Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Matthew & I get a trip to London

Matt was sent by his employer to do some training in their London office and even though the timing was less than ideal, I HAD to tag along. This was our first international flight and we were pretty excited to be getting a stamp in our passport. 

After a very LONG and uncomfortable flight, we arrived in England and started exploring right away. 

We stopped into Neil's Yard for some pictures and shopping. 
Then we walked down to Buckingham Palace to check out the Royal House. I found myself very impressed with all of the gates, something we don't have a lot of in the States. The Palace gates were my favorite by far.
 Me and Queen Victoria. Gotta love the gold!
 Next to Buckingham is St. James Park. We didn't go too far into the park, but we were able to see some beautiful bridges, ponds and lots of pretty birds. 
 Monday, while Matt spent his day at the office, I tried to find some things to do that Matt wouldn't mind missing out on. I just started walking down the Thames and ended up walking for 6 hours straight and seeing a lot of cool sites. 

These are the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral, known for the beggar woman feeding the birds in Mary Poppins. Here are some tourists feeding the birds :)
 St. Paul's was beautiful. The grounds had some perfectly manicured gardens and the building itself is so impressive.
 Then I walked East down the Thames and crossed over using the Tower Bridge. Which, I thought was called the London Bridge, but I was wrong. 

I loved walking over this iconic bridge! Its very pretty in person. 
 Walking along the river allows for a lot of people watching and picture taking. I loved this little fish and chips stop. Seems very "London" to me and the well dressed resident smoking helped make this shot legit. 
 I came across the Globe Theater, where Shakespeare performed and took a little tour. For a thespian such as myself, this was pretty exciting to see. 
 After crossing Waterloo Bridge to the Northwest side of the river, I came to Big Ben and the Parliament. I was AMAZED at the intricacy and architecture of this building. 
I got in line with a thousand other tourists to take a tour of Westminster Abbey. 
 I was not disapointed. I was able to see some pretty old sculptures, famous tombs and walk the isle where many royals, including William and Kate, were married, sit near the coronation chair where kings and queens were crowned and knighted. 
 Photography was not allowed in the Abbey, but I couldn't help myself. This is a spot near the courtyard where Winston Churchill was known to sit and think after attending mass. So I sat and thought. 
 There were tombs and memorials all over the abby. I mean, ALL over. The walls and even the floor are covered in stones carved with names and dates. Some of them very famous like Rudyard Kipling, The Two Princes, Queen Elizabeth, King George, William Shakespear, Isaac Newton and many more. 
 The stained glass was stunning. 
 There is not an inch of the abbey that isn't decorated with intricate details. I loved it all!
 That night, a guy from Matt's London office took us to dinner 32 floors above the city. The views were amazing and the food was even better. 

 If you look closely, you can see (from right to left) St. Paul's Cathedral, The Tower Bridge and The Shard. I loved seeing all the old buildings mixed in with the new. 

Tuesday was a warm sunny day, so I spent most of it shopping in the outdoor market, Covent Gardens.
 There was an Opera singer inside the center that made my shopping experience unforgettable!
 Afterwards I walked over to Trafalgar Square to eat some lunch outdoors and enjoy some people watching. 
Walking back to the hotel I went down Fleet Street, where they have no Barber, and Drury Lane, where there is no Muffin Man. Major oversights, London.
 Tuesday was another beautiful day, and I got to meet up with my friend Brie and her daughter Wren who lives close to the city. She took me around Oxford Street to some amazing shops and restaurants. 
 We had afternoon tea and a really peculiar and eclectic spot called Sketch. I loved the tea, food and atmosphere! 
Next we walked to The Liberty to check out some beautiful fabrics and gifts ($$$) and then to Fortnum and Mason's for some more shopping ($$$) and delicious ice cream. I loved pretending like I could afford a pretty hat. 

That evening on my way back to the hotel I saw that the train had a subway stop called Abbey Way. So I made my way north to what I thought would be the iconic Beatles zebra crossing. 

When I ended up in a London slum (ALONE) I made my way back to the station to find a sign made especially for dumb tourists such as myself explaining that I was at the wrong Abbey Road. 
With directions from the sign, I made my way to the REAL crossing. Since I was on my own, a selfie was was good as I could get. It was a really beautiful area and it was cool to see such an iconic spot.
 That night, we celebrated Matt finishing his training and having the rest of the week to tour the city with me. He requested we re-do some of the spots that I went without him. 

We ate at Tuttons in Covent Garden and we will never forget this meal. It was AMAZING. It helped that we were eating out in the square where we could watch people and enjoy the music. It was a perfect night!
 After dinner we walked along the Thames at sunset to burn off some of the calories we had taken in. Things looked very different in the evening, but I loved showing Matt some of my favorite places. 
Westminster was closed, but it was nice to see the whole building from the outside without a single person around. 
 I love the spires from Parliament and the night made them seem so much bigger!
 Big Ben is lit up at night and makes it even more beautiful. We stood under for a while admiring the clock tower. 
 The night was beautiful!

Thursday morning we walked down to the water and ate some breakfast along the Thames.
There are some cool historical pieces down by the river, and we loved reading about their history.
 The views from the south bank are perfect and we enjoyed some of the sights from the river. 
 Our first adventure was to the London Dungeons, which is basically a permanent haunted house with some dark London history including Jack the Ripper, the Black plague and Sweeny Todd. It was a lot of fun, but we were not happy when the boat ride SOAKED us at the very beginning. 

When our clothes had dried a little, we took the train over to the Tower of London. 
We were excited to learn about some more intriguing history, and see some cool spots.
 The tower did not let us down. We got to see the Crown Jewels (wearing my Target jewelry….) and see a lot of historical pieces from thousands of years of royalty. 
 There is a lot of dark history too. Including some of the stories from the Bloody Tower, where two princes were murdered and later found. 
 This is the spot where many executions took place including that of Anne Bolyn and Lady Jane. 
 We took a tour from one of the resident Beefeaters. It was the highlight of my trip. He told us a lot of cool facts and it was neat to see some very interesting areas. In this picture you can see the Tower Bridge in the background, the Ravens that they keep on the grounds for superstitious reasons and the oldest wall in England, built by the Romans and partially destroyed in WWII. 
 Us, outside of the Tower standing where the moat used to be. 
 After a day full of walking on old cobblestone (and 5 days of walking for me!) we stopped in an Italian restaurant for some authentic pasta. 
  The plan was to spend our last day taking the chunnel train to Paris, but when we found the cost to be WAY more than we were expecting, we decided to stay in London and tour The British Museum. 
 There were TONS of old artifacts, statues and even mummies. 
 Matt, caught staring at some big busts. 
 Me, and some headless goddesses. 
 Rameses the II and Matthew the first. 
 My favorite part of the museum was see in the actual Rosetta Stone. Pretty cool. 
 The architecture of the museum was incredible. 
 Matt's favorite pieces were the Assyrian Lion Hunt carvings. They were really cool and very well preserved. 
After the museum, we did a little last minute shopping at a toy store and then happened upon a pub to rest our feet. 
We ended our trip with a beer at the oldest English pub, The White Heart. 

We feel so lucky that we were able to take this trip. Its not every day that you are offered a chance to go over seas, and we had a blast doing so. THANK YOU to my parents for taking care of our boys and to our neighbor Erica for feeding our zoo while we were gone. 

No comments: