Oct 26, 2011

Jolly Old England-Day 1

*FYI...it's a long, but enjoyable post!*

I. Love. London. There's almost nothing else to say but that! Ok, not really. You guys know I always have lots to say. This series of posts will be no exception! D and I spent 4 days in the greatest city in Europe...dare I say, the world?! Granted, I've really only got the USA, Jamaica, Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil and a little bit of Germany to go off of...but so far, London is my most favorite place I've ever visited! I am a MAJOR Anglophile. I love British people, British accents, red telephone booths, spots of tea...the whole nine yards! And, the royal family fascinates the heck out of me. Yes, I was one of those crazy people up at 4am watching the royal wedding this past April. I also made homemade scones. Shut up, I can't help it! I'm also pretty sure Kate Middleton is my sister from another mister, she just doesn't know it yet. It's freakish, but our hair is unnaturally similar. Since living in Germany, I've had not one, but 4 people (who I don't know from Adam) tell me that I kind of look like her. I'm well aware it's only because of the hair (otherwise, I'd think these people needed to get their eyes checked). You think I'm kidding? Take a look:

Color, length, style. Uncanny, no? ;)

We even had the same wedding hairstyle. Sorry, Katie. I thought of it first! But, at least you can say your tiara is real. (Please ignore the over highlighted blonde hair and extra 30lbs of body weight...sometimes I can hardly stand to look at my wedding photos. Blech!)

Now that I've proven my point (and tooted my horn a bit)...on to photos of our first day in London! Actually, these photos are a combo of our first night (we arrived at 4pm on Thursday) and second day (full day-Friday) in London. I must say, the most memorable and best feeling I got while there happened as we emerged from the Westminster Tube Station after our 45 minute journey from the airport. We walked up from the underground to see this:


Yes, it's ok to think the ethereal "AHHHH" sound. I did! And then you look to your right and you see this:


Oh, what's up Big Ben?! How's it hangin', Houses of Parliament?! Talk about having a history book slapped in front of your face! It was breathtaking. Like a kid on Christmas morning, my heart leaped out of my chest and a smile beamed off of my face. I was standing in London. Freaking London. D and I had lots of those kinds of moments. We were constantly reminding each other to "stand still and take it all in!" It wasn't hard to do. I could have stood there and stared for days. That's also probably why I have tons of photos taken of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben right along the Thames River. I couldn't get enough!

In case you were wondering, the large building in the photo of the London Eye (the tallest ferris wheel in Europe) is our hotel. YEP! That behemoth of a building is the Marriott London County Hall Hotel...and our living quarters for our visit. Sure we could have paid a little less and stayed in some hostel 15 minutes from here, but how could I pass up being in the prime location for many of London's greatest attractions?! And with Marriott points to burn, it was a no-brainer. Couldn't have picked a better place to stay our first trip to London! This place was swanky too...concierge, white gloved butlers, and even one of those ridiculous in-room mini bars! You know, the ones where if you move a jar of macadamias off the shelf you're charged your first born child. Yep, it was awesome.


The building where our hotel was housed used to serve as the headquarters of local government for London, also known as the London County Council. It now is home to a Marriott hotel, London Aquarium, restaurants, shops, and the London Eye center.


Not a bad view to wake up to, huh?


Here I am, already living the British life with my morning spot of tea! Ahem...so day one started off with a visit to the infamous Tower of London. You know, where the crown jewels are kept. The largest cut diamond in the world also lays it's head here...and I got to feast my eyes on them all! Ahhh, every girls dream. Happy dance! Too bad for you guys though, photos were not allowed. Wah Wah. But first, our journey to the Tower. 


 This was our view at breakfast each morning. So what if it's from a park bench outside a McDonalds while we scarfed down Egg McMuffins?! Do you know how expensive it is to be a tourist in London? I'm talking £12 per person for breakfast. A good breakfast. That converts to $40...for two people...for eggs and bacon. I know, it's psychotic. So, we opted for the cheaper breakfast and spent our precious pounds elsewhere.

Onward! The closest tube station was across the Westminster Bridge. We walked that bridge like a bagillion times. But with such an amazing view, who can complain? Every afternoon and evening this bridge was bustling with people. Not so fun to navigate through with a large suitcase, but lively none the less.




Why hello Parliament!


Top of the morning' to ya, Benny Boy!


I'm telling you, London is exactly how you see it on TV. From the underground signs to the taxi cabs and red double decker buses. I felt like Joey on that episode of Friends where they went to London for Ross & Emily's wedding. If David would have let me wear a British flag hat, I would have! He was totally Westminster Crabby (thanks, Joey!)

Ah ha! Here we are, the Tower of London. This was taken of the outside palace wall and moat before we entered.




As per the tip from our hotel concierge, we took a guided tour of the Tower of London with one of the Queen's Yeomen Warders, also more commonly known as a "Beefeater." Beefeaters are ceremonial guardsmen of the Tower of London and live on the grounds of the Tower itself. They keep watch over the Crown Jewels, give guided tours, and guard respected Tower attractions. Most Beefeaters are retired members of the Armed Forces with at least 22 years of service and hold the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. And don't ask them why they are called Beefeaters...they've got no clue!



The building to the left is called White Tower. It was build between 1078-1097. Out of the 21 towers that make up the Tower of London compound, it was the most secure, mainly because this is where the Lords of the palace resided. It acted as a royal power base in the City of London. It was also used as a retreat for the Royal family in times of civil disorder. Pictured on the left is the jewel house, where the Crown Jewels are kept...and what an expressive collection they have! Housed here is the First Star of Africa, now mounted at the top of the Sovereign's Sceptre. It is the largest cut diamond in the world. It was ginormous and sparkly. I want THAT for Christmas! Did you know that the Crown Jewels were almost stolen in 1671 by a clever Irishman named Colonel Blood? He knocked the guardsman on the head with a mallet and crushed the arches of Charles II's crown in order to hide it under his jacket. He was barely caught! Now they've got that place locked down like Fort Knox.




 Pictured above is one of 8 ravens the Tower of London keeps on it's grounds. These sucker's are HUGE! I've never seen ravens this big. The ravens are traditionally believed to protect the Crown and the Tower, and as superstition suggests, "If the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it." 


Inside a museum housed in the White Tower, you could see all kinds of historic items from the Royal Armories. Here are a few uniforms worn by Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince Harry. Died!

After our history fix, we exited the Tower of London onto the river walk and found this iconic landmark...the London Bridge! As you can see, it's not falling down, and ironically enough, isn't actually called the London Bridge. It's called the Tower Bridge. The London bridge is another 5 minutes down the river and is nowhere near as impressive as the Tower Bridge.




D and I opted out of walking across the Tower Bridge, but instead walked across the Millennium Bridge to the South Bank and right to our next attraction. If you look closely in the photo below, you can see the Tower Bridge in the far back, the London Bridge right in front, and the Millennium Bridge we are standing on.



Right off the bridge we saw the Tate Modern, a famous British museum full of priceless works of art. D and I just had to have our Starbucks fix, so we couldn't go inside. We will save that place for next time.


Right beside the Tate Modern was Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. It isn't the original theatre that Shakespeare wrote his legendary plays for, unfortunately. The original Globe stood a few hundred yards from this new site, but was burned down in 1613 during a performance of Henry VIII. It was quickly rebuilt in this new location, but in 1644 was demolished again after England's Puritan administration closed all theatres. It wasn't until 1949 when an American actor named Sam Wanamaker commissioned the rebuilding of the Globe. Building commenced in 1993 and was completed 3 1/2 years later. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre was then opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1997. D and I didn't have enough time to go in and explore this open air theatre, but it was sure was nice to be amongst such history.



Our last stop of the day was here, at St. Paul's Cathedral. We had planned to go inside to have a look, but London protestors had another idea. The cathedral was closed due to a bunch of knuckleheads who think camping out in front of a church will rebuild our economy. The knuckleheads I speak of are a part of the "Occupy Wall Street" phenomenon recently sweeping NYC and now, London. Brilliant. This was the only non-campsite photo I was able to snag. Moving on...


Finally, D and I found a legendary red telephone booth! Seriously, neither of us had spotted one yet. Funny thing was, after we saw this one, we saw a thousand. These things are everywhere! And of course, I had to get my touristy photo with it.


And here are a few last photos from our 1st day in London town. We made our way back to our hotel around 3pm because we had a bit of an important event to attend that evening in White City. What was that event you ask?





Well, I'll give you a hint. Improv, The BBC, ABC, and Wayne Brady. Until tomorrow! :)

6 comments:

  1. I knew you'd love London.. I swear we're traveling soul mates. Favorite place in the whole world.. Maybe fall visit next year, after the Olympics? Meet you in London? :)

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  2. @M.E.L Done and done! I told David he needed to figure out a way to get us stationed closer to there. London is like crack to me. Can't get enough!

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  3. Sounds like you had a great time! I can't wait to visit London one day!

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  4. london is on our list of places to visit! you take fantastic photos!

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  5. Looks like you had great weather! I cannot wait to go to London!

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