london day 9

Our last day in London wasn’t a full day, but almost.  We started out with breakfast on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral.  We bought a variety of (terribly unhealthy and un-vegan) breakfast pastries (four mini jam-filled donuts to share, a lemon filled muffin and croissant for me, and a cinnamon roll for Danny) at M & S Simply Food across the street from St. Paul’s and ate them on the front steps.  We were the only ones there at that early hour of the morning, and we didn’t even have to fight off any pigeons…you could say it was a major success.

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After breakfast we went inside and did some of the audio guide tour and wandered around the cathedral for an hour before our 10am guided tour.  Our guided tour took a little over an hour and a half and one of the perks was that we were able to snap a few photos, while most visitors are not allowed to do so.  The inside of St. Paul’s is much different from Westminster Abbey, which is probably London’s most famous church, and although I’m sure a list a mile long could be made with the differences between the two, the one that I noticed the most is the lighting.  St. Paul’s is flooded with light and it’s (primarily) white walls/ceilings/etc. really help as well.  Our tour also took us to see a staircase that was used in the Harry Potter movies, which means very little to me, but was interesting for Danny (and basically everyone else on our tour).

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After the guided tour, we took the stairs up to the gallery and the two upper levels of the dome.  It was a hazy day in London, but if you look hard, you can see some of the most well-known landmarks of London’s skyline, in particular the Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge, the Shard, and the London Eye.

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When we finished up at St. Paul’s, it was much more crowded than when we arrived.  One thing that I realized on our trip was the huge benefits of going early or going late to popular attractions.  I just find places much more enjoyable when there aren’t throngs of people all over, and St. Paul’s was no exception.

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Since our breakfast was so successful (both tasty and inexpensive), we went back to M & S Simply Food for lunch and carried our goodies across the Thames on the Millennium Bridge to eat outside the Tate Modern.  It was a busy area with lots of pigeons vying for our crumbs and people for our seats, but fun too – lots of street performers and interesting people to watch and entertain us while we ate.

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After lunch we walked along the Thames one last time to get back to our room and snuck in one last look at the London Eye as well.  We packed our bags, which took longer than anticipated, and chatted with Irene, our host, for a bit before we headed out.  I mailed a few postcards, and we took the tube from Waterloo to King’s Cross, where we transferred to St. Pancras and waited for the Eurostar to Paris.

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I think my expectations for the Eurostar were a bit high.  I mean, our first disappointment came as we waited for the train and there was only one restaurant for the entire Eurostar waiting area.  Plus, the train just seemed to have seen better days, the food onboard was sub par (and expensive) and we never really knew what was going on – communication between staff and passengers was nonexistent.  We boarded the train at 5:15pm and in less than an hour, we were in France.  It was obvious, not because we could tell we had just come out from underneath the English Channel (we couldn’t), but because it just looked different.  It was beautiful – the sky was a pretty shade of light pink and the countryside was charming.  The train was going so fast, though, that taking (decent) pictures was impossible.  We shared a mushroom risotto and fruit couscous onboard, but mostly we looked out the window and read magazines and newspapers.

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DSC09942Two hours after we left London, we were in Paris.  The Eurostar may not have ‘wowed’ us, but all we really needed was a way to get from one place to another, and it certainly did that.  We waited in line for a taxi for about an hour, and eventually made it to our next humble abode and met Etienne, whose apartment we’d be staying at for the next five nights.  He showed us around, we unpacked a little, put some laundry in the washer, and went to bed.  Unfortunately, the washer woke us up repeatedly throughout the night with its bizarre alarm feature and ended up breaking completely…but that’s a story for another time.

DSC09949All things considered, day 9 was pretty good.  We saw one of London’s most famous churches, walked along the Thames, and ate our first reasonably priced breakfast and lunch.  Packing up and traveling to Paris was not my favorite – anytime I’m hauling a suitcase up stairs (oh wait, Danny did that, not me) and on a subway and through throngs of people more skilled at packing light than me, I’m stressed.  But we made it to Paris without too many complications and once we got to our apartment and found that it was just as the pictures had portrayed it, it was worth it.  Seeing some neat things plus traveling to another country and not running into much trouble…I’d say it was a successful day.

Check out day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 5, day 6, day 7, and day 8 of our time in London, too.

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london day 8

Danny’s birthday was yesterday, and we spent the weekend in Greeley celebrating and spending time with family and friends.  Now we’re back home and back to work and it’s time to get these posts finished up – they’re halfway done, after all!

On our 8th day in London, we weren’t really in London at all.  We got up early and took the tube from Westminster to Victoria and walked to the Victoria Coach Station, as that’s where the bus left for our tour of Stonehenge and Bath.  While we waited for the bus (which ended up being over 30 minutes late), we got muffins for breakfast at a Cafe Nero across the street, and just in case you ever think about doing the same thing, don’t – they were one of the worst things I ate on our trip!

Our double-decker bus from Premium Tours drove us to Stonehenge, which was about a two-hour journey.  As we got closer, we were able to see Stonehenge from the road, which was neat.

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Once the bus parked, we got our tickets and audio guides and took another bus closer to Stonehenge.  We spent about 30 minutes walking on the designated paths and doing only a few bits and pieces of the audio guide since I wasn’t as interested in the whys of Stonehenge as I am in the hows (how did the stones get there?  How do they stay standing up like that?  And how do they not blow over in big storms?), and the audio guide seemed to be the focus on the hows.  Sorry all of the pictures basically look the same, but in my defense, there’s really only one thing to see there, so…

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We decided to walk back instead of taking the little safari-bus, which in hindsight was a poor choice.  We should have taken the bus and spent the thirty minutes we spent walking looking around the visitor’s center.  Oh well.  It was a pretty and peaceful walk, and it was nice to be outside since we spent a large portion of the day on the bus.

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We took our double-decker bus for another hour to Bath, where we arrived around 1pm.  We made a point of trying to find somewhere for lunch right away, because otherwise it might not have happened at all.  We had a tendency on this trip to get so caught up in seeing things that we’d eat breakfast at 11am, lunch at 4 in the afternoon, and dinner at 9pm, which resulted in a fair amount of hunger and, sometimes, getting frustrated with situations and with each other more easily than usual.  So anytime we ate a meal at a fairly normal time was a good choice.  We stumbled upon Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen, and are so glad we did.  It was probably the best meal of our trip.  We split six ‘small plates’ – garlic broccoli, carrot and cashew pate, sautéed rosemary potatoes, hummus with bread and olives, polenta chips and seasonal ketchup, and falafel.  I know that some of those things sound weird, but it was all really, really good – and all vegan, too.

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After lunch, we wandered along a few of Bath’s extremely charming streets before touring the Roman Baths.  Now, let me be honest about something here.  When I got a postcard of the Roman Baths from my sweet friend Amanda, I came to believe that they were dreadfully boring, and any research I did online and in guidebooks while planning our trip only confirmed that.  Amanda didn’t say or infer that it was boring, the guidebooks and the websites didn’t, I just somehow got that idea in my head and it stuck.  Because of that, while in Bath I planned to stay away from the Roman Baths if at all possible, because they just seemed so dreadful.

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However, and I’m sure you can guess what I’m going to say next, we accidentally ran into the Roman Baths in our wanderings (it’s not a very big town), and Danny really wanted to go in.  Like really wanted to go in.  So we did, and, like so many things on this trip, I’m so glad we did.

We both found the Roman Baths to be fascinating and really neat – the museum is large and audio guide is well done and really brings the baths and all of the artifacts to life.  It was all just so interesting, and well worth the $44 it cost to get in.  I think it’s obvious, but my expectations for the Roman Baths were very much exceeded.

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We finished up at the Roman Baths around 3pm and walked along the river to the Pulteney Bridge, where we each picked out a treat and shared a lemon macaroon (my first one ever, and now I’m hooked!).  We ate our raspberry tarts overlooking the park and the river.  Isn’t Bath lovely?

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DSC09854At 4:30pm, we boarded our bus back to London and on the way home we both nodded off a few times but spent most of the time enjoying the beautiful English countryside.  We arrived back at Westminster Bridge around 8pm and had dinner at Ned’s Noodle Bar, a place we’d walked by nearly everyday and had wanted to try when we had a chance.  I didn’t really like noodles, but I think it was just the sauce I chose.  Thankfully, Danny liked his, but since I was still hungry, I got some frozen yogurt from an old double-decker bus that was set up along the Thames.  We also spent a while at Foyle’s bookstore, where we picked out a magnet for our fridge and enjoyed browsing the books – comics for Danny and travel guides for me (always planning!).

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Day 8 was really one of my favorite days.  We both enjoyed Bath very much, and sometime we’d like very much to go back and stay a couple of days.  I was pleasantly surprised by Stonehenge, probably because most people we’d talked to were really disappointed with it and said they wouldn’t necessarily recommend going.  Because of that, I think we had very low expectations, and ended up really enjoying it.  We did spend a lot of the day on the bus – probably around six or seven hours – and we didn’t bring anything to do during the ride because I wanted to look out the window and enjoy the countryside.  Well, that’s what I ended up doing, but I think I would have been just as happy to look out the window for half of that time and read a book or magazine(s) for the other three hours.

Regardless, being on a tour was pretty much as I had expected.  Sometimes it was frustrating to be on someone else’s time table and not be able to decide for ourselves how much time we wanted to spend at each location, and having to wait for people who were consistently late getting back to the bus was a little annoying, but it was also really nice to be taken from place to place and not have to do as much planning.  In fact, basically the only thing I planned for day 8 was how to get to the bus station and I also read a few articles on what to do in Bath in three hours, but other than that, it was a planning-free day…which was awesome for me.

Check out day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 5, day 6, and day 7 too, if you’d like.

london day 7

Tuesday, day 7 of our time in London, marked one week since we’d left home.  Day 7 was also our last full day in London, and one of my very favorites.  We saw some really iconic, historic places…and we went back to three different parks.

We walked across Westminster Bridge to Westminster Abbey in order to arrive right when it opened at 9:30am.  Unfortunately, Danny and I had some sort of miscommunication and as soon as we got inside, we left to find some breakfast so we walked back to Cafe Nero and then back to Westminster Abbey.  It made for kind of a rough start as I was frustrated, Danny was hungry, and it just started the day out on the wrong foot.  We wandered around the abbey for a while before our 10:30am verger-led tour, which we found very interesting.  Our verger was actually in William and Kate’s wedding back in 2011 when they got married at Westminster Abbey, in fact, he led the procession and sat up front on the stage throughout the whole ceremony.  I asked him a bit about it, and he said it was simply an amazing experience.

No pictures were allowed inside of Westminster Abbey, so we only have a few from the outside of the building, once our tour was over and we were on our way to find some lunch.

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DSC09688We had veggie wraps at a Presbyterian church cafe across the street for lunch, and walked from there to the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms.  It was kind of a last-minute choice to go the Churchill War Rooms (shortened, because that is a long name to type over and over!), and I’m really glad we did.  Honestly, I don’t think either one of us knew a lot about Winston Churchill going in to it – I know that my education concerning World War II focused primarily on the U.S., which makes sense considering I went to school here in the States, but it is a rather narrow view, as World War II obviously had a much more far-reaching effect on Europe and its people.  That being said, I think we both learned a lot from our time at the Churchill War Rooms.  We did the entire audio guide tour, which covered both the war rooms and the museum, and enjoyed it very much.  The museum was interactive and well done, and the war rooms were just fascinating – the way we saw them is the way they were left the day the war ended in Britain.  All in all, we were so glad we went.  Plus, Danny got to try on a jumpsuit just like the ones Mr. Churchill liked to wear, which was fun.

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After the war rooms, we walked to Buckingham Palace via St. James Park, where we stopped for fruit and oatmeal cookies (so good!) at Inn the Park.  Our tickets indicated that we had a 3:15pm tour of Buckingham Palace, which we found out wasn’t so much a tour as a “this is the time you’re allowed to come inside.”

We toured the State Rooms and saw the Royal Childhood Exhibit, both of which I enjoyed very much.  No photos were allowed, just like at Westminster Abbey, but it was okay because it allowed me to really look around and enjoy instead of trying to make sure I was capturing everything I wanted to as well.  The State Rooms were grand and looked just like all the pictures I’d seen of them.  And we really were lucky to be visiting at the same time as the Royal Childhood Exhibit – I had such fun seeing gifts that Prince George has received, such as a baby blanket and a rocking horse from President and Mrs. Obama, a trike from the Mayor of London, his christening gown, and his birth announcement.  We also saw many of William and Harry’s toys and clothes, home videos of the Queen as a child, and so many more artifacts from the childhood of a variety of modern royals.  It was really such a fun, well done exhibit, and Buckingham Palace really wowed me.

After our time indoors, we enjoyed some fancy (and pricy!) scones with strawberries and cream at the cafe outside the palace, checked out the gift store, and walked through the grounds, which were beautiful, but noticeably not as maintained as some of the parks that are open to the public that we visited, which I found interesting.

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On our way from Buckingham Palace to Hyde Park, we stopped for veggie pasties and an apple raspberry dessert pasty to share.  We ate our veggie pasties while walking to the park, and shared the dessert pasty on a bench in a corner of Hyde Park we hadn’t discovered before.  We enjoyed an especially beautiful sunset as we kept walking through Hyde Park to Kensington Gardens, and then through some parts of Kensington Gardens we hadn’t seen our first time through, and once it was dark, onto the Kensington High Street tube station.  We took the underground to Westminster and walked along the Thames and across the bridge back to our room.  Usually, the London Eye was lit up in blue lights, but that night, it was red.

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As I mentioned before, I really enjoyed day 7.  Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace were two things I had really been looking forward to, and they didn’t disappoint.  And the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms was a fun, unexpected gem that we both liked very much.  And, of course, you know me and my love affair with London’s parks.  Getting to go to St. James Park, Hyde Park, and Kensington Gardens all in one day?  Well, it was a really good day.

Check out day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 5, and day 6 too, if you’d like.

london day 6

On Monday, the sixth day of our trip to London, we started out with a change of plans.  Our London Pass came with a handy little book that featured everything included in the pass, and one of those things was a tour of Wimbledon – the tennis courts, not the town.  Well, as soon as Danny saw that in there, it was evident that he wanted to go, and I’m not going to lie, I was not pumped.  I mean, go all the way to London and spend half a day looking at tennis courts?! On Sunday night, Danny decided that it was a ‘must-see’ for him, and after taking a hard look at what we still wanted to do and the time we had left, I decided that switching out Windsor Castle for Wimbledon would make the most sense.  So, Monday morning, instead of taking the train to Windsor, we took the train to Wimbledon (the town), then took a bus and walked through some pretty neighborhoods, and arrived in at the complex in time for the 10:30am tour.  The tour was 90 minutes long, and was very good….at least I think it was.  I wouldn’t be the one to ask about what exactly we saw or should have seen, but I know that we saw a grassy hill that people sit on, the room that players use to give interviews to the media, and a lot of tennis courts of varying levels of importance.  Last night, I asked Danny what he thought about the tour, and he said that he liked it and thought it was really interesting.  He also mentioned how it was neat seeing behind the scenes, and how he enjoyed the museum as well.  So there you go – the perspective of someone who paid a bit more attention than me ;) DSC09587 DSC09589 DSC09591 DSC09592 DSC09598 After the tour we Danny spent an hour looking around the museum.  It was really well done, but I just couldn’t appreciate it as much as someone who actually knows and watches tennis.  I mean, the most I’d seen of Wimbledon prior to our visit was the pictures of Kate and William that emerge every summer when they go to watch their favorite players battle it out.  Kate always wears white and makes a lot of funny faces.  But, I digress.  In the museum, there were tons of artifacts, like tennis rackets, tennis outfits, tennis balls, and a trophy, which seeing how it was in a big case in the middle of the room, I figured it was important and made Danny take a picture with it. DSC09599 Yes.  It is possible that the winners of Wimbledon get that trophy, but I can’t make any guarantees.  I do know that it says Gentleman’s Singles Trophy underneath, but that’s about all. After Danny had seen enough of the museum, we went to the restaurant, where we had the fanciest pasties of our whole trip.  They were served on real dishes with nice utensils (I thought pasties were a finger food until then), but the real highlight was that we ordered two scones with jam and cream and I got to eat both of them.  I guess Danny was feeling generous since I had just spent three hours looking at tennis courts and memorabilia on his account.  Either that or I guilted him into it.  ;) DSC09600 After our tasty lunch, we took a bus back to the train station and the train back to Waterloo Station where we took the tube to Madame Tussaud’s.  Sigh.  I thought going to the wax museum was a decent idea until Amanda, our friend who spent a semester in London, made sure I knew it definitely was not.  However, I never tried to talk Danny out of it because he was so so so excited about it from the minute we knew we were going on this trip, and I figured if he was going to go all the way to London with me for nine days, I could indulge him and go to Madame Tussaud’s.  It turns out I should have listened to Amanda after all, because $90 and less than an hour later, I was disgusted.  Robbery, I say, robbery!  Danny had a pretty good time, though, if the 297 Instagram photos he took while we were there are any indication.  I should note that if you don’t know who all of the people are in these pictures (besides Danny and me), you’re not alone – I’m not so sure about some of them either.  And the reason I didn’t post a photo of just me and Kate?  It does not look like her.  And that dress is not even a replica of something she’s worn before, so no.  Just no. DSC09605 DSC09606 DSC09610 DSC09612 DSC09613 DSC09614 DSC09616 DSC09624 DSC09629 DSC09622 DSC09633 DSC09635We left Madame Tussaud’s after I filled out a customer comment card telling them just what I thought about their little ‘museum,’ and walked around Regent’s Park a little bit.  It just didn’t feel like the other parks we had enjoyed so much – different crowd, not as well-kept up, and so on – so we took the tube to South Kensington and tried to go to the Victoria & Albert Museum again, but they were in the process of closing.  Next time we’re in London, we’ll have to make a conscious effort about getting to the Victoria & Albert first thing in the morning and staying as long as we want to since this time we seemed to spend a lot of time being shooed out by museum guards (remember day 2?). From there, we went on to Hyde Park.  We walked all around and all throughout that pretty park, and stopped near the Serpentine restaurant for some sweet treats – a berry coffee cake and a millionaire bar to share.  It was a beautiful, beautiful time of day, and we stayed till it was dark.  Is there a such thing as too much of Hyde Park?  I submit that there is not. DSC09645 DSC09647 DSC09649 DSC09651 DSC09659Once it was sufficiently dark, we walked along Oxford Street to Selfridge’s.  We wanted to check out another department store besides Harrod’s, and I’m glad we did.  Harrod’s just feels so…claustrophobic…to me, with its low ceilings and crowded rooms, so I was pleasantly surprised by Selfridge’s spacious, open floor plan.  We ate a late dinner after spending what felt like hours checking out the different dining options and settling on Selfridge’s Kitchen.  We both had big house salads with toppings like sweet corn, roasted red peppers, quinoa, avocado, and falafel.  I’m not really a salad girl, but these were good.  We wandered around the store until they closed at 9pm, and even picked out a London Christmas ornament for our tree which I found shattered when I opened my suitcase at home.  Seriously very sad about that.  If you’re going to London between now and Christmas (or anytime, really), I will pay you kindly to pick up another…  Anyways, the following two photos make me laugh every single time I see them.  I don’t know why, it was just one of the funniest, light-hearted moments of our trip. DSC09668 DSC09669 After we got politely shooed out of Selfridge’s (am I sensing a theme here?), we took the tube back to Waterloo, and walked along the Thames for just about 15 minutes before we called it a night. Day 6 wasn’t my favorite day, but what I did like about it was that we got to do a lot of things that Danny was really into.  And honestly, Wimbledon was interesting, even if I didn’t really ‘get’ most of it.   Of course, my highlight, if not the pictures we took with those goofy pillows at Selfridge’s, was walking around Hyde Park.  If Colorado Springs could make a Hyde Park replica right by our apartment, I would be more than okay with that. Check out day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, and day 5, too if you want!

london day 5

After seeing how tired we were on Saturday night, we decided to take it easy on Sunday…although now that I look back on what we did, it seems that we stayed just as busy as usual!  We slept in…or tried to, and researched a place for breakfast.  We wanted to break out of the ‘toast and a banana’ routine for breakfast, so we went to Giraffe, the place we had those tasty desserts on day 3.  We were happy to find that they had a vegetarian English breakfast, complete with toast, baked beans, mushrooms, vegetarian sausage, potato wedges, and avocado slices.    Hands down, the best breakfast of our trip.

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After our delicious (and hearty!) breakfast, we walked along the Thames to the City Cruises dock at the London Eye.  We took the boat all the way to the Tower of London, where we stopped to pick up and drop off some folks, and onto Greenwich.  My Aunt Becky had recommended Greenwich to us, plus I was looking for any way to stay on a boat for as long as possible, so we decided to give Greenwich a try.   We’re so glad we did.  On the way there, it was kind of like a boat tour of everything we’d done the day before, which was fun…

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DSC09416We arrived in Greenwich about an hour after leaving the London Eye, and we started out by wandering around a little bit – we saw the Cutty Sark (only from the outside), some cute Greenwich streets, and (accidentally) found the Greenwich Market.  I got lasagna and Danny got stuffed eggplant from a lady who makes and sells fancy (and delicious!) vegan food from her booth at the market.  We also came across some amazing looking desserts and lo and behold, they were ALL vegan.  I died.  We both got a slice of Victoria sponge cake and a treat for later – a peanut butter cupcake for me and a brownie for Danny.

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As we ate our dessert, we walked around the Old Royal Naval College.  We also took a tour of the Painted Hall, which was amazing – the ceiling alone took 19 years to paint.  We also checked out the chapel across the way, which was neat, but not quite as show-stopping as the Great Hall.

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We went back to the market real quick because I decided I wanted to buy a few scarves I had seen while wandering around earlier, and then we ran (literally) back to the boat so we could catch the 3:00pm boat back to the London Eye.  This time, we rode on the top of the boat (on the way there we sat on the inside and only went outside when the boat stopped at the Tower of London), as it was much less crowded, and it seemed warmer as well.

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We hurried back from Greenwich because in the morning we bought two tickets for the London Eye – one to be used before 4:30pm, and one to be used between 4:30pm and closing.  We got on the Eye a little after 4pm, and spent the next thirty minutes oohing and aahing at London from the sky.  The London Eye is expensive, but in my mind, it’s worth it.  Especially the way we did it – two rides is only five pounds more than a single ride.  And, I just realized that 90% of my London Eye pictures are of Big Ben/Houses of Parliament.  Oops…

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After our (first) trip on the London Eye, we walked to Trafalgar Square and finished seeing the National Portrait Gallery before they closed at 6pm.  We stopped for a few pictures outside by the lions before walking to Pret-a-manger across the street for some sustenance – an avocado wrap for Danny and a berry smoothie for me.  We ate/drank while walking down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace, and then cutting into St. James Park where we walked from bench to bench, enjoying that beautiful time of day right before the sun sets, as well as some little critters.

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From St. James Park we walked by Buckingham Palace and into Green Park.  Green Park was peaceful and quiet and felt so removed from the busyness that is London.  I especially loved the tree-lined walkway that cut through the middle of the park.

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We walked back the London Eye via St. James Park (I just can’t get enough of that place) and took our second ride of the day over London.  We probably should have gotten on about 15 – 30 minutes earlier if we wanted to catch the sunset from the Eye, but it was lovely anyways.  Not a lot of pictures to share because I discovered that I’m not skilled at getting clear photos at night, especially not from a glass capsule.

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DSC09584After the Eye, we ate the treats we’d saved from the Greenwich Market along the Southbank, and got back to our apartment by 9pm…quite early for us on this trip.  We planned for the next day and hit the hay.

Day 5 was one of my very favorite days in London.  Taking a boat to Greenwich and back was relaxing and a great way to see London, and learn along the way as well, as we had humorous and informative tour guides on both legs of the trip.  We absolutely loved Greenwich and Danny promised me that someday we’d go back.  Next time we’re in London, I might actually stay in Greenwich for part (or all!) of our trip, it was just that charming, and there’s so much to do there, too.  And, of course, I love the London Eye.  We had a fairly cloudy day, but hey, it’s London.  And honestly, one of the best parts of the whole day was the food.  From breakfast to lunch to all of the desserts and snacks in between, we really ate well.  I’d do this day all over again tomorrow if I could.

Check out day 1, day 2, day 3, and day 4 of our time in London, if you’d like.

 

 

london day 4

On Saturday, our fourth day in London, we made it to the Tower of London around 9:30am.  I had really been looking forward to going to the Tower of London not necessarily to see the Tower itself, but to see the poppies.  If you’ve been around these parts for any length of time, you know I’m a fan of our girl Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, which is how I knew about the poppies (she visited with William and Harry back in August). DSC09315 Between August 5th and November 11th, 888,246 ceramic poppies will be planted in the Tower of London’s moat to mark 100 years since Britain’s involvement in World War I.  Each poppy represents a British life that was lost during the war.   After November 11th, the poppies will be sold to raise money for service-oriented charities.  The installation is truly a sight to behold and a beautiful way to commemorate such a horrific loss of life.  If you want, you can read more on the Tower Poppies here. I was so excited that we would be in London while the poppies were/are at the Tower, and I wasn’t disappointed.  It was a stunning display – and it’s not even completed yet. DSC09317We got on the 10am Beefeater tour, and it was definitely a highlight of our visit to the Tower.  Our beefeater, Simon, was charismatic and LOUD, which was good, since our group was large – probably between 50 and 75 people (I’m bad at estimating though). DSC09326 We also did some exploring of the Tower on our own.  We saw the Crown Jewels, a display of torture devices, armor worn by various kings, and more.  My favorite part, besides the poppies, was just walking around the ancient fortress – it’s really grand. DSC09319 DSC09321 DSC09330 DSC09331 DSC09332 DSC09334 After we finished up at the Tower, we went to Tower Bridge, and took the elevator up to the top, where we got to walk across the Thames from the top of the bridge.  It was one of those things that we probably wouldn’t have paid for and done on our own, but since it was included in our London Pass and we had time, we decided to do it.  It was pretty cool to hear about the making of Tower Bridge, and then get to go to the top as well. DSC09335 DSC09337 DSC09344 DSC09346 After crossing the bridge, we walked along the Thames in an attempt to find Borough Market.  I’d heard about Borough Market not only from my guide books, but also from friends who have spent time in London, which meant that it was probably worth checking out.  We finally found it, but it was so crowded, we almost gave up on the spot.  We stood in a long line for veggie burgers, only to find out that they didn’t have any buns left, and since we’re not especially carb-conscious, we kept looking and settled on a spicy lentil fajita and pumpkin tortellini, which we ate at the base of the Shard.  And, in the interest of full transparency, I was a little grumpy at this point.  I wrote in my notes that I made about the day, so I figure I should be honest and mention it.  I mean, in my defense, it was around 3pm that we were finally eating lunch, but then again, Danny was still in good spirits, so I had no excuse.  Just thought you should know that our trip wasn’t all laughs and smiles ;) DSC09353 DSC09354 DSC09355 After regaining some positivity (and full bellies), we headed to the HMS Belfast, where we started things out on a good note with some lemon cake from the cafe.  We did a good portion of the audio guide as we took a self-guided tour of the HMS Belfast, a Royal Navy light cruiser that was launched in 1938 and decommissioned in 1963.  I’ve always enjoyed touring ships, and have such fond memories of touring the USS Midway with my family in San Diego a few years ago, so I knew that if we had time, I wanted to check out the Belfast.  We had great views of the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, as well as all of the activity that happens on and along the Thames.  I really enjoyed seeing the areas for the crew: where they slept, ate, saw the doctor, sent their mail, etc.  The HMS Belfast was another place I had read negative reviews for, and considered skipping it because of them, but I’m glad we went.  It was one of the least crowded places we visited (major plus) and it was fun to explore and learn together. DSC09356 DSC09360 DSC09361 DSC09362 DSC09365 DSC09367 DSC09368 DSC09370After seeing all we wanted to at the Belfast, we rushed along the Thames, across a bridge, and then jogged for a few blocks so we could reach the Monument before 4:30pm – the time of their last admission.  We climbed the 311 steps to the top, where we took in the view and enjoyed the benefits of being some of the last people in – no crowds.  Formally called The Monument to the Great Fire of London, the Monument is just that – a memorial made to commemorate the Great Fire of London that happened in 1666.  The Monument was built between 1671 and 1677, on the site of the first church to burn down in the fire.  It’s not the best view you’ll get of London, that’s for sure, but it is neat to be not so high up that everything just looks like toys.  We were low enough to not only see but appreciate rooftop gardens, but high enough that the noise of the streets couldn’t reach us. DSC09371 DSC09375 DSC09378We decided to walk back to the Tower of London after the Monument closed because I wanted to get a picture of the two of us in front of the poppies, something we hadn’t done in the morning.  Upon arrival, though, we came upon large crowds being held back by barricades and a host of important looking individuals.  Rumors spread that Prince Harry was coming, and/or ‘a VIP from another country,’ and then it was decided that it was just some people from the Invictus Games, but after doing a bit of reconnaissance work, I now know it was Jill Biden.  Well.  What a bummer that we couldn’t identify her at the time, but pretty neat that we were there visiting the poppies at the same time.  And, once we gave up on seeing Prince Harry, (“there aren’t enough people with guns here for a royal,” said one member of the crowd), we got our photo. DSC09387 DSC09385 We ate dinner next door at Wagamama, where we found bad service and ridiculous prices.  We had two (appetizer) orders of fried dumplings and two bowls of fried rice (also from the appetizer menu) for $28.  I had such a good experience at Wagamama the last time I was in London, but now that I’m paying and not just enjoying, I pay more attention to prices and value and so on and so forth, and I know Wagamama’s not worth it.   After dinner we walked along the Thames to the Tate Modern.  Danny was really looking forward to the Tate, so we visited all three floors and saw basically everything in only about an hour and a half.  Frankly, though, we weren’t impressed.  I guess modern art’s just not our thing. DSC09388 DSC09389 We walked back to our room along the Thames, feeling so exhausted.  We stopped for an almond torta at Cafe Nero right as they were closing, so we ate outside.  This would be a good time to mention how much I loved the Southbank, especially the area near Festival Hall, the Southbank Center, and the London Eye.  I might have said it before, but the combination of fun restaurants, street performers, and the Thames is just perfect.  We couldn’t get enough. DSC09391 All in all, day four was good.  It wasn’t my favorite, and I’m not proud of getting grumpy around lunchtime, but we saw some neat things and spent almost all day along the Thames. And in case you missed day 1, day 2, or day 3, feel free to check them out too!

london day 3

We started day 3 with a 30-minute train ride to Hampton Court.  We spent the morning at Hampton Court Palace, and you can read all about our time at Hampton Court here.  I did a separate post on it because 1) it took up a good chunk of the day, 2) there are enough pictures that would make this post a beast to scroll through, and 3) it’s Hampton Court Palace!  Totally deserving of its own post.

We arrived back at Waterloo Station from Hampton Court around 1:30pm and took the tube to Warwick Avenue, and then walked to Little Venice, where we got in line for Jason’s Original Canal Boat tour.  When we were thinking about buying a London Pass, I looked through everything it included, and was especially interested in anything that included water.  I knew that if we bought the London Pass, I’d try as hard as possible to take advantage of the canal boat trip and the Thames river cruise.  In the end, we were able to do both, and they were definitely highlights of the trip for me.  A few pictures aboard the boat…

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…and our trip through the canal…

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We went through tunnels, floated by beautiful homes and houseboats, saw the London Zoo, passed under bridges, enjoyed some fall colors…it was really the best.  My apologizes for the excessive amount of photos, but it was just the best.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the couple in front of us who had lots of comments to make about our tour guide who was a little…funny.  I felt like we could definitely be friends with them and I got a lot of laughs while overhearing their commentary about our ride, the guide, and everything in between.

Forty-five minutes later, we arrived in Camden, and got off the boat.  We hadn’t eaten lunch at this point, and yes, it was past 3pm.  I know.  Bad choice.  BUT, it was okay because we found some amazing, delicious food immediately and sat down and ate it next to the canal.  Without a doubt, THE BEST falafel I have ever had.  It didn’t even remotely taste like the falafel I’ve been eating and ‘enjoying’ for so many years.  Where have you been my whole life, delicious falafel?!  At Camden Market, that’s where.

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We then walked through the market – SO MUCH TO SEE – and came across some pretty paintings we liked.  The indecisive part of me was really on the fence about buying art on the second day of our trip, but the part of me that often misses out because of being indecisive said to go for it.  So we did.  We bought a beautiful painting of London that is in need of a frame but already has a spot on the living room wall reserved for it.  And, we cheated a little and bought a painting of Paris as well, because, well, if we were in a semi-decisive mood we figured we’d better take advantage of it.  The entire ‘shop’ was made up of artwork by art students at a nearby college, which we really loved being able to support.

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We also stopped for some squeezed-on-the-spot orange juice on our way to the tube, which we took to the British Museum.

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We visited the British Museum until they closed at 8pm, and we saw some neat things, but overall we weren’t impressed.  I know, tough crowd.  I can’t pinpoint what it was, but the next day we both overcame the guilt we felt and admitted it – we wouldn’t go back to the British Museum.  Maybe there’s just so much to see that it’s overwhelming, maybe it was because it was the end of the day and we were a bit tired, I don’t know.  But like I said, we did see some pretty cool things, like the Rosette Stone, an Easter Island head, Egyptian mummies, and various other things the British have stolen from less powerful countries around the world.

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After seeing everything we wanted to see at the British Museum, we took the tube back to Waterloo, got some pasties for dinner at the station (we had really horrible eating schedules on this trip) and crashed in our room for about thirty minutes before we reminded ourselves, WE ARE ONLY IN LONDON FOR SIX MORE DAYS LET’S GET OUT AND ENJOY.  So we did.  We walked across Westminster Bridge to Big Ben, along the Thames, back across to ‘our side’ of the river, and along the Thames some more before we stopped at Giraffe for some dessert.  It was supposed to be appetizers and dessert (fourth meal, anyone?), but then we saw the dessert menu and it became just dessert.  We shared an apple and cherry crumble and a banana split, and it was one of the best decisions we made all trip.

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So there you have it…day 3 of our time in London.  One of my very favorites.

Check out day 1 and day 2 of our trip to London if you missed them.