The "jolly good" greeting we got as we made our way through immigration told us immediately that we were in a much friendlier atmosphere than the one we left behind. The hosts were enthusiastically "brilliant" in every sense of the word throughout our entire visit to London.
By the time we completed our first successful navigation of The Underground and struggled our way through a few bouncing-ball-GPS false starts with suitcases and backpacks in tow to finally arrive at our hotel, it was too late to hit a pub. However, we did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night and the front desk was well equipped.
The next morning, we hit the first of our four hotel breakfasts and found out why beans and toast - with a dash of Worschetershire sauce - are a staple of the English diet. It's yummy and they definitely give you a burst of energy (and a multitude of smaller bursts throughout the late morning and early afternoon).
On the way to the Eye we were pleased to find that London was pulling its international weight when it came to statuesque statuary.
The giant (and thankfully enclosed) Ferris wheel also didn't disappoint, offering a spectacular view of the city and giving us a birds-eye view of many of the landmarks on our must-see list.
We got great exterior views of the castle walls including a glimpse at the remnants of an 11th century gate before making our way around to today's outer gate called the Middle Tower, the looming presence of which was once made all the more intimidating by the sound of lions from the royal menagerie growling from the interior.
But more on the Tower later. After a break at the hotel we went to Piccadilly Circus, the Times Square of London, where we emerged from the Underground just as the starter's pistol fired to begin the women's 4x400 relay. Team USA's gold-medal performance was our first chance to whip out our Stars and Stripes and whoop it up with some of our fellow countrymen.
We then enjoyed a deliciously spicy Indian meal before turning a corner and finding ourselves in the middle of Chinatown. We explored the streets for awhile and forced our kids to communicate with some shop owners for our pleasure before heading toward Trafalgar Square where we came upon the drunken revelry of the fans of Team Mexico celebrating their gold-medal soccer victory over Brazil. We had one final cool sight on the way home for the evening as we strolled past a swank balcony party being held at the Russian team's headquarters.
Traveling like this in such close quarters can either make a family stronger or make each member want to sit in a dark closet by him- or herself. It seems to be having a pretty good effect on the kids. Either that or they're banding together in unity to withstand the constant sightseeing onslaught.
If you need me, check the closet.