Tuesday, September 19, 2017

London (Day 2)

So in my last post, I mentioned that the night before we didn't get back to the hotel until 11:15pm. I don't think we ended up actually falling asleep until 1am though. As a result we did not wake up until 10:15am. All I can say is that is very late for me to sleep in so it felt weird losing so many hours out of the morning.
Anyway, we had tentatively planned our day and wanted to see Notting Hill, Abbey Road and the London Bridge as the main part of our sightseeing.

We knew the train to Notting Hill was the best option for transportation from where we were, and it really wasn't that long of a ride from our hotel. Maybe thirty minutes at the most.
I was pretty excited when we got off the train and started making our way down Portobello Road. I have seen the movie Notting Hill many times. It is one of my favorites! So of course I knew a little what to expect, but real life is usually never like the movies. And I will be totally honest, I was a little disappointed at first.
I mean the market is there of course, and I couldn't help thinking it wasn't what I expected at all. But that's movies for you.
And the address of William's travel bookshop from the movie was there, but it's now just one of those touristy shops selling knick knacks. The sign is still over it though. Although from what I hear, the actual interior of the shop from the movie was shot in another store around the corner.
Anyway, once we really started looking around and exploring and took the whole "how it was in the movies" idea out of it, I really started to love it!
I mean there were a lot of people there, but it wasn't overly crowded on a Friday. And if we would have had room in our suitcases or the ability to send things home to the States, I probably would have purchased quite a few things.

We had lunch at a little restaurant called Luna Rosa that served pizza and pasta one street over from Portobello road. The pizza was good, but I wouldn't recommend the salad. Basically just lettuce and a vinaigrette dressing.
While we were eating I looked up another address from the movie Notting Hill.I wanted to find the house with the blue door that William Thacker lives in located "just around the corner" from his bookshop. It's at 303 Westbourne Park Road, which was right up the street and around the corner from where we were having lunch.

Looking a little run down, but cool all the same.

Afterwards, we just had fun wandering the neighborhood checking out the colorful, pretty houses lining the streets which is one of the things Notting Hill is famous for.
 (an often used photo found on the internet)

And we were able to get our own picture of the very same street. One of the houses is blue now which I actually like better. And of course - scaffolding. But it was still fun seeing something in person, I've only seen on my computer screen till now!

One of my favorite parts of Notting Hill was seeing the little houses that lined the alleys known as Mews. These buildings were originally used as stables where the horses and carriages were kept and are located behind the bigger Victorian and Georgian style homes. Now they are actual homes and I thought they were so pretty and unique.

I loved that blue house. So pretty next to the lovely yellow one.

Just the two of us - Notting Hill, Friday July 28th, 2017
I loved the way some of the streets just curved around with the houses following along.
I'm so glad I didn't let first impressions ruin things. We really enjoyed exploring Notting Hill and I think in part it was because we were exploring together.

By this point we had seen enough though and were ready to move on to Abbey Road. The train ride was a little long so we decided to get a ride through Uber.
The actual studios...

And the famous intersection used in the Beatles album cover! It's a little different now because there are less trees in the background and some crazy zig zag lines painted down the street. But still amazing to be there.
View of the Studios from the intersection.
We had a lot of fun taking photos and making a video of Mike as we crossed over a few times. We did hear the locals aren't thrilled about it, but there were a ton of people also taking photos as they crossed. I thought everyone was pretty good about waiting till traffic had passed.
Just the two of us - Abbey Road, August 28, 2017

Next we took the Underground to the London Bridge. Pretty amazing in person.
Just the two of us - London Bridge, August 28, 2017

After the bridge we took another Uber back to our hotel and decided to go see a play in the West End on our last night there. We debated between Phantom of the Opera and Evita. Since we had seen Phantom twice in the states and never been to a performance of Evita, we decided to give it a try.

Walking back to the hotel after the play though we did pass Her Majesty's Theater where Phantom of the Opera has been playing for ages. We also found a great little bakery called Patisserie Valerie that was open late and bought some little cakes that we brought back to the hotel to eat.

Only two days and nights in London, but we managed to see and do so much!
I know there was so much more we could have experienced, but we hope to return some day with a new bucket list.

Coming up in my next post: Day One - Amsterdam

Monday, September 11, 2017

London Here We Come! (Day 1)

I'm finally ready to start sharing the story of our trip!
(And just a note, all photos were taken by us unless otherwise noted.)

So we left on the last Wednesday in July, taking a 1pm flight to Washington, D.C. From there we had a 6:15pm trip to London that was actually only six hours and fifteen minutes. When the pilot announced the trip time, Mike and I looked at each other because we knew we weren't going to get very much sleep on this flight like we had planned. It was just too early to go to sleep. And by the time we did feel tired, there probably wouldn't be much time left.

We arrived in London at 6:08 am their time and took the Underground from Heathrow airport to Central London via the Piccadilly Line. Most of our traveling within the cities over in Europe was done on the Underground/train, Uber or just plain walking.

It was a short walk from the train station to our hotel and this was the first real view we had of it! We had seen photos on line and knew it was right by a park on the river, but it looked pretty amazing in person.
The main entrance was around back and thankfully even though we were super early, they had a room ready for us. Being so tired we were grateful we could at least get settled in our room and change clothes before heading out again. One thing we were prepared for and had heard was that hotel rooms in Europe can be small. This one was definitely smaller than we were used to, but it was fine for just the two of us. The bathroom was updated, but the shower head was terrible.

So by the time we got to the hotel, checked in dropped off our things and changed clothes, it was 9am. We realized how hungry we were and headed out to find some breakfast. Luckily Mike had unlimited cellular thanks to our phone plan over there and we were able to research places to go and transportation pretty easily.
Just a side note, he did most of the transportation and hotel planning while I did most of the activities and places to visit planning. Restaurants we did together. Although I did find a few recommendations for food before hand.
Anyway, our google search led us to this restaurant located about a 10-15 minute walk away in Soho...

(photo courtesy of google)
I had a Ham and Cheese Omelet and it was Berry pancakes for Mike. Definitely a good way to start off the trip!
But our walk to the restaurant took us through Trafalgar Square 
We were only there long enough to snap a few photos, but we did walk through it quite a few times in the two days we were there heading to other places!

After breakfast we set off walking through the West End towards Buckingham Palace

And as we were walking it hit us that we were in London! Look a red double decker bus!

And a red phone booth! Really they aren't all they are cracked up to be. Of course they are not functional and quite disgusting inside lol. But when in London, you just have to check one out!

The Mall heading towards Buckingham Palace.
There were crowds of people lined up all around the perimeter of the street and circle there. We weren't sure if it was always like that or something special going on. Later someone mentioned there was an announcement that Prince Philip was retiring so they were preparing for a parade.
I have to say it was amazing being there, but really we hung out for a bit and then just moved on to St. James Park.

It really was pretty there.
The next stop on our walking tour was...
Big Ben. You can't go to London and not see Big Ben!

It had some scaffolding around it, but that's pretty par for the course with us and monuments and tourist stops. 
Washington Monument 2013 

The view from Big Ben to the London Eye across the Thames River.
Our hotel was a few blocks right down the road on the river, so we decided to walk back and rest. 
We ended up taking a three or so hour nap and then hung out at the hotel until around 6pm

We then decided to walk back towards Soho and the West End stopping to get a few appetizers at a Tapas place called Barrafina. It was ok, nothing special that I would recommend.

We set off walking again and ended up at the...
The Lego Store! We just had to go in to get some photos for the kids, right? 

This was the photo we sent the kids! I liked this phone booth much better. Definitely cleaner!

Then since everyone else seemed to be doing it, we stopped at this cute little pub so Mike could get a beer.
One of my favorite things about this trip is how relaxed we were about pretty much everything.

Next we wandered through Carnaby Street but didn't do any shopping. It was pretty late by then.
So we started looking for a place to have dinner.
We settled on Dirty Bones which was located in the coolest little restaurant setup called Kingly Court. If you are ever in that area, I would definitely check it out.

(photo from google)
It looks like you are just walking through the entrance of a building, but when you get inside you find this...
Just really amazing how many restaurants they are able to fit in there! I really liked it and wish we would have had more time to try a some of the other places to eat.

Anyway, Mike had a mac and cheese burger and I had the fish tacos for dinner. He liked his a lot. Mine was pretty good, but a little spicy.

Next stop, back to Big Ben to see it at night.
And a walk around Westminster Abbey

By then we were exhausted and headed back to the hotel around 11:15pm. It had been a long day but so fun. And according to my fitbit, I had walked 25,956 steps and 11.13 miles!

Stay tuned for the next post - Day 2 in London at Notting Hill, Abbey Road, and the London Bridge!