London or — quite possibly — Bust

London or Bust

In a few days we’re headed to London for a week, and you guys, I’m already exhausted.

For the past few months I’ve been planning our takeover.
Did you get that?
For the past few months I’ve been planning our takeover.

I’ve read and bookmarked Rick Steve’s advice (to the point where I’m pretty sure I could recite entire chunks from memory if asked), flagged the Fodor’s lists, Googled, mapped, and Googled some more.
I’ve researched and discovered restaurants for my picky eaters, found nearby markets, and located the local wine store (not necessarily in that order).
I’ve learned opening and closing times, how long to allow for each site, and when the lines to the tours are the shortest (which in July, I’ve learned, is never).
I’ve emailed our flat’s proprietor so many times I’m certain she’ll now expect a Christmas card, bought enough G-outlet adapters to power a small company, and am now the proud owner of dual-voltage flat and curling irons (because of course the six we already own were not).
I’ve become a student of London’s late July weather patterns.
I’ve strategized our packing plan.
I’ve re-strategized our packing plan.
I’ve scheduled tours and sights.
I’ve canceled tours and rescheduled sights.
I’ve pre-purchased tickets.
I’ve prioritized.
I’ve reprioritized.
I’ve downloaded apps and transit maps and audio guides.
I know the train timetables to places like Bath and Stratford-Upon-Avon by heart.
I’ve reread The Other Boleyn Girl.

My family has done the following:
Nodded and/or shrugged when I’ve asked their opinions on all of the above.

But that’s cool.
I mean, even though London wasn’t at the top of my Places I Want To Go list (or even on the top 5) I really didn’t have a choice. Once it was decided that’s where we were going (apparently the places I wanted to go are in various stages of political unrest and got cut from the list, although I still think throwing out scary terms like “political unrest” is a good excuse to get your way when you know the person you’re talking to knows more about Taylor Swift’s love life than world politics) I threw myself into it.

It’s what I do.
I’m a planner.
A strategist.
The mother-effing concierge of my family.

But bad-ass as that might be (humor me), it’s a lonely job.
Always has been.
And maybe it’s the job title itself that has perpetrated the loneliness.
I mean, when your family is used to you stepping up to make sure their trips — not to mention their very lives — are organized, you kind of set yourself up for the fallout.
You can’t really blame anyone but yourself for their comfortable disinterest and your resulting solitude.

(But of course, you do. If you didn’t it would contradict your entire existence. You’ve worked hard for that martyr designation, dammit, and you’re not about to throw it away now. No matter how proud you are of your color-coded itinerary.)

A few weeks ago I threw it into high gear (and by it I mean my passive aggression, of course).
Decided to go silent.
After weeks — no, months — of research and asking for everyone’s opinions (specifically, asking them all to give me a goddamn list of things they were interested in seeing) and getting nothing in return but mumbles and the solitary request to visit the Warner Brother’s Studios where the Harry Potter movies were filmed — which quite possibly is the only reason we’re going to London — I shut down.
Decided to hell with them.
I’d spend a week in London soaking up the culture and history and trying not to get caught stalking Kate and William, and they could fend for themselves.
Wander aimlessly around town, walking ignorantly right past buildings and cathedrals and castles rich with historical significance.

Turns out, the joke’s on me.
Because apparently that’s just fine with them.
I’m not kidding, when I attempted to (yet again) defend my overzealous itinerary that, if followed, is rich with days that will leave us mesmerized and fulfilled (and most likely able to lead a class in Tudor history), all of them admitted they’re not interested in many of the things on it.
The things I’ve spent about 75 hours researching.

I swear if I hadn’t been in the middle of a second glass of wine when this revelation was revealed to me I’d have given everyone new meaning to the term “political unrest.”

Even the daughter whose very favorite class in high school was AP European History and who used to put me — a person who would rather go to the dentist than to a museum — to sleep with her future-London dream itinerary was like, meh.
So, I did what any person who excels in passive aggression would do.
I shrugged and said fine.
In a tone that most certainly didn’t say fine.

I’m telling you, the wine saved all of us.

Because as they (finally) talked and I (furiously) slugged, I discovered they just want to go to London to “walk around”  — I mean, besides the all-important tour of WB’s Harry Potter sound stages and the wax museum.
I mean, they have wax Star Wars figures there, so obviously.
Sure, they want to see the castles and the occasional cathedral, they said, but as far as leaving London with an appreciation for the magnitude of its history, they could take it or leave it.

I’ve decided they get to take it.
And leave it.
Hey, they’re old enough where I can “lose” them for like half a day, every day.
Just kidding.

So we’ll do our best to balance our days out walking around mixed in with the historical sights.
We’ll stop for a pastry and/or a beer if we see interesting side bakeries or pubs.
We’ll walk in the parks and along the river’s edge and the street markets.
We’ve got the tickets to see the sets of Harry Potter and will make damn sure to go take silly, stupid pictures with the figures at the wax museum.
We’ll go inside Buckingham Palace (it’s only open to visitors two months a year, so that’s one I’m firm on) and walk across the bridges and see the crown jewels.
We’ll go to Kensington Palace to stalk Kate see the state rooms and tour the Abbey and take a ride on the London Eye.
We’ll buy food for our flat at Harrods’ food halls and eat at the local pizza place and stroll Notting Hill, looking for Hugh Grant.
We’ll take a day trip by train — maybe even two! — to a location that hasn’t been determined yet (which if I’m being honest, is thisclose to giving me hives with its uncertainty).
We’ll wander.
We’ll roam.
We’ll relax with some nice wine on our tiny balcony after the long days.

Sure, we’ll be busy, but it actually sounds terribly carefree, doesn’t it?
Because don’t tell them, but all those things — yes, even the wandering — have been meticulously scheduled out and prioritized with alternate suggestions for rain-outs and with wiggle room each day for things we might discover we want to see as we go (which is something that is awfully flexible of me, don’t you think?). 
Don’t worry, the wine will help me relax.
It always does.

The schedule…the planning…the being me.
But I can’t help it, you guys.
And I sure as hell can’t go somewhere like London (regardless of if I initially wanted to go there or not) without a plan to get everything I can out of it.
And I’m not talking about a photo with a wax figure of Princess Leia.
Which I’ll totally still get anyway. 

*Check back in a week for a (possible) mid-trip update, and follow YMFT on Instagram for the occasional photo, which may or may not be of me, all alone. 


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  • Jennifer Joyce McDowell - We just came back from London last week, by far our favorite family vacation. Hamley’s toy store was a huge hit as was the Tower bridge tour.ReplyCancel

  • Snarkfest - I have no doubt that they will come around and love and appreciate all that you’ve done for them to make the trip fantastic. And if they don’t, you can just leave them there.ReplyCancel

  • Erin Hill - Not to add to your itinerary, but I just got back from London last week. We did a muggle walking tour that was pretty fun.. they show you where scenes were filmed and if you’re a big HP fan it’s pretty entertaining. Also, if you can get a reservation – eat breakfast at Duck & Waffle and order the Full Elvis waffle. It’s life changing!ReplyCancel

  • Amy - I want to go on a vacation with you! This sounds exactly like how I plan vacations and my husband just goes along with it with no opinions whatsoever. He doesn’t fully appreciate my very detailed scheduled itinerary spreadsheets 🙂 Can’t wait to hear about your trip!ReplyCancel

  • Jennie Thomas - Totally how I plan and the people who are used to it and have vacationed without me are hooked. I plan beach trips with menus, newsletters to give a list of weather forecasts, tidal schedules, sunrise and sunset times, ideas of places to go each day and historical facts about the area. People new to the trips are kind of put off by the planning…and then become converts halfway through. YOu mean I can just pick up this book and figure out where to eat? We are going to the beach while the tide is coming in, so we need to set up further back…thank you newsletter!ReplyCancel

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