I know I haven't written in a while, but I hope it was worth the wait! So I got back from London a couple of days ago and wow...where to even begin. Between all the beautiful buildings, history, culture, accents, english everywhere (a luxury I will never take for granted again), and the overall vibe of the city, I can honestly say it is my favorite place that I have ever been to. There really is nothing else like it. Even though Chloe and I were there for 6 days (4.5 if you count traveling), we covered A LOT of ground. There is so many pictures I took that I can't get over, so I hope you are okay with this post resembling a mini photo album.
The journey to the airport was...interesting (if you really want to know just ask me), but, by some odd miracle, we ended up there on time to attempt to conquer the beast that is Ryanair. Maybe we were lucky, but it was quite a smooth process. We got to London, hopped on a bus, and went to get underground passes to get to our accommodation (which was a 1+ hour trip we later found) where we ran into our first culture shock: customer service (or lack thereof).
An English person (Brit? Englishman? Londoner? Whatever.) later explained that employees have no incentive to be polite to customers unless they get tips. Which would make sense, if it weren't for all of the rude bartenders we encountered. Maybe they get annoyed with all of the Americans (we kind of did too), but still. How hard is it to smile every now and then? It is becoming very clear that no one emphasizes customer service like the US, which probably comes off really fake to foreigners but, hey, it is what we are used to.
We got to our place, and settled in. It was a little cabin in the backyard of a house, really private and adorable. My only complaint was how far it was from the city, but I guess you get what you pay for. In the morning, we headed to Camden Town to check out the market. The weather was nothing short of amazing. Sunny and 65-70 degrees. I actually got a little bit sunburned. We loved all of the different jewelry, clothing, souvenirs, and food they had there. There really was everything you could ever imagine. After a long day of shopping, we settled in by the water to soak up the sun and enjoy the first Mexican food we have had since we came to Europe. Talk about a perfect day.
At night, we participated in a pub crawl. We had quite an interesting group with us, but it was overall a fun time. It was cool to see London on a typical Saturday night and to see how multiple clubs and bars were. The last club of the night had a swimming pool, which was one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen. Quite an experience.
Sunday was the big St. Patrick's Day parade at Piccadilly Circus. It was pretty laid back, but we especially enjoyed all of the bagpipes and river dancing. It was awesome to see so many people with such a pride for their country, even while in another.
After a much needed coffee break, we started walking around the city to find Trafalgar Square, where the rest of the St. Patrick's Day festivities were taking place. On the way, we discovered St. James's Park, which was absolutely stunning.
When we found Trafalgar Square via following all of the green wigs, it was so packed that police were not letting anyone in. But, we were perfectly fine with continuing to wander. And then, we caught our first glance of Big Ben. Words can't even describe how exciting it was, seeing such an icon in person. Especially since I am a huge Peter Pan fan. And of course, we wasted no time in taking the classic telephone booth pictures.
Next, we crossed the walking bridge to get a better view of Westminster from across the river. We found a spot right next to The London Eye and were literally paralyzed by the view. We sat there for hours, with the sun shining on us. It was easily one of my favorite moments of my life thus far. It hit me how real this experience is, and how incredible it feels to follow your dreams without anyone else's help. It was so empowering and made me so thankful all over again to be doing what I am doing.
We kept walking a little bit and ran into Westminster Abbey (where William and Kate were married-eek!).
After some more exploring, we headed home to catch up on a little bit of sleep. The next day, we got up at the crack of dawn to embark on our tour day! We began on an open top double decker bus (which turned out to be the only sunny/warm part of the day, lucky us). We literally got to see everything else we had missed including St. Paul's Cathedral, Fleet Street, some Harry Potter filming locations, the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, the Globe Theater, and the London Bridge, to name a few. We later got on a boat as part of the tour, which was great, because almost everything important is visible from the water.
And, of course, Buckingham Palace!
Then, after lunch, we hopped on a bus and went to Stonehenge. Yes, Stonehenge. I still can't even believe it. It is something you see in textbooks and on the Discovery Channel, so it is so surreal to be able to say I was there. Amazing.
After we got back to town from our 11 hour tour day, we decided to head back, regroup, and make a plan for our "whatever we haven't seen yet" day. We decided on Notting Hill Gate, a quaint area of town with lots of shopping opportunities. I even got my fish and chips, which was a very important item on my checklist. It was even in a traditional English pub, so I was super happy.
After that, we headed to Greenwich, where several museums were. Chloe was especially excited about the Royal Observatory, but we got there 20 minutes after they closed. We never would have dreamed of a museum closing at 4:30, but I guess these are the kinds of differences you need to be prepared for. I still got a picture of the Prime Meridian (Greenwich Line), so that was pretty cool.
And, when passing the Royal Maritime Museum, witnessed the world's largest ship in a bottle. Pretty neat.
After that crushing blow to our plans, we decided we needed something to be excited about. So, we headed towards the theatre-laden area of town in search of some tickets to a show. Our first choice was "Once" (plus it was the day after St. Patricks, we were clearly still in an Irish mood), and we scored some decent seats. Although we were not allowed to take pictures of the inside, let me tell you, it was beautiful. A classy place with lots of chandeliers, red velvet, and the set was awesome. It was a great show and such a fun way to end the trip.
Then, after trying falafel for the first time (YUM), we headed home for the last time ever. We were getting really depressed about leaving London with so much unseen, but it was inevitable. There is literally endless things to do and see, and this makes for a great excuse to keep coming back, which I have every intention of doing.
We conquered Ryanair for the second time and getting off the plane literally made me want to die. Going from being sunburnt to getting wind-whipped with snow was not the welcome I was looking forward to. But, the snow melted quickly and I have to admit, it feels really good to sleep in my own bed (especially since developing a sinus infection when I got home). I was super lucky with the timing on that one, yikes. The next big adventure is to Rome, Italy in a few weeks and I am so ready to continue checking off on my bucket list! Life is good :)