G’Day from the Lathams Aboard the Independence of the Seas, Royal Caribbean! Reporting live from our Ocean view stateroom, watching Southhampton disappear from my view out the window and thinking back on the whirlwind the last three days have been. I’m going to include all of our England Sightseeing in one post, even though some of it was spread out over a few days; in all we walked 16.5 miles in the three days we had in London (according to my iphone app). Let’s get started, shall we?
When we arrived in Heathrow, Lisa picked us up from the airport. It takes a bit to get through the border exchange, so just be patient through that process. Like Iceland, it was great to see a smiling friend waiting there to welcome us! Lisa and her family will be in London for the next few years for Steve’s job, and in the two months since they’ve settled in, Lisa had become pretty familiar with where to go and what to do (and how to do it). We left Heathrow and drove straight to Windsor Castle, which is only about 10 minutes from her home in Egham. A couple of things about traveling through London: your best bet is to purchase an all day pass from a train or underground station. The costs differ by peak times, but it’s worth if if you plan to move around the entire day, and it’s good on the train, the tube (underground subway), and buses. Google maps can help you identify what trains and routes you need to be on to get to where you want to go, so don’t be too intimidated. However, this was much more difficult to figure out than in Chicago. Also, don’t lose your pass- they do not reprint them for you if this happens, ask me how I know. 😦
Windsor was grand!! I loved it because the surrounding town is quaint and quiet, and preserves the magical feel of a town surrounding a great castle. We parked and walked into town and ate lunch at a great burger joint called the Flaming Cow. After being in Iceland for a few days (where a lot of meat is not a staple at any meal) we were craving some protein. The walk there was beautiful.
Check out our welcome committee!“G’Day! Wel’om to Windsah!” So fun fact, while greeting this friendly fellow, a pigeon pooped on my head. At the Flaming Cow we each got a different burger and shared some sweet potato fries. Rob’s had peanut butter and bacon on it…
We were here on a Wednesday, which turns out to be a very good time to visit Windsor- it’s not nearly as crowded as it would be on a weekend. It’s about 25 bucks a person to get in and you can check out a free audio guide and headphones to make your walk through tour more informative and interesting. This is St George’s Chapel at Windsor, and no photography was allowed inside. However, I recommend you google images of it; it was breathtaking. This was the cutest ale house in Windsor right outside the castle, so we grabbed a beer and sat outside for a bit after the couple hours we spent touring inside the castle. (the inside was unbelievable, the rooms and furnishings were just, so incredible it’s hard to describe how historically impactful seeing all of that was. It will totally transport you to another time. And no photography was allowed).Then, as if by magic, a bride and groom walked by with their photographer, speaking in Italian. So of course I snapped this picture of them looking so incredibly over the moon together. Then, the photographer told them to stop, and pose in the street in front of this ale house (I’m guessing because he also thought it was as charming as I did). So we started to move and they said, “No, No! Stay!” So we sat there, talking and drinking our beer in the background of some of their wedding shots. I wonder if they thought, “How perfect! Some locals outside this cute bar!” Little did they know…This was another church within Windsor, and I loved the bright blue doors and windows.So, moving on to the main sightseeing day, we’ll start in the morning and work our way though the afternoon. We took so many pictures and saw so many things that it is impossible to share it all. But some of the highlights:
Buckingham Palace- this was our first stop of the early morning and it was packed. You can see everyone at the gate already about an hour or so before the changing of the palace guard was to take place.
This was the street in from of St James Park, right in front of Buckingham Palace.The squirrels here are quite used to being fed, by hand, from people, and they will scamper right up to you and put their cute little hands on your shoe and look at you as if they will scurry right up your leg. This one here gave me exactly 2 seconds to present him with food or not, and then he lost interest and went elsewhere.
The next place we walked to was the Horse Guard’s Parade to see the changing of the mounted guard. It was neat to watch! The crowds of people were crazy- but that’s London for you. You can see a glimpse of the London Eye in the background here:We eventually found ourselves getting lost in the crowds, and following streets to see where they would lead.
Check out these gangsters drinking some beer at about 10am outside this pub.The three amigos- Big Ben, Parliment and House of Commons, and Westminister Abbey down this block. It was a little surreal trying to navigate this corner. It was packed with people and believe it or not, english speakers were in the minority. So many different nationalities here, it was strange to be walking through England but hearing everything from Dutch to French to German to other languages I could not recognize.
Westminster Abbey- the gothic architecture is really fantastic to see up close.Random cute brunch picture! Eggs, Breakfast Meats, Chia Pudding with fresh fruit and nuts.
Another view of Westminster Abbey- we did not tour the inside. We spent about an hour at the British Museum, a free place to visit. This was full of a ton of artifacts, but I realized I don’t particularly like spending a ton of time walking through a museum (I do like art galleries though). We didn’t stay here long but you could easily spend a few hours if you wanted to look at a bunch of old things.We ate a late lunch at a very cool an authentic Japanese Restaurant, “Europe’s only okonomi-yaki experience”. They prepared the food in front of you and let you self serve off of the stove top when done. This was a cabbage, veggie and egg dish. This was my dish in the cooking stage.Rob’s dish was a noodle dish wrapped in an omelette. This place was very good; I wish we had this style of cooking in Huntsville vs. the traditional “hibachi” places which cook with heavy oil and give you way too much food. The portions here were light and but flavorful which I appreciated considering we’ve done just as much eating as walking it seems. 🙂 Piccadilly Square and Circus area is exactly that- a circus! This square was full of people, street performers and places to eat. There is also a china town located here which was a total sensory overload.
Trafalger Square was similar, street performers and the National Gallery are located here. The National Gallery is a free art gallery, but unfortunately we came up on it near closing time and only saw part of the first floor. I got the feeling that it was much like the Art Institute in Chicago though so I was disappointed we could not see more of it.
At 7, Lisa and her husband Steve met us downtown for dinner so we could try and say Thank You for all they had done for us while we were there. Lisa made us feel right at home, making us dinner two nights, driving us to and from the train station, and waking up with us each morning. She also let us do laundry which is a life saver on a trip this long! It was really great to spend quality time with such a wonderful friend in this great city. Lisa, Steve, Heather- you are all wonderful and we count ourselves blessed to be welcomed in your home. Walking back to the Waterloo train station at night was spectacularly caught through Rob’s lens. After our long day in London I realized something; traveling to far away places is a great thing; there is no denying that. However, you are still who you are in those places as you are when you are not. And I guess what this means to me is, your self worth and importance is not measured by your surroundings or how “far” you go from home. But it’s measured by who you are right where you are on any day, and if you have joy in your current place in this world, then you have everything you need right where you are.