Destination England

Our journey from debt to England…and everything in between!

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Our Trip to England – Flights and Travel part 2

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Our flights to England were as smooth as one could ask for.  I think there was only one incident with a rather rude flight attendant, however we were able to shrug her off as we were close to landing in London.  I wish the same could have been said about the trip home.  It had me considering that immediate immigration may not be that bad an option!

Michael, Sarah’s brother had to work the day we left, and wouldn’t be back before we went to the airport.  We decided to wake up at 7am to see him off and say our goodbyes then.  I have grown very close to Michael over the times I’ve met him, and though he is younger than I am, he is someone I admire and look up to.  Saying goodbye to him was exceptionally difficult.  Though, since he had to get to work it was over quickly, and we set ourselves to getting Connor up and ready.  Once Connor was ready, Mum took Connor and had some good quality time with him, while we set to packing.  It was a tedious process, and I still maintain we packed too much stuff! After packing was finished we spent some time with the parents in the front room, trying to prolong the inevitable.  Though that only could happen for so long…

We departed Sarah’s parent’s home around 1:45pm.  Our flight was leaving at 4:35pm, so we decided to give ourselves the full two hours with a baby and navigating Heathrow.  We chose to take the tube rather than drive, as we did want Mum to drive after such a difficult goodbye.  I know I wouldn’t want to!  They live about a five minute walk from Hammersmith station, and getting there was fine.  We jumped on the Piccadilly line toward Heathrow.  The train took an extremely long time.  We kept stopping, starting up again only to roll forward at a snails pace for a few minutes and stop again.  A trip that should have taken about 20 minutes, took closer to 40.

Our troubles were only beginning it would seem.  We arrived at Heathrow and made our way to the ticketing counter.  We arrived to a fairly long line.  Now due to the fact we were traveling with an infant, we had to check in at the counter. We waited in line, and before we got to the counter we were met by someone from either American Airlines or Heathrow Airport – I’m not sure which.  He took our passports and began to ask us questions about our bags.  Now, at first we though this was a checkin station, however the gentleman was clearly in training as he kept deferring to a man standing behind him.  He began asking questions such as “How old are your bags?”, “Where did you obtain your bags?”, “Are these bags your own bags?”, or my personal favorite “Have you used these bags before?”  He never touched the bags, asked to see the contents, just asked these questions and then allowed us to go to the ticketing desk.  The lady at the ticketing counter was nice and apologetic for the bagman.  We checked an extra bag, and they didn’t even charge us (not sure if this was a perk or she simply forgot, but good for us!).  We then proceeded outside to smoke a much deserved cigarette and then made our way upstairs to security.

At this point we were running behind as it was coming close to 3:30 and we still have security to get through as well as finding our gate.  We said our goodbyes in a hasty fashion, which hard as it was, made it a bit easier…at least it gave that illusion.  I don’t think anything could have made it hurt any less, leaving your home and those you love.  Nevertheless, we were forced to and we plowed ahead.  Sarah’s folks did the same, opting to just “rip the plaster off”.  Heading through Security was easy enough, and we were through in a matter of minutes.  We then rushed through Departures, not having time to grab anything to drink or eat.  We made it to our gate and sat down and gave Connor a bit of lunch, as we he was a bit fussy.  They began boarding, and this time asked for passengers traveling with small children to go first.  It was a blessing as this way we got the pick of the bins, and were able to take our time.

The flight from London to Chicago was a beautiful one. Very little turbulence, Connor was pretty much in and out of sleep most of it, and we were able to relax a bit.  We both caught a few cat naps here and there, as we had been up for quite a long time.  Service on the plane was great.  We landed into Chicago about 7:30pm.  We came off the plane and made our way to immigration and customs.  This was Sarah’s first time out of the country since receiving her green card, so we were a bit nervous on how it would go down at immigration.  It went smoothly to say the least.  She was able to enter in on the US Citizen and Permanent Residents side, and the officer scanned her finger prints, took her photo and that was it!  We retrieved our bags and pushed through to customs, where they waived us through.  We were able to grab a quick smoke outside, before heading to our terminal.  Once there we queued up for security, which too a little bit longer, but it always does in Chicago.  Thus our troubles began again…

Checking the boards we saw our flight was delayed by an hour.  Not horrible, but after being up for so long, and ready to be done, it was annoying.  We made our way to our gate which still was waiting for the flight before ours.  This did not bode well.  Sarah took Connor in for a change, and when they returned I ran off to get some form of food (McDonalds).  While walking back I noticed our flight was pushed back now another 45 minutes.  It was scheduled now to depart at 10:55pm.  We sat there eating our food and waiting, when they announced they were still waiting for the plane.  After the plane arrived, it was another 20 minutes of waiting for preflight checks, and whatever else it is they do on the plane before we could board.  Long story short, we left Chicago around 11:30pm – that was about the time we had hoped to be back into Columbus!

We both dozed the flight to Columbus, which only took 45 minutes.  Upon arrival we made our way off the plane, after gathering our bags and went to baggage claim.  Then it hit.  Where were the car keys?  I distinctly remember seeing them on the mini fridge in our room before we left.  Sarah said she had packed them, which I know she would have.  We spent a few minutes digging through every bag trying to find them, to no avail.  Panic beginning to rise, we called Mum and she assured us they were not there.  Rather than unpack all the bags in the middle of Port Columbus, we  called our friend Jeff who was watching our cat.  He was still up and graciously offered to go to the house, pick up the spare keys and bring them to us.  After it was all said and done we made it back to our house at 3:30am.  We had been up for around 26 hours.  We dropped our stuff, and crashed hard.  Though, Connor being rested from all the napping thought that Daddy should be up with him at 6:30am.  I really love that boy…really, I do!

Oh, and we found our keys the next day.  They were buried in the laptop bag.


Written by Jas

June 30, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Family, Travel, Vacation

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Our Trip to England – Flights and Travel part 1

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Our trip across the pond started out innocently enough.  To be fair, getting there was no big hardship.  Sunday evening (May 30th), I came home from work and we set to packing and going over our lists to make sure we had everything.  Looking back, I think we could have left a good amount of what we took home, such as the pack n play.  Connor ended up sleeping between us the whole trip at night, and the Pack n Play became a storage unit.  In the end we had one checked bag, a pack n play that was checked, and then two carry on bags, laptop bag, diaper bag, and umbrella stroller.  With our arsenal of bags packed and ready and loaded them in the car for the night, and proceeded to get a very tired and moany baby fed, watered, and put down for the night.  We watched an episode or two of NCIS, and finally tried to get some sleep.

At 3:30am the alarm went off.  After much protesting, we pulled ourselves out of bed, dressed and set to finishing up the last little bits – brushing teeth, packing the last few bits, and getting Connor ready.  We left a bit early, eager to be on our way after months and months of waiting.  Connor was a bit moany at first, but quickly fell back asleep in the car.  We only live about 20 minutes from Columbus International, so we were there in record time.  We decided to stop for McDonald’s at the airport, but it wasn’t open yet so we just waited for the drive thru to open.  at 5am, we received our breakfast and drove to the long term parking lot.  We were fortunate to find a spot right next to the entrance (it made getting to the car when we got back easy. More on that at a later time!).  After finishing our breakfast, we unloaded the car just as a shuttle pulled up.  We were one of about 3 families on the shuttle, so we made it to check quickly.  Check-in and security took hardly any time.  CMH is a small airport, and it was very early.

Arriving at our gate we proceeded to amuse the little one, and grab some water and much needed soda for the flight.  On a side note, I would like to voice my opinion that the prices in an airport are absolutely ridiculous for water and soda.  That being said we boarded our flight to Chicago, where Connor proceeded to sleep through take off and most of the flight.  He did wake up about 15 minutes before landing and was his normal giggly self.  Once in Chicago, we had to make the trek to our connecting gate, which all things considered wasn’t that bad, but it was still a haul.  Especially when you have two carryons, a laptop bag, and a diaper bag to carry.  Connor, loving his umbrella stroller, was wide eyed with interest at all the people, sounds, and surroundings.  Arriving at our gate we gave my mother a call to let her know we’d made it, we then called Sarah’s family (hoorah for vonage!) to let them know where we were.  While doing that, I went and changed Connor.  We returned a clean and happy bubba, and just in time for boarding to begin.  We were one of the last groups called, meaning by the time we made it on the flight, all the bins were full.  It took some maneuvering and creative thinking, but we made all our bags fit.  The flight from Chicago to London was uneventful, filled with dozing, eating, amusing Connor, and reading when we had a spare chance.

Eventually we arrived in London, around 11:10pm GMT (London time).  It took a bit of time getting off the plane as passengers were unwilling to budge for a baby! Now, if you’ve ever flown into Heathrow, you’ll understand and appreciate my next bit of sentiment.  Getting to Arrivals is a process.  You land FAR FAR FAR out from the main airport, and must walk a considerable distance to get to immigration.  We arrived at immigration and went our separate ways.  Sarah was through in a jiff, and I had to wait a bit to go through the non UK side.  At the stand, the officer was lovely, and informed me next time we can just go through the UK side since we’re traveling as a family.  Afterward we made our way to baggage claim and loaded up the trolley.   I still maintain we packed too much!!!  Pushing a towering and teetering trolley, we pushed through and there awaiting up at the end of the walkway was none other than Mum, Dad, Michael, Bob, and Carmen!  Smiles made way of tears, which led to laughs, and cuddles and kisses.  Also, after being without a cigarette for nigh 13 hours, we herded the caravan of people and baggage outside into the crisp (yes that was a welcome change! it was 72 degrees F at 4am when we left Ohio) air.  Afterward, we made our way to the cars and loaded up and made our venture home.

Hammersmith is not far from Heathrow, only about a 20 minute drive or tube ride.  Even at 12:30 in the morning, a sense of homecoming fell over me.  I felt a peace that I can’t begin to explain, but felt the entire time.  Seeing the familiar building and streets.  Seeing the church, now uncovered by scaffold.  It was good to be home.  We arrived home at Sarah’s parent’s flat, and brought the bags in and had more hugs and cuddles.  We proceeded to then pass out, all of us, those who traveled and those who waited on the traveling party.  We had made it home.  After such a long, seemingly endless wait, we made it home.  If only for 3.5 weeks, it was still home.

Written by Jas

June 29, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Posted in England, Family, Travel, Vacation

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Back from Hiatus

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Well we’re back from our trip home to England.  I apologize for being out of touch the last few weeks, and not posting.  All of our time was absorbed in activities, and spending time with family and friends.  I rarely used the internet for more than checking my email every few days, and checking on things like prices at a restaurant, or directions to somewhere.  To be honest, I had a bit of writer’s block as well and had no idea what I wanted to say, or where I could begin to say it.  Three weeks have given me so much material, that I’m sure I’ll have some bits for a while!

The trip was more than I could have ever asked for, and I miss everyone and everything in England.  Being back in the states still feels a bit…odd.  I have been born and raised here, but I still feel a bit foreign.  Phrases like “You alright?” and “cheers” get odd looks, or completely different responses.  I find it odd now not having beans for breakfast (a problem my wife and I have rectified as of yesterday’s shopping).  I am amazed at the fact of how dependent on our cars here.  After three weeks of walking virtually everywhere, I feel a bit guilty popping in the car to drive down to a shop (read in American “store”) ¼ of a mile down the road.  It is the little things like those I miss.  And the Irn Bru.

I am happy to be able to get back into the swing of life, though.  I wouldn’t say I’m happy about being “home”, but I am happy for us to get the ball rolling on getting ourselves in a position to move back to England as quickly as possible.  Toward the end, I felt a bit in limbo as friends and family planned their lives for after we left, and life went on as normal, but I still felt out of sorts.  We return with renewed vigor and excitement to save our pennies, and get out of debt as quickly as possible!

I plan to write a bunch of blog posts about our time there, as well as a few about some things and people from there.  We’re still settling back in, so bare with me!

Written by Jas

June 26, 2010 at 7:00 pm

This time next week…

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I will be flying somewhere in the sky en route to London!  We’re finally in our last week before our vacation/trip back home!  In some ways it seems like it would never get here, yet in other ways I can’t believe it is almost here.

This is usually the time my nerves start getting the best of me, and I get that flipping and flopping in my stomach.  I’m anxious and excited all the same time.  No matter how much I try to just look at the days leading up to the 31st as normal days, I can’t. It’s hard not to be excited.  I haven’t been “home” for over a year and a half.  My wife hasn’t been back in over a year.  Connor has never been!  This is going to be a great experience and some much needed R&R for all of us.

As I fight the urge to start packing tonight, I’m doing my best to make a rational packing list of items I need, and want to take.  We don’t want to pack too much as we plan to return home with more than we’re taking (Sarah wants to get some clothes from England, plus there will be gifts for Connor and other odds and ends we’ve picked up).  What do I really need to take?

Now if only I can stop humming “Leavin’ on a jet plane, I don’t know when I’ll be back again…”

Written by Jas

May 24, 2010 at 8:00 am

Posted in England, London, Travel, Vacation

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The Gallery: The World We Live In – Glastonbury, Somerset UK

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I stumbled upon Sticky Fingers blog a few days ago, and saw The Gallery postings, and thought it a great idea.  For this topic, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to show my local area, or somewhere special to me.  In the end, I decided that I’d rather introduce you to a place that will always be a special place to myself and my family.  My wife and I held our handfasting there, and it is where we’ll be holding our son’s Saining.


Glastonbury has held a special place for my wife, and she had wanted to share it with me when I came to see her.  I am more of a city dweller, and while I do enjoy getting out of the city from time to time, I always feel the need to go back.  So it was no surprise that Glastonbury was a bit of an adjustment for me.  The pace there is much slower, as I’m sure it is in most small village communities.  It took a day to really slow down to their pace.  Once I did, it was very relaxing.  It is an area rich with history and lore, such as the legend that King Arthur was originally buried in the Glastonbury Abbey.  Joseph of Arimathea is said to have brought the Holy Grail, and where, when he struck his staff in the ground it bloomed into the Glastonbury Thorn.  It is also stated that Glastonbury is at the center of several ley lines.

This horse is the Westbury White Horse.  While not in Glastonbury, it was seen on our train ride from London to Bristol.  I thought it was amazing!  Sadly, it is fairly modern though, crushing my hopes of seeing some ancient British formation.

This is a photo I took standing behind one of the chapels.   It is hard to tell, but the third sign back is allegedly the original resting place of King Arthur.  There has been debate to this, as some believe it was a ploy to attract patrons to the Abbey.

One of the fountains at Chalice Wells.  The well itself is further back, which is where Sarah and I held our private handfasting two years ago.  We’ll be going back there next month to hold Connor’s Saining with her family.  This place holds a very special place in our hearts, and kudos to the Trust as they keep this place looking beautiful!

The Mighty Tor just outside of Glastonbury.  Sarah has climbed to the top, but when I was there, my leg was bothering me and I didn’t attempt to make the climb.  We will definitely be climbing up this trip!

Overall, I definitely feel a connection with Glastonbury.  The history amazes me, and to walk through ruins that are a thousand years old I cannot begin to explain the sense of awe and amazement I felt.  Having said that, it was hard to adjust to the slow tempo.  Shops there close up around 5pm, and everyone seems to head for the pub!  As an American used to shops being open until 8pm or later, this took some getting used to.  Still, the surrounding countryside was gorgeous, and I felt recharged when we left.  I am looking forward to going back there!

Written by Jas

May 5, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Posted in England, Random, Travel, Vacation

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5 Inexpensive Things to do in London

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These are just a few things you can do in London that are either free or have a nominal cost.  Whether you live in London, or are visiting, there are countless options that won’t hurt the pocketbook. These are some of my favorites!

  1. Go to a Museum or Art Gallery – there are quite a few museums in London who don’t charge admission (though donations are welcome!).  The British Museum, The Natural History Museum, the National Gallery, the Tate Modern and Victoria and Albert Museum are just a few free museums around town.
  2. The Royal Parks The Royal Parks are some of the most beautiful parks I have seen.  They are filled with beautiful gardens, walking paths, and trees that you’ll forget you’re in the middle of London at times.  Check out their website to see what events the parks have going on!
  3. Street Markets – Places like Camden Market, Portobello Market, Greenwich Market and others offer a great place to get out and get away from traditional malls and stores.  I’ve been to the Camden Market, and it was definitely an experience!
  4. Street Performers/Artists – Spending any small amount of time in Covent Garden, you will see a host of performers and artists.  Sarah and I had a drink and watched a school choir from the US perform various popular songs, as well as an opera singer!
  5. Go to the Pub – When all else fails, go to the pub. There are literally thousands of pubs throughout London varying in size, price, and atmosphere. Go for a drink, go for a meal, or go just to relax in by the fire with your favorite book, pubs are a great way to truly enjoy London like the locals!

Written by Jas

May 2, 2010 at 6:00 pm

How I Plan to Save £153.80 With London Pass

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Ah London.  There is no city on earth like it.  Mention the word “England” and most likely “London” is the first city they’ll think of.  It is full of things to do, places to see, and people to meet.  One question that I get asked by my friends in the states who have yet to go is “What is there to do in London?”  I think the more appropriate question is “What isn’t there to do in London?”  It has something for everyone it seems.  Museums, art galleries, theaters, castles, fine dining just to name a few line the streets of London. With so many attractions for tourists (and probably some locals), one question I asked is “How do I get the most bang for my…uhm…quid?”  The London Pass is a great way to see many attractions, and save money doing so.

What is a London Pass?

“The London Pass is a ‘smart card’ – like a credit card with a computer chip inside – which allows you completely cash free entry to your choice of 56 London tourist attractions.” – source

You can purchase a pass for anywhere from 1 day to 6 days.  Here is a list of attractions you gain access with the London Pass. With this card once it is activated, you gain access to anywhere the card is accepted, and there are 56 different attractions.  Simply put, the more you see, the more you save.  The site boasts up to £186 on a six day pass, though I am skeptical on that number.  For us, we reached what I would consider a more realistic savings.  These are the places we plan to visit with our six day pass, along with the entrance cost.

  • Kensington Palace        £12.50
  • HMS Belfast    £10.70
  • Shakespeare Globe      £10.50
  • St Paul’s           £12.50
  • Hampton Court Palace   £14.00
  • Jewel Tower     £3.00
  • City Cruises      £11.50
  • Tower Bridge   £7.00
  • Tower of London         £17.00
  • Jason’s Canal Boat Trip            £8.50
  • The London Zoo      £16.80
  • Windsor Castle £15.50
  • Eton College     £6.00

That would total £157 each, or £314 for both of us.  We paid for two £160.20.  So with the London Pass we’re saving £153.80 for two people on those attractions!  The savings continue to grow the more places we see, but with a baby, we’re taking a conservative approach on seeing these attractions.

But Wait There’s More!

What else can you do with the London Pass?  They offer transportation savings, various restaurant deals, shopping deals, and more.  Plus, for those who need to exchange currency – they offer commission free money exchange at Bureau de Change.  With these deals the savings just keep adding up. Also, it allow you for “fast track access” eliminating the lines and queues.

What’s the downside?

The only downside I found is that the time limit starts from your first swipe, and the ticker then expires the number of days after. So for example, if you activate the Pass on Monday, it will expire on Saturday.  My personal wish would be to be allow to stagger the days over the period of a couple of weeks or a month.   Other than that, there’s no real down side I can see.

Is London Pass Worth the Cost?

I would venture to say yes.  Due to the savings you get on attractions alone, You definitely are saving money.  Again, the longer period of a pass you buy, the more you boost your savings.  Factor in the other additional savings the card offers, this is a great way to get the most “bang for your quid” in London.  I’ll be sure to let you know how our experience turns out.  Fingers crossed!

Written by Jas

April 27, 2010 at 4:55 pm