Tuesday, November 20, 2012

London Town

It happened. I traveled abroad before I turned 30.

Not only did I travel abroad but I did it to the right place to see the right things with the right person. Chloe and I figured out on Day 8 that the word we used the most during our stay was simply "perfect."

Since I can't tell all of you the trip breakdown over a cup of tea, a crumpet, fish and chips, a glass of wine or a Strongbow - I will do my best to honor it here. Just add in a lot of hand usage, more picture showing and maybe even a tear when I get to the final day.

Wednesday, November 7: Chloe and I land at Heathrow at 9:30 a.m. We've barely slept but are high with anticipation of our arrival. We immediately are in love with everything around us. "I love how they say Mind the Gap." "Cider is so much better over here." "Look at the taxis!" "What are the poppies?? I love them!" "I love their accents!" - I think you get the point. We made the decision that we MUST stay up. Even if we go to bed at 7 p.m. night one (which we did), we must make it until then or our whole schedule will be out of whack for the week. So we spent the day toasting Obama's win back in the States and seeing the sites of the city from atop the London Eye.

Thursday, November 8: We rise early after the first night's rest in the worst beds on the planet. Pep says this is what we get for staying at "affordable yet trendy" hotels. A little Advil, a cup of coffee and we're good as new - which is necessary because today is our Windsor Castle/Stonehenge/Bath tour. Loved Windsor Castle - felt like home (insert giggle) - and got to watch the changing of the guard which was awesome, at least for the first five minutes. There is just so much history - everywhere. Speaking of - Stonehenge. So glad we did this tour - especially for the first two legs mentioned here. I knew of Stonehenge but didn't really know ABOUT Stonehenge and was completely fascinated by the time we arrived. Our guide had told us "You get 45 minutes at Stonehenge and that may not seem like a lot - but it's enough. You see the stones, you take some pictures and you go." He was pretty right. This feat was on Chloe's List so I am extra happy that we got to tick it off together. Bath - where the Roman Baths are - was cool, just slightly underwhelming compared to the rest. But we did pick up our Banksy prints there and I officially started my collection of Christmas ornaments in Bath so I'll always remember :) That night was our Fish & Chips night. Best of my life. Seriously, if you ever find yourself in the Covent Garden area of London - you must go to the Golden Hind for Fish & Chips. Bring your own wine, they encourage it! We ended the evening at a pub (as we did every evening from this night on...).

Friday, November 8: Our first goal for the day was getting our hands on tickets for Matilda while we were in town. We knew this could be a lofty goal since it is the best musical in the West End but high hopes, high hopes...we headed to Leicester Square and after being basically bullied into buying the "last pair of tickets" available to the Sunday matinee, we headed to lunch at Wagamamma (delicious, it wouldn't be the last time we ate at the Ramen joint before we left the UK) to then sweat it out over lunch if we just got shamed. We headed to Cambridge Theatre, home of Matilda, to confirm that our tickets were yes, indeed real. What a relief! We celebrated with a trip to the Tate Modern where I had never seen so much modern art in my life. My favorite part? The gift shop. But an incredible museum and definitely worth a stop, especially if you're into starring at paintings until something shows up or really want to figure out what that broom means. Friday evening was really the only night we sat down to enjoy a leisurely dinner - wine over Italian. Followed by - you got it - another pub. Where we met Rory. Who was "quite pissed" and apologized about a thousand times for being so. So drunk and yet still so polite. Gotta love that.

Saturday, November 9: We got up early to experience the Portobello Road Market, in the heart of Notting Hill. It's one of the largest street markets in the world and Chloe and I spent a good part of the morning going in and out of shops, picking up antiques and unique gifts for our loved ones at home. There was a band, tea to keep me warm and endless trinkets to purchase. We had been warned that the market tends to get quite crowded around mid-day and that ended up being an understatement (although in their defense, everything is 'quite' in London - quite pissed means you're actually falling down wasted - just sounds so much prettier). So, not thinking about the fact that it was a Saturday afternoon and raining - Chlo and I decided to head to the Natural History Museum. Which, I have to say, was the most impressive I have seen (this girl grew up with drinks to The Mall in D.C. after all) - and apparently, the fact that it's the best was no secret because there were one hundred million people (approximately) there that afternoon. Because, oh right, it was a rainy Saturday afternoon in London. So after waiting in the dinosaur line for an hour, Chlo and I skipped the gift shop and headed straight back to our hotel to NAP. Being around all those people can really wear on a girl! We woke up just in time to freshen up and grab dinner before our reservations at the Experimental Cocktail Club (see: must go) where we had the best drinks of our lives and met our two new UK best friends - Greggory and Francesca. Experimental cocktails led in to late night dancing (as they should) and all it took was one play of "Call Me Maybe" in an underground club in London for Chloe and I to determine that this would go down as one of the best nights of our lives. We ended the night with a London Taxi ride home where we snacked on a homemade cheese + charcuterie board thanks to the 24-hour grocer across the road from our hotel. It was certainly one for the books.

Sunday, November 10: We slept in. Ha! And rose just in time to grab a quick lunch (thanks, Chipotle) before Matilda The Musical. We had to arrive early to toast the occasion with champagne, of course. Matilda debuts here in the U.S. on Broadway this Spring and I highly recommend you get your tickets now. I don't know how it will compare to the UK version since those kids have the magic touch (see: BRITISH ACCENT) but I am sure it will not disappoint as kids from the U.S. can be pretty darn cute, too. Great music, fantastic performances by the entire cast and an overall five star experience. Right after the show, we headed back to the Covent Garden area to meet Jos, a friend of Chloe's who lives in London. There we shared good company over quite a few pints.

Monday, November 11: This will forever now be known of the day I was introduced to Top Shop. Yes, friends, the retail loving girl in me was totally unaware (well, not totally) of the sweet, sweet shopping glory of Top Shop. I was so excited as I wandered through their flagship store in Oxford Circus - tearing through racks, falling in love with pieces I couldn't afford (but it's SO perfect for NYE!), searching for that perfect holiday dress - that I lost my purse. Yup. Let panic set in. Oh yup, there it is. Panic panic panic panic. Calm down. Retrace your steps. Two dressing rooms. Endless loops around the massive store. I was finally led to security where they had my purse - with everything in it no less. You can only imagine my relief. After all, I hadn't yet made my official London purchase of my Superdry coat. That was all fixed in a stitch though and before we knew it, we had spent the entire day shopping, leaving us little time before our evening plans. That night, we caught a little band from Denver, CO called The Lumineers, performing their first sold out London show at KOKO. It was my first time seeing them live (which will happen again this NYE, just this time - only two blocks down from my apartment) and they did not disappoint. High energy, foot stompin', hand clappin' good times were had by me, Chlo and a few hundred of our closest British friends.

Tuesday, November 12: Our final full day in London and only one thing to tick off the list (at least on the 'must' list - the other list could go on for pages and pages) - Westminster Abbey. My eyes just watered as I typed it. I know, I know but you guys - I have never experienced such an overwhelming, take-your-breath-away, sweeping moment as I had when I walked into Westminster Abbey. My heart was as full with hope as my eyes were with tears as we wandered through the church. It is, by far, the most beautiful place I have ever laid eyes on. From the detail work on the outside of the church to the arched ceilings and tomb work on the inside. The history - you can feel it. From the monks in the tenth century kings and queens to Darwin to Dickens to Princess Di to Princess Kate - it is truly a 'if these walls could talk' place. We spent hours wandering around, listening to our tour, lightening candles for our beloved, and if you're me - drying eyes. Please, please, I beg of you - if you're ever in London, do not miss this holy, historic landmark. We truly did save the best for last.

Our trip wrapped in the same way it started - with Obamabombs and good company as Jos joined us for our last supper at a pub in London. 

Wednesday was the longest flight of my life but worth it as I arrived home to a dirty Doodle and a homemade meal (not by yours truly - to state the obvious). And with memories that will last me a lifetime.

First trip down, Chlo - see you in Iceland!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos! Once in a lifetime opportunities. I noticed you tagged 30 Adventures. Is thr a blogging thing? Tell us more!