Tuesday, March 19, 2013

London, Day 1: Benny and Swoon

Traveling is such a magical thing.

I'm convinced that every time you travel somewhere new, your world expands a little, as if your inner soul map grows a new limb.
I have this weird mental picture of a bright mosaic being built inside my soul, and each new place adds a colorful new glass tile.

Mae Chevrette, "The Only Thing" on Etsy. 

Every trip we take seems even better than the last.
It's amazing to me that so far, Dusty and I have been to Mexico, Ireland, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and now London and Paris. He's also been to Africa, and I've been to Italy and Japan.
Not to mention some amazing sights in the U.S., including New York, Florida (Disneyworld and Universal Studios) and Washington D.C., among other places!
We bought this amazing map from Urban Outfitters this year, and it's going to be so exciting to scratch off each destination. Talk about the coolest idea ever.

Back to our spring break extravaganza!

We arrived on day 1 in London. Our plane landed around 7am, but we didn't actually get to our apartment until around 10am with all the customs/baggage/travel time.
Once we got our luggage, we headed straight to the underground train station within the airport that would take us into London.
We sat down with about a half hour chug ahead of us, and enjoyed the scenery and the London rooftops! I happily pulled out my iPod and listened to The Beatles, setting the mood. I cherished those first-impression moments.

Walking out into the cold London air, it was literally a Foggy Day in London Town. I could already hear Frank Sinatra in my ear as I started humming along.

One of the best things we did this trip was rent apartments through Airbnb.com.
It was such a cool way to find an apartment in the area we wanted, for the price we wanted, to have a completely unique and more authentic experience of staying in the city. I'm pretty sure we'll be doing this every time we travel! It was great!

Our little apartment street was located near Camden High Street in London.

Our apartment was up on the second floor, and was the perfect little cozy hideaway after our long days of sightseeing.
Our bed was loft-style, so we had to climb the rickety ladder into bed each night - which turned out to be quite the challenge, but the bed was so cozy and even had a heated blanket, so we had no complaints!

Once we dropped off our luggage, we went back around the block to stop into a cafe for brunch before heading into the center of London!

We had tea and coffee, and Dusty had a traditional English breakfast and I had the Egg Florentine.

Camden was a really interesting area!
It's well-known for the "Camden Markets" which is a whole street of market tents and shopping on the weekends. Since we arrived on Saturday, it was in full swing!

It was honestly a totally bizarre street. With even bizarre-er people. But it was really entertaining to walk along and look at all the shops!
We walked almost this entire trip, with the occasional metro breaks. We definitely put our feet to work.
There's no better way to see a city than to walk the streets!

It's crazy to have your expectations meet reality in a city like London. We had all these pictures from things like Peter Pan, Harry Potter, James Bond...and in all these instances, they're just square or rectangle shots in our minds of what things look like. So to experience them in person, in full view of everything...it's pretty overwhelming!

We enjoyed seeing the stark contrast of these amazing old buildings nestled up against modern sky scrapers. 

Walking along the street and bumping into an old brick building that says "This School Founded 1688" is not exactly an everyday occurrence in the states!

 Our first stop was Buckingham Palace!

We walked through the park and eventually could spot Big Ben in the distance!
We headed in his direction so we could experience some of the great sights of London.

Everything amazing in London just sits in this big circle. Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey.

Parliament was one of the most beautifully ornate buildings we had ever seen. We sat staring at it for a good long while, enamored by the intricate detail.

 Richard the Lionheart sits upon his noble steed.

Westminster Abbey was also really stunning.
One of our regrets of the trip is that we missed out on going inside - on this day, we arrived after it was already closed to visitors for the day.

Right next door is another great little church called St. Margaret's.

Our plan was to walk along the river and head over to the Eye of London to see the lines/prices.
We were meeting one of my old friends for dinner, so we were trying to see as much as possible before then.

I feel like I'm rambling, like there's almost nothing for me to say in all of this, because the pictures just speak for themselves.

It was pretty freezing at this point.
We were glad to duck into the building that sold all the event tickets for the surrounding attractions, including the Eye of London.
We bought our tickets and sat for a minute at the little cafe, and bought a little waffle and some coffee to warm ourselves up.
We decided to walk around a while longer, so that by the time we went up in the Eye it would be a little closer to sunset. We were hoping to catch the city as it starts to light up for the night.

One of my favorite little surprises during our time in London was this little market we found while we were passing the time!

We ended up buying some of this Focaccia bread, and some cheese, for breakfast the next day!

This next booth cracked me up.
Giant Savoury Muffin. 
Take your pick!
1. Beetroot, Ricotta and Sweet Potato
2. Spinach, Feta and Tomato
3. Goat's Cheese, Butternut Squash and Spring Onion.

Secretly, I kind of wanted to try them all.

I didn't have the same secret desire for this muffin, however.

There were so many cute and creative booths, with everything you could possibly think of.
People swarmed around the different wares, and we got to try a lot of delicious samples!

Trying super delicious curry!

 We knew we had dinner in a little while, so we tried not to get carried away! But it was extremely difficult!

Along the street lining the Eye of London, there were groups of performers and crowds of people watching the acrobats, singers, statue-men and the like.
My favorite, by far, was the Bubble Man.

He had all these tools to make bubbles, and would even invites some of the surrounding kids to try their hands at the intricate bubble nets and ropes.

So wonderful.

The Eye of London was...totally beyond my expectations.
I knew it would be like a gargantuan Ferris Wheel, but this was like a space ship Ferris Wheel.
The views of the city were completely magical.

So come with me, where dreams are born, 
and time is never planned.
Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, 
forever, in Never Never Land.

We loved every moment of floating along our space cloud Ferris Wheel. 
As we began to go back down the other side, it started getting darker and all the lights of London began to flicker on! It was the perfect timing.

We made the chilly trek across the bridge and headed in the direction of Strand, where we'd be meeting Rachel at a nearby Starbucks!

We popped into a few pubs while deciding where to eat, including a really amazing pub called the Porterhouse! It's one of the largest pubs in London - 13 levels!
It was packed on a Saturday night, but it was fun to wander through and see all the sports fan cheering on their teams and happy groups chatting away in the crowds.

We finally landed on a placed called The Marquess, which had an upstairs restaurant. It was the perfect spot!
It was established in 1663 as a coffee house and was partially destroyed in the bombings of World War II.
I loved learning about the history of all these places!

It was quiet and warm, and had adorable surrounding windows that overlooked the London streets.
We settled down in the little red corner for some good ol' comfort pub food.

The conversation was truly exceptional.
Rachel is a world traveler, and one of the smartest people I know.
Her and I met in 8th grade and became fast friends - she was one of the first people who said "hi!" to my terrified little self, and I was attached to her hip from then on!
I have some amazing memories of our time in school together, and even though we went to different high schools and colleges, I think of her often and am so thankful she was there for me throughout our years together.
Meeting up with her in London was such a surprise treat!
She's currently living in London while she attends King's College. She speaks five languages and is so adventurous. I loved being able to introduce her and Dusty (though they had met briefly a few times before, in high school) and we talked and talked about traveling, especially in London and Paris.
It was definitely a highlight of the trip for us.

After dinner we walked around a bit more, grabbing dessert at a little patisserie called Paul and ducking into another amazing place called Gordon's Wine Bar.
It's said to be the oldest wine bar in London, established in 1890!
It's literally a cave. You walk down the stairs into the front area, and further back you have to duck down into the cavernous spaces. It was packed to the brim with wine-lovers brimming with conversation and rosy cheeks.
They sell only wine, and a few cheeses and wine-appropriate snacks.
It was really quite extraordinary.

Once the night was spent, we hugged Rachel goodbye at the metro and headed back to the Camden area to say goodnight.
We had a very early departure in the morning, for our big day trip to Windsor, Stonehenge, Lacock and Bath!

But that's for another day.

Probably tomorrow.

In love,

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