Thursday, December 22, 2016

Winning London (Part II)

Read about our first day in London here.

We woke up a little bit sad on Sunday knowing we had to leave that night. But we had to make the best of our last day in London.

First stop: saying hi to the Queen at Buckingham Palace. 

But on our way there, David wanted to find a restaurant that served "real English breakfast," in his words. Traditional breakfast in France usually consists of coffee and bread. They usually don't eat hot food or food that isn't sweet. David is not a fan of French breakfast. It doesn't even include meat!!! The horror! ;)

The food didn't look that appetizing to me, but David was happy! Also, I'm 99% sure the waitress serving us our English breakfast was French, but he didn't want to believe me.

The flag was up at Buckingham Palace, so our friend the Queen was home. I was surprised at how big the crowd was outside considering it's not open for tours in the winter, and there was no changing of the guard that day. Apparently it's still enough of a tourist destination to draw the crowds. Exhibit A: us.

I wanted to stop by because I've been into this Netflix series about young Queen Elizabeth lately- The Crown. And of course, I never really need an excuse to visit a palace.

We decided to spend the rest of our London time at the British Museum. It was my first visit. It's impossible to see everything, so we mostly focused on the ancient Egypt/Greece/Middle East exhibits.

Something funny about London... visiting the museums are free, but visiting the churches are not. At least something was free!

A few things we really liked seeing...

The amazing mummy collection.

The Rosetta Stone! If you look closely you can see the 3 different languages.

Huge Egyptian statues!

We saw some Asian tourists doing this, so I had no choice but to make David do it too. ;)

This statue used to be at the entrance of an Assyrian palace.

All of the Greek stuff got us in the mood for our future trip there. We're planning on a belated honeymoon trip when it gets warm enough to swim!

There's a big room with most of the original sculptures from the Parthenon. I like how a lot of the things in the British Museum are there just because British people took them lol. In fairness, however, a lot of this stuff might have been destroyed otherwise. 

After lunch, it was already time to head back to the hotel to pick up our bags. Despite the tiny hotel room and the wifi sucking, it was in a nice area in central London and we had a balcony- so not a total loss. This was our balcony view.

Here's a few other pictures of the streets of London on our walk from the hotel back to Victoria Station.

We had to be those tourists. Fun fact: the day before, David went inside one of the phone booths but it smelled like urine so he didn't stay in long enough for a picture. This time we opted to just pose outside.

We thought the taxis were cute.

Before we knew it, we were on our train to the airport. The last little bit of London excitement was finding a restaurant for dinner that had both fish and chips (which David had been wanting to have) and GRILLED CHEESE for moi. Despite living in a country that is obsessed with bread and cheese, my beloved grilled cheese doesn't exist here. So this was a happy moment.

We flew Easyjet, a cheap airline... but after 2 Easyjet flights I think we decided next time we'd probably rather pay slightly more for an airline that has their life together. Both of our flights were majorly delayed, the boarding process was one of the most painful I've ever experienced, and the best part, I wasn't allowed to bring both my purse and carry-on on the plane. You could only bring 1 bag, no matter how small your purse was. It makes 0 sense, because a purse goes under your seat and doesn't take up space in the overhead bins. Of course, I didn't know this beforehand... so on our first flight there was some stressful last minute scrambling to cram all of my stuff into my other bag and David's backpack. I was just thrilled. However, it did cost only $150 for both of us to fly to London, round-trip. soooo...

All in all, if you can't tell from the rest of my posts, we fell in love with London. We can't wait to go back. David was looking at flights the day after we got home haha. This was the second time for both of us in London, and we hadn't been back since we were teenagers. London was actually the first place I'd ever been outside of the U.S.! Without London, we wouldn't even be married. David first met the missionaries on his trip to London, and obviously we wouldn't have met at church if that hadn't happened.

One of the reasons I loved London the most was just being in a big city. We both loved the history. David really likes British culture. We also both enjoyed having a little break from France. There's something so comforting about being able to speak your own language to everyone and never sound stupid. And everyone was so nice!

There's a lot more to see- we'd also like to go somewhere outside of the city (maybe Cambridge?). I sense a return trip.

P.s. England was the 8th country we've been to together. Not bad for being married less than 3 months ;)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Winning London (Part 1)

Even after only 48 hours- arriving Friday night and leaving Sunday night- we both felt right at home in London. It was a short trip, but one of the best we've done together. It's rare that we're both interested in something to the same extent. Usually it's me who's in heaven in Europe and David who's excited about going anywhere in America. We finally found a middle ground!

After a delayed flight, a train strike, and a slightly nerve-wracking walk through unfamiliar streets at 1:30 a.m., we were relieved to find our hotel (and our bed). Our first glimpse of London was a man peeing outside the train station, but things quickly started looking up from there ;)

We started out our Saturday with a trip to Westminster Abbey. I had never been before, and because of the royal wedding and the centuries of history (in that order), this was at the top of my London bucket list.

When we got off the underground at Westminster, we had to laugh at the foggy weather obscuring our view of Big Ben. Way to be a stereotype, London. Even though we never saw the sun, we were pretty lucky temperature-wise. It was an unseasonably warm 48 degrees. If it hit 48 in Wisconsin right now, people would break out their shorts.

If you're not aware, Westminster Abbey is the Parliament's neighbor!

Sadly, pictures are not allowed inside the abbey. Happily, I was feeling adventurous and I still took some. AND I got to embarrass my husband while doing so. #winwin

Another downside to Westminster Abbey is the fact that it costs 20 pounds to go inside!! After doing it, I'd say it's worth it... but it was odd to me to pay so much money to enter a church. 

France has a cathedral where coronations took place (Reims), a basilica where most kings and queens were buried (St. Denis), and another place where famous French people (authors, artists, politicians) are buried (the Pantheon). Westminster is all of these things for the British. And it's a little more exciting, because they still have a monarchy and big events have happened there much more recently. 

This one's a little blurry, but it's the spot where Queen Elizabeth was crowned in 1953 and where William and Kate got married in 2011.

The tombs of Elizabeth I, and her cousin (who she had executed) Mary Queen of Scots, are right across the hall from each other.

There are TONS of small side chapels and tombs. We actually spent about 2 hours exploring. This one was my favorite- it's called the "Lady Chapel." I don't know why that made me laugh. The ceiling is amazing!

On the way out, there was a plaque marking this as the "oldest door in Great Britain"- from the 1050s.

By the time we finished at the abbey, it was lunch time. We headed to the Covent Garden area. If you know me and David, we are both ridiculously picky eaters. Miraculously, the very first restaurant we came across had something on the menu for both of us- that doesn't happen often in France. It was a magical moment of feeling majorly at home in London.

The covered markets in Covent Garden were beautifully decorated. They were busy with people finishing up their Christmas shopping (or for the men, probably just starting haha).

This was one of the liveliest places we came across. I was so happy because the south of France is one big ghost town in the winter. It was fun to do some people watching! The most entertaining thing was that (as far as I understand) groups of men who supported different soccer teams were drinking and singing songs at each other. Kind of odd, but entertaining.

I felt like I had to do something Harry Potter-themed in London, so our next stop was King's Cross to visit Platform 9 3/4. Yes, they actually built a place to take pictures. It's not exactly really between platforms 9 and 10, but it's pretty close. And it's hard to miss, because of the long line! We waited for 30 minutes. The secret of the scarf is that it's a staff member's job to throw it for you at the perfect moment.

I think it was worth it! I don't know if David does because he's not a Harry Potter nerd like me, but oh well. There's also a big Harry Potter store.

Our next stop was to head over to the Tower of London/Tower Bridge area. We didn't go inside, but we walked around the whole tower and took pictures. It was only 4:00 p.m. but it was starting to get dark already! Where we live it doesn't get dark until after 5:30.

Modern London across the Thames. It's funny that skyscrapers are just across the river from a medieval fortress.

David's chosen activity (I guess he had the right to choose something since I made him wait in a Harry Potter line) was to go to the evensong service at St. Paul's. We'd started our day at Westminster, so why not finish it at St. Paul's! Like Westminster, there is usually a 20 pound fee to visit, but if you go during a service it's free. You can't wander around and do the audioguide tour during the service, but you still get to see it.

Also like Westminster, pictures aren't allowed... but I did manage to sneak a few from my seat before the service started. It was my first Anglican service. It seemed a lot like Catholic mass. There was more singing (complete with a choir)- which is why David wanted to go. If I'm a Harry Potter nerd, he's a medieval Anglican music nerd. I personally think that's weirder, but to each their own. I still like him. ;)

We decided to look for dinner at Piccadilly Circus. It was even more crowded and lively than Covent Garden. I love being in big cities, so I was loving it! I even did some shopping. With the big ads this part of London is Times Square-esque. I thought several times during our trip that in some ways London is a cross between Paris and New York City. It has the modern aspects and the lovely architecture and history.

We ended up eating at an American restaurant which we've never tried in America- Shake Shack. It might be frowned upon for an American to choose an American restaurant in London, but remember that I live in France. It was nice that comfort food from home was available, unlike in France. Can you say chocolate malt?? It was delicious. 

That about sums up day 1 in London. We went to bed tired and happy with sore feet. According to our phones we walked 10 miles. And you know I didn't wear comfortable shoes.