Tuesday, September 20, 2011

London: The Weekend

I was in London for a total of 8 days - I posted about the work week part of my trip here. Once we got out of work on Friday around noon, I was out and about in the city. Since it was my first time in London, it was really nice that I had already learned my way around the city during the week when I was with other people who either live there now or had been there before. I stopped in a pub for lunch and had traditional fish and chips and a half pint for lunch. I was a little skeptical (as in, a total fish snob), and it was surprisingly really good. Of course I had it with tartar sauce and my fries with malt vinegar - also surprisingly really good. This was more of a "check the box" item on my list so that I had tried traditional pub food.  The pub was just a few minutes' walk from the nearest tube station (seriously, so convenient!), so I took the tube over to Westminster Abbey. I got off the tube, and right in front of me was Big Ben.

Westminster Abbey was absolutely stunning. I spent about an hour there just taking it all in. They give you a pretty good brochure that tells you what's what and where everything is. It was just so massive and beautiful - I really don't know how to describe it, and of course there was no photography allowed inside, so here are a few shots from my walk around it.  (Side note: after talking to my mom last night, I told her how all of the most awesome things I saw, I wasn't allowed to take pictures of. She started to wonder if I really did go to London after all.... hopefully the pictures I did manage to take will prove it!) :)

Afterward, I made my way over to Buckingham Palace which was about a 15 minute walk along St. James Park. There were so many beautiful parks everywhere, and I wished I had more time so I could just lay in the grass and read a book. Maybe next time.

I am typically not too infatuated with the Royal Family - but I absolutely fell in love with Buckingham Palace. Something about it really did feel magical. Everything there was just incredibly beautiful and ornate (once again, no photography allowed inside). The special display for this summer's opening was Princess Kate's wedding dress, which was awesome. There were photos from the wedding day throughout the house, all displayed in the actual places of the palace where the pictures were taken. It was really cool. Her dress was on display in the ballroom where their wedding reception took place. There was a special video interview with the dress designer about how the dress was made - it completely blew my mind. Honestly, when I picked out my own wedding dress, I tried it on, fell in love, and didn't even need any alterations. I thought it was beautiful and flattering and comfortable. I am glad I didn't see this display before my wedding - because seriously, every single detail about the dress was completely thought out and just perfect. There were also storyboards showing the step-by-step process as they built the dress, and then you come to the middle of the ballroom, and the dress was displayed on a glass mannequin that was an exact mold of Kate's body. Pretty cool. Next to it, they had her shoes, earrings and bouquet on display. They also had a replica of the wedding cake - or cakes, I should say. Seventeen cakes! It was enormous and so beautiful. Again, glad I didn't see this before my own wedding!

Serious protection along the bordering walls
 I walked through another park and took the tube over to ICEBAR - a great suggestion from my sister Leslie :) Basically, you walk in the bar and it looks normal, but there is a door to another room that is completely made of ice. You get a huge parka thing with gloves, since the room is kept at below freezing temperatures and you are in there for a 40 minute session. Everything in here was made of glass - the walls, the ceiling, the floor, the bar, even our glasses. It was pretty cool, but I was freeeezing by the end of that 40 minutes. My hands felt numb and weird, and had turned a purplish color. Thankfully I went on a warm day in London, so after a few minutes outside I was back to normal. I can't imagine going there during winter - going outside would not be any relief! My timing was really lucky because later this week, they are closing the bar to redesign it.

Green Park

Pretty passion fruit drink before going in to the ice bar

it. was. freeeeeezing. literally

my ice drink

the bar, made of ice

That evening, I had my first dinner at a restaurant by myself - which was not as bad as I thought it would be. Just awkward not having anyone to talk to. I went to Tate Modern restaurant, which is on the 7th floor of the Tate Modern gallery and overlooks the Thames River. It was a gorgeous view. Unfortunately the windows were too reflective and the lighting inside didn't make for very good pictures. I did the full course meal and wine pairing with each course.

tomatoes & mozzarella, one of my favs

mushroom pasta dish

trifle and dessert wine

Afterward, I walked back to the hotel over the Millennium Bridge, which is a pedestrian-only bridge and got a few good pictures of the view along the way.

Saturday morning I woke up bright and early, for another day of touristy stuff. I started at the Tower of London. All the history there was really cool, and the Crown Jewels were just amazing (no pics allowed).

From there, I walked to St. Paul's cathedral. It was gorgeous. I walked all the way to the very top, where you could walk around and get a 360 view of the entire city of London. It was so awesome. Plus, after all that climbing there was a wonderful breeze up top, so that was very refreshing and rewarding. I will not lie - it was a short climb, about 45 minutes round trip - but my calves were absolutely killing me afterward. I guess running on flat surfaces doesn't do much for my calves. Noted.

made it all the way to the top!

The Millennium Bridge I walked over the night before

That afternoon, I went on a Beatles tour around the city. The tour guide was a little...eccentric. It was mainly about the Beatles, and she also pointed out a ton of non-Beatles-related things that were interesting... just not relevant. But it was a fun tour and by that point, it was nice to have someone else tell me where to go rather than having to figure it out myself. By the end of it, I was absolutely wiped out - it was a 2 1/2 hour walking tour. I didn't map it out since my phone would have died, but at that pace I'd guess we went at least 6 or 7 miles. Whew. I took a bunch of pictures that seemed really cool and important at the time, but I'll just include the ones that I remember what they were. :) 

The start of our tour - outside the Prince of Wales Theatre

most famous musicians have recorded here at some point

Mozart's home

Paul McCartney's office

20th Century Fox offices

Trident Sound Studios

lots of great recordings made here!!

entrance to London Palladium Theatre

Paul McCartney's home

Abbey Road - crossing the street where they shot the album cover

Abbey Road Studios

Graffiti is allowed here, and they repaint over it every month

That evening I had plans to meet up with my friend Tony, an old co-worker from my previous job who now lives and works in London. Coincidentally, he and his wife, Kara, lived on the same street as Harrods, so to kill some time (and avoid the torrential downpour) I browsed around the store for a little while.

I didn't buy anything - I seriously considered buying an umbrella, until I realized the cheapest one was 25 pounds - almost $40. No way, Jose. Harrods had some amazing things I would have loved to buy, but it was somewhat depressing to look around knowing that you can't afford a single thing in the store. Not even an umbrella. So I called it quits, and headed over to Tony & Kara's flat. They live in Earl's Court which is apparently where all the ex-pats live. It was a nice flat and actually felt bigger than I thought it would be. I was impressed, because I'm not so sure I could live in such a small space with Bo. We like having space. And all of our stuff. We have a lot of stuff that certainly would not fit in a 500 square foot flat. Tony, Kara and I walked a few blocks over to their friends' flat and spent the rest of the evening catching up and watching college football. I had planned to head over to the London Gator Club, but the sports package they bought for the day included the Gator game, so I stayed and watched it with them. It was fun to see how they live over there. Between their group of friends, they had one huge flat screen TV, 2 laptops, and 2 ipads all hooked up to different games through the internet or slingbox. It was weird watching a football game with no other Gators but it was a good time - they cheered for UF, which must have been hard since most of them went to UGA. I was glad to have people with me who were willing to high-five and celebrate a Gator victory!!

Sunday morning, I met up with Lauren at our hotel and we went to breakfast. I got a traditional full English breakfast, which is way more food than I would ever normally eat for breakfast. It included scrambled eggs, 2 links of sausage, 2 strips of bacon, a frittata, baked beans, mushrooms and tomatoes. It was so good! Such a great end to my time in London.

We then took the train to the airport to head home. The flight back was...less than ideal. I watched two movies and read half of my book, which turned out to be pretty difficult given the circumstances. I had an extremely mis-behaved brat who sat directly in front of me - she was probably 3 or 4. Her mom did not seem to care and let her daughter scream bloody murder for the first few hours. When she finally stopped screaming I thought it would be better. But no. Her mom didn't give her any toys or books or let her watch TV, so of course the brat started acting out. She climbed all over her chair, the arm rests and even the tray table (I felt really bad for the lady in front of her), and then would jump down onto her seat. Which made my TV screen bounce. Which was not enjoyable. I gave her the stink-eye every time she turned around to look at me, and finally the flight attendant came over and yelled at the mom. I thoroughly enjoyed that. I would have preferred to have a crying baby there, because you can't really blame the child or the parents when a baby is fussy. Le sigh.

Nine very long hours later, we arrived in Atlanta. But the trip was far from over. The international baggage claims and the process to clear customs in Atlanta is by far the worst I have ever seen in any airport. It took me over two hours from the time we landed until I had my bag and headed to my car. It was ridiculous. My friend Kim is working on the project to build the new international terminal and baggage system, which I am now eagerly awaiting. Until then, I am seriously considering a connecting flight through New York or Boston for my international flights just so that I can avoid the crap system in Atlanta. I digress.

Despite the rocky ending to my trip, the rest of it was just fantastic. I had such a wonderful time and can't wait to go back!

1 comment:

  1. The wedding stuff sounds amazing. And I agree, glad I didn't see that before I got married..talk about more pressure. You have way more guts than me..you did so much stuff by youself!!



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