‘ello! You’re about to enjoy a charming, historic stroll down Memory Lane/London. It is now many months after the fact, but I’ve been trying to sift through the [hundreds] of photos Cale and I took on our two-week trip to Europe this summer. We visited four major cities in 14 days and the first stop was London. If you have personally been to London, taken a history class, or have access to the internet then you’ve probably seen many of these things before. It was an unforgettable trip full of laughter, public transportation, and a little stress. Europe was really an exercise in how many random places I could fall asleep – many. Here’s what our first few days looked like, plus a few snaps from London Town.
Day 1: First Taste of International Travel
Cale and I flew out of Omaha late-morning on a Monday and arrived to thunderstorm conditions in Charlotte, NC that afternoon. A few weather delays and iPhone charges later, we boarded our overnight flight bound for Heathrow. (This would be a good time to warn you that there will be a few “first world problems” in this post, as I realize I am lucky to have taken this trip so bear with me). The flight was long (9 hours) and I was too anxious/excited/mostly anxious to get any amount of decent sleep but I did find the movie selection overwhelming in a good way. The food left a little to be desired but it was my first real airplane food experience beyond the pretzels, peanuts, or cookies on other flights.
Day 2: Arriving in London
When we touched down in London, we went through customs, blah, blah, blah, and had a pre-arranged shared ride that picked us up and took us to our hotel. We shared the cab ride with a grandmother and her 13 year old granddaughter from Boston. Yes, they had great Boston accents. Their 10-day stay in London was, and I quote, a “middle school graduation gift.” So this young lady spent 10 days in Europe. For completing 8th grade. Soaking up quality time with her grandmother. Darn lucky 13 year old! I don’t expressly recall my eighth grade graduation gift but I’m 98% sure I was wearing some kind of shirt/skirt combo from American Eagle and my family celebrated with dinner at Applebee’s or similar destination. Anyways. We arrived to our hotel in the South Kensington area of London. Our room at the Kensington Close Hotel wasn’t ready so we quickly found a cafe and went all in for the espresso.
Jet lag is real and it is serious and we (ok, just me) fell asleep sitting up at the cafe so a walk around the neighborhood was much needed. The houses and businesses and storefronts are so charming and adorable – the architecture and level of detail are amazing! After wandering and finding a little restaurant to grab a bite, we made our way back to the hotel, checked in, marveled at the tiny room and bathroom, and changed clothes for dinner.
Per many recommendations, we enjoyed Indian food at a little local restaurant a few blocks from our hotel. We let our true tourist naiveté shine during a slight miscommunication about adding gratuity to our check. I am not certain we are welcome back to the restaurant but the chicken pasanda and naan were delicious.
Day 3: Tour as the Tourists Do
On our second day in London, we… enjoyed?… a large bus tour with many other tourists. A large charter-style bus took us on a whistle stop tour of famous monuments, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, and concluded with a River Thames boat ride. These moments were the first of hundreds of moments when I thought “HISTORY IS REAL! I’VE SEEN ALL OF YOU IN BOOKS BEFORE!” Seeing places in real life that you’ve only heard or read about, is really freaking cool. I got better at this as the trip went on but I also learned to take a few photos and then put the camera away to actually take everything in. That way you’ve documented AND enjoyed the moment.
The tour of the city left us just as entertained with our fellow passengers as the sights in London. Sidenote: As a life-long sufferer of “carcolepsy,” I would maybe not recommend bus tours to those who A) fall asleep as soon as they’re seated inside a moving vehicle. Also, jet lag may result in brief bus naps… so I hear. After the tour ended we walked to Oxford Street and through Harrods. After I finished drooling over the Céline purses and designer everything, we found our way to a small pub near our hotel for fish and chips. I’m not very knowledgable on cars but the amount of expensive/fancy/outrageous cars parked near Harrods was jaw-dropping. Though I felt extremely underdressed in my jeans and sandals, I loved every second of soaking in the pristine designer stores.
Day 4: Rain and Shine
For our last and very rainy day in London, we bought an umbrella and made the soggy trek to the Tate Modern Museum. It was apparently a popular and free venue–great art with no rain and no cost. We wandered the floors and got to see a few Mondrian pieces (one of my fave artists).
We followed up the museum trip with a spot of coffee and cake (an entire pot of coffee and separate pieces of coffee cake). Everyone knows vacation calories don’t count. The rain moved out so we made the rounds on foot to Picadilly Circus, the National Gallery, and Trafalgar Square. Pro tip: Free museums = free bathrooms. Trafalgar was so full of people, which I think is half the fun, but also you need to keep your head on straight and your purse zipped.
Keeping your wits about you, navigating public transportation, and seeing lots of historic sights make for amazing and exhausting days. Dinner that evening was unremarkable at a small Italian restaurant near our hotel, but the company was excellent!
Day 5: This is Not a Drill
On our final morning in London, we slept as much as we could and grabbed breakfast at our hotel. Cale so wonderfully mapped out the trains we would need to take to get to the final train station that would get us to Paris. As we were packing up the last few items into our suitcases, the fire alarms in the hotel went off and everyone evacuated. So we heaved our suitcases down the stairs and were on our way!
Not our most graceful exit but thanks to Cale’s extraordinary navigation skills, we made it to the train station in plenty of time for our train to Paris. London was wonderful.When we first arrived, I so badly wanted to “act natural” and fit in with the locals, and much to my chagrin, but later to my relief, it was never gonna happen. But more on that in a later post. Stay tuned for the next installment of “Cale & Katie go to…” to hear snarky observations and mediocre photos of our adventures.