Monday, June 29, 2009

They're Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace

Christopher Robin went down with Alice.

Those are the opening lines from an A. A. Milne poem. I distinctly remember my mom reading this poem to me when I was a little girl. I liked the rhythm of the poem and I remember imagining what it would be like to see the changing of the guard. This poem offered what I think was the first vision I had of a palace that wasn't in a fairytale and quite possibly the beginning of my long-distance love affair with Britain. I swear that this poem still sort of shapes my view of what London will be like.

I have been working on our vacation itinerary, which I plan to lay out very specifically and type up like we are on an official tour -- complete with tube stops and walking directions. This eases my traveler's anxiety about not knowing where we're going, missing something I desperately wanted to see, or not allotting enough time to eat lunch (because if I am hungry and lost, it is quite possible I could become homicidal). Of course I'm not so crazy that we can't veer from the plan, but I want to be sure that we know what we're generally going to do each morning and afternoon so that we have time to schedule a day trip to Bath. I'm using Rick Steves's book for a lot of it, but also expanding on his recommendations to suit my own interests (pretty sure I need to dedicate an entire afternoon to the British Library, Rick. Thanks for recommending a nearby pub in case D needs to escape.). I've gotten some restaurant recommendations from friends who have studied or stayed in London recently and I feel reasonably comfortable with the amount of time we have allotted on our final day to return from Paris via Eurostar and take the tube to Heathrow.

My biggest challenge: packing light. Rick Steves strongly urges light packing (side note: our tour guide in Italy, the famous Kate who is renting us her flat in Paris, actually knows Rick Steves and she and other professional tour guides sort of roll their eyes at him and get annoyed that he became a sellout and gave away all of their insider secrets -- San Gimignano, for example, the amazing medieval village we visited in Italy, was off the beaten path until Rick Steves made it uber popular). Rick Steves does have some good points, though, and he says you can't travel heavy, cheap, and happy. You have to pick two.

So as someone who would love for Europe to be cheap & happy, I have already starting imagining various clothing combinations and efficient outfit choices. But seriously, I can hardly imagine packing only a carry-on bag for TWO WEEKS. I laughed out loud when I saw a recommended packing list that said: "two pairs of shoes." But I am really going to try to pack light. I think three (er, possibly four) pairs of shoes are crucial, but one I'll be wearing on the plane and two will be small, lightweight sandals/flip flops. This seems reasonable. It's just that even though we're staying at one hotel in London and then one apartment in Paris, I keep worrying about negotiating all of our luggage on the metro (and the street) to and from these places. So if I am dirty and wrinkled and wearing the same clothes in all of my fabulous vacation pictures, c'est la vie!

But guess what my research has uncovered: There are stores in London! Like, lots of them! And it appears that clothing stores also exist in -- wait for it -- Paris! Unbelievable, right? So I have to go buy something because I absolutely forgot to pack it? What a crisis.

Still. Packing is going to be a challenge.