Gothenburg, Sweden to Harwich, England: 527 Nautical Miles
Total Voyage: 3131 Nautical Miles
Happy Memorial Day
We never got the chop expected from the notorious North Sea but I still got up so early – those biorhythms need some serious re-calibration. I was pretty much awake when the JOTS arrived in Harwich at about 4 AM (the shuddering of the ship as it maneuvers to the pier can’t be missed).
Jewel of the Seas – Voyage Completed
Instead of just getting a transfer to the airport, for just a few dollars more, we have a combination tour and airport transfer this morning - “Panoramic London and Heathrow”. We grabbed a lightning quick breakfast at the Windjammer (a zoo this morning) and met at the Coral Theater at 7:15 AM. Soon we were off the ship, had our luggage, and were in the first two seats in our tour bus (best seats in the house and the only reason I was able to get some of the pictures below).
On our way to London
It may be difficult to see in the picture below but there is a radar tower in the distance. In WWII, Britain (who invented Radar) had three such radar towers in operation. Their main purpose was to spot German warplanes and give people ample warning to seek shelter. The one in the picture is the only remaining tower and is now a national monument.
WWII Radar Tower National Monument
We also passed the Ford Plant (below). Ford was been building cares in England for 100 years at this plant – the wind turbine supplies electricity for the plant.
Windmill at Ford Plant
After a nice rest stop about 60 minutes into the trip (at a very nice highway Oasis), were were at the outskirts of London. Today was a Bank Holiday in England so the traffic on the highways was very light. Today was also the day of a major marathon race in London. Many of the streets would be blocked and access to some of London’s most famous sites would not be possible.
The first site we came to was the “Tower of London”, where many were imprisoned or worse. We were able to get a good view of the Tower from the Tower Bridge.
The Tower of London
Crossing the Tower Bridge
Our driver was able to find a small side street from which we could a good view of the Thames, the Tower Bridge, and the British Warship HMS Belfast (WWII). We also managed to get someone to take our picture against such a famous landmark.
Tower Bridge and the Thames and us
Looking good along the Thames
The Tower Bridge
Tower of London
HMS Belfast on the Thames
Skyline of London with St. Paul’s Cathedral
Big Ben and Parliament across the Thames
The next real stop was at Covent Gardens, where we had a full hour to explore. Covent Gardens started out as a small flower shop and now it is home to upscale stores, vendors, and street artists. We walked around the various streets (three pictures below).
We also tried, with no success, to find free Wi-Fi. I thought we had found the grail at a Starbucks right by our bus spot. The Starbucks in London do not offer free Wi-Fi – you need to buy a Starbucks card to get internet access.
Covent Gardens is in the West End Theater District and many popular shows were currently playing.
The “Lion King” at the Lyceum Theater (above); “Shrek the Musical” at Drury Lane Theater (below).
Our tour continued with a great view of the London Skyline (top) and Victoria Station (bottom).
The bus drove by Parliament Square for a great view of the Parliament Building. In the front, there is a statue of Richard the Lion Hearted on his horse.
Parliament – Richard the Lion Hearted Statue
Westminster Abby is across the street from the Parliament Building so the bus gave us some photo ops (from the bus).
Westminster Abby (top: From the back; top middle and bottom middle: From the front; bottom: The South Exit, where dignitaries and the recent Royal Wedding guests depart).
Another swing around Parliament Square gave me a chance to get a picture of Oliver Cromwell.
We also saw other sites as we made out way of the city.
New Scotland Yard
Harrods Department Store
Soon, we were on our way to Heathrow. The ride took about 15-20 minutes and the bus dropped us off at Terminal 3 at around 12:30. We checked in and checked out bags, passed through security (did not take off our shoes) and made our way to one of the many Departure Lounges to join a zoo of other passengers waiting to find out their gate assignments (below).
The small and quiet lounge at Heathrow
While waiting for our gate assignment, we spent 3 pound ($4.80) to check our e-mail and chat with the kids for a few minutes.
At around 3:50 PM, we found out our gate and proceed over – not too far in this case. At Heathrow, once you enter a gate area, you cannot leave without having to be rescreened when you get back. We stayed outside the boarding area until pretty much the last minute to avoid the multiple screenings. Another reason for not checking in until near boarding is the lack of seats in the small boarding “cage”.
Our plane was there, a good omen, and the flight boarded and pushed on time. We had great seats on this flight – 21H and 21J (second row exit seats) – with plenty of leg room and a window. The only way to fly.
It had started to drizzle but that wasn’t going to be an issue.
The plane boarded on time and took off on time – despite a few bumpy intervals as we skimmed the cloud tops, the flight was relatively smooth.
Heathrow Climb Out
See the strange gray stream across the wing
A hint of blue sky
Breaking through the clouds
Above the clouds – what a blue sky
I am writing this on the plane at 4:31 Chicago Time. We still have a ways to go. This is what we are looking at right now (below) – off the coast of Newfoundland.
We had two meals on board – dinner (Chicken and Kishke – which was very good). There was some difficulty in getting our meals to heat properly so the flight attendant offered us complimentary wine for our troubles – the wine was pretty good.
The second dinner consisted of a spinach tart – I was skeptical but it was pretty good. The flight attendant also gave us a personal cheese pizza (the regular meal). That worked out fine except that the expiration date on one of the meals was several months ago. I plan to contact American about this.
The plane began its descent into O'Hare a little early. The approach this time was straight in – probably over Evanston (below).
Over the Lake
Over the North Shore
Touchdown – smooth as silk
Immigration was quick – our luggage was there – and before I could think of calling a cab, Danny was there with the kids. A great surprise. The trips were tiring but we really enjoyed these two cruises. I would do the this cruise combination again (Transatlantic and Baltic) and figure out a way to deal with the multiple time changes.