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The First Time I Went to London

Updated: Jan 18

Hi there! I would love to help you plan your London visit! Since this first trip to London, I have been dozens of times - mostly in the last 10 years. I know London well. And, more importantly, I know London like a tourist so I won't recommend options that aren't possible for the casual visitor (like telling someone they can rely on JUST WIFI in the city - you can't unless you have a UK cell phone). Check out my website HERE and let's talk!

The first time I went to London was, well, a bit of a disaster by today's standards. My husband and I had been awarded a trip from Xerox - a company we were sales agents for. It was 1992, which Queen Elizabeth referred to as "Annus Horribilis" which pretty much describes our first trip. The trip barely registers on my memory bank.

Of course, in 1992, it didn't seem that rough. But, looking back at how I travel now vs how we traveled then, I will say that hindsight is totally 20/20

This is how it went:

We flew to London in a jet in which there were 4 seats in the middle of the plane. We ended up in those middle seats. It was terrible. My first time to London and I had NO WINDOW I'm still bitter at the Xerox travel agent who did that to me. The nerve!

an aerial photo of London

We landed and were bused immediately to a breakfast event at a large old lodge with high ceilings in Windsor. I saw Windsor Castle only from a bus window. It had not yet burned at that point. That's all I remember. It was morning and all I could think about is why the oranges looked like bad produce in the sale bin at the grocery story. I had honestly never encountered less than perfectly colored oranges. These had green on them. Why I still remember that is beyond me. Jet lag messes with you. I also remember the chestnut trees being in bloom. Another odd thing to remember. But, 5 years later I planted one in my yard.

We were put up at Grosvenor House in London on Park Lane. We were told it was the swankiest hotel in London and that the Sultan of Brunei stayed there and not his own property down the street. It honestly looked like something from a 1950's movie. The carpet was literally thread bare and we couldn't figure out the bathroom fixtures. It was dark and old and dingy. Let me say, that it's been upgraded since then and is now a Marriott. But, at the time, I was sorely disappointed and wondered if anyone at Xerox had actually viewed the rooms. If THIS was "luxury", what did everything else look like?

Well, now we were in London - there were several activities planned for us and several optional activities. What did we do? Practically nothing.... we were scared to death to be in such a large city and sure we were going to get robbed or murdered. We pretty much camped out in our room or didn't venture more than a block or two away. I remember running across the road a few times and trying to not get hit. I had never encountered cars who really didn't care about pedestrians. We saw a woman get nudged by a taxi. It felt like crossing the street was a death wish.

A photo of the front of Harrons lit up

We DID go to Harrods and worried we were dressed nice enough to get in (remember those days?). Someone told us to go to Covent Garden one evening and we looked at them like they just told us to go to the South Side of Chicago at 2 am. How could ANYONE suggest we go out in London after dark? While others took advantage of the West End Theater tickets we had access to, we had cold gas station sandwiches in our room.

We argued over which platform we were supposed to be at on the few Tube trips we took. We stood on the right AND left of the escalators and got yelled at. We stood in the middle of the sidewalk looking at our giant paper map. We were just steps from Hyde Park and ventured about 2 feet into it.

We DID manage to see Westminster Abbey, St Paul's and Buckingham Palace thanks to organized tours through the British Tourist Authority (does that even exist anymore?). I remember video taping things around there. The tape, however, was lost in our rental car when we went on to Denmark and I never saw it again.

St Paul's cathedral

I now chuckle about the trip. But, at the time, I never thought I'd ever return to London.

In fact, I can't entirely say I enjoyed it. It was HARD to figure out pre-Google maps. Also, before the internet, we really had only the information you could get from an outdated guide book.

But, as the years went on, I felt like I had blown it and missed so many things.

To top it all off, I was an early adopter of scrapbooking so I gloriously cut all my photos into the most criminal shapes ever and glued them on colored copy paper. This was way before digital photography, so we had to hope we had good photos because we weren't going to see them until we got them printed.

Fast forward to 2012 - we returned - with technology (although even then, we only had one cell phone that worked at great expense and a GPS we had downloaded European maps onto but didn't have enough space for street names so we were walking blind most of the time) and the city I was so fearful of 20 years earlier during that Annus Horribilis was completely opened up to me. I've been back over a dozen times since then - mostly since 2015. I go almost quarterly and wander around by myself as a I am often a tag-along traveler . He works and I play. I like to say I live there part-time. In my head and heart, I really do.

In 1777 Samuel Johnson said, "...when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." I finally saw his statue near the Royal Courts of Justice in the Fall of 2023. I felt a kinship with him.

A statue of Samuel Johnson in London

That is my truth.... I am not tired of it, yet. I find something new and interesting every time I go. London is one of the greatest cities in the world and it feels like home to me.

I love it so much that about a year ago, I accepted the offer to start working with a travel agency and now have become a licensed travel professional specializing in this city that I love. Getting to plan London trips every day for my clients is the best thing I have ever done. Who could had known that an unpleasant trip in the 90's would have lead to where I am today?


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Enjoyed the article! I’m so glad sight-seeing is so much easier!

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