We flew out Saturday morning and arrived in London around 8:30. Before I could incorrectly implement dodgy into the conversation, Bri, a girl after my own heart, had discovered our first stop in London--a traditional British breakfast joint. Finding our hotel was our next priority and locating it wasn't quiiiiiiiite as easy as the cafe. Nevertheless, after a few wrong turns and some dizzying circling, we found The Rose Park. There was little time to waste and so, without any real idea of where we were or how to get where we wanted to go, we made our way to the lively streets of London. With my camera draped around my neck and a giant map unfurled between my hands, I suppose I was one fanny-pack shy of impersonating the most ridiculous and stereotypical tourist. I've resembled worse.
Now, I don't know how, but somewhere between leaving our hotel and boarding the Tube, I became our official navigator. Perhaps I mistook the girls' silence as tacit compliance, or perhaps they accepted, as I had, that no matter who took the reigns, it was the blind leading the blind with no guarantee we'd find anything. And so, I feigned confidence and led us to our first landmark--the London Eye. The Eye is a terrifyingly magnificent Ferris wheel positioned alongside the River Thames, boasting a height of 443 feet. It takes 30 mins to go all the way around and offers some of the greatest views of Benjamin, Parliament and Westminster Abbey, specifically on that sunny day! Speaking of Benjamin, he would be our next stop and by golly, he's the loveliest clock I've ever set my sights on. Around the corner we saw Parliament, Westminster Palace, the Abbey and a couple other spectacular sights. The Abbey is stunning, just stunning and, unbelievably, open to the public for Sunday services. That quickly became number one on our list for the following day. Captivated and rather eager for more, we hurried off toward Buckingham Palace, though of course, not before shoving our way into a red telephone booth and taking group pictures. Now, I didn't go to London just to embarrass myself, but that doesn't mean it happened any less frequently than it does in any other country. Ill ask you to try to hold onto that thought moving forward.
On our way to the Palace we walked past St. James's Park--a lovely bit of grass and water featuring numerous birds and friendly squirrels. Squirrels...squirrels everywhere--it was heaven. Even better, they were accepting food from people, normal people like me! I seized this opportunity to finally befriend a squirrel and hopefully convince him or her to become my pet. Perhaps I set my sights a little too high, but I was overflowing with excitement anticipating my future adventures with Earl (Earl the squirrel, HAHAHA). Anyways, I approached the group of people feeding MY future pet and finagled my way to the front when it struck me: I have nothing to feed Earl with. Drat. But then I remember the bag of Haribo gummy bears I purchased boarding the Eye that I immediately lost my appetite for as we climbed higher and higher into the sky, and so I reached into my bag and pulled them out, sheepishly. I'll admit, gummy bears wouldn't have been my first choice to lure Earl, but ya play the hand your dealt and I found myself in that moment without nuts. Ha. Long story kind of short, I had zero success with my gummy bears and rather than attracting Earl, I only attracted offensive stares from people who seemed to think I belonged in a straight jacket. Prepared to give up, a little old man gave me an almond and urged me to try and sure enough, Earl came right up to me and took it...and ran away without so much as a thank you. It goes without saying that that was mildly disappointing, but my appetite had resurfaced for those gummy bears and I recovered.
Church at the Abbey was at 10am and so we were up and out the door by 9, figuring we'd be just 3 among many eagerly attending the service that morning. Oh how wrong we were. I'd guess there were 20 of us there and Bri, Mort and I sat front and center. It was incredible. The Abbey is breathtaking and so incredibly imposing. The most magnificent part of the service though, without question, was the choir. A medley of young boys and older men, their voices nearly brought me to tears as they sang the hymns. That morning in the Abbey was my favorite experience of the trip.
Once we stepped foot outside the Abbey we were back to our fast paced trek across London. We raced to the London Tower and Tower Bridge and from there saw St. Paul's Cathedral and Millenium Bridge, across from Tate Modern. Around the corner from the Cathedral I spotted bike rentals. Drunk with power from being our guide, I immediately insisted we change our walking tour into a biking tour. The girls were game and just like that we were biking through London, just as blindly and a bit more dangerously now. We biked from the Cathedral to Hyde Park, passing along Regent's Street and Oxford Street, both well known for their shopping. If we hadn't been tortured with the fear of being killed by all the gigantic tour buses recklessly dominating the roads, we may have spent more time enjoying that part of London. As it was, we just wanted to survive. Despite the near life threatening collisions, the bike riding was my second favorite part of the trip. Hyde Park led us to Kensington Gardens and Palace where we would have traditional high tea at "The Orangery" as all the locals do. This place came highly recommended from my dear friend Jillian who studied abroad in London and it was absolutely worth the wait. I have never understood the whole cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off thing, until they were displayed in front of me, so elegantly, so sophisticated, and suddenly I was envious of a sandwich. That's when I got it. No one wants to be outdone by some pretentious little sandwich that thinks it's soooo stylish with its cut crusts. Then you think, "I'll show this sandwich classy!" I think this is where the whole extended pinkie whilst drinking tea comes into play. And it becomes this game, this struggle to best this frustratingly refined sandwich. In my converse and jeans and pony tail, I lost.
As the sun began to set, we had only 2 more things on our list to do that day before resting again: Notting Hill and Portobello Market, conveniently located in Notting Hill. Notting Hill is just as you would imagine it if you've seen the movie, starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. Shame on you if you haven't. The market was a nice little treat, with cute little stores and tables pitched in front of them, showcasing their best items. It was a relaxing way to end our sight-seeing for the day. After freshening up back at the hotel we spent our last night bouncing around the pubs near our Hotel before calling it a night. Our flight took us back to Germany at 7am. We didn't want to leave, but we were more than satisfied with our 48 hour adventure.
Hey! Happy February my friends!