Thursday, August 25, 2016

London 2016

If you haven't read up on how my husband and I were able to spend 12 days in Europe for only $100 out of pocket, go read his blog post all about that here

My blogs are much more journal-style, and are here just as a record and a memoir. 

Day 1

We headed to the airport early in the morning, and I cried and cried when I had to say goodbye to Iz. I knew she was in the best hands, and that she was going to have so much fun, but man I was gonna miss her. 

We got checked in and through security, then headed to the American lounge to get a bite to eat and a drink before our flight. We were lucky enough to be flying business class the whole way there, so we had priority boarding and meals provided the whole way. We watched some movies, read our books and even played a few card games on the first leg of the trip. We had a quick layover in New York, and then we were off again, headed to London!

The flight was great, and business class was wonderful. We almost didn't want our plane to land because we were having so much fun watching movies, eating ice cream and lounging in our big seats. 

We landed around 6 am London time, and decided to make our way to the lounge for some breakfast and a shower. It was nice to be able to rest a bit more and fuel up before making the trek to our hotel. 

We left the airport and hopped on the underground. We rode it all the way to Hyde Park and decided to walk through the park on the way to our hotel. It was a super long walk, and not too fun while dragging our bags behind us, but still the weather was perfect and it was nice to kinda get our bearings with our surroundings.

We got to our hotel, but couldn't check in until a bit later in the day, so we just left our bags, and headed back out to the park. We saw Kensington Gardens, and enjoyed a rest in the grass, and Alex spent some time catching Pokemon.

We walked Exhibition Road and found the Hyde Park Chapel. It was so neat! They have a mini visitors center in the lobby of the church, a Christus, some movies on the restoration, history about the church coming to England and lots of other things. We walked around there for a while, talking to the senior missionaries and using the free bathrooms.

When it was time for lunch, we simply found a grocery store and bought some sandwiches, a few waters and some chips and enjoyed them while resting our feet on the side of a busy street.

We were close to Harrods so we meandered around, having the most fun in the toy section! Alex loved the Lego and Star Wars exhibit.

We made the walk home, stopping again the Hyde park to enjoy a little concert in the park. We were very lucky weather wise, not too cold, and we had a light cloud coverage and a constant breeze. So nice.

Once we got home we both hopped in the shower to get ready for dinner. We accidentally closed our eyes for a bit, but luckily we didn't sleep for more than about 15 minutes. We enjoyed a little bit of wifi, checking Facebook and whatnot. Then headed out to dinner.

We picked a little Italian place called Bizzaro. The prices were the cheapest we'd seen all day and the atmosphere was amazing. Everyone was authentically Italiano, the pasta was homemade and absolutely delicious. The whole time I just thought about how much my parents would have loved it!! We had every intention of going back again before we left. It was seriously that good.

We came home, stopping again at the store to get some candy and bandaids, then we watched a couple shows and then finally crashed for the day around 9. We were both able to sleep all night, and I feel like we got a good jump start on battling our jet lag.

Day 2

We started out with an nicer than expected breakfast at the hotel, then took the long stroll through Hyde park to get to church. The meeting was good, though we would have loved to hear more native accents. All speakers were American, besides one who was from somewhere in Asia. It was nice and it's always amazing how familiar it all is, even thousands of miles from home.

After church we went and jumped on our Hop on, Hop off bus tour. We mostly stayed on the bus and enjoyed the tour, but after a while the traffic got so bad due to road closures for a sporting event, that we simply got off and walked the rest of the way to Westminster Abbey. It was actually pretty neat that the roads in front of Westminster and Parliament were closed because the whole road was open just to pedestrians. You could stand anywhere for pictures, walk right across the street to look at each side of the river, and didn't have to worry about cars or big buses running you over or getting in your picture.

We got all of our selfies with Ben, then headed to get some lunch. We just grabbed some quick sandwiches and chips again, and then went to join the queue for the London Eye. We have gotten a discount on our Eye passes when we bought our bus tickets so that was perfect! Our timing was impeccable and the sun burst through the clouds just as we were about to get into our pod. The views were lovely and I'm really glad we went.

After the Eye, we jumped on a river cruise. That was also included with our bus ticket, and it was way more fun than either of us anticipated. Our guide was hilarious and taught us about each different bridge on the Thames, and we got some lovely shots of Tower Bridge. Oh and we won the trivia question about where the London bridge now resides - It's here in Arizona, in case you didn't know ;)

We got off the boat at tower bridge, and enjoyed the long stroll back to the Eye and Parliament. We passed a huge crowd that was blocking almost all of Southbank. And as we approached we noticed they were all watching Murray in the Wimbledon championship. It was awesome cuz we got there just in time for the last match and we were able to watch him win. Extra fun because we also watched him win at Wimbledon a few years ago when we watched at a sports bar in Florida. We must be his good luck charm.

We kept walking along the river, and we passed through Borough Market, (SO MANY AMAZING SMELLS) and passed the restaurant The Anchor, which is the place Tom Cruise sits at the end of mission impossible. Alex liked that a lot.

By this point we had walked almost 9 miles that day, and we were both ready to plop on a bus and get home. The bus rides are so nice and we obviously love the free wifi. We got home easily and decided to head out for some dinner. We both wanted to eat in a Pub, so we found a quaint one near our hotel. We found a seat and both ordered the Fish and Chips. Again our luck and our timing was amazing because we didn't even know that the final French/Portugal game was playing, but we were able to watch it and enjoy the local energy. Very fun.

We headed home and finished the game (poor France) and then quickly crashed. It was a lovely, busy day, full of walking and amazing weather.

Day 3

We accidentally slept in until 9:15 this morning so our morning started out more hectic than we were expecting. We rushed to breakfast and then haphazardly collected our things and ran to the bus, hoping to make it to the changing of the guards at Buckingham. But of course we got on the wrong line and ended up over by Trafalgar Square instead. We figured we can see the guards tomorrow, so we meandered around the square, and then ended up browsing the National Gallery. We determined that we are uncultured swine, as we only recognized 3 artists that were in the Gallery.

We emerged from the museum and found blue skies! So instead of getting on another bus we walked to Piccadilly Circus and did a little window shopping. We thought about doing Ripley's Believe it or Not, but tickets were way over priced, so we chose to get back on a bus and head up to St. Paul's Cathedral. The history in that part of town is incredible. From Shakespeare, the great fire of 1666, the bubonic plague, it's certain that London is an incredibly resilient city. We grabbed lunch at a pub that is over 300 years old. We LOVED the atmospheres at the pubs. The haphazardly placed tables and chairs, the low ceilings, friendly staff, and delicious warm food.

After our bellies were full, we put in our headphones and did a Rick Steves guided tour of Fleet Street and the surrounding areas. It was a fun and different way to get around. We even got to see Gingots Wizarding Bank (it's the Australian embassy, but was used as the bank in HP)

It began to rain heavily, so we again found refuge on a double decker bus and rode back to the west side. Once the sun began to peak through again, we hopped off the bus and enjoyed a beautifully long walk along Regent Street and Oxford Circus. We peaked into the Disney store and I cried a little thinking about Izzy and how much she would love it.

We decided to walk the 2 miles home since it was so nice out. Once back at the hotel we took a quick rest, and then headed back out for dinner. Our hotel is surrounded by tons of different choices and tonight we followed our noses to a Malaysian noodle place. I'm grateful that Alex is an adventurous eater and isn't at all picky. We ended the night with some caramel sundaes and a movie back at home.

Day 4

Last day in London. We slept in again, but this time on purpose. It felt so good to not be jet lagged anymore. We packed up and checked out, but were able to leave our bags at the hotel so we could enjoy one last morning in the city.

The skies were blue and the clouds white and fluffy, so instead of taking a bus to Buckingham palace, we decided to walk. It was about 2 miles, but we just strolled through Hyde park. I wish you could smell it. It's so fresh!!! The grass and the trees and the flowers. I just can't get over it.

We got to Buckingham about an hour before the changing of the guards, but we staked out a spot and just enjoyed people watching and resting our feet. The guard ceremony was a bit of a let down, a whole lot of hype, not a whole lot of action. Haha. But still fun. We needed to head back to the hotel, and since we still had blue skies we started the trek home. Bad idea. About 5 minutes into the hour long walk the skies opened and we had a steady heavy rain. We had an umbrella, but still ended up kinda soggy. We can't complain about the rain though, since we were so incredible lucky with our weather so far, and honestly it wouldn't have been a true London experience without a little rain.

We snarfed down some lunch, and we obviously HAD to go back to the Italian place we went on the first day. And literally what we ordered the first time was SO GOOD that we got exactly the same thing again. And it was just as heavenly as the first time!

We grabbed some lunch and then hailed an Uber to the train station. We got on the Eurostar without any issues and enjoyed a quick ride into Paris.


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