A Rendezvous in London

Trip Start Mar 31, 2011
Trip End Jul 05, 2011

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We arrived in London at about 6 AM and were totally exhausted from our train experience. Luckily, the tube was pretty easy to figure out. It only took about 20 minutes to reach my cousin's (Ann Marie) house from Victoria coach station and we told her we were going to arrive at 8 AM, so we decided to hide our bags in the bushes in front of her house and get a coffee. Glad nobody noticed the bags as they were pretty sketchy... After about an hour, we returned to the apartment and successfully met up with Ann Marie! Her flat is absolutely amazing-- nice and big with an office and a good kitchen. It is so lovely to get to visit with Ann Marie and to have a nice place to stay, especially since we've decided to take the end of the trip slowly and spend our last week only in England. Will definitely be a contrast from the rest of the trip...
We spent the rest of the morning catching up with Ann Marie, but she had to go upstairs and work around 11, so we headed back to central London on the tube. The tube is pretty neat-- it goes all over the place and they announce "MIND THE GAP" over the intercom about every 10 seconds. Plus, there are tons of British youth dressed in ridiculous fashion to look at! The people-watching on the London Underground has to be some of the best in all of Europe. 
The three of us got off at the Piccadilly Circus stop and cruised around Covent Gardens and Soho for a few hours. We went inside a giant toy store called Hamleys and took a bunch of pictures of ridiculous toys. The store was 5 stories tall (I think), and we found a great exhibit of Harry Potters stuff. Jeremy and I are really excited about HP, so we took a bunch of pictures there too. We picked up a few sandwiches at a great little shop called Pret, which sells all sorts of delicious pre-made goodies for take-away. Then we headed to Nelson's Column and Trafalgar's Square to take some pictures of the fountains. From there, we cruised along the water and crossed Waterloo Bridge to check out the London Eye. It was massively expensive to ride, so we just took pictures of it from the bridge. Then we crossed back on the Parliament bridge to get some nice pictures of the Parliament buildings, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. The complex is just as cool as it looks in the movies-- very grand and regal. The light was really variable, so only some of our pictures are good. Oh well, it was still totally great. 
Then we took the tube to Victoria station to see Westminster Cathedral. Westminster Cathedral should not be confused with Westminster Abbey because they couldn't be more different. The cathedral is way more modern than the abbey, but they are equally cool. I thought the cathedral looked a bit like the big cathedral we loved from Salzburg-- wonder why they are so similar... Then we hopped back on the tube to go to Buckingham palace. There was a big garden party with the Queen happening in the grounds so we couldn't go inside, but the people watching was pretty great from the gates. I've never seen so many ridiculous hats in all of my life. Excellent. We walked past another little palace to watch the changing of the guards. I took a little video of it-- posted at the bottom of the blog.
After the palace, we headed back to Ann Marie's place to meet up and have dinner at a nice little restaurant near her flat. We were expecting food to be horribly expensive in the UK, but everything is priced way lower because the pound used to be really strong. Now the pound is basically the same as the Euro, so the pricing definitely works in our favor. And it is better mentally to pay less, even if it is nearly equivalent after the conversion, haha! We went back to the apartment and fell asleep nearly immediately after dinner because we were so exhausted from our night bus and our very eventful day. 
On Thursday morning (6-30), we slept in then went to Oxford street to do some window shopping. It was unbelievably crowded-- it was almost impossible to get inside Top Shop because there was such a gigantic crowd in front of it. Plus, there were dozens of guards in front of the building for no apparent reason. I asked one of them what was going on and they told me that there were protests going on downtown and that last year "they attacked Top Shop." Not sure exactly what that means, but it sounds pretty odd. We stopped in a little pub for lunch and got an appetizer plate that reminded us of a lower-quality TGI Fridays. Still delicious-- it was good to have some American food. 
After lunch, we met up with one of Jeremy's friends from school at H&M. Allison and Shannon are visiting Stacey in London for two weeks (Stacey has been studying here). We shopped around with them for a while on Oxford Street then headed to Hyde Park. We had to walk to a different tube station to catch the tube to Hyde Park because the one at Oxford Street was SO crowded that no one could even get down the stairs. Insanity. Once arriving at Hyde Park, we took the girls to Pret to pick up some more sandwiches, then walked around the perimeter of the park to find a good entrance. There was a huge concert going on, so many of the entrances were blocked.
We found our way inside and found a nice fountain to sit on that was near the stage in the center of the park. They obviously had a fence around the concert area, but we were still able to hear no problem. The concert was mainly Arcade Fire, who we don't really know anything about, but Mumford and Sons was opening for them!! We LOVE Mumford and Sons, so we sat and listened to their part of the concert. I took some videos, obviously mainly for audio since we were staring at a temporary wall. I'll post them at the bottom. Not sure how good the quality is, but hopefully you can hear something. 
After the concert, we took the tube up to Notting Hill to meet Ann Marie for dinner at a little Italian place. We had some nice pasta, then walked around Notting Hill for a while. The area is famous for the Portebello Market, which was definitely not going on at 9 PM. We decided to head back to the market the next and spend the evening in a English pub. The English seem to spend a fair amount of their time in pubs, so we figured this was the most cultural thing to do. The pub was pretty great and we enjoyed a few pints/copious amounts of people-watching before heading back to the apartment to crash. 
On Friday morning (July 1), we woke up to head back to Notting Hill and check out the Portobello Market on Portebello road. There were tons of excellent souvenir shops, and I bought all sorts of little presents for friends and family. Sorry that everyone is getting gifts from London... it made the most sense as far as carrying and storing the souvenirs. Too bad it is the least exotic place we've been, haha. Anyway, we went to the Hummingbird bakery to pick up some cupcakes, then ate them on someone house stoop because we couldn't find a bench. They were definitely the best cupcakes I've ever had! Then, we got some bread and cheese for lunch because we missed eating bread and cheese for half of our meals and figured we would revert back to our old habits for a meal. Jeremy didn't want bread and cheese (can't imagine why), so he got some falafell (spelling?).
After our little lunch, we went to St. Paul's cathedral, which is the cathedral where Princess Diana and Charles married. It was really excellent inside-- we somehow snuck in without paying! Not sure how we were even supposed to pay actually; we never ran across anyone collecting money. So I suppose we didn't actually sneak in, but it was definitely supposed to cost money. There was a service going on, so we were not supposed to take pictures. I took a few sneaky ones then gave up, but I was able to get a nice video of the service. I had to keep the lens cap on so they thought I wasn't taking video, but the audio is still interesting. It is posted at the bottom. Then we walked along the water past Shakespeare's Globe, which was not that interesting. It probably would have been cooler if we had seen a performance inside. After the globe, we walked across the London bridge to get good pictures of the Tower bridge and the Tower of London. Very cool!
By this point, it was pretty late so we headed back to Ann Marie's house. She was on her way out to meet some friends at a pub nearby for drinks, so we tagged along! The pub was very cool and all of her friends were great. We even got to meet her boyfriend, Paul! Paul was quite the character-- he spent most of the evening giving Jeremy tips for impressing women. To be fair, Paul was quite the charmer so he probably gave good advice. The advice certainly got less helpful as Paul drank more beers. Adrienne and I took plenty of party pictures to commemorate the occasion. About halfway through the night, we got really hungry and went to a little shop called Mr. Fish to get fish and chips. The meal was fabulous and extremely cheap. I am fully convinced that we could make a small fortune by opening a fish and chips place (or a kebab place) on the hill in Boulder that stays open until 3 AM. We probably should not go to med school and do that instead...
At around 1 AM, we went back to the apartment and Ann Marie/Paul went to another party. We had to wake up really early the next morning to take a tour that we had booked a few days before. I'll post more about that tomorrow. Bye!
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Mom on

How great to be able to relax with family in London. Your itinerary is interesting and great that you have the time to really see the city and have fun with the locals. We got to see a more relaxed, sillier side of you and your friends which is very fun. As usual, interesting food shots and interesting cigarette pack.. Love those red phone booths which reminded me of Potter's entrance into the Ministry of Magic for his trial. Thank you for the blog.

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