by Kristina.

When is the last time you peed in your pants?  It happened to me in England, and it wasn’t because I couldn’t find a bathroom.  You’ll have to read below to learn exactly when, where and why it happened…




Our voyage ended when the MV World Odyssey docked in Southampton, England. Southampton is a few hours west of London… and since we had distance to cover and time to kill before checking into our Airbnb, we rented a car and took a quick side trip to Stonehenge, a bucket list item.

Stonehenge from the sheep's view


When we arrived, we got our first glimpse of the historic site ..and then were totally surprised to run into Mikki Hebl (Prof on Semester at Sea) and her entourage!  She had a private guide so we tagged along and learned a lot more than we would have otherwise, including the interesting shadows that line-up precisely with the immense stones on the summer and winter solstices.  Thanks Mikki!

Stonehenge was interesting, but I expected to be blown away and honestly, I wasn’t.  We weren’t able to get up close to the stones.  If we had, perhaps they would have seemed larger and more impressive.  Or maybe I was too distracted by the very windy and cold weather — we were freezing!  I did think the museum there was well done and wish we had a little more time to spend there.



Welcome to Covent Garden!

That same evening we checked into our Airbnb in the Covent Garden area of London.  Oh what a difference location makes!  Joe and I have been to London a couple times and we’ve always had a good time, but not great.  I loved Covent Garden!  We were surrounded by a ton of activity — great restaurants, shopping and theaters.  On our first couple days we explored our fun neighborhood and dropped in on the British Museum and Portrait Museum — they’re great and free!  The Brits ended up with a huge collection of interesting artifacts from other countries during their colonization days.

On our first night, the kids were especially excited to eat at the Mexican restaurant a block from our flat.   And the following day, they went crazy over the Nutella waffles sold from a food truck outside the British Museum.


Fun Around London

I really enjoyed visiting Greenwich and the Royal Observatory/Prime Meridian.  I went in with moderate expectations but while I was there, it got me thinking about and appreciating a few things — the importance of time (which we always take for granted), how the entire world is sync’d up and uses the same system… and the importance of being able to determine longitude. I bought “Longitude” by Dava Sobel that night.  On our way back to our flat, we saw the Cutty Sark, a British Tea Clipper ship which I found interesting, because I only knew Cutty Sark as a Scotch my dad used to drink.

That night we saw Charlie and the Chocolate factory, the first of three shows we booked.  A couple days later, Joe and I saw Nell Gwynn on a date night, and before we left town we took the entire family to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night– just excellent!  Great recommendation Steve Clyne and Edith Rothenberg.



Amazing British Castles!

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

My mom and stepdad, Ed, arrived and stayed with us in London for 5 days.  We were all very excited to see family and surprised them at the train station.  Mom really wanted to see Windsor Castle and I’m glad we did — I loved it!  I couldn’t believe how enormous it is as well as the massive collection of furnishings, art, weapons and artifacts.  It turns out we visited the Castle the day after the Obamas were there to celebrate the Queen turning 90 — she’s still younger than my awesome grandma who turns 98 in a week  :-).

We also spent a day at the Tower of London where we had another exceptional guide– one of the famous and hilarious Yeoman Warders (aka Beefeaters), who are employed specifically to protect the Crown Jewels — who needs James Bond!?.  And, we visited the Churchill War Room which was well done and quite interesting.  Did you know Churchill’s mother was American?


And of course… Harry Potter…


The twins, especially Piper, have continued to be obsessed with reading Harry Potter books. So we signed up for a Muggle Tour in London, followed by the magical Harry Potter Studios tour in Watford the next day. Our Muggle Tour guide looked like Hagrid and was authentic and fun.  We had been to Harry Potter Studios a few summers ago, but the girls didn’t remember much. It was as impressive as Joe, Alexander and I remembered and, we had fun introducing it to Mom & Ed. We prepped Ed by having him watch Harry Potter #1 the night before the visit which was helpful.

A fun opportunity at the Studio includes sitting on a broom stick in front of a green screen while you do some acting… so you can buy a video of yourself flying around Hogwarts on a broomstick like Harry Potter. After the kids did it, Ed decided he’d like to give it a try. In the scene where you lean to one side and pretend to touch the water as you fly low over it, Ed leaned over a little too far and ended up clinging to the broomstick upside down with his hands and his legs. I was laughing so hard, I was wiping tears from my eyes.  I was tearing up so much, I couldn’t keep looking at him.   I was doubled over laughing and then it happened…I ended up peeing my pants!  That was a first for me.  Has that ever happened to you?

We’re trying to get the video from Mom and Ed so we can post it here… but so far they’re keeping it from us. 🙂  Check back!  Maybe you’ll pee your pants too!


Food and fun

The food in London for us was much better than previous experiences. On the ship, we met Kelly Adam-Smith, a Semester at Sea alum currently on assignment in London with the U.S. State Dept.  She shared terrific restaurant suggestions, all of which we’d highly recommend: 1.) Dishoom – best Indian food in London 2.) Lobster & Burger (no menu – your choices are lobster, lobster roll or burger) Mom, Ed and Joe LOVED the lobster and the kids and I LOVED our burgers and truffle fries 3.) Morada was our date night restaurant (Argentinian food) 4.) Bumpkins was a great place to celebrate our last night in London, time with Mom & Ed and an early birthday dinner for Joe 5.) Cahoots is a unique bar with a train station theme and a jazz music DJ. This place has the largest selection of unique cocktails I’ve ever seen. Joe and I shared a “Cuban Top” milk round (Bacardi Carta Oro rum, coconut milk, pineapple syrup and chocolate liqueur) which was delicious!

The kids are now big fans of Escape Rooms.  For those of you who don’t know, Escape room is a game in which your group is locked in a room full of puzzles/clues which you need to solve in order to escape from the room within in hour.  We introduced Mom & Ed to the game in London, and we all had a great time.  The kids would want you to know we escaped from the room in 57 minutes, with virtually no help at all.

Overall, we had such a wonderful time in London, we’re thinking about returning for a short stay on our way back home later this summer.


3 thoughts on “Europe begins in… LONDON.

  1. What a great post! London was the first city I ever fell in love with (back in ’92) so it always holds a special place for me upon every visit.
    Love your adventures and photos — and especially your teaser header. I did read all the way through to find out the reason 🙂


  2. Great pics and adventures! Love it. You guys look like you’re having a blast. “Hi” to all! Lucy and Bear say “hi” also!


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