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I’ve Been On Vacation…Sort Of…


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You may have noticed that there haven’t been any posts on Traveling For Miles for the past nine days and there’s a very good reason for that – I took a vacation. It certainly wasn’t the vacation I had planned some months ago and it wasn’t even the vacation I had planned just a few weeks ago but it was still a vacation and it got me out of the house.

Long before the current pandemic took over life as we know it, we had plans to spend some time getting away from the rest of the world on an island in the Mediterranean. Ironically, this would have been one of the very best places to see out the current crisis as the area in which we planned to stay is remote, but our plans fell through pretty quickly as our destination locked down and imposed some pretty severe quarantine rules on anyone traveling from the United Kingdom (where I’m currently seeing out the pandemic).

Our backup plan was a trip to Spain’s Canary Islands and the Ritz-Carlton Abama but, as it turns out, this wasn’t much of a backup – a week before we were set to depart, the UK unexpectedly imposed quarantine rules on travelers arriving from Spain and left us little option but to cancel yet another trip.

The Ritz-Carlton Abama

At this point, we still had a reasonable number of options open to us (most of Europe for example) but our appetite for travel was noticeably diminished by the fact that it was becoming increasingly evident that there was no knowing what shops, businesses, and attractions would be open at any given destination, and the fact that the UK government had shown itself to be capable of introducing new quarantine restrictions on arrivals back into the country with little or no notice.

Traveling abroad would have been nice but we decided that the sensible thing to do was to stay in the country we were already in and find something enjoyable to do here…so that’s what we did.

Most of the “beauty spots” in the UK are currently inundated with visitors from all parts of the UK so, as we had little interest in sharing our time “away” with the rest of the country (and a worrying number of #covidiots), Joanna and I decided to spend some time in one of our favorite cities in the world – London.

Right now and by London’s standards, the center of the UK’s capital city is deserted. Most of the famous landmarks around the city can be visited without having to deal with throngs of visitors, the attractions that are open (of which there are more than I was expecting) can be enjoyed without having to line up with hundreds of others, and there has never been a better time to visit the city’s museums and art galleries as the low number of visitors means that the exhibits can be viewed with ease (and not through an army of tourists each trying to get a selfie with whatever exhibit you’re trying to enjoy).

We stayed at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel (review to follow) and made the most of London’s comparatively empty streets and the beautiful weather (yes, the sun is actually shining in the UK!) to do a variety of walks out of Stephen Millar’s “London’s Hidden Walks” books. We rented bikes to explore the Royal Parks, we dined out in well-socially-distanced restaurants, we enjoyed drinks with fantastic views of the Thames, we visited the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Tate Modern and, amongst other things, we visited Churchill’s War rooms near Whitehall.

St Pancras Renaissance Hotel

There was a lot to enjoy about London but the walks were the highlight.

The “London’s Hidden Walks” books are fantastic and they’re vastly superior to a number of other London walks books that I’ve had the misfortune of buying – the amount that we learned about areas that we had previously thought we knew very well was amazing. The lack of tourists and office workers in the center of London meant that we could walk along what are usually incredibly crowded streets and enjoy all of the history around us in peace and serenity…and those aren’t two words that I have ever previously been able to use when describing a visit to central London.

Outside Kings Cross Station at 2:15 pm midweek

The walks through Regent’s Park and up Primrose Hill (with its views over London) were beautiful (although the grey skies on that particular walk didn’t make it a good day for taking pictures), discovering the amount of history packed into “square mile” of the City of London was incredible, and having the freedom to explore so many areas of one of the world’s most famous cities while unencumbered by crowds was a treat that we’re unlikely to forget in a while.

Looking back on our mini-staycation in London I’m now grateful that the UK government quashed our hopes of visiting Tenerife. As nice as it would have been to relax in the comforts of a Ritz-Carlton nothing that Tenerife could offer could match the fantastic few days we had in London. Yes, the visit to London was a little bittersweet because, as wonderful as it was to be able to enjoy the city without the crowds, the lack of crowds was a constant reminder of what people are having to live through and it’s the missing crowds that usually provide the income to support so many of London’s businesses…and the crowds aren’t going to be back any time soon.

Still, I’m not about to end this post on a sad or negative note so I’ll end it by saying this: We weren’t meant to be visiting London last week but circumstances dictated that that’s where we ended up and I’m delighted with how things worked out. Knowing what I now know, I wouldn’t swap our London trip for any of the other options that were open to us as I doubt any of them would have matched up. Moreover, this “trip” was a very good reminder to me of just how much fun one can have without venturing all that far from home – for someone who travels as far and wide as I often do that’s a very good reminder to be given.

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