Most of the trips I fly are to NYC, LA, or ATL, back and forth in different directions between those three cities. However, this week I had the incredible opportunity to go on a “weekend holiday” (as a Brit would say) to my favorite European city: London, England.
I have so much to say about this glorious city and the magnificent vacation my parents and I had together there: exploring the city (with and without maps), touring sights that we had not yet seen before, and to top it off, we flew first class there and back! It was such a delight.
“OK wow I have to stop reading this blog. Seriously? This girl is extremely spoiled and talks about Europe as if she had a royal family there or something. First class? C’mon.”
I know. I sound ridiculously spoiled so if you decide to stop here, I do not blame you. Don’t worry, there will be another post next week. I won’t be offended.
But if you do decide to stay, listen up. The ONLY way I get to fly first class to Europe is because those seats are so expensive when flying overseas that not as many passengers purchase them (I’m talking upwards of $5,000). This means there is usually plenty of availability in the business class cabin for a Stand-By passenger like myself to get on. And I hate to say it, but my family and I only like to travel to Europe if there is a good chance that we will get first class seats. When we were younger, my siblings and I would joke that the plane ride was our favorite part of traveling overseas because we got to watch free movies and eat ice cream sundaes, getting a taste of the “Glamorous” life that Fergie sang about on the radio. I know, spoiled brats, right?
But I truly am grateful for the opportunity to fly and vacation to so many incredible destinations. Most of the expense of traveling across the pond is the plane ticket, so to be able to have the opportunity to fly anywhere is truly a gift. I have been fortunate enough to experience other parts of the world and immerse myself in other cultures starting at a young age. I was 10 years old when we went to Europe for the first time. Destination: Paris, France. Since then, I have been to Barcelona, Rome, Amsterdam, Munich, Salzburg, Brussels, and London (now twice!).
What most people get hung up on is the length of our trips. Our family tradition is to go to a European city for three nights only. Yep. Three nights. And actually, this most recent trip to London was only supposed to be two nights, until I convinced my mom to stay a third (which I will talk about in a minute). Because we can pop into a city whenever we desire based on the flight availability, we don’t have to stay for multiple weeks to make up for the high cost of the flight. Plus, when my family vacations, there is not time for relaxation- we are doers. We always follow an extremely tight schedule that has been planned so that we can fully experience the city in the short amount of time that we’re there (Or try to at least- sometimes the city just has so much to offer that we can’t get all of the sights in, just as we felt about our previous trip to London four and a half years ago).
So what did my parents and I do this time in London vs. the last time we were here? Last time: The Tower of London, King’s Cross Station (Platform 9 ¾), Abbey Road, Harrods, Southbank, The British Museum, Covent Gardens, and a bus tour. My whole family, 3 nights, staying in an apartment right off the Bakerloo Tube line.
This time, only three family members were present. We stayed at a hotel in Piccadilly Circus, the London equivalent to Times Square. Our hotel was central to everything we wanted to experience, so it was perfect as far as location goes, but also amusing because it was so central that it was as if we were staying in Times Square. (And if you are a regular to NYC, you know that this is the last place you want to stay).
Despite the sea of people right outside our hotel, I fell in love with this city even more. Surprisingly, my parents and I did not have a plan, and just left everything up to our instincts and desires. The point of the vacation was to not stress out but to truly relax and enjoy our time. And we certainly did.
We toured Westminster Abbey, rode The London Eye, stumbled upon the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, took a stroll through the St. James Garden, explored the Winston Churchill Museum, and wandered around Covent Gardens and Trafalgar Square.
We also saw a show on the West End! Growing up as a theatre kid, it has been my dream to see a show in London, Europe’s equivalent to Broadway. We decided to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, a brilliant show whose technical execution and staging blew me away. The plot was so different from anything I’ve ever seen, and the actors were incredible (and not mic-ed! That is the European way. No mics are used in any show!).
Our last day in London, Sunday, my parents and I were walking through the Theatre district when I noticed a marquee with my favorite actor, Kit Harington on it. He plays Jon Snow in HBO’s Game of Thrones, and I am absolutely obsessed with him. We tried to go into the box office to get tickets for the show, Doctor Faustus, however in London the theatres are dark on Sundays for their day off (performing again on Mondays unlike in New York). This particular show is Kit’s first appearance onstage since playing the lead in War Horse before he was cast on Game of Thrones. Because of his shoot schedule, this performance has a limited run until June 25th. This was my one shot to see the show, but we were supposed to leave Monday morning. However, somehow I convinced my mom to stay with me another day: I would pay for the tickets to the show and the hotel room for that night. My dad would go home to Atlanta because he had to go back to work, and my mom and I would transfer hotels to Covent Gardens.
And let me tell you, it was worth it. Doctor Faustus was interesting and very dark, however I learned so much about themes of price worth paying for fame and fortune. I had the opportunity to meet my favorite actor and my mom and I were in box seats at the theatre. On top of that, we had a wonderful afternoon exploring Soho and literally turning down random streets that we thought were quaint, wandering around like we were locals. It was magic.
I know this post has been very long, but how could it not be? London is my favorite city in the world. Not only did I come to love it in new ways this trip, but also I found pure joy and learned a valuable lesson.
Part of the reason for taking this weekend holiday was to take a break from the “A” word. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been advised to find happiness outside of the acting business and enjoy life to the fullest. So, coming into this trip, I booked out with my agents, and let go of any thoughts about acting. I had had two auditions and a callback before I left, but they never entered my mind during our stay. And you know what? I had one of the best weekends of my life- I had a wonderful time in my parent’s company. The irony: acting was still all around me, and I was HAPPY about it! We ran into a Warner Brothers film set for a new Ryan Reynolds/ Samuel L. Jackson movie, and saw two shows on the West End.
Our last night, at 1:30 am London time, just as my mom and I were about to turn off the lights for good and I doing my final scroll of my Facebook feed, I got a message from my agents. They asked if I could call, yet I couldn’t because I can only use Wi-Fi on my cellphone in Europe. The first thought that entered my head: “Oh no, I have an audition tomorrow and now that I decided to stay in London another day, I may miss it”. But then I read the words, “You booked it Kelly! You booked (insert the name of a TV Show here)”. I was overcome with happiness, excitement, and disbelief, shaking uncontrollably. No longer was there an ounce of tiredness in my bones. I came to London to let go, and once I truly allowed myself to do so, God showed me that enjoying life and His creation leaves for more opportunity for His purpose to prevail.
I used to have an extreme fear of jet lag when traveling to Europe; a fear that I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. Of course, when I was overcome with this anxiety, I lay awake for hours. However, during this trip to London, I slept soundly every night. Falling asleep was a breeze and I truly latched onto the time zone!
Last night, after I received the news of my booking at 1:30 am, I could not fall asleep for hours. My mom and I were overjoyed, texting friends and family and squealing with delight over the wonderful news. We couldn’t fall asleep until 4 am. We were wide-awake in London, yet I wasn’t afraid about not being able to sleep. I didn’t mind at all. Besides, I knew we had lay-flat seats in first class on the way home to rest on.