I've booked my trip. Now I just have to get my passport sorted out and I'll be all set to go, and I will fufill my wish of going to Europe before I turn 30. Well, going to London anyway. I was going to throw Paris into the mix but I've decided to concentrate on the UK this trip and see France another time.
The exchange rate for the Canadian dollar is pretty good - 2.0306, down from 2.5 something the last time I was planning to go. I'll be out of the country for the election, which is a blessing, although I wish I could be out of the country for the election campaign. It's so bloody depressing - the campaign signs out in front of houses all decorated for Christmas (or, as I like to call it, "the holiday that dare not speak its name").
I found a place to stay, in a hotel in Bayswater, just north of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park (I keep wanting to type "High Park" but of course that's here in Toronto) and west of Paddington Station, where the Heathrow express train ends up. Super convenient.
My room will cost $400 Canadian for 6 nights, which I think is a bargain, considering this is London we're talking about, and that includes a full English breakfast, also known as a fry-up. Lots of grease and sugar - hooray! It's a tiny, centrally-heated room furnished with a twin bed, a "washhand basin" and a bathroom - a North American-style bathroom, with a toilet and a shower, and not a British bathroom, which is a room with a bathtub in it. The hotel looks a bit like Fawlty Towers, but it's gotten rave reviews and repeat business, so I think it will be OK.
I'm planning at least one day trip to do some genealogical research - I'm going to go to Hastings-St Leonards, where my mother's father was from. It's about an hour-and-a-half by train. I might also go to Birmingham, to the Jewellery Quarter, home of Kathleen Dayus, who wrote a memoir of growing up in the slums there in the early 20th century. I read Her People when I was about 11 years old and found it fascinating - I've re-read it pretty much every year since then, so it would be wonderful to actually see it, and it's not too far from London - I think it's two hours on the train. We'll see.
So that's something to look forward to after the hype of Christmas and during the dark days of early January. I'll be home in time to go to a conference (it's in Toronto so I won't have to go very far!) and to celebrate the big 3-oh.