Get comfortable and grab yourself a cuppa, because I have a lot of catching up to do! After a month without internet, we're back in business and I can finally resume a normal lifestyle - no more sitting outside in the rain trying to check my email, or FaceTimeing my mom for an hour only to find out she couldn't see my face because of a poor connection. I'm now happily sitting on my doll-size sofa hoping I didn't forget how to blog. Yes, our sofa is a total joke. More on that later.
Saturday, September 12
We took an early train from Brum to King's Cross in London and an hour and a half later, we were on the Tube heading to our Airbnb in Bermondsey. I really can't say enough about the genius of Airbnb. We were steps from the Thames, Tower Bridge, Borough Market, the Shard... even a hotel in a less desirable area would have cost a fortune and I think we only paid 70 quid for one night. Since we would be staying near King's Cross the rest of the week, we did an Airbnb in a different neighborhood so we could see as much as possible.
Anyway... first stop: Tower Bridge! Ahh-mazing! We walked across, but didn't pay to climb to the top. I suppose this was the theme of the trip: get close enough to touch, but don't pay for the silly extras. We decided that we'd have plenty of opportunities to do indoor exploration when the weather turns bad.
Next, Tower of London! Next time I definitely want to go inside.
Borough Market!! Love love love this place. Crowded, yes. But rightfully so! This year is its 1000th anniversary (seriously). We grabbed lunch, sampled truffles, cheese, chocolate, salsa, bread, you-name-it-we-tried-it. I bought my first Pimm's Cup (delicious) and we wandered for a couple hours before tearing ourselves away.
Onward! We walked along the Thames and checked a bunch of things off our list before detouring for a pint and some rest.
By this point we seriously needed to sit down, so we looked up Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese and headed to Fleet Street for a pint and some (more) history. The pub has been around since the 1500s and was frequented by a number of literary figures throughout the years. Dickens, Tennyson, Chesterton, Yeats, Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle... really cool place. The dark interior doesn't lend itself well to iPhone photos, but note the "Gentlemen Only" sign below.
The rest of the day is foggy... I think we walked around 12 miles, I was tired and hangry, and we were wandering trying to find somewhere to eat dinner. Connor's coworker was with us, and well, you know. Two's company... I can't remember where we ate, but we made friends with an older man who, again, was thrilled to talk to some Americans, and had loads of advice for us.
Sunday, September 13
Woke bright and early, ate an awkward breakfast at our Airbnb (Connor: "Hi how are you? where are you from?" Girl: "Guess." ....... I don't like ethnicity guessing games. Seems like a trap), then headed north to check into our hotel.
Connor had to work Monday-Wednesday, which was why we were in London in the first place. Whoever chose the hotel wasn't messing around, let me tell you. The St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel was just completely beyond. I would never in a million years be able to justify spending that amount of money just for a bed, but hey. If you want to pay for it, I'll gladly stuff my suitcase with all the fancy soaps and magazines, gorge on the macaroons, cucumber sandwiches, and loads of desserts in the VIP lounge, and become addicted to sparkling water. (I actually couldn't fit into the dress I was planning on wearing to Claire's wedding because of this hotel. #sorrynotsorry) Oh, also, free wine again. Oh, and because they chose the hotel so late, the only room left was a suite, so we stayed in a suite. No big deal.
A bit difficult to see, but there's quite a diverse range of cars out front: Land Rover, Porsche, Bentley, and an RV Clown Car. I'm sure reception thought we were the ones who arrived in the Clown Car. Judging by the knowing smile and "did you have a long flight?" comment, we must have been the worst dressed people they'd seen all weekend. Me: "Oh hello, may I have some of this delicious looking candy? Thank you. We've been here since yesterday. I know I look like hell. More candy please."
The hotel is connected to St. Pancras International Train Station (access to the Eurotunnel) and has a really fascinating history. A Victorian Society successfully lobbied to save the building from being torn down and voilà. There's a whole book written about the building, which I might go back and purchase next time we're in London.
Like so many things we saw on this trip, it's almost impossible to capture the scale of the building with a camera. I felt like Belle in Beauty and the Beast just trying to take it all in.
We walked west and went to mass at St. James in Marylebone. Another amazing church. This was actually about 2 miles away from the hotel, and still tired from the day before, we tried to take it easy. We explored the area a bit, checked out Baker Street and Sherlock Holmes' famed address (site of a museum), strolled through a farmer's market, and wrapped up the afternoon in Regent's Park.
The air in the park smelled of roses - there must have been millions of flowers. Again, the pictures don't do it justice, but it was so beautiful. I've never seen so many roses in one place. We rented bikes in order to make it back to the hotel in time to get ready for dinner, and I highly recommend that to anyone traveling in London! It was so fun, faster than walking, and much more my style. The Tube was definitely helpful, but you couldn't see anything since you're underground, and it's sort of pricey.
Whew that's enough for now. Stay tuned for London days 3 and 4!