Archive for the ‘Up, Up & Away!’ Category

Edinburgh: In Hindsight

I’m delayed in the airport by an hour… somehow I’m not surprised. After a couple of flight cancellations and snow ravaging all UK airports, an hour delay seems like the least of my problems.

With my short jaunt in Edinburgh, hotel stays in the Old and New Towns, loads of sightseeing and a day trip to the Highlands, I crammed a lot into five short days and there are some things I would have done differently, had I known before-hand. Don’t get me wrong – everything was amazing and Edinburgh really is a fantastic city, but cities this beautiful come with loads of tourist traps! Here are a few tid bits I’ve gained from my recent excursion:

Getting to Edinburgh

Ohhh… Lord. After so many flight cancellations and delays, I would now opt for taking the train from London! Obviously your plan of attack for getting to Edinburgh is going to vary based on your current location, but be aware that there are a number of ways to get to the city.

1. Fly. Something I’m not fond of anymore, but it’s quick if you’re going from London (1 hour, 20 minutes). With EasyJet, BMI and other discount airlines, you can get some seriously good deals, too!

2. Take the Train! Virgin Trains, East Coast… they’ll all get you there, and most for under £40 – £50 if you book in advance! Sometimes they have some really great deals! Expect it to take 4-1/2 to 6 hours depending on the number of stops, but you’ll get to take in some of the English countryside and some trains (East Coast) even have wi-fi!

3. Jump on the Coach. With National Express, you can get funfares for as low as £12 – £15 if you book at the right time… they’re definitely good for the budget traveler, but be ready to spend a loooonnng time on board. 7 – 10 hours is a good estimate depending on the weather.

New Town vs. Old Town

My first temporary home, the Royal British Hotel, was in the New Town on Princes Street directly across from Waverly Station. Looking down the road, the street was very reminiscent of Oxford Street in London: loads of shopping mixed with a bit of culture (Royal Scottish Academy, National Gallery, etc.). A few minutes walk into the New Town, you hit St. Andrew’s Square where you can catch a bus to Rosslyn Chapel and visit the likes of Louis Vuitton and Harvey Nichols. Definitely a modern shopper’s paradise! [The picture below is of me on Princes Street in front of the Christmas markets.]

My second stop was Jury’s Inn in the  Old Town of Edinburgh, right off of the Royal Mile. Like I had mentioned right after my jaunt over, there is a palpable difference between the Old and New Towns. Instead of Harvey Nichols and H&M, you’ll run into St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle and loads of kilt makers and Celtic jewelry stores. The roads are less perfectly paved and have more of the cobblestone and narrow alleys that you would expect of the old world.

[This shot was taken from the St. Giles area, looking down the Royal Mile in Old Town.]

Although it’s a matter of preference, I found the Old Town a lot more charming. Keep in mind, the invisible line that separates New from Old in Edinburgh is the rail station, essentially. If you cross through Waverly Station or cross over North Bridge, you can move easily from one area to another. If you’re on Princes Street or the Royal Mile, you’re pretty central!

Hotel Recommendations

Our two-day, unplanned stay at the Royal British Hotel was actually a pleasant surprise. Due to its proximity to the rail station, I wasn’t expecting much, but was quite surprised by the size and comfort of the rooms, the free wi-fi (never to be underestimated!) and cute café downstairs (Princes Street Café) where you can get a morning coffee plus a morning treat for £1.75. The prices were more than reasonable considering the last-second booking and the holiday season. You’re looking at between £51 – £65 per night and a comfortable size for two people.

Jury's Inn Room

The Jury’s Inn in the Old Town is also great, but for different reasons. My room was huge and my view was incredible. With three massive windows peering out into the snow-capped city, I really felt like I ended up with someone’s suite! The bathroom was also huge, with a full-sized bathtub for actually taking a bath (something I haven’t done in months)! It’s proximity to Old Town (the Royal Mile is in the hotel’s backyard) make it a prime location, plus it’s around one-third of a mile from the train station! The downside? Wi-fi is far from free. I had to rely on the web on my iPhone and the free wi-fi from the pub down the way [The Mitre] for most of my online needs. I would recommend this place for its comfort and spaciousness, but be aware of the internet situation – that was almost disappointing enough to nullify my love for this place. I got a great deal when I booked with Expedia (£200 for R/T tickets + 3 nights at this hotel), but a room here normally goes for £99+ a night.

Also, if you’re super budgeting, there are loads of hostels along the Royal Mile that would be worth checking out… do a bit of homework though, sometimes the £10 per night saved isn’t worth sharing a bathroom with 8 strangers!

Tourist Attractions

There are loads of attractions nearby: Edinburgh Castle, Camera Obscura and world of illusions, Haunted Tours, Rosslyn Chapel, Christmas Markets, Lyceum Theatre, Highlands tours, the National Gallery… the list goes on and on. So, if you’re here for a few days, what was worth the money? Well, that’s a matter of preference of course, but let me give you the down low on where I spent my money and where I would take it back, if possible. Keep in mind, in the winter the days are incredibly short with the sun disappearing entirely by 4P or 430P. With only a few hours of sunlight, you probably want to make the most out of every minute!

Freebies to Note:

There were a few freebies that I wasn’t aware of before heading to Edinburgh. I wish I would have known about them before my adventures, but they’re worth noting:

  1. A free tour of Edinburgh on foot! Although I didn’t partake in the tour, it leaves from the Starbucks in Old Town and it’s about 2 hours of sightseeing around Edinburgh. It’s definitely something that would be worth checking out early on in your excursion; good way to get acquainted with the area before undertaking your own adventures.
  2. National Galleries of Scotland. If this is anything like the National Gallery in London, it’s worth checking out. Plus, it’s free so even if it’s not exactly what you’re expecting, your only loss is a few minutes of time.
  3. Free ghost tour from Deacon Brodie’s Pub. Edinburgh is widely considered to be one of the most haunted cities in the world, so why not check out a ghost tour? There are tours like this that you can pay for (£5 – £10 depending on the company and length of tour), but there’s also this freebie! I probably would have checked it out if I were with someone… I didn’t want to scare myself silly while traveling alone. :)

Edinburgh Castle

£11 for entry with discounts for children & seniors but no discounts for students! If I had to go back and do it again, I probably would have saved the £11 and spent it elsewhere. You can walk up to the Castle and take some amazing pictures from the ticketing area without having to pay the entry fee. The views from the top are seriously gorgeous and worth the trek, but the money to get into the castle is only worth it if you’re with someone who loves the history that you’ll find within the castle. If I were with my dad, I would have been 100% more satisfied with the entirety of the situation. The pictures of the façade are what you want anyway, so only go in if you’re wanting to check out old chapels, museums, etc. See the amazing picture above? No entry fee required & it’s my favorite one of the bunch!

Camera Obscura

[If I were tall & had crazy cankles?]

If you have kids, this is a super fun little place! You’re looking at £8.50 for adults, £6.75 for students and seniors, £5.75 for kiddos (5 – 15) and under 5’s go in free! The building is comprised of five floors of illusions (holograms, crazy mirrors, optical illusions, etc.) with the top floor containing the ‘camera obscura’ where you can get a visual tour of Edinburgh in 15 minutes! It’s actually really cool and the views from top floor are superb! Some of the best pictures that I got of the city were from the rooftop. Check these out:

I mean seriously? How great are these pictures? I have a lot more where that came from — the views are really unsurpassed. I had more fun in this building & ended up with cooler pictures than I did at the Castle!

Highlands Tour

As your recall from my recent post, I undertook the longest day tour available in all of Britain a few days ago! From Edinburgh, we traveled all the way up to Loch Ness and Inverness, the capital of the Highlands. The tour was £34 (£36 for non-students) and comprised 400+ miles and 13 hours of tour time. The tour showed me a completely different side of Scotland, plus I got to do a Loch Ness cruise! How many people get to say that? I would say that the tour was definitely worth the money considering how much was covered and the quality of the tour guide. My only recommendation though would be taking Timberbush up on their 2 or 3-day Highlands tour, instead! I thought we covered a little too much in one short day — for a bit more money you can have a much more full experience.

Lyceum Theatre

I must say, just a few days ago I was so proud of myself for snagging my Peter Pan tickets for £11 with my student ID card! It seems like a great deal at the time considering adult tickets normally go for £22. Sadly, the play was not only a waste of £11, it was also a waste of three good hours that I could have spent elsewhere, taking in the sights. I don’t know if I had particularly high expectations or if the show was just a bit of a let down, but there are definitely better ways to spend your money. Some locally made Scotch, perhaps (Dalwhinnie)?

Christmas Markets

Who doesn’t love to feel like a kid during Christmastime? Ice skating, a German market, loads of fun Christmas goodies, a ferris wheel and mulled wine… Mmm… The whole area can be accessed from Princes Street (at The Mound) and it’s 100% free to meander! Bring some cash for mulled wine and Christmas treats, though!

Rosslyn Chapel

Ahhh… Rosslyn Chapel. Who has read the DaVinci Code and not wanted to visit this place? I had planned on visiting (you can easily access it by hopping on Bus 15/15A from St. Andrew’s Square in the New Town), but decided to save that for my next journey to Scotland. With my dad and Chris visiting within the next few months, Edinburgh Round II will definitely be in order and I would like to see something new! You’re looking at £7.50 for adult entry, £6 for students and seniors and free for under 16s! Not sure if it’s worth the money, but pictures of the outside at least are worth the £1 – 2 bus fee!

Hope some of that helps someone out there somewhere who’s interested in hitting up magnificent Edinburgh. It’s truly an amazing city…

Lots of love & Merry Christmas Eve!

Advertisements

Where in the World is Shannon Elizabeth?

This is a story all about how
my life got flip-turned upside-down.
Now I’d like to take a minute,
Just sit right there —
I’ll tell you how I became a
victim of a traveling scare.

So, where in the world is Shannon Elizabeth?

Would it be weird if I said I didn’t know the answer to that? Heh. Well, that’s not entirely true, I suppose. I do know where I am. And I most definitely know where I’m not: I’m not in London like I should be. Here are some pictures of the madness that was my day. See if you can put this together and figure out what’s happening in my life.

Fun story: Our flight from Malta to Gatwick was cancelled due to poor weather conditions (read: London’s inability to deal with snow). Quite problematic, mind you, because I had a trip to Edinburgh planned for Sunday and Alex has a trip to California planned for Monday. All flights to Gatwick were cancelled and we were left with two options: fly to Newcastle today or fly to Newcastle or Gatwick on Monday. Unfortunately, Monday won’t work for either of us, thus we were left with one viable option and grabbed the flight to Northern England instead.

Where did we go from there? Well, that was a feat as we navigated the cold wintery weather up North (thank God for iPhones, laptops & Wi-fi). We hadn’t planned to end up in Newcastle and neither of us really had a plan of attack (or proper cold-weather clothing). We were offered a transfer from Newcastle to London via coach, but considering the gross weather and the 25 mile per hour ride involved with taking the coach, that would put us in London at around 3AM after a 7 to 10 hour coach ride. Ten hours on a stinky, stuffy coach is not my idea of fun.

Instead, we decided to take a train from Newcastle to Edinburgh, a much shorter ride than the one that we would have experienced from Newcastle to London. While we were in the train terminal at the Newcastle Airport looking at the train map someone stole my huge bag from literally behind my back! I noticed within 20 seconds that it was gone and Alex and I chased the culprit down and managed to retrieve my bag (thank God)!

After we arrived at Waverly Station in Scotland, we had to scale three sets of  these ridiculous stairs with huge 45 pound bags:

After getting to the top of the stairs we spotted a hotel across the way from the station — perfect price, Wi-fi, showers & warmth! Fortunately, I had over-packed for my Malta trip and have a load of extra clothes to wear in Scotland + my computer + chargers + my books, etc. Now Alex and I are warming our souls with Marks & Spencer salads and music to re-ignite our spirits after this soul-wrenching day. At least our window comes with a pretty gorgeous view:

Love from Scotland,

PS. Thank you to the best family for staying with us at the airport during this whole fiasco! Love you guys! We appreciate all of your support!

PPS. Paul & Charlie – I know you guys read this occasionally, don’t be afraid to comment on my blog; I love blog comments :)

Qormi, Malta {Day 1.}

Alex and I are currently cuddled up in our pajamas, getting ready for bed after an extraordinarily long day. I’ll probably go into further detail about this tomorrow, but let me explain the minor situation that took place at 4AM this morning. I woke up at 330A to get ready for my early morning flight and taxi pick up at 415A. I had called to book the cab on Saturday to make sure we’d have a ride to the airport. Shortly after 410A, a cab pulled up in front of my accommodation. When I went to get in the cab, I discovered that it wasn’t the cab that I had ordered. At that exact same moment, I received a  phone call from the cab company letting me know that they wouldn’t be sending a cab for us! As luck would have it, the cab parked in front of my complex hadn’t been booked (what are the chances at 4AM?!), so I was able to get him to take me to pick up Alex and drop us off at Victoria Station. Let me just say — NEVER book with London Black Cabs. I was so disappointed! If (by the grace of God), a cab hadn’t been lingering in front of my complex, I would have been in a bit of a bind considering the tube station doesn’t open until 530A! In any case, after that minor incident, we jumped on the Gatwick Express, made it through check-in and security in record time and got into Malta without a hitch!

We’ve now been in Malta for nine or so hours and have already seen loads of fun places in Qormi, including the house my mom grew up in and the bakery that her parents owned!


I had actually imagined the old bakery to be in decent working order and was a little sad to see the once-used building in a state of rubble. Still, the fact that my mom walked in same building when she was a child is pretty exciting!

We’re staying with family that I hadn’t really met  before this trip and they have been so incredibly amazing! Not only did the entire family come to the airport to greet us, but they spent the entire day escorting us to must-see sights, making us Maltese treats plus they took the week off to be our personal tour guides!

I’ll have to catch up tomorrow on some amazing sites that we’ve seen: St. George, San Sebastian, a ridiculous amount of nondescript churches, a Christmas market, a life-sized house made of chocolate and loads of other goodies! We’re planning on hitting up Valletta and Mellieha tomorrow, followed by a trip to Gozo on Wednesday via ferry!

Some fun facts that I’ve learned today:

1. There are 365 churches in Malta. One for every day of the year.
2. Malta is a mere 122 square miles with around 425,000 inhabitants. Despite the low population (in terms of absolute numbers), Malta is the third most densely populated nation in the world! I think that definitely speaks to how small the place is!
3. Gozo is called the Isle of Calypso — referred to by Homer in the Odyssey.
4. Gozo is home to Ġgantija megalithic temples, a UNESCO heritage site, and the world’s oldest free-standing structures.

I’ll post more pics and info tomorrow, but sleep is a must!

xoxo,

My Guide to EasyJet

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

In the spirit of the holidays, I have decided to gift something travel-related:
My Guide to EasyJet.
Keep in mind, most of this can be found on the EasyJet website , but I find that websites can be cumbersome: everything that is relevant to you is mixed in with superfluous information that’s totally extraneous. So, here are the things that I think are important to know when traveling with Easy Jet. As a preface, I can’t really stress how much I prefer EasyJet to RyanAir. Although RyanAir has some really great deals, I find that their advertised “£5” fares actually end up being £40+ when you add in taxes, fees, etc. With EasyJet, I hop online and the advertised fee is what I actually pay. Additionally, EasyJet flies into major airports. If you take the time to peruse RyanAir’s website, you’ll see that you typically don’t fly into the city. Rather you fly 45 minutes to an hour outside of the city and then you’re bused in (for a fee, of course). All in all, I prefer paying a few extra dollars (or pounds, as it were) for convenience and time-saving. You are on vacation, after all and dealing with the headaches that come with travel are something you can probably do without.

Your Guide to EasyJet

When to Arrive:

This is relatively standard across airlines, but arrive 60 minutes early for domestic flights and 90 – 120 minutes early for international flights.

Where does EasyJet fly out of [from London]?

From London, you can fly out of Gatwick, Luton or Stansted airports. Just some info on the locations of these (since I had no idea where they were in relation to one another):

Gatwick is about 28 miles south of London; if you’re GPSing it, use postcodes RH6 0NP (South Terminal) or RH6 0PJ (North Terminal)
–  Luton is about 32 miles from London (North, I think!); if you’re using GPS for this one, use the code LU2 9QT
Stansted is in Essex about 36 miles Northeast-ish from Central London; use postcode CM24 1RW

I would recommend flying out of Gatwick unless it’s significantly cheaper to leave from the other two.

What’s the best way to get to the airport?

You can, of course, get to the airport via taxi, car, bus or train, but let’s look at the most efficient and cost-effective ways to get there: EasyBus or the Express. EasyBus leaves from Central London and goes to Gatwick, Stansted, and Luton airports so regardless of where you’re flying out of, you’re well covered. Prices vary, but you’re looking at between £2 and £9 each way.

– If you’re flying out of Gatwick, the EasyBus pick up is at Fulham Broadway, which can be reached by tube.
– If you’re flying out of Stansted, the pick-up points are Victoria, near stop 6 or at Gloucester Place, near the Baker Street tube
– If you’re flying out of Luton, there are multiple pick-up points:  Brent Cross, Finchley Road Underground, Marble Arch (near the tube), Victoria or Gloucester Place

{The tube works great for getting around within London to find your EasyBus pick-up point if you don’t live close to one!}

The Gatwick Express is also an option, albeit a more expensive one. It leaves from Victoria station and it takes roughly 30 minutes to get to the airport; if it’s like the Heathrow Express, it’s comfortable and convenient. Count on your wallet being about £14 – £16 lighter.

What kind of luggage am I allowed?

Not much, I’m afraid. You’re allowed one piece of hand luggage (a carry-on) that can measure no more than 55 cm x 40 cm x 20 cm. On the bright side, there is no weight maximum, so you can load that bad boy up! Keep in mind, this is not British Airways: you don’t get a carry-on plus a personal item. You get one item. If you’re taking a real carry-on, your purse, briefcase or laptop case has to stay at home or it must fit inside of your luggage. The only additional things you can carry-on are:

a) one of the following: an umbrella, an overcoat or a shawl and
b) one standard size bag of goods purchased at the airport

If you need more than one carry-on (like in the case of my Maltese excursion), you can opt to pay a fee and take some extras with you. It’ll run you £18 for a checked bag which has a maximum weight of 20 kg (44 or so pounds). Do not go overweight on this! Every 3 kg of ‘extra weight’ (on top of the 20 kg that you’re allowed) will run you £42. I’m not kidding. Best plan of attack: put your heavy stuff in your carry-on and the bulky stuff in your checked baggage. I have yet to find size restrictions on checked luggage, but I’m taking a pretty large, full-sized suitcase! I’ll let you guys know if I have issues; I’ve never checked baggage before with EasyJet!

How do I change a flight, a passenger name or cancel a flight?

You can cancel a flight within 24 hours of making the original booking for a refund (excluding transaction/administrative fees). You have to call in to cancel (0871 244 2366; costs 10p per minute). After the 24 hour period, your flight fees won’t be refunded. You can purchase insurance for £25.

If you’re looking at changing a name (essentially signing your flight over to another passenger), there’s a £25 fee, but it can be done online. You can also call in and handle the name change, but either way it has to be done at least two hours prior to the flight.

Things to keep in mind when flying:

* Don’t forget the liquid rule! No more than 3 oz (100 ml) allowed in carry-ons. Believe me, it sucks having your brand new lotions/shampoos, etc confiscated. Double-check to make sure your stuff fits the requirement and that it’s in a plastic bag! If you forget the plastic bag, they’re pretty good about supplying them at the airport.

* Don’t forget your passport! That could possibly be the worst situation ever and it’s one that’s easily avoidable. Make sure you have your passport easily accessible but safely stored. I usually keep mine in my laptop case or purse in a zipper pocket. Losing your passport is more awful than forgetting it!

* Try to have some relevant currency. Luckily it’s 2009 and major cards are widely accepted, but it’s always nice to have some cash available just in case! I like to keep a mini stash of euros at home because it’s such a useful currency. I like to have 30 – 50 euros with me just in case we need a cab, bus ticket or in the off-chance that an ATM isn’t functioning. I find that being prepared reduces the headaches. Lots of banks will hook you up with a bit of relevant travel money if you pop in before your trip.

Hope that guide helps someone out there somewhere! That’s most of the information that I’ve ever found myself needing! If I think of anything else that is potentially useful, I’ll add it to the list.

Happy travels,

Prepping for an Early Morning Mediterranean Excursion!

Now that today is my last day of term, I finally feel the excitement for Malta building up! Not that I wasn’t excited before, mind you, but I felt so consumed by all things school-related that I didn’t really have time or energy to get as excited as I should have! Despite the fact that I’m 75% Maltese, I have yet to visit the hailed archipelago and am beyond excited to see my homeland (if you will) and check out the places where my mom and grandpa were born! Now, before the excitement can really begin, there are a few minor things to get in order: packing, getting to the airport and purchasing a thank you gift! Our flight leaves at 715A on Sunday from Gatwick airport which means that we have to be there by around 530A to check in and get through security. We’re flying Easy Jet, which means we can only bring one piece of hand luggage free of charge, anything that gets checked in is a charge (£18 per piece). Despite the fee, I’m opting to bring some luggage. Unlike American Airlines or British Airways, you’re not allowed a carry-on AND a “personal item”. Your personal item would qualify as your carry-on. Thus, since I’m bringing a laptop and other goodies, a checked bag is pretty necessary for five days worth of garb. Also, if I didn’t mention this before — Easy Jet is spectacular! We got our roundtrip flights for £58.

Now, here’s our very minor predicament: We need to be at Gatwick airport by 530A. We’re opting to take the Gatwick Express, which leaves from Victoria station, instead of EasyBus (or a similar service) because it’s so quick and convenient. At 430A, I’m all about quick and convenient. That being said, I need to actually get to Victoria Station. The problem? The tube is closed that early in the morning. So, to manage everything that morning, I’m booking a cab (which, FYI, charge a higher start rate when booked — convenience fee, perhaps?) Here’s our plan of attack to make it to the airport:

415A: Cab pick-up at my flat
430A: Pick up Al from her flat
440A: Get to Victoria Station
510A: Arrive at Gatwick on the Express!

I’m hoping that the Gatwick Express is as great as the Heathrow Express! Lindsay and I opted for the latter when we were heading to Heathrow for our Italian adventure. It’s £16ish for a one-way ticket, but it’s honestly so convenient! We were there in less than 30 minutes and it was so much more comfortable than a bus. EasyBus is another options for travelers looking to get some where on the cheap (I think Alex & I paid £6 each way when we went to Germany). The bus does take quite a bit longer though and it’s not nearly as comfortable!

I think I finally have everything in order. The only other bit on my agenda is purchasing a thank you gift for my Maltese family. They have been kind enough to allow us to stay with them for our five day stint and I’m trying to find the perfect something to say thank you.

Any ideas on an appropriate thank you gift?

Hitting up Borough Market tomorrow morning for a last bit of London love before my Malta/Scotland whirlwind adventure!

xoxo,

Solo in Scotland

So, after much deliberation about Paris versus London for Christmas, I have decided (much to my surprise) to head up to Edinburgh, Scotland for my pre-Christmas solo adventure. I actually hadn’t given Edinburgh much consideration, but after looking at the costs of Paris from the 20th to the 23rd, I decided to explore other options. Had I booked Paris a few weeks back, I probably could have snatched a pretty decent bargain on the trip, but having had waited until just a few weeks before departure, the prices have gone up. Although it wasn’t exorbitant, it would have cost around £350 – £400 for the four-day jaunt. Edinburgh’s running me just under £210 including roundtrip flight (on British Airways) and three nights in a 3-star hotel within a half mile of all major sites [courtesy of Expedia]! I know that I’ll visit Paris at some point during the year, and due to the fact that it’s much pricier than Edinburgh, I’d rather split those costs with a traveling buddy and put my euros to better use elsewhere.

So, as of this morning, it’s all officially booked. My wallet is £210 lighter, but I think it’s a worthy investment. Edinburgh has some great Christmas markets during that period, so it’ll make for a nice setting for sightseeing and having some alone time. I’m super excited to be able to travel on my own for the first time. Being in a country that shares my native tongue and my primary currency is also a bonus. Plus, since I have four full days (getting in at 930A the morning of the 20th and leaving for London the evening of the 23rd) of exploring at my disposal, I’m planning on using one of those days to head up to the Highlands on a tour to do some extra sightseeing. From all of the literature that I’ve run across, Edinburgh is a pretty small/compact area that can be seen in a couple of days, so I’m going to do my best to make the most out of my Scottish soirée and see as much of the country as possible.

Looks like my room isn’t going to see much of me in the latter part of December: Malta from the 13th – 18th and Edinburgh from the 20th through 23rd. Gotta love Europe!

For anyone that’s been to Scotland –
Any must-sees to put on my list?

Your neighborhood traveler,

.leaving on a jet plane.

Trevi

Trevi Fountain -- near our hotel!

Ahhh, yes. I have just finished three article outlines, readings for an essay and nearly completed a second essay. Despite being holed up in my room all day (literally have not stepped foot outside), the day has been rather productive by most standards. And, fortunately, I still have a few hours of productivity in me before I get to sleep so I can wake up at 415A to head to the airport! Normally being up at such an ungodly hour would be unacceptable, but when one has to arise for the reason of heading to Italy, it doesn’t seem quite so bad.

So, being that our flight leaves at 730A, Lindsay and I agreed that getting to the airport a bit before 6A would probably be ideal. We’re leaving from Heathrow, a busier airport considering the big time international flights, so cutting it close is not on the agenda. Due to the fact that we live so close to Holborn station (home of the Piccadilly line), we had planned on tubing it directly from the station to Heathrow until we realized that the tube doesn’t open until 530A and doesn’t hit Holborn until 542A, which means getting to Heathrow before 6A would be impossible. Although there’s a pretty decent chance we would still make our flights, it wasn’t worth the headache. In lieu, we have reserved a cab at 4:45A to take us to Paddington Station where we can jump on the Heathrow Express (which starts outbound journeys at 510A) for 15 or so pounds. Although it’s a bit more expensive than tubing, our options were rather limited and missing our Roman holiday would have been a huge disappointment.

Also, we’re flying British Airways which works out well. Instead of the discount airlines (EasyJet, Ryan Air, etc.) where you are limited to one piece of hold luggage, we are allowed one checked bag, a carry-on and a personal item. Although we’ll likely forgo the checked bag, the carry-on + personal item bit is pretty nice. I’ll be able to take my laptop to upload pics and stay connected to the world!

All in all, I cannot wait to cross Rome off of my list of places to see! It hasn’t fully hit me yet, since I’ve been so engulfed in getting work done, but I know that I’ll feel that kid-in-Disneyland sensation when my alarm wakes me up in the morning! This time tomorrow, I’ll be sitting in a ristorante near the Trevi Fountain practicing my Italian, eating authentic Italian food and drinking Italian coffee. Meglio del sesso. That’s what I have to say about that.

Ciao,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Also, if I didn’t mention: through Expedia’s UK site, we were able to snag round-trip tickets and two nights in a 3* hotel for 215 pounds each including all taxes! Pretty sweet deal, and we’re flying with a legit airline!