Snapshots of London Part 3

On our last day in London, we had plans on biking to a nearby market, but we kinda slept in, and kinda were terrified of taking a bicycle out on the crazy streets, so we opted on just catching the subway to London Bridge and doing some sight seeing. First up was Millennium Bridge for my partner (there is a famous Harry Potter scene that was shot there). We ate at a local pub which served “Southern fried chicken” with BBQ sauce, and “Texas Chili Cheese Fries.” Classic.

We then ventured to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater to catch a performance of Anne Boleyn which was really amazing. I had bought “groundling” tickets where you stand on the floor around the stage–it was really spectacular and the play was very well done (it did start to rain at one point and we were uncovered, but that added to the ambiance).

We stopped at a cafe after that where I finally enjoyed a cheap version of afternoon tea and we ate the best chocolate cake while watching a group of men play Bocce Ball in the middle of a shopping square. We eventually made our way to the Tower of London and London Bridge. We decided to continue the tour and went to Buckingham Palace and St. James Park, which are both quite remarkable.

The Money Shot


I had made plans for dinner so we hurried back to the hotel and the got back on the subway out to West Kensington. I had read about a hipster hangout that served great food and hosted concerts in the New York Times called the Troubadour Cafe… and it did not disappoint. We had planned on watching the concert on a stage in the basement (I would liken it to the House of Blues in Houston) but after we found a cute little table on the front patio and ordered dinner with a bottle of wine, we didn’t move from that spot for a couple of hours. It was the perfect last evening in London.

We should have stopped there, because we were being picked up at 5am the next morning to catch our flight to Bordeaux, but of course we had to stop into one last pub and finish the night off right with some local beer and whiskey. We ended up in bed around 1:30…fairly close to our 4:30am wake up call. Needless to say our first day in France started a little rough…

Snapshots of London Part 2

Guest post from my travel partner (Europe trip 2011):

Our 2nd day began just as most do here in London…overcast and wet. Our first destination was Camden Town, an easy mile walk across the beautiful Regent’s Park. We had a quick stop at The Honest Sausage for some breakfast and coffee, and we were fueled up and on our way. Finally we reached the other side of the park, and what did we find….a Chinese restaurant built on the banks of the canal that wraps around the park.

On our way to Camden Lock

Our original intention was to take a canal cruise to “Little Venice” before heading to the zoo…but ample shopping opportunities in Camden Lock Market stood in our way (I purchased a pair of sweet kicks!). We wished we had more time to spend at the market…but my Ren’s itinerary dictated that we press on…but not without first visiting a local book resale shop at Camden Wharf (on her itinerary, not mine).

Our next stop was the London Zoo. It was very nice. The highlight was watching the gorillas trying to get warm from the rain. As I was tying to get a really good camera angle, one gorilla swung close to the window, then showed his back side right in front of me (I’ll spare you that shot). We finished by seeing the penguins and we got a really nice bird house from the gift shop.

Next on the list was a visit to the Open Air Theater in Regents Park to see an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Pericles. After that, we cleaned up and hit the city again. This time, we took the subway ( my first subway ride ever) out to Westminster where we saw some good street performers and rode the London Eye. After less than an hour of touristy stuff, we decided to take the subway out to the ‘burbs…this time landing in West Hampstead…where we had the best hamburgers ever and picked out the flat we will live in one day..haha.

Once we we done there, we took a double decker bus for the first time to the famous Abbey Road and walked the street like true Brits (minus the accent and sharp dress).
To round off the night, we headed to Picadilly Circus which is the Time Square of London. We ended up getting drinks in the swanky SoHo area…we were definitely under dressed and under classed, but we were there! The highlight was reading a letter to the bar owner from a young David Beckam that was framed on the wall about bringing home a different “bird” every night. It was very entertaining (3 pages long) and he had really girly handwriting.

We ended the night at at an Irish pub and just sat at a window and people watched (at this time everyone was getting ready to head to the clubs, which made for great entertainment).

Snapshots of France Part Deaux: French Wine Country

Here are some thoughts about Bordeaux, France.

We got in around 11am and took a bus into town (we were not EXACTLY sure where the bus was heading because this was just the beginning of wrestling with the French language, but we got off where I knew we could walk to the hotel. Problem was, I guess the French do absolutely nothing on Sundays because we maybe saw 5 people while trying to find our way through what looked liked a ghost town. We found the large mall that the hotel was next to, and it was even closed. We had slept only 3 hours the previous night and got nothing to eat on the flight, and we could not even find an open restaurant. We tried checking into our hotel but it was too early so we dropped our luggage and pulled out the map and hoped for the best.

Ghost Town

I had read about this street market that was only on Sundays and closed at 2, so after we finally found lunch we booked it to the market that was about 1/2 mile walk…not very pleasant considering the night/morning we had, but the Mister was a trooper and it was so worth it! There were rows and rows of beat up toys, books, brass fixtures, crappy furniture, and more junk than even I could peruse through. As the Mister rolled his eyes and tried to find somewhere to sit (after taking some pretty good photos), I was let loose and so in my element (they were starting to pack up when we got there, but I did manage to get a tea tin for €.50 for our wedding). If I could write a book about the amazing flea markets I have been to…

Bordeaux Street Market

We slowly crawled our way back to the hotel, hoping for a nice comfy bed to take a little nap…but let’s just say the Mister was in charge of booking ONE hotel for our trip (I was trying to make sure he felt included in the planning process) and it turned out to be a DISASTER! We not only had no A/C, but we did not have a BED. I will leave it at that and let you imagine my face when I walked through that door (although the pull out couch ended up not being too bad).

Oh My

I wanted to get out of that room as fast as I wanted to get in it, so we headed to the main square on the river, and we finally saw what Bordeaux was all about. The city is absolutely beautiful off the water, with gorgeous fountains and lots of shopping and great places to eat. We ended up, of all places, eating at a Thai restaurant, and the food was spectacular. We ended back on the water and bought a bottle of wine and sat for a long time enjoying the quiet city and summer breeze.

Before catching our train to La Rochelle, I sent the Mister to do the laundry in the morning (fail #2). Somehow some of our clothes were ruined and he does not know what happened. Now you may be wondering, why I didn’t do it myself…to be honest, being together with 1 person 24/7 is TOUGH. I truly needed a little time to myself to regroup…so I gave my lovely partner a few tasks (explaining to him how independently figuring things out in a foreign country will increase his cultural awareness). To his credit, an hour later our clothes were on their way to being partly washed, post cards were mailed, and he returned with sandwiches.

As a side note, if you want to test whether or not a relationship can really last, travel for 2 weeks together. I’m not talking about a vacation on a beach somewhere, I’m talking about a multi-country extravaganza with language barriers, shady train stations, flights on Easy Jet, 1 bag, endless walking, rooms the size of a closet, and a budget. We own a 2,000 sq. foot house…we haven’t even been inside a 2,000 sq. ft bar! The mister and I do not share a bathroom at home, or a closet, or a dresser, or a desk/work space…so this has been a privilege (sigh).

These small grievances aside, we have had the best time, and have enjoyed the time to ourselves. It has taken traveling to the other side of the planet for the Mister to eat Thai food, enjoy mussels, try to speak another language, unplug from a computer, not depend on his car and walk, and wear a v neck T-shirt (oh, it happened). And how could I forget, one of the most memorable quotes from our trip so far:

W: “Man, how good are fajitas going to taste when we get back?”
Me: (scowl)
W: “This IS the longest I have ever gone without them”
Me: “That is ridiculous”
W: “They don’t even know the wonders of a margarita machine”

Our time in Bordeaux was short but really memorable. On the train ride to La Rochelle we got to see miles and miles of vineyards and we will now most likely always prefer Bordeaux wine.

Snapshots of France

Before our next trip to Europe in October, I wanted to revisit the first time the Mister and I traveled overseas together in 2011! The main purpose of our trip was to travel to La Rochelle, a small port city on the southwest coast of France with a history that dates back to the 10th century. The Mister’s ancestry dates back to this beautiful harbor town, and it was magical walking the same cobblestone streets his ancestors made a living on.

La Rochelle

We also scheduled our trip around France’s biggest music festival, FRANCOFOLIES, and it did not disappoint. The streets were filled all day and night with great music, food, street performers, and cheap beer. There were 5 stages set up around the city (one being 50 ft from our hotel window) and with the back drop of the harbor, it was quite spectacular.

Great Music

 

One of the Main Stages

 

Francofolies on the Harbor

 

La Rochelle at Night

Snapshots of London

The summer heat is revving my wanderlust like crazy and I’m daydreaming of summer trips, and visiting places far and away. Here are some snapshots and notes from our trip to London a few years ago. Where should we go next?

We are sitting at a pub called “The Green Man” close to our hotel and writing to let everyone know we are safe and already having a great time. The flight was smooth until we actually got to the UK and we had to circle around for almost 40 extra minutes because of rain. A major water pipe line burst as well in downtown London, which caused our 1.5 mile cab ride to cost £15. Let the money spending commence : (. We checked into our hotel which is really nice (we guesstimate that the room (including bathroom) is no more than 450 sq feet).

Our beautifully quaint hotel room

Like true Americans we booked it to the nearest pub (The Albany) and ordered fish and chips plus the beer special of the day (Brew Dog) which was rather tasty. We then walked about 5 miles to the FAO Schwartz of London–Hamley’s…and of course bought something for my niece (so pathetic I know, we hadn’t been in London 2 hours). We explored all of the West End which was crowded. The city was also preparing for the Harry Potter Premier which people had been camping out for for days, quite the spectacle.

We walked through the Southern end of Regent’s Park which is so amazing! We then headed to the famous Baker’s Street and had pizza and South African wine on a quaint patio while being served by a Polish photographer/waiter. We walked around some more and decided to, of course, drink some more, so here we are at The Green Man, where they serve Strongbow on tap…so I’m in love. We are off to find dessert… Tomorrow we we are heading to the House of Sausage, the zoo, and Westminster…

London’s Sycamores
London’s Parks
London Eye
London Night Life
SoHo
Regents Park
Regents Park
Regents Park
Regents Park Fountains