London, baby

Josh and I went to London three weeks ago.

Let me elaborate. Josh was supposed to go to London on a school trip (to tour hospitals and learn about another healthcare system), but the trip was cancelled after he bought his nonrefundable ticket. After much deliberation, we decided to make lemons into lemonade. We changed Josh's trip from ten days in London to three days, bought a plane ticket for me, and booked three nights in a potentially scary/awesome B&B outside central London. Josh's sister and mom flew to San Antonio and stayed with the lambkins.

The picture above is one of the only ones I took with my big camera. After hauling it around that first afternoon, I decided to leave it in my suitcase in favor of fully enjoying London. Therefore, all our trip pictures are from Josh's phone, taken selfie-style, with us cheesing it in the foreground and a building/bridge/landmark/etc. in the background. I love them, despite their phone-camera imperfections.

I slept for two hours on the flight to London and Josh didn't sleep at all, so we were pretty bleary-eyed on the Underground ride to our B&B. (We bought Oyster cards and rode the tube the entire trip; super easy to navigate, totally affordable, no pesky London traffic, no heart attacks from driving on the opposite side of the road and opposite side of the car.) After changing clothes and dropping our bags off at the B&B, we had a quick breakfast at a local pub and made our way to downtown London.

On our way to the London Tower we stopped to pose in front of our first historical monument. Don't ask me the name, I can't remember now. But don't we look excited? The crisp, morning air and anticipation revived our spirits.

Tower Bridge in background, London Bridge under our feet. 

We walked along the Thames until we reached the London Tower (part of which can be seen on the left).

We wanted to take a tour, but the price and wait time were ridiculous. Plus, we were afraid a long tour would make us tired again, so Josh recounted everything he remembered from his tour of the London Tower twelve years ago. After a stop at the gift shop, we decided to find St. Paul's Cathedral.

We got lost, the first time of many during our three days of walking downtown London. We didn't mind the chance to see more of the city, although the effort reminded us how long it had been since sleep. We rested on the cathedral steps for a while, waiting for a South Korean break dance group to perform. They took a long time setting up and it became difficult to stay awake, so we left and ate lunch at a nearby bistro. Josh was feeling gross from fatigue and only ordered pickles (huh?) and I had the yummiest fish and chips. After watching the South Korean break dancers for a few minutes, we then found ourselves touring the catacombs of an old church (claimed to be the oldest church in London).

We crossed the Millenium Bridge (my favorite bridge in the city) and took this picture at the end (St. Paul's Cathedral in background).

On this side of the bridge was the Tate Modern, one of the three free museums in London we toured. After a half hour of Picasso, Matisse, and Dali, we became so tired we couldn't see straight. We went back to the  B&B and took a three hour nap.

In case you are wondering, The Caspian was a nice place to stay. Sure, our shower and toilet were outside our room, but as far as I can tell no one else used them. The room was clean and cozy, which was just about all we were looking for.

We ate dinner at a local noodle house, then went back to the B&B to watch the Germany soccer game. We both fell asleep before it ended and forgot to set a morning alarm.

We woke up refreshed at 11:30am! It was quite a shock to realize we had completely slept through the morning. We quickly showered and took the tube to Regent's Park, my favorite of all the English gardens we visited.

We had lunch at Regent's Park, then we got very lost trying to find King's Cross Station. We decided that for our next trip to London we will stay here, at St. Pancras. You know, when we are millionaires.

We thought this was King's Cross, but it turned out to be a train station in St. Pancras. No wonder we couldn't find Platform 9 3/4. But, as we found out after ten minutes of searching, King's Cross was right next door.

The line to take formal pictures at Platform 9 3/4 was out the door, so we quickly snapped pictures on the sidelines and then spent some time in the HP shop.

It was kind of like Ollivanders; there were wands for almost every character in the books. Our copies of books 1, 3, and 4 were pretty beat up (number 4 literally ripped in half during the last reading), so we wanted to get British version replacements. The official HP store was ridiculously priced, but the bookshop next door was reasonable. We ended up getting a box set of the whole Harry Potter series (British versions) as well as a British poetry book by A. A. Milne and some souvenirs for our babysitters in San Antonio.

After King's Cross, we walked to Picadilly Circus and Leicester Square. We picked up gifts for the kids (a double-decker red bus for Trent, a paddington bear dressed as a Beefeater Guard for Lottie, and a paddington bear dressed as a Buckingham Guard for Evie). We saw some pretty interesting things in this part of London, least of which was a man playing songs on an orange traffic cone.

Hazelnut gelato. I would happily eat this every day for the rest of my life.

Trafalgar Square was one of my favorite places in London. We got our first glimpse of Big Ben (to the left of the big monument) and enjoyed people-watching for a while. Then we went into the National Gallery and were surprised to find a DaVinci cartoon of Mary and Jesus (which, despite being a sketch for a painting, brought tears to my eyes).

We left the National Gallery in search of food. It wasn't long before we were sitting in Bill's Restaurant in Soho, enjoying the best food of the trip. I got braised duck pie and Josh ordered a pork chop. So delicious.

For dessert Josh ordered a peach parfait and I wolfed down scones with golden raisins and homemade strawberry jam. Simply divine.

We managed to wake up at a decent hour the next morning, despite staying up late to watch the USA soccer game. We went back to Bill's Restaurant for breakfast. Josh ordered a traditional English breakfast and I had the most amazing Egg's Benedict.

We spent our last day in the "royal" part of London. I really loved walking through the neighborhoods and admiring the architecture.

We saw St. James Palace, walked through St. James Garden, and toured the Churchill War Rooms (completely fascinating; I highly recommend it).

Buckingham Palace. The Queen was in, but we didn't have tea.

Westminster Abbey-- more beautiful than I imagined.

Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster.

We stayed on the Westminster Bridge for about an hour, people-watching and discussing where we will live in London when we are billionaires (obviously a large flat with a view of Big Ben).

Our last stop on the London Train was the British Museum, or, as I like to think of it, The Museum of Cool, Old, Stolen Stuff. It was jam-packed with artifacts, most notably the Rosetta Stone. We got lost inside for a few hours, then grabbed some dinner from a nearby noodle house. We spent one more night at the B&B before our nine-hour flight back home.

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