11.01.11 - 11.02.11
"What's that smell? Is it London?"
Our flight from LAS to JFK left at 10:30 a.m. After a 5 hour flight, we made it to JFK and had about a 3 hour layover. The flight from JFK to LHR wasn't pleasant. I hardly got any sleep and there was a crying kid. After landing at 9:30 a.m. on 11.02.11, we made our way to the flat. After some grocery shopping we set off for Harrod's and Piccadilly Circus. We went to bed pretty early that night and after Nikole and I both woke up at the same time we thought it was the next day. Upon learning that it was really only 12:30 a.m. on 11.03.11. We had a snack and went back to sleep. 14 hours total of sleep later we awoke to amazing London.
Upon arriving at St. Paul's Cathedral we were fortunate enough to stumble right into the middle of a huge mass of demonstrators/protestors. Their set up was called Tent City. And it was awesome. And a little scary. We toured St. Paul's Cathedral and decided to take the steps all the way to the top. 528 steps to be exact. The views from the top were exquisite. After some pretty narrow stairwells coming down, we safely descended the dome. We walked across Millennium Bridge to the other side of the Thames River. Then we saw Shakespeare's Globe Theater (from the outside) and then explored the Tate Modern museum. It then began to rain and after making our way to the West End, we decided to take in a movie. It was $41.00 U.S. for a movie, popcorn and a water. (The theater also gave the choice between "salted or sweet" popcorn...which I thought was funny). I fell asleep during the movie.
"Hey...um...you're sitting on Chaucer."
We went to Buckingham Palace first. It was so cool! Then it was off to Westminster Abbey. The Abbey was definitely a highlight of the trip for me. All of the history that the Abbey encompasses is fascinating. The tour enabled visitors to see the tombs of Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Dickens, Geoffrey Chaucer, Winston Churchill among others. It was one of the most interesting places I've ever been to in my life. After Westminster we saw Big Ben and the Parliament Building. We had tickets to ride the London Eye at 4:00 but were able to go a little early. It takes 30 minutes for the Eye to make one revolution and it offered great views of the city. That night we had a birthday celebratory dinner for Nikole at a pub around the corner from the flat.
"Every time I see it...it feels like coming home..."
We wanted to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace so we had to be there by 11:00. There was a massive crowd! The ceremony was really interesting. All of the guardsmen (and women!) are very serious looking. I may or may not have had Nikole take about a zillion pictures of me in this park that is adjacent to Buckingham Palace called Green Park. The foliage was so beautiful and I just happened to coordinate my outfit that day. (Thanks Nikole...you're the tops...) After the Palace, it was finally time for the Abbey Road excursion. We got a little turned around on the way there but finally found it. There were so many people at the intersection! It was cool to walk across the crosswalk and see Abbey Road Studios. We also went to Selfridge's that day and then back to the awesome pub...where I may have had 2 pints of Strongbow. Good times.
"Why are all the dogs so friendly?!"
This day was a lazy one. We walked to Hyde Park and stumbled upon Kensington Palace then saw the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and walked around the (HUGE) park some more. After that, the laundry was done and I am pretty sure I took a nap....or two.
"Yep. That was it."
Almost missed the bus for the tour of Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath, England. We got dressed within 4 minutes and made it to the bus, which we had 4 minutes to get to. Windsor Castle was awesome, Stonehenge was breathtaking and the Roman Baths were really interesting. Best. Day. Trip. EVER!
"It's real life Baby Spice in real life London!!!"
First, we did some browsing and shopping in Harrod's (where I devoured 3 of the most delicious mini cupcakes EVER) and then it was off to a Christmas light switching on ceremony on Regent Street. Apparently, it's a pretty big deal there. When we got there the streets were already starting to fill. We found out that Kelly Clarkson would be performing along with another pretty popular British singer. Two actors were there to help the switching on. And then..as if it could get any better...Baby Spice came out on stage. My inner 9 year old self was so happy. Heh.
"Let's find this b*&#!."
"Oh! There's eclairs!! Oh...wait...no...that says escaliers..."
We had to wake up at 3:30 on the morning of 11.09 in order to catch a bus to the train station where our train was leaving for Paris. The alarm was set the right way and we got up and ready pretty quickly. We made it to the train station and got on the Eurostar! It was about a 2 1/2 hour train ride and it went by pretty quickly. We made it to Paris a little before 9 and then caught the first hop-on-hop-off tour bus that we bought tickets for. We went for a drive around the city before getting off at the Louvre. It. Was. Amazing. I would have liked to spend more time there but we only had one day to get everything in. We saw the major art work: the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, the Sphinx, sculptures by Michaelangelo, etc. After the Louvre we caught the bus again and got off at Notre Dame. What a wonderful looking cathedral! The inside was massive. I got a sandwich from a little cafe and went into some souvenir shops. After catching the bus again we drove around a little more and saw the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysess, Place de la Concorde, and some other hot spots. We had tickets to the Eiffel Tower at 4:00 but we got there super early. The Eiffel Tower was fantastically cool. I'll remember it forever and ever and ever. We caught the bus again and some more hot spots before heading back to the train station to head back to London. (I got two more stamps on my passport that day too!)
We went to the Natural History Museum for a little while and then decided to go to the Temple Church. The Temple Church is centuries old and it was even featured in the movie "The DaVinci Code." The 9 Templar Knights are buried there which was cool to see. After some sight seeing from the opposite side of the river, we went to Selfridge's again and then to Bond Street so that I could try to find something extraordinary to buy but I never did.
We decided to take it easy on this day because we had an early morning the next day to catch the flight home. I wanted to eat at Hard Rock London and after the 2 mile long fiasco of trying to find it ...we took a tour of some memorabilia and stuffed ourselves with delicious food (and almost a shard of plastic).
We got picked up by the most friendly cab driver who got us to the airport in record time. Our flight left at 9:25 a.m. It was a 9 hour flight to Detroit and we made it there in about 8 and 1/2 hours. It was painless. The layover in Detroit was about 4 hours but that went by pretty quickly as well. The flight from Detroit to Las Vegas was horrible - very bumpy! I was glad to sleep in my own bed that night.
I am so thankful to have been able to travel to England and even to Paris for a day. London was so diverse I could almost not believe it. I heard so many languages spoken and saw so many different nationalities. It was a friendly and welcoming city overall. The trip to Europe opened my eyes to a different part of the world in a wonderful way. Traveling is a learning experience through and through and I am so happy and grateful that I was able to go. I hope to fill my passport with even more stamps and this trip was just a jumping off point for the rest of the travels I plan on being apart of.