Sunday, January 20, 2013

London Vacation Part 1

Since Jason and I had just arrived in Norway the previous month, we weren't able to fly back to the States for the holiday. Jason had exhausted most of his vacation and only had one day remaining (and you needed two for the time between Christmas and New Year's). However, late in the game we realized that we were not going to get our sea shipment during the break and it seemed silly to spend our last "single" Christmas alone in Stavanger. Jason talked to his boss and was able to work something out to take those two days off and hence, the London and Ireland Christmas and New Year's trip emerged!

We flew into London on Saturday, Dec 22 and didn't have much time to do anything after getting through customs and taking the tube into the city center, but we were excited to be there!

We walked around a bit before heading to a delicious Indian restaurant for dinner and then onto The Lion King afterwards.

The show was absolutely amazing! Neither of us had seen it before and the costumes and special effects were unbelievable. I would highly recommend it to anyone traveling to a city where it's showing.

The following day we headed to the British Museum, a museum dedicated to human history and culture. We spent a couple hours walking around and barely scratched the surface of what all the museum has to offer.

Afterwards we headed back into the city to pickup our London Passes, a two day pass we purchased that allowed us to get into a lot of the different tourist attractions that we planned to see. I would highly recommend checking into it if you are planning a trip to London.

Once we got the passes we met up with Maryam and David, two of our friends from Houston. I was very excited to get a chance to see Maryam since she was in London visiting her family. We had a delicious meal of fish and chips at Sussex and caught up on all the news happening with both of us.

Next we headed over to the Thames River to catch the river cruise boat. It was a great way to see some of the different historical buildings and hear their history.

Our first stop after the cruise was the Tower of London, a historic castle whose official name is Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress.

We walked through the tower and got to see all the different exhibits. The best was the display of all of the Royal Jewels (where, of course, you cannot take any pictures). They also had some interactive displays where we enjoyed goofing around.

We also got to see some of the guards marching.

When we left the Tower of London it was evening lighting up our next stop, the London Bridge Towers, beautifully.

Here's a contrasting day and night view of the bridge.

We walked over and went through the exhibit going over the history of the construction along with a view of the engine rooms.

Afterwards we took the river cruise back to Westminster Pier and enjoyed seeing the city at night.

That night for dinner we headed to an Argentinean restaurant called Gaucho's. The idea of a good steak sounded delicious to us and we weren't disappointed! They bring out a tray displaying the different cuts of meat to help you make your selection and the chef is cooking them in the center of the restaurant floor.

Jason decided to tackle a spiral cut rib eye. Here's the before and after illustrating his handiwork.

I opted for a burger, which included different cuts from multiple meats, and a virgin passion fruit mojito both of which were absolutely delicious!

The following morning we had a relaxing breakfast at Cafe del Pierre before heading over to St. Paul's Cathedral.

The audio tour inside was phenomenal and the cathedral was unbelievably gorgeous. We listened to stories about how different volunteers would guard the cathedral during the WWII bombings in order to put out any fires that might start in the cathedral. It was one of a handful that made it through the war with minimal damage.

After touring the cathedral floor you could walk up 257 steps to the Whispering Gallery, a wide open bird's eye view of the cathedral floor. Then you headed up another 119 steps to the Stone Gallery, which gave you a small glimpse of the London skyline, but was mostly blocked by the cathedral's stone building. So we headed the remaining 152 steps up to the Golden Gallery to get an unobstructed view of the city which you could walk around the tower and see from all angles. It was very windy, but worth the climb. (I did however, notice a shortness of breath going up 528 steps that I attribute to being pregnant!)

After the descent down we rewarded ourselves with a delicious drink from Starbucks, a familiar and missed favorite from the States. (The left picture is me drinking tea at breakfast that morning at Cafe del Pierre)

The next stop was an incredibly crucial one. We had already stopped at three stores throughout the city asking for Cadbury creme eggs, a treat we only experience in the States around Easter. We had not been successful in finding any, but the last store we stopped at suggest we try Sainbury's because she knew they carried them year-round. We had noticed one near St. Paul's and headed in after enjoying our Starbucks.

And they had them!!!! We weren't heading back to the hotel anytime soon and Jason asked me if I was sure I wanted to carry around the box of 48 creme eggs that I was planning on purchasing. (It was logical to just get an unopened box of them - easier to pack...yeah, that's what I am going to use as my excuse.) Not wanting to sacrifice the opportunity, I purchased and lugged the heavy bag all around our next stop - The London Zoo.

You can catch the second post about the rest of our London trip in Part 2 here.

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