This was almost two weeks ago, but Lance and I have been moving into another house, so I've had no time to update until now.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Lance and I arrived at London Stansted after a nerve-wracking morning of being stuck in Eindhoven, NL traffic and getting to the airport less than an hour before our flight. The flight was smooth and extremely brief. Getting out of Stansted into London proper actually took longer than the flight. We took the Stansted Express – 45 minutes to Liverpool Street Station. From there, we hop on the tube, take that to Tower Hill, and then switch tubes to get out to Fulham Broadway. Total tube travel time (try saying that 10 times fast) = 1 hour. There were some delays due to security issues, but that seems to be pretty normal since the July 7 bombings.
At one of the tube stops, a pigeon got on, pecked around until the next stop, and then got off. Hilarious.
Once we got to Fulham Broadway and located our hotel, we checked in and decided to search for lunch. Lance decided that he wanted to visit the Natural History Museum, which is in the South Kensington area near a lot of other museums. So we figured we would find a bite to eat there. The first place we saw after leaving the tube station was a crepe restaurant. So crepes it was. And then on to the Natural History Museum.
I should say, first of all, that I wasn’t feeling well our first day there. I had an upset stomach – not nausea, but just not good. But I got through the Natural History Museum as best I could. It was interesting, but I just couldn’t enjoy it as much as I would’ve liked. We saw a good portion of the museum, but not everything. The museum is free and I was very impressed with the quality of it. It was probably the best natural history museum I’ve ever seen. The dinosaur exhibit is impressive. No wonder it’s so popular.
The Victoria & Albert Museum is right by the Natural History Museum, and Lance chose that as a place for us to visit. That surprised me, because it’s mostly art, and he’s not really into that. But there was plenty of interesting stuff to look at. We didn’t get through all of this museum either, but the sculpture room was especially interesting and I also liked the wardrobe exhibits – mostly stuff worn by royalty.
After we had enough of that museum, we decided to go in search of dinner. Lance wanted to eat at the Hard Rock Café, since it’s the original. I wasn’t so particular. I’ve already eaten there anyway. So we took the tube to Hyde Park Corner to go to the restaurant, only to find out that they were closed due to a fire. So we walked all over the area looking for another place to eat. We stopped briefly in Harrod’s so Lance could check it out. And then we continued on…and on…and on… Our walk turned up nothing that either of us wanted to eat (and in London, that’s pretty amazing). So Lance suggested we take the tube back to the area where we started out, and there we found an Italian restaurant. So we had dinner there and headed back to the hotel to shower and rest. We spent the rest of the evening watching crazy British television shows (there’s this one called “Bad Lad Army” that just had us in hysterics) and I had some hot cocoa and cookies from the tea service in our room.
Friday, August 26
Lance’s sister and Dennis were arriving that morning, so we spent all morning in the hotel lobby awaiting their arrival, after having a traditional English breakfast at a little café across the street from our hotel. Their flight was to get into Gatwick at 9, but they didn’t make it to the hotel until almost noon.
Once they got checked in, we gave them some time to freshen up, and then they came and got us at our room.
We figured we would get on our city bus tour, since we had 24 hours to use it after validating the ticket. So we took the tube to Green Park to get on the bus, but since we were so close to Buckingham Palace, and Kim wanted to take the tour of the state rooms, we did that first. Then we got on our bus tour, and it started to get pretty cold and a bit rainy then. We rode up to the Tower of London, got off, and then took our free one-way boat cruise down the Thames. We arrived somewhere near the Parliament building, and we decided to go to Trafalgar Square for dinner. We ended up at the first place we saw – Garfunkel’s – which had a bit of everything: burgers, fish and chips, steak.
After dinner, Kim and Dennis were feeling the jet-lag, so we headed back to the hotel. And that ended day 2. At least for Lance and myself.
Saturday, August 27
Not wanting to have English breakfast again, Lance and I fortified ourselves with 2 day old cinnamon rolls from the Sainsbury's grocery down the street. Ick. At least the tea from the tea service was good (but Lance doesn't drink it, so he'll never know).
Our first stop was to the Tower of London. It took awhile to get there on the tube. We got there pretty early and got on one of the tours with a Beefeater, who was more amusing than you could imagine. It was a really interesting tour, but it didn’t cover the exhibits. So we looked at the crown jewels, and the armory.
Since we had an ambitious schedule, we left there around noon, grabbing quick takeaway lunches from the Tower’s snack counter. We hopped on the tube to St. Paul’s, but when we got there, it looked like there was a wedding about to happen, so we decided against taking a tour. Back on the tube, this time headed for Westminster Abbey. We spent at least an hour in there…probably more than that. I was particularly in awe of Elizabeth I’s tomb, the tomb of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Poets' Corner. It really is a magnificent graveyard. You almost forget that it’s a cathedral though because it is so mired down in sarcophagi and memorials – more than any other cathedral I’ve seen. But it’s so fascinating to see them all. I almost stepped on Charles Darwin’s grave. He’s buried under the floor. You can’t walk in there without stepping on someone’s resting place.
We had a 4:30 appointment at the London Eye, so we left around 3:30 or so and walked across the bridge to get there (it’s directly across from the abbey – Parliament). We got there way early and we were ushered into a waiting room to await our tour guide that we paid a bit extra to have. We got a private car with her (along with the few other people who paid extra for the tour guide) and had a really cool half hour ride with a bird’s eye view of all of London’s sights. Very very cool. Seeing Downing Street (the prime minister’s residence) from high above was particularly interesting, because it doesn’t look nearly as impressive on the ground as it does from the sky. I have to admit that I was skeptical about the London Eye. In my humble opinion, it’s an eyesore next to the grandeur of all of London’s great landmarks. But it is an awesome way to see the city.
We capped off our night by having dinner at The Anchor Bankside, a pub that was once the haunt of Shakespeare, Samuel Pepys, and Dickens. We had a nice dinner there and stayed and had drinks as the skies darkened and the London skyline lit up. After having our fill of beer and cider, we walked along the banks of the Thames for awhile, enjoying the beautiful views, the buskers performing in the streets, and the beautiful weather. What a fantastic ending to our trip.
Sunday, August 28
We had said goodbye to Kim and Dennis the night before, since they had a very early wake-up call to move on to their next destination (Stratford-Upon-Avon…*jealous*…I’ve been there before and I loved it so much). Lance and I didn’t have our flight back to Eindhoven until 5, so we had a leisurely morning at the hotel. Then we checked out and took the tube to Liverpool Street Station, which is where we needed to catch the train for the airport. But we hung out there for awhile, had lunch, and attempted to spend some of the pounds we had left. At 1, we took to train to the airport and then spent more money there. I bought a bunch of books and magazines, so I have plenty of reading material to last me awhile now.
As we were arriving in Eindhoven, I was very excited to see the British Royal Air Force Red Arrows lined up on Eindhoven’s tarmac. I saw them perform last year when Lance and I were at RAF Waddington near Lincoln, England for an air show. They are impressive.