Last week was sort of a marathon, visiting cousins throughout England (in London, Yorkshire, Buckinghamshire and Sussex). But it was a great trip, with surprisingly sunny weather most of the time and no rain! Conor and I left early last Tuesday morning for a 6AM flight and then spent the next 5 days wandering around London, catching up with my relatives and experiencing the relief that comes along with actually being able to speak the local language.
We checked out Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, the Imperial War Museum and most of the usual sights... On Wednesday my cousin showed us this amazing bar at the top level of the only skyscraper in central London (Centre Point). The view was incredible, although a bit scary if you're afraid of heights, which I am slightly. Thursday and Friday I spent in Buckinghamshire and then Yorkshire to visit more cousins and my great-aunt, who was celebrating her 85th birthday. My grandmother was English and it's her family I visit there. Because I never met her, it's really special for me to be able to see her sister and all of the cousins. Even though she moved to America after the war, the family kept in touch and we still do today.
My cousins who live outside the city are so lucky to have vast open spaces like this one. It's surprising that only an hour away from London you can find these quiet, pretty countryside villages. For being such a small island, Britain has a vast rail network that makes it easy to get anywhere. Because we spent a lot of time on trains, we got to see a lot of the English countryside, which is gorgeous. Driving through some of the villages in Sussex was like being transported to a movie set (and lots of them actually have been featured in films and television shows).
We were definitely shocked at the prices, though, especially for trains but also for food. After living in a country where most things are relatively cheap compared to back home it was strange to realize just how little our American dollars could buy. But we still managed to have a good time. We also drank lots of tea, good English beer, got some fish and chips and even a nice curry.
The original reason for going to London was a basketball game. Conor had tickets to see the Nets vs. Raptors at the O2 Arena, which is this huge events center in Greenwich. It was awesome to see a live NBA game, something I hadn't done since I was a kid. The game went into triple overtime, which was very exciting. One funny part was that the announcer kept explaining the rules to the audience (the idea being that UK fans might not know all the specifics). Anyway, it was a sold-out event and definitely worth the trip.
This was my fourth visit and I know now that I can never get enough of London. There's so much to see and do, and of course I love the fact that I have such a wonderful extended family there. For now, I'll be happy to relax after running around all week, but I'm sure I'll be planning a return trip someday soon.