Our European Adventure: Part 2

Monday, April 8, 2013

On Monday morning, we headed off to London. Immediately upon arrival, it was clear something was wrong. Dan and I together are normally pretty good at navigating, but we were struggling. We couldn't find the train we wanted, had to take a different line, and ended up at a stop quite a ways away from our hotel. But, blessedly, we soon found the hotel (here's looking at you, Tower of London Best Western), dropped off our bags, and headed back to the Subway. Upon finding the line we were actually looking for, it was closed. Hmph. It was only at a later stop did we learn that there was work being done on the Circle Line that day, and the entire line was closed until Tuesday. So, no one's fault, but a stressful start to the day! 

We found a working Tube line, and headed toward the sights. And, as we exited the Tube station, I could see Parliament and Big Ben, and, like a total tourist, took off running for the street. It was AMAZING! Seriously, breathtaking view. And THAT'S when I realized that Westminster Abbey was DIRECTLY NEXT TO ME. Forget the fact that we were running on three hours of sleep, my adrenalin skyrocketed at that moment. It was such a cool moment to see these things I've been reading about and learning about for years. We went in the church King Henry VIII used to attend with Queen Catherine (so cool!), and then headed over to Buckingham Palace. No queen sighting, but it was still such a great moment. As Dan said, "Umm, that puts the White House to shame." Word. 
Westminster Abbey!

I ran up there so fast, my bangs looked like this!
London Eye, Big Ben, and a Double Decker Bus! 
After walking around most of the morning, I was thrilled that we were taking a bus tour to Stonehenge. Two hours of sitting sounded like just what we needed. I was asleep before we even left the bus station. Whoops! The drive went quickly, though, and just when it appeared we were heading to nowhere (field after field after field after field), Stonehenge appeared in the distance (right there in a field, no less!). Quite literally, it's just out there, standing in a field! Next to the sheep! We were there for about an hour, and got the audio tour so we could learn about the history and mystery of Stonehenge. It was much smaller than I thought it was going to be. I think in my mind, I always thought it would be, like, a quarter miles of stones, but it's actually all pretty condensed! We learned a lot, but it was freezing and windy, so an hour was more than sufficient. 

We took a quick nap on the ride back, and met up with my former student, Jelli, for dinner. She's studying journalism in college and is abroad this semester. It was great to see a friendly face, and she suggested a great restaurant called Giraffe where we had a yummy meal before finally heading to the hotel to check in. We. Crashed. Hard. 

Our plan for Tuesday was simple: be at the Tower of London at 9 a.m. when it opened. This was fairly simple since it was literally .1 miles from our hotel. Yay for a great location! I can't even put into words how wonderful the Tower of London was. After Dan and I became totally obsessed with Tudor England, I couldn't wait to see all of the history there. We were maybe the 20th people through the gate, and headed straight for the Crown Jewels. Fabulous call as later in the day, people would be waiting an hour, and we had them all to ourselves! Visitors aren't allowed to take pictures inside, but I will say that the bling in there is out of control. Definitely a must see! Next we headed to White Tower, which serves as a museum of sorts now for all sorts of royal memorabilia. We had read in our London tour book that we should go on a Warder tour at the Tower, because Warders often know lots of stories that aren't written down anywhere. 
Tower of London from our hotel! 
Crown Jewels, baby! 
Amazing call! Our Warder, Simon, told us all sorts of things we never would have known. For instance, the Warders are actually former military members who have to apply for the position. They have to study for a year to hold the position, live on the property with their families, and be ready to defend the Tower, because it is still one of the four properties lived in by Queen Elizabeth. So. Stinking. Cool! Simon told us all about the theories of how the Little Princes were murdered, the spot where Anne Boleyn and five others were beheaded, and where their bodies are still buried on the property. So cool! We loved the tour, but it was definitely more crowded when we got out of it. We made our way through the other towers (there are 20 on the property) before moving on to the day's other activities: Borough Market street vendors for lunch, London Bridge, the Shakespeare Globe, St. Paul's Cathedral, and the British Museum. It's also worth pointing out that we ate a delicious waffle with Nutella on it from a street vendor. If you go to London, find this street vendor. Eat the waffle. You will thank me. 

...and after!
Shakespeare's Globe! 
St. Paul's Cathedral! 
For dinner, we went to a place near our hotel, Chesire Cheese, for fish and chips for Dan and chicken with lemon sauce and capers for me. Y-U-M. We followed that with a visit to our hotel rooftop bar, which, had the weather been better, had amazing outdoor seating. We stayed inside, though, and enjoyed the view from there. 

Wednesday morning was our last time in London. We went for a quick run near Tower Bridge, and then headed to Little Venice where we found an amazing restaurant that sat on top of a canal. We had a delicious breakfast (hello, spinach and goat cheese omelette!), watched the boats go under us, and then went over to Regent's Park, where nothing was quite blooming yet, but I would imagine would be gorgeous in the later spring. 

Amazing breakfast, beautiful view! 
We flew back to Hamburg that evening, and even managed to go to a restaurant and order pizza by ourselves, without the assistance of Lynn! There were carrots on my veggie pizza, though, so maybe I messed up a little, 

Lynn took us to the market by her house Thursday morning, and showed us where she often gets currywurst for lunch. That's one of the things I loved about Europe -- all the amazing markets all over the cities. It made me long for summer and the South Bend Farmer's Market. Lynn left us at the miniature train museum, Miniatur Wunderland, which was the most impressive display of trains, miniature scenes, and tiny people I've ever seen. There was a two story display of the Swiss Alps, scenes depicting Vegas, Hamburg, Sweden, and southern Germany, and even a working Lindt chocolate production factory. The Hamburg airport was showcased too, with planes that actually took off and landed. Incredibly cool! 

That evening, we went to 20 Up for a fancy drink and a view of Hamburg at sunset, before heading to the coolest wine restaurant I've ever seen. Each guest is given a detex card, and can then walk up to an automatic wine bar. Swipe your card, put your glass below the spicket, and, poof, wine in your glass! Customers also ordered via eReader, which was cool as well. I can't believe this hasn't caught on in the states yet! 

On Friday, Lynn and I went for a little girl-time walk and run, and picked up our final German pastries on the way back to her apartment (I miss pastries. Daily pastries!). We gave Lynn our last hugs, and got on the U-bahn for our final ride to the airport, a turbulent 8-hour flight to Chicago, and a 90-minute drive to Michigan City. I was more than ready to see Dan's apartment by the time we got there, but was still sad our European adventure had come to an end. 

So, now, mostly, I'm just anxious to travel more. There's just so much to see out there! 
Token waffle photo :)


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