It seems so unreal that after almost a year of planning we are actually living in England!
We flew to England on Iceland Air which was a good experience overall. We opted for Economy Comfort class because it came with additional checked bags and a meal (+alcohol) on the ride. We were pleasantly surprised to learn when we arrived at SeaTac that it also came with lounge access before the flight. Check in with our 10 bags (carry-on’s included) went really fast and the loading process was really efficient compared to other flights we have been on. Our seats were nice and roomy and the meal wasn’t bad for airplane food. Our biggest disappointments were that our in-flight entertainment wasn’t working and they weren’t very generous with beverages on such a long flight. We had a layover in Iceland for an hour and half and were thankful it was so quick because the airport was very small and cold. The worst part of the trip was getting through customs in London. We spent at least an hour in line before we could collect our bags.
After arriving at our hotel in London, we grabbed some lunch at Three Magpies which is a local pub chain. James wasn’t feeling too adventurous and ordered a BLT and I had a roast beef yorkshire pudding wrap which was fantastic. We both tried our first warm British beers (IPAs) and watched the news coverage on the terrorist attacks in London the day before. We had been considering hitting up some of the tourist spots but after some research, decided to skip it for the day since most of our interests are in the Westminster area.
As we were wrapping up our day, we got a very upsetting message from our friend Kelsey, who was caring for Willow letting us know that she was having trouble getting her on the plane. She was supposed to leave Thursday morning, the day after we had left but there was some confusion with the airlines regarding her medications and they refused to ship her. Thankfully, our hotel had a cell phone for us to use with unlimited international calling and we were able to make arrangements with our vet to get a letter regarding her medications and book a flight for the following day. We spend a few hours researching our best options because Willow had a window of 1.5 days before her pet passport would expire. We are so lucky to have such caring and dedicated friends. We were going crazy thinking about the possibility of Willow not being able to come right away but were able to take comfort in knowing that she was well cared for and that we had many offers to help from our families.
The following day, we had to check out of our hotel and head to Oxford to our temporary apartment. Our original plan was to take a charter bus to Oxford, but after we found out that we were only allowed two suitcases each we had to find some other options. A taxi from London to Oxford would cost around £150 and there was no way we would be able to get all of that luggage on the train. Our best (and most dreaded option) was to rent a car. Car rentals seem to be pretty affordable here, around £40-80 per day but many of them are manual transmissions. While we can both drive a manual, it was too overwhelming to learn to shift with our left hand while driving on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the road. Needless to say, our first trip to Oxford felt a lot like the first time driving a car.
Here are some photos of the hotel we stayed at in London, the Hotel ibis Styles London Heathrow Airport. It was affordable, clean and had a great continental breakfast. Their best feature was that they provide a cellphone to customers with unlimited international calling and data to help you get around.