It’s always hard to decide how to post about something big like a trip to England. So I’ve been putting it off. Also, we’ve pretty much spoken to everyone who reads this blog, so there’s not much to tell that hasn’t already been told. I decided to go ahead and write it out though, because this will serve as a good scrapbook for us in a few years when we have forgotten the small stuff. If this post gets boring for you, I would fully understand just skimming through the pictures. Unless you have already seen them on Facebook, because they are the same pictures, in which case feel free to skip the whole shebang.
So let’s take it in steps: London
Actually let’s start before London a bit. We traveled out of NWA airport for the first time ever, and I have to give it credit for being quite a nice little airport. However, we had no more than cleared the door at 5:30 am before Sergio read the monitor telling us our flight had been cancelled. People who travel more often than us might have checked that before arriving at the airport. Lesson learned. So we settled in for a long breakfast at the one little restaurant. This delayed us getting to Chicago and ruined our plans to grab lunch outside the airport. We weren’t so late to Chicago that we had no layover though. Sort of a worst of both worlds situation. So we had a few drinks and appetizers at the airport Chili’s. This is becoming a real thing for us as we did the same thing on a missed connection in the Dallas airport last October.
The flight to England was nice and uneventful. We watched a few mediocre movies, ate dinner, slept for three hours with the aid of benadryl, ate breakfast three whole hours after dinner and then arrived at Heathrow right around 8 am. Louisa had scheduled a driver for us, but after searching for quite a while we knew he wasn’t there. Having no address to Louisa’s house we just had to wait it out while she got it sorted and they showed up about an hour and a half after we landed. It turned out that he had been given the wrong date and waited on us for five hours the day before. So we all sort of felt bad about the miscommunication. This is where I should point out that distance is relative. Louisa’s flat was under 25 miles from the airport. In our minds we estimated something like a 30 minute trip. It took over an hour for the car to get us there. We would learn this distance lesson again on our way to Wales.
So we were there! And please don’t think I’m complaining about the traveling or the wait for the car. That was all informational and actually things went mostly really smoothly. We visited with Louisa for a bit at her place, and I’m really grateful for that particular afternoon as it was the only time I was able to catch up with her one on one. She took us to Shoreditch High Street, which was a quick Overground trip from her place. Lots of vintage/thrifty markets, little pubs, adorable shops. It was a great way to ease into London without being right down in the tourism stuff. We actually went back there on our own later in the trip because we liked it so well. After a little shopping we found a quiet little (tiny) bar and sat outside sharing some hard cider and talking. It was these small moments that really stand out for me. Later we went home and changed clothes and took a quick trip (crossing the river at night on the Overground made for amazing views) into the West End for a play. Oh, and had truly fabulous Indian takeout (take away?). So good.
We saw “The 39 Steps”. A four man play that is a take on the Alfred Hitchcock movie. I highly recommend this play if you are headed to London in the near future. It’s funny and interesting and just really cleverly done. I wish I could describe it better than that, but suffice to say that Sergio isn’t a huge fan of sitting in small seats at crowded theaters and he also quite enjoyed the play. I should point out that we had been up for going on 36 hours during the play and before intermission I was seeing stars exploding in front of my eyes. I had to jump around a bit during intermission but we made it through and had a good time. We walked around Covent Garden, Picadilly Circus, and Trafalgar Square after and then went home and collapsed into bed. It was a really good sleep.
Louisa was off to work the next day and Sergio and I took off for the South Bank. In my previous two trips to England, I had never stepped foot on the South Bank. Or frankly, gone out into the London neighborhoods like Louisa lived in. The South Bank includes things like the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and the London Eye. The South Bank riverwalk was also just nice to walk along. This is where we got brick oven pizza from a food truck, tried locally made beer under the Millennium bridge while watching the Tour de France, and toured the Tate Modern. Fun fact: British museums are free or donation based. Take advantage of them. We spent most of the day sightseeing around there. We eventually walked over one of the bridges to St. Paul’s Cathedral only to find that it wasn’t open that day. So we sat on the grass in front of it and took advantage of the City of London free wifi. We saw a bus coming for Trafalgar square and decided to jump on to check out a store we had seen the night before.
We had also seen a long line outside of a ramen restaurant the night before and since we were close we decided to try it out. I can’t really express how good ramen can be when done right. One of our top meals on the whole trip, though we didn’t have a bad one. We really need to get some more ramen restaurants in the states already. And baguette sandwich stands, and sparkling juice sodas. I’ve gotten off topic.
Our last full day in London we went toward the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. We actually spent some time looking around outside those areas and kind of on random chance went into the Supreme Court building because it said you could tour it and that it had a cafe. It was kind of neat. They had a whole display on their massive and confusing jurisdiction. We could also have watched the trial happening that day but didn’t duck in. While having a coffee in the cafe we were able to match up some of the other patrons as the Supreme Court Justices pictured in our pamphlet. Pretty neat. We ducked around in some of the other surrounding buildings and then took off toward the parks and Buckingham palace. We caught the parade portion of the changing of the guard completely by accident. This is the point at which my feet were so messed up that we had to keep sitting down and I started putting US stamps on my feet in desperation. So when Sergio first mentioned that we should ride bikes, I didn’t immediately dismiss it. But first we had lunch in a pretty spot-on traditional pub and toured the British Museum. The British Museum has some of the most impressive world artifacts. You kind of have to get over the fact that this is probably due to some intense pillaging over the course of history. Like, they might want to be giving some of that stuff back to it’s original owners or something! But it was really good. Overwhelming. My feet hurt so much. I have foot problems. Oh, and as we were about to leave I picked up a tour book just to make sure we had seen the most important stuff and realized we had missed the Rosetta Stone. We had walked right by it. So we went back to glance at that.
After that we headed back to hang out between St. James and Hyde parks. Sergio finally convinced me to rent (hire?) a Barclay’s bike with him and keep them just around the parks. Those who know me realize that biking in London is a particularly absurd idea for me, who can crash a bike on quiet suburban streets with nothing around me at all. But my feet HURT! Barclay’s bikes are everywhere and are a very cheap way to get around. They are comfort bikes that are further weighted down by excessive metal parts to keep people from stealing them. So it took a minute to get them to go straight, but then they seemed impossible to tip over after a while. You can’t actually bike through those parks, but you can bike the sidewalks around them. We did have to cross several busy London streets but nothing too terrible. I would highly recommend the bikes as a way to rest while getting around London, especially if biking is your thing.
We had dinner that night at Louisa’s home and got ourselves ready to head to Wales the next day. I’ll save that stuff for the next post. Because this one is so long already. Here are the pictures of the London portion of our trip!!!