Speaking of a people and things that I love, I love writing this blog. I love thinking about you reading my blog when you have the time. I want to write things that you enjoy. Please share with me over the next few days, what you would like to see here. Would you enjoy more fashion posts, more recipes, more family stories, more decorating tips?

So while I’m gone, leave me a few comments about what you enjoy seeing on social media. I would truly like to have a blog that is created by its readers.

It’s going to be a great trip. Please stay tuned for lots of (better-after-photography-lessons) pictures when I return. And I’ll stay tuned for your comments. Love and appreciation to all.

Kim

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The Gracious Folks of Atlanta, GA

I recently spent two wonderful days in Atlanta, Ga.  I haven’t been to Atlanta in years and quite honestly, I was pleasantly surprised at what a wonderful time I had.  My Hubby-Do had a business trip, so I went with him.

During the drive, we were commenting on what an easy trip it had been even with all the road construction, when low and behold we see a sign announcing an accident ahead that has the left four lanes of traffic blocked.  Count them…1…2…3…4…out of six….in Atlanta, GA. I can only imagine what type of accident would do this.  It had to be tragic.

A Gracious Blogger Friend

Of course, I had made this trip to spend time with Hubby-Do, but I was really looking forward to meeting a very successful blogger friend, who had so graciously agreed to meet me for lunch.  Time keeps on ticking…

I 75 Traffic in Atlanta. Photo Credit: librarything.com
I 75 Traffic in Atlanta. Photo Credit: librarything.com

Can you imagine four lanes of traffic merging into 2?  I texted my friend to tell her what was going on and to my great surprise, she said she would wait for me.  I had no idea if this would take 10 minutes or 2 hours, but if she would wait, I would GO!  At this point, I was wishing our car was a tank.  We crept along for about 30 minutes and then it was as if the traffic fairy had sprinkled cooperation dust over all the drivers and we all merged together like we loved each other.  It was magic.

Once we were able to exit the freeway, we put the address for the restaurant in my phone and began to follow the voice through downtown.  The voice didn’t know what type of neighborhood she was leading us through, but she sounded certain enough about our surroundings, so I was sure we’d be ok.  Hubby-Do wasn’t so sure.

Restaurant Closed

Finally, at 1:25 pm, we stop in front of the restaurant – only to see the sign in the door being flipped over.  Right before my eyes it changed from OPEN to CLOSED – due to no water. Area construction woes! My friend was sitting on a bench at the front of the restaurant and fortunately, already had a Plan B.

Osteria del Figo
Osteria del Figo

It was an Italian restaurant and the food was very good.  More importantly, however, was the time I spent with this new friend.  I am new to blogging and the lady I was meeting is a veteran.  She started blogging about 6 or 7 years ago and agreed to meet me because we had attended church with a mutual friend.  I know how busy she is, so for her to take the time to meet with me was such a blessing.  We spent about 1 1/2 hours together and she gave me some great advice.  Advice that you, my nearest, dearest and newest will benefit from in the future. She suggested that I:

  1. Purchase a professional blog design.
  2. Resize photos before uploading them to the blog.
  3. Learn all I can about photography.
  4. Purchase a  DSLR camera.
  5. Take my time in growing this business.
  6. Keep my posts to under 500 words. (I’m trying!!)

Shopping with Gracious Folks

After lunch, Hubby-Do and I drove over to Virginia Highland for some shopping.

Virginia Highlands
Virginia Highland

We discovered the neatest consignment shop.  Wellspring Treasures.  Everything in the store is donated by Atlanta residents and the proceeds go to an organization that benefits victims of sex trafficking in Atlanta.  Even the sales people are volunteers!!!!  This was my purchase from Wellspring Treasures…

My purchase to help victims of sex trafficking.
My purchase to help victims of sex trafficking.

They will look great in my guest room.  I am planning a shopping trip to fill them with house plants that I will try not to kill.

It seems that everywhere I went, I met friendly, helpful folks during day one of my trip.  While crossing the street, a lady rolled down her car window and shouted, “You are beautiful!” At first I thought it was strange, but I turned and smiled at her which prompted her to say “you belong in Hollywood, I hope y’all have a great day!”  Just before that, a salesperson  told Hubby that he looks like Tommy Lee Jones without the scars.  Hey, we need to plan a “discovery” trip to Hollywood, because most of his life, he’s been told he looks like Robert Urich.

After a waitress told me about Scout Mob – an app for discount shopping in Atlanta, Hubby-Do turned into Hubby-Don’t.  No matter – we’d experienced courteous drivers, helpful waitresses, volunteer salespeople, complimentary residents, and last but by far not least…

The most gracious of my trip….

Rhoda Vickers and me.
Rhoda Vickers and me.

Rhoda Vickers of Southern Hospitality Blog.  It was a great day with the folks in Atlanta, GA.