London; History at its source

So our London trip turned out to be just in the nick of time. Within two weeks of returning everything just hopped in the handbasket and has been cruising straight for hell.

But this isn’t about that, this is about a week of enjoying London. So hop in this better handbasket this is a long one!

Day 1

We managed to arrive early at the airport, I wasn’t going to risk being late and possibly missing our flight. More so as we found there wasn’t a check-in counter…it was a kiosk. Tucked out of the way none the less, but I can’t say British Air has a major presence in DIA.

From there we cleared security and settled in to wait at our gate with a few overpriced sandwiches.

Watching the plane pull in was making the trip seem real! Also seeing how big it was as a Southwest plane (our normal airline for travel) looked like a toy next to it.

We lucked out and the plane was underbooked so we got a whole row to our selves. Making the back of the plane less of a pain. Once settled in we were offered drinks and wine for dinner! Dinner its self was a veg pasta or chicken curry. I opted for curry and for being a reheat tasted pretty darn good. We had cheese and bread and pudding. Afterward tea and then time to settle in to grab some sleep.

I did manage some, by stretching out on three of the seats. I also had the other two pillows and blankets from the rest of the row and I propped them up with my neck pillow on top and was overall very comfy! Not first-class but enough to get some rest.

Breakfast was sandwiches, I got a tomato and cheese one. Cereal bar and more importantly coffee.

We had been pushed with an impressive tailwind, I remember waking up and seeing something like 120kmh(74 ish MPH) at one point and going damn! Not the record for the weeks before but enough to shave an hour of flight time.

So once we touched down we spent some time chilling on the tarmac as operations scrambled to get us to a gate. All the time I kept looking out the windows going this place is so GREEN! Things were blooming and seeing as we just left snow it was giving me hope for a good week weather-wise!

Once off the plane, we headed straight to customs. Being US citizens with new passports we got to use the e-gates. Super nice and easy. With no bags to collect, we rolled on out and began the hike to the underground. We had landed at Terminal 3 and needed to get to Terminal 2. Luckily it is decently signed and the walking felt good after being on a plane for hours.

We each got an Oyster card, and I loaded up about 15 pounds apiece. Pro-tip by the way unless you need to be in London NOW, skip the express. Regular tube lines cost us 3.10 pounds and to our hotel only took an hour. The express is like 25 some pounds one way and we still would have had to transfer.

So we had turned our phones off not wanting to run the data if we didn’t have to. I had spent time memorizing how to get to our hotel. But once there and trying to remember what little street took us the right direction my drunk homing pigeon kicked in and we took a bit of a roundabout way.

Sill we arrived before I had planned. The front desk was nice enough to take our bags and hold them until check-in. We headed off for lunch once that was sorted.

The street one up had a few little places and we settled on Pret-A-Manger. A chain of coffee and fresh-made sandwiches. We both got a duck sandwich and I got a coconut/rice milk chai. The drink was a touch grainy but the sandwich was good.

From there we started walking. I had looked up a Boots pharmacy to get toiletries before we had left the hotel. So again drunk homing pigeon directions took us over the Millennium Bridge past Saint Paul Cathedral and then back to the Blackfriars Bridge and along the South Bank. Not a horrible walk and made better by the nice weather but at this point, jetlag was creeping up so we toddled back to the hotel to just sit and wait.

With an hour before check-in, I asked if we possibly could get in early and the gentleman at the desk obliged. Bags also reclaimed at that point.

When I had been looking at the hotel online I had seen several photos of the Shard in people’s room view and had been half-hoping we would get that view.

I was very pleased to be handed an 8th floor (7th for Americans) key and more delighted to find we had the view!

After that jetlag hit us hard and we ended up sleeping. Not my original plan, I had wanted to stay up and adjust but my eyelids won.

We did wake up for dinner, and I ran over to the grocery to secure sandwiches and snacks. First off they have real Kinder Eggs, not the Kinder Joys! Needless to say, I snagged one up. Egg and watercress sandwich for me and a chicken with pork sage and onion stuffing for the husband. Prawn crisps, they got a blah from me. I also got a Juicy Water Black current and raspberry flavor. That was a yum!

We watched TV until real bedtime.

Day 2

Back when I had been planning, I found that the Tower of London was going to be increasing prices after the 29th. So it made day 2 a no brainer, Tower of London and on the way Borough Market.

We had breakfast at Costa, a mistake as the Market had way better food. But I needed coffee to function so we started there.

Borough Market was amazing! A small collection of merchants all focused on sustainability and amazing quality. The husband got a Soched egg that was going to be lunch but became second breakfast. We also got a cup of mulled fruit ciders. A donut and Cheese breadsticks also found their way with us and as the market picked up we headed out to the Tower. I will say for the partly cloudy conditions the wind off the Themes was bitter so we didn’t linger on the Tower Bridge, but once at the Tower it calmed down and became pleasant.

The Tower its self was amazing! I loved seeing the Ravens, and was excited to get many photos of them! The Crown Jewels are neat and we had a good hike around the walls before realizing we needed lunch. We also got a taste of the London rain showers, a brief little sprinkle. We ate on site Ryan got the fish with sauce and I got a tomato and cheese toastie. Once done we agreed to walk a back and grab breakfast for the next day at the Market. But we did cruise the gift shop and I refrained from buying all the Raven things.

We walked the London bridge back, stopping on the north bank to soak the Sun up as it made an appearance from the clouds. Once we acquired a few pastries and lamented our lack of a fridge. We also stopped and had a glass of mead, and took the bottle back with us to the room.

Another nap was in order and by the time we woke up, it was dark and a light rain was falling. We skipped the pub by us as it was packed and settled for an Izakaya around the corner. Not the best meal of the trip but the Katsudon I had was warm and filling.

We headed to bed early as we had tickets for Stonehenge the next day.

Day 3

We woke up to a rain-snow mix. I was feeling rather foolish as this was a mostly outside day and being wet and cold wasn’t on our list. We bundled up and walked over to the Waterloo Station nonetheless. After picking up our tickets, we wandered around to find lunch to take on the train with us. We settled for Itsu a Sushi take-out chain.

After that, we hurried to get on the train. I had booked us first-class tickets, I figured I couldn’t for the flight might as well for the hour train ride. At 15 pound a pice it was a nice little splurge. The further we got from London the better the weather became, with the sun coming out and the rain and snow stopping.

Salisbury was everything I needed from a small town train station! It reminded me of Japan and the hours I spent at little train stations there. Luck had it the bus I had booked to take us to Stonehenge was waiting by the curb and after having to turn on data to get the reservation we settled on the upper deck of the bus.

Stonehenge for the record is about a half hours drive from the station, and that is with a stop at Town Center. My husband was amazed at the skill of the bus to slither through the narrow little streets, missing other buses buildings and normal traffic.

Once out and on our way I have to say we fell in love with the countryside. It was so green and just rolled away much like Nebraska, but with sheep, not cows. However, when we pulled up to Stonehenge there was a moment of WTF where are the stones?!

The driver explained as he got us sorted with tickets in and the audio guides that we would take another bus out to them, or you could walk. We chose to start with our sushi lunch before catching the bus. In the summer it would be a blissful walk but the cold wind made the bus practical.

The stones themselves are fascinating. Even if jarringly up again the A303. Because of all the rain, England had been having parts of the site used a rather cool plastic mat system to try and cut the mud. I also cooed over the sheep on the adjacent property. Photos snapped and faces frozen we jumped back on the Bus and stopped in the gift shop. They had a mead tasting station, warm mead will be on the menu this fall. From there we decided to get a snack, and I got a Cream Tea! Basically Tea, a scone and clotted cream and Jam. By then if we wanted to still have time to see Old Sarum we had to hop back on the bus. Basically it is the ruins of an old Castle in the area. The bus lets you off on the side of the road and then you have to hike up to the ruins. It was a bit soggy but the view of Salisbury was worth it. I also realized that we could without a doubt live in the English countryside.

Once done and ready for some supper we caught a regular Reds Bus back to the city center. Exhausted and just ready to sit for a bit we ended up at the Ox Row Inn. Dinner service didn’t start until 5 so we did what the locals seemed to be doing, got a pint and chatted. 2 more pints later we got dinner, husband fish and chips and me a sampler platter. We also met a sweet little pup and discovered this pub was dog friendly!

I also want to say that Black pudding is pretty good! The scotched egg I had was wrapped in it.

At this point, I realized I had overestimated the time we needed as we still had a long way until our return train. So we strolled back to the station to wait and after some discussion got on the right platform.

The train ride back was empty, a good thing as I think we both took a small nap at one point.

Once back at Waterloo we stopped at the Boot there to grab some lotion as the windburn to our face was pretty nasty. Then back to the hotel where we collapsed into bed.

Day 4

We woke up to more rain and I was a touch grumpy as this was the day for the Globe! One of the things I had been super excited to see. Trying not to let the weather get me down we got a grab and go breakfast before heading over for our tour.

They had just started production of Macbeth, and so we got to watch a little of the rehearsal before they headed off for a break and we got to snap photos! The gal leading the tour was funny and very informative. I was happy to get to see everything and the rain let up enough that we didn’t mind.

Once done we decided to stop in the Tate modern for Lunch. (Salmon sandwiches and some cookies) Before we wandered around. The art was thought-provoking but the best part is the observation deck is free! So after waiting on very full elevators with student groups, we made our way up to get good panorama shots of London’s skyline.

By then we had our fill of art and school children (it seemed like it was field trip day to the Tate….and they were everywhere.) We headed out into the drizzle to locate the London Mithroaurm.

Drunk Homing pigeon directions took us on a tour of the true City of London as this place is hard to find and paired with spotty internet and some protestors with a totally not suspicious police van following. We made it to this hole in the wall.

As a side note if you want to visit, go to the Cannon Street Tube station and walk across the street to the Bloomsburg Building.

This site had been discovered after the blitz and was full of Roman artifacts. As far as a museum it is lacking. I really wanted more of the artifacts in an easy to see display case. But as an immersive exhibit of the temple ruins, it was spot on.

After that, we decided to head over to the post box I had found to mail out some postcards before heading back to the hotel. Dinner was noddles at a nice little place. Spicy but so good after a cold damp day.

Day 5

We got up later, probably due to being exhausted but the weather had improved so we headed over to the British Museum! Stopping for Brunch at Itsu before heading in.

ALL THE STUFF.

I can say it was almost the Chicago Art Museum all over again. We spent upwards of two hours probably more just looking. I can’t sum up all of the stuff but highlights were touching a bit of pottery at a touch cart station, seeing my favorite raven piece and looking at the back of roman/ Greek Busts to see how they had the hair done up.

A cream tea later we had to walk out or we would have been there until close. Not a bad thing but I wanted to walk around and maybe head over to the Palace.

That got cut short as the good weather opened in to hail and we decided to head back as we didn’t have any gear to deal with that.

Back at Waterloo station, we realized it was a touch too early to get dinner so we walked down to the London Eye and the Jubilee Gardens. Across the river was Big Ben, still wrapped in scaffolding . Some photos later we headed back to find a place for dinner.

Dinner was at a nice little pub that had pizza and berry cider. I had stopped at a Lush to get a bath bomb to soak in as the walking was getting to me. So once back we relaxed until bedtime.

Day 6

We started the day needing to top up our Oyster cards. But the sun was out and things were looking good as we made our way to Camden Town.

OMG. There were one too many people but the pursuit of Halloumi Fries and my lack of directions gave us a decent tour none the less. The husband also had a salt beef sandwich before we gave up with the crowd and headed for the library.

The British Library, as you may know, is a favorite resource and I was excited to visit! I couldn’t get a reading pass, probably for the best as I would have never left. But they did have a lovely exhibit and we got to see one of the copies of the Manga Carta.

After that, we did stop at the 9 and 3/4 store, and my 12-year-old self a squee at all things Harry Potter before agreeing to head up to Hamstead Heath.

So the Heath has 2 Stations one by tube and one by overground. We made the mistake of getting the tube that stops at the town….not the bottom that connects into leisurely paths. So underprepared we set off on a stroll. And remember the part about all the rain, well, it became a scramble in the mud. My poor poor boots.

It was worth it, however.

We did manage to find the overground station and took the long way back to our Hotel. As it was Sunday and pub across the street was finally not packed to the door busy we opted for the Sunday roast there.

So. much. food.

Paired with London pride beer we enjoyed roast chicken, Yorkshire pudding with gravy kale, parsnips cauliflower and potatoes.

After dinner, we came back polished off the mead and watched TV. We found a quiz show called The Chaser and it seemed to be on before bed each night.

Day 7

Our last full day in London. We headed out the V and A (Victoria and Albert) Again just packed with things, every time you turned there was another space jammed with things to see. I focused on the Medieval Europe collection…3 levels of it. We had lunch and if I was to go back would 100% have done High Tea there it was just so GRAND.

we stopped over at the science museum as the husband wanted to see the Turing machine there. The math exhibit was lovely and we stopped for afternoon tea and just relaxed for a bit. We also may have been utilizing the free wifi….

From there we walked to Harrods. Talk about a maze. We picked up a few things as presents before getting out. On the way back I had found a used book market and after some looking found it as it was packing up. Probably for the best as I had several books I needed to pack back at the room.

We opted for dinner at a place called Giraffe, just in time as the rainstorm moved in. After dinner, we did a little more last-minute shopping for presents before heading back to pack up.

I decided that chocolate was in order so I got a good handful at the grocery across the way before spending the rest of the night shoving things into my bags. I am happy to say everything fit!

Day 8

I will admit I was sad to be leaving. We ate at the hotel restaurant and I am glad we didn’t buy the whole week of meals there. It was underwhelming after all the other amazing food we had been eating.

One last sweep of the room and we headed for Terminal 5.

Again we got there early and I will say UK security was better organized than the US. We had a last lunch at Itsu before walking out to the B gates.

Now my sister had texted us the day before that the flight from that day had been canceled. So we ended up with a packed flight. My poor poor husband, he got the jerk who decided to slam his seat back and keep it there. The stewardess had to ask him to sit up so he could eat dinner. But as soon as we finished it was right back in his lap. I want to say British Air got a 5 star in my book after pointing out how horrible of a time he was having they moved him up to the economy +. That let me have my window seat and move away from the lady who was hacking (at that time just an inconvenience… now I probably would have been REALLY mad) We did get Ice Cream as a snack. Also because we logged in to Netflix in the UK I was able to download Miyazaki’s films! So the 8-hour flight was less painful!

Customs was one bad line after another. I am sure it looks great on paper but after the UK, it just set its self up to have people upset as the line wasn’t clear and just a muddle. The actual customs was the usual hi welcome back thanks bye now.

We walked out and in to pick up. Wait….yes we had to re-clear security. I realized that I hadn’t drunk the water I had taken on the flight. So I got to chug it and dump the rest in a plastic wastebasket.

Now, remember how I was proud to have got all our stuff back in the bags? Yeah, that saved our duffs. I am not sure we would have made it if we had to pick up bags.

Folks do your self a favor.

NEVER FLY INTO O’HARE.

Just don’t ok. Even DIA under construction is better. In fact, come into Eppley. None of the concourses are connected at O’hare. The one sign we did find said go this way and then to K gates. Well, that was a lie. We had to go back to get a bus, yes a bus, between M and K gates by going out a back door. Sketchy.

I will say Amerian Airlines was less comfortable than the British Air and it may have been me but the snacks tasted stale to boot. We got captain chatter seated next to us and thankfully I could tune him out and got a small nap.

Landing back at DIA was nice. And my sister did remember to come and get us and by the time we got home, I was ready to pass out.

Overall, it was a good trip. We saw and did a lot and I think we would be happy possibly moving there someday. If you made it this far I have the 800 some photos without my face for your viewing pleasure Here. I plan to pull out the highlights as the weeks go on here to talk about things in more depth.

Reviews and tips on where to stay and what I would do differently also coming up in later posts.

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