Written by Tom Thrun.
“I saw a group of travel agents drinking pina coladas at Trader Vics and their hair was perfect, ah ooooo….werewolves of London….” Well not exactly, their hair wasn’t perfect, but it pretty much sums up the 1999 edition of the Classic Travel annual Christmas trip.
For the last Christmas office party of the 20th century, the C.T.I. staff decided to embark on a two night excellent adventure to London. With help from our friend Kristy, at Northwest Airlines, we flew nonstop from Detroit on Wednesday evening arriving at Gatwick airport Thursday morning. We were met at the airport by Elite Tours for our private transfer to the party head quarters- The Kensington Palace Hotel on Hyde Park. After checking in, everyone in the group scattered for the afternoon with most opting for a Christmas shopping excursion to Harrods. That evening we were met by ‘our man in London’, Alan Foster, the owner of Elite Tours, for a city tour and Elizabethan Banquet.
The Banquet was cheesier than cheap Cheshire, but it was perfect for a group of holiday hooligans looking to party. Joy and I officially met at one of these banquets 20 years ago when she was my serving wench (the first and last time this ever happened) so the whole thing brought back special memories for us. Our regal manager Angela and her husband Dr. Greg Brya, highly respected dentist and former manservant to Joy, were selected Queen and King of our table. Heaping amounts of food was served by wenches and the ale and wine flowed as a jester juggled knives over Sadie Helderman’s head, another typical Classic Travel Christmas party.
On Friday morning most of us were nursing a medieval hang over, but everyone recovered and set out to explore one of the great cities in the world. Bleary-eyed staffers went off in all different directions. Day tours, the Tower of London, Notting Hill, Portobello Road, The British Museum, Theatre and more shopping.
After a hazy late start, my small posse found the line at the tower a little too long to remain standing so we retreated to a pub to formulate a plan ‘B’. After a couple of pints, the monumental decision was made to go to the London Dungeon. The night before Alan Foster had told us that he doesn’t recommend the Dungeon because “it’s gruesome and a bit tacky”, so we HAD to go. It lived up to it’s billing, animatronic dummies depict actual Dark Age tortures and demented human actors take you through the “Jack the ripper experience.” The tour ended with a beheading complete with splattering blood. It was cool, but after countless Classic Travel staff meetings it wasn’t all that scary.
On our last evening we took a short pub-crawl, but later decided to take over the bar at the Kensington Palace Hotel. The party continued into the wee hours and was to end with the traditional headstand form the honorary lord mayor of London, Scott Arnold. A hush came over the bar as Scotty did an impressive although wobbly maneuver against the wall of the bar. Then out of nowhere trip photographer and London rookie, Jessica Sawyer, completed a perfect unaided headstand in the middle of the floor to thunderous drunken applause.
This is why we always leave town, if not the country for our office Christmas party every year. We encourage you to do the same. You can put that lampshade on your head and everyone back home will be none the wiser.