The next day Kathy felt better, so I took her along and we went through the Tower of London. We walked along the outer wall for a ways and then dropped down and went through the Crown Jewels. Then we went over to the White Tower. The sign out front said there was 206 stairs on the tour of the White Tower. and we believe it. All the armaments are in there. Cannons, armor for the knights etc. First you climb the stairs on the outside to the second floor and then climb to the third floor. After that you go up to the fourth floor and then down to the basement. From there you have to climb back out. We then went over to the Bloody Tower and walked through that. By that time we had seen what we wanted and Kathy was getting tired. She had been sick for a couple of days and was still recuperating. So we headed back to the hotel, had something to eat and packed to head over to Swizerland in the morning.
Up early, check out and wait for car to take us to the airport. We had the executive package while we were here and decided to upgrade our stay here when we get back, so we arranged with the desk clerk and she said we were all set. We are flying out of London City Airport this morning (Thank goodness it's not Gatwick which has been closed for three days because of a drone sighting). On to the airplane and a short flight to Zurich. Through Immigration and customs and then we cross the street into the mall. Had lunch at a McDonald's and then went downstairs to the train station. A train to Bern and then we switch and grab another to Interlaken. We are met at the train station in Interlaken by the kids and the tour guide. They had just gotten off a boat ride through the lake. We all walk back to the hotel and get checked in. Time to go down for a spot of tea with Cassie. We then went for a walk around town and dressed for dinner. Met up with the kids and headed into dinner at the restaurant. At dinner we are given the itinerary for the next day. After dinner, to bed.
Tuesday (Merry Christmas)
Christmas in Switzerland, the reason for the trip. We get up and head down for breakfast. Meet up with Cassie and the 3 of us enjoy a Christmas morning meal. Then it's gather our things and walk to the train station on the other side of town, a little more than 1/2 mile, to catch the train to Grindelwald, an alpine village at the foot of the north face of the Eiger. At Grindelwald we took a sleigh ride through town and the surrounding countryside. A brief stop for mulled wine and gingerbread and then more sleigh ride. After the sleigh ride we have some free time so the kids decide to take us where they had went on Sunday. It was cloudy and rainy that day and today was beautiful weather so they were figuring they would see a lot more. So back on the train and we head back to Zweilutschinen where we switch trains and head to Lauterbrunnen. There we get off the train and take a tram up to Grutschalp. Then we get on another train that takes us through Winteregg and on to Murren. At Murren we had to walk across town, a another 1/2 mile walk, and then we got on another tram that took us to Birg. Then we changed trams and went up to Schilthorn. They filmed the first James Bond movie here, the one with George Lazenby. They have a revolving restaurant called Piz Gloria. Everything is 007 themed. We had lunch and watched the world go by. We then went out on the terrace and took pictures. The kids said that when they were up there the other day, they couldn't even see the terrace from the restaurant. Sure glad we had clear skies and sunshine. We are at 2970 meters, which is 9,744 feet, and we had some great views. Time to head back. We take the tram back down to Birg and ran into a bottleneck. It was getting late and all the tourists were coming down. Also all the skiers were coming off the mountain and trying to ride the tram from Birg to Murren. I guess that is what they do in Switzerland on Christmas is go skiing . They apparently didn't like the tourists clogging up the works and were really rude. I thought the reason for all the gear and skis and poles was to ski down the mountain, not take the tram. One skier had a snowboard and a baby stroller with a baby. How she was able to ski with that is a mystery. We finally got on third tram and made our way down to Murren. Back across town and onto the train to Grutschalp. Now another tram ride and we are back in Lauterbrunnen. From there it was just a train ride back to Interlaken and the walk back to the hotel. Then it was a change of clothles and time to attend Christmas dinner. The tour guide and his friend were decked out in sequined shirts, one gold and one silver. Dinners started at 7:30 and were long drawn out affairs. After dinner Kathy and I went down to the lobby bar and had a drink and watched the people come and go.
Today we are going to the top of Europe. Here again we have to make that 1/2 mile walk down to the train station. We take the Bernese Oberland Railway to Lauterbrunnen this morning and then change to the Wengernalpbahn and go to Kleine Scheidegg. There we switch to the Jungfrau Railway that takes us up to Jungfraujoch. A good part of the journey is in a tunnel. It travels through the Eiger mountain, and stops at observation windows hewn out of solid alpine rock at Eismeer, which is the second highest train station in Europe. The train stops long enough for people to get off and take pictures. We then continue on up to Jungfraujoch "The top of Europe", at 3454 meters (11,333 feet) it is the highest train station in Europe. Inside we grab a drink and a quick snack and then head up to the Sphinx Observatory on top. We ride an elevator that takes up 108 meters. There we are at 3571 m, or 11,716 ft, which is 466 feet higher than Mt Hood. We take plenty of pictures and then head back down. From there we wander through the Ice Palace with it's many ice sculptures and look out on the walking plateau, an area that is eternally covered in snow. Back down to the self-serve snack bar for lunch. We find a table by the window that looks out on the Aletsch Glacier, at 22 km it is the longest ice stream in the Alps. It's time to meet back up with the tour guide and the rest of our group. We take the train down the mountain (it's a cog railroad) to Keine Scheidegg and there we switch to another train that takes us down to Grindelwald. We then take another train to Interlaken, and again the 1/2 mile hike back to the hotel. Rest up a bit and then our last dinner. This one will be in the restaurant at the top of the hotel instead of the one on the second floor. Another great meal and it's back to the room to pack and get ready for the trip back.
Seems like we just got here and it's time to leave already. We finished packing and left our bags outside our room. We went to breakfast and came back and they were gone, but not to worry, they collect them and take them to the train station for us so we don't have to lug them with us while we hike the 1/2 mile. Check out and make the hike to the train. Collect our bags and find our platform. Take the train to Basel and move over to the train that takes us to Paris. We leave Basel, Switzerland which is on the border with France, and travel throgh the french countryside. We get into Paris at the Gare de Lyon train station. From there we take a bus to Gare du Nord. Basically what that means is we came into one train station and had to ride a bus across Paris to another train station. It was an interesting ride. Didn't see the Eiffel tower or the Arc de Triumph, but we did get to see the streets of Paris. When we got to Gare du Nord, the five Americans and the two Australians in the tour had to go through the long lines to go through customs so we could get back into the UK, while all the people with European passports were escorted around the mess. We finally made it through with just enough time to use the restrooms before getting in the queue for our train to London. Onto the Eurostar train and it is an hour and a half to London, or it should have been. The train was stopped just outside of Lille, France because of some trespassers on the tracks. we had to wait until the police came and took care of them, which made us about 40 minutes late. By this time it was dark out and so Kathy couldn't tell when we were in the chunnel or not. Finally make it into London"s St Pancras station and grab a cab to the hotel and check in. Checking in we find that the desk clerk we had when we left the last time didn't reserve us an executive room and they were booked up. They did give us the privleges though and left us in our standard rooms. It all worked out. Throw the bags in the rooms and head out for some fish and chips. The kids had found a place that was just a couple of blocks away that was supposed to be good, so we headed out walking. We found the place and had a great meal. Two of us had fish and chips, one had vegan fish and chips and the other had just chips with cheese and green onions. Walk back to the hotel and call it a night.
After breakfast the kids get packed up and we all sit in the lobby waiting for their car to show up. The driver comes and gets them and they leave for the airport. This is the second time they took off and left us in London. They had to get back for work. We didn't and had decided to stay in London for a couple of days. After they left we looked at our options and decided what we were going to do. We gathered our things and headed over to the London Eye. We walked past the Tower and went down to the Tower dock and caught the City Tours boat for the ride upriver. They gave a narrative as we traveled along about what we were looking at on shore. Got off at the Westminster pier and walked across the bridge to the Eye. Got in line and got our tickets and then got in line to get on. Wasn't long and we were on and going around. It doesn't stop to load people, you just step on as it goes around. It only stops if they have to load a wheelchair. It was a nice slow ride around, plenty of sights to see. We get off the Eye and head back across the bridge and catch another boat back to the Tower pier. Up the hill past the Tower of London and skating rink to our hotel. Dinner and back to our room to plan the next day.
After breakfast we go and talk to the Concierge about the trains running north to Royston. We get our coats and walk around the corner to the Tower underground station and ride up to Kings Cross station, which is right next to St Pancras. There we go upstairs and catch an above ground train to Royston, which is 36 miles north of London. At Royston we get a taxi and he takes us out to Steeple Morden airfield. Or at least it was an air field in WWII. It's where my dad was stationed during the war. Now there is just a memorial there. But it was interesting to see it . We take pictures of the place and then call the taxi back. He takes into Royston and drops us at a restaurant he says is good. We go in and have lunch, Kathy has fish and chips and I have a ham and cheese panini. the cab driver was right, it was a great place for lunch. It looked like the local pub with lots of character. It was probably there in WWII, my dad could have been in there. Walk back to the station and take the train back to Kings Cross station. Go downstairs and grab an underground back to Tower Hill station. Walk back to the hotel, dinner and back to the room.
Today we decided to visit Grenwich. Back down the hill past the Tower to the pier and take a boat downriver. Sure glad we aren't touring the Tower today, there are a ton of people and long lines. A nice quiet boat ride and we get to Grenwich pier. We walk past the Cutty Sark and over to the Maritime museum. Spent a couple of hours going through the museum. Then we walked through Grenwich Park, and up the hill to the Observatory and looked around. Saw the prime meridian and a statue of General Wolfe. Back down the hill and through the streets to a Nautical shop. Then it's back to the pier and on the boat to go back upriver. We get to the Tower pier and walk past all the people at the Tower to the hotel. Dinner and then it is time to pack.
Time to go home. We finish packing and go to the lobby to wait for our car. He shows up and we have a harrowing ride through London to the airport. Lunch at the airport and then we find our gate. A short 9 hour flight and we are in Seattle. Through customs and another flight to Portland and we are finally home. Now just 2 weeks to get over the jet lag.