Once we find the right tour bus, our first trip to London will be the experience of a lifetime. Right?
The first leg of the tour takes us to Westminster Abbey. We manage to keep up with the guide through the amazing architecture and crypts.
We fall in with a young couple from the US – let’s call them Donna and Jeff. They’ve been lost in London – but that was last week. Jeff is the first to tell us the adage: If you need directions, ask a tourist – and get a good map. Among Londoners, mum’s the word.
All too soon, we’re herded back to the bus. Next stop: Buckingham Palace. “If you get lost,” the tour guide says, “go back to the Queen’s Gallery, and the bus will be there.” Why is he staring at me?
We keep our guide’s hat in sight as we race past the swans and geese and palace guards. Then we spot the elephant.
My son and I stop for just a moment to watch it pass. People dressed in silks and costumes dance to Oriental music inside its head. Ah – it’s a mechanical elephant!
We turn, and suddenly a crowd of strangers is teeming around us. The the square is full of people heading in all directions.
No hat. No guide. No daughter.
“We should go this way, Mom.” My son tries to pull me forward. Wait – didn’t the guide say the bus would wait at the Queen’s Gallery? So we rush back the opposite direction.
After 20 minutes, it seems obvious the bus is not coming. The friendly Rubens Hotel concierge helps us call the tour company. My daughter is with the tour, having lunch at the Silver Cross Pub. Lunch! We’re famished. We can’t even grab a cab, because the streets are closed.
Blame the elephant.
So we run through the streets of London for the second time that morning. My son’s pulling me, and we make it – just in time to board the bus. No lunch. Donna saves the day again, with bread she’s slipped into her bag from her complimentary hotel breakfast. The loaves that feed the multitude – or at least the five of us.
We ferry down the Thames, stare at Big Ben, and explore the famous London Tower.
Later, Donna and Jeff help us navigate the underground – “mind the gap” and all – and we make it back to Hyde Park Square. We even smile when someone asks how the tour went.
Trip of a lifetime. Right! That was a few years ago – and it’s enough to convince me to get lost in the UK again, in 2012. (The real question is whether my kids will want to come with me this time!)
Have you ever been lost on foreign soil? How did you handle it? (Please click “Read more” below to leave a comment.)