Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 3: June 13, 2011- Heading to London!!!

Monday morning we got up and enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the Cromwell. We repacked our bags so we only had to take one big one to London and headed to Simon's grandpa's flat. We caught a cab to the train station and were on our way. It was a fairly short train ride into London (a little more than an hour), with beautiful views all the way.

Train station in Banbury

When we got to the train station, we caught a cab to the hotel. We stayed at the Victory Services Club, a chain of hotels that provide services to those who served in the military. Simon's grandfather served in world war two and always stays at the VSC when he is in London. Eventually, Simon will also be able to join the VSC (because of his grandfather's service) so we can also enjoy the advantages of the hotel chain.

My favourite cab in London...names of train (and maybe bus) stations in the shape of a union jack.

Simon's grandfather and I in the cab on the way to the hotel.

We checked into the hotel and had a drink with Simon's grandfather before heading off on our own. It was beautiful in London and we headed straight over to Harrod's. I don't think I understood what Harrod's was before I went. I just knew I had to go. Let me explain.....
It's the most GINORMOUS department store you have ever seen! It has floor after floor of everything you could ever want. They sell clothing, china, chandeliers, carpet, furniture, toys....pretty much everything! On top of that, there are also restaurants (that's right....lots of them) on virtually every floor. Finally, they have a "food court"...but not like the one you find at the mall. This is like the most high end vegetables and meats and cheeses and chocolates and breads and....all displayed beautifully in room after room. It was incredible!

We wandered for a bit before finding our way to the gift shop area of the store. Oh yeah...not only do they sell everything...they sell it at incredibly expensive all we could afford were things at the gift shop. After finding some good souvenirs, we stumbled on the "Chocolate Bar". We stopped and had an ice-cream sundae with white chocolate sauce (that means a cup full of melted chocolate to pour over your ice-cream...mmmmm) and pan au chocolat.

After leaving Harrod's, we began wandering. We ended up with more time than we thought we would have, so this ended up being a pretty relaxing day. We popped out of the tube right under Big Ben and Parliament. One of my favourite things in London ended up being Big Ben. Not sure why....everyone has seen dozens of pictures, but I was so impressed with it in person.

***Side note....Simon would be unhappy if I did not stop to inform you here that the tower is not actually Big Ben. The name "Big Ben" actually refers to the bell inside the tower (which is just called the clock tower). Therefore, you cannot actually see "Big Ben". However, I like the name and will continue calling it "Big Ben".***

We also managed to see the London eye (which I took loads of pictures of as well...not sure what it was...just fun to take pictures of).

As we walked along between Parliament and Westminster Abbey, we saw this cute married couple taking pictures.
I was most impressed with how much detail there was on every building we saw. It was just incredible what they were able to do when they built these buildings so long ago.
We had some time, and it was the most beautiful day, so we relaxed in a park next to Parliament. It seemed like the appropriate thing to do.
We returned to the hotel to have dinner with Simon's grandpa. He wanted to take us to a restaurant called the Texas Embassy. It was a bit of an ordeal getting there. Simon's grandfather is quite old, but still manages to get around ok. We had a few bus issues and eventually ended up taking a cab (during rush hour...$$$$$) before getting to the location. The food was good, but a little spicy for me. However, it was not bad for foreign Tex-Mex.

After dinner, we dropped Simon's grandpa back at the hotel and headed out to Piccadilly Circus. There were so many people and it was a very fun atmosphere. We found a gift shop nearby and did a little shopping before heading back to the hotel for some shut-eye.

Not bad for the first day in London!

Second Day: Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 2....
We got some sleep on the plane and before we knew it, we were in Manchester. We made our way through customs and were on our way.

After getting the car, we headed down to Stratford. As Simon drove, I did my best to stay awake (not very successfully!). This was my first glimpse of the English countryside...and boy is it beautiful!

We arrived in Stratford (hometown of Shakespeare) to some lovely cold and wet weather. We were both exhausted from traveling but did our best to see a few of the sights. We stopped briefly in front of a flat owned by Simon's parents (currently rent out) and then headed to see the town.

We grabbed some lunch (Simon had some fish and chips...which he was very excited about) and headed into the Royal Shakespeare Company theater. We only wandered for a bit before heading to Shakespeare's boyhood home. (I blame the complete lack of photos on being cold, wet, and very tired!)

On our way out of town, we drove past Anne Hathaway's house.

We continued heading south toward Banbury, where we would be staying the night. We arrived at the Cromwell and checked in. We both showered, in an attempt to feel human again, and left to visit Simon's grandpa. We visited for a while, but after watching Simon fall asleep (multiple times) while sitting up, I suggested we go get some rest.

We got some dinner on the way back to the hotel and barely ate anything before falling asleep (before 8 pm). Simon's tip for overcoming jet lag: when you arrive at your destination, stay awake as long as you can, then sleep until local morning time. Seemed to work for us pretty well!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 1: Saturday, June 11, 2011

Friday night, we began packing and did a last minute shopping trip. While trying to finish the last load of laundry, the dryer just stopped working. Simon wanted to go to a laundromat, but I convinced him to just hang the clothes up so we could get to bed.

Saturday morning, we got up and finished packing. Thankfully, all the clothes were dry. Simon's parents picked us up and took us to the airport. We had a little time at the airport and wanted to get something to eat, so we rode the train one very short stop. It probably would have been faster and easier to walk, but we both love trains, so we enjoyed it.

Our flight to JFK went smoothly. Our itinerary had a 5 hour layover in NYC, so when we landed we starting joking about making a very short trip into the city. We both laughed it off, until Simon finally said, "Let's do it!" We checked our carry-on into left luggage and jumped on the E train. While on the train, I called my parents to do some quick googling of where exactly we would end up and where we should get off to get the biggest bang for our buck. We decided to get off on 5th Ave. We walked a few short blocks and found Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall. Simon had never been to NYC (outside of the airport) so this was a big deal for him. We walked past the Today show set and just kept going. We only had about an hour to spend and we wanted to see as much as we could. Truly...all I wanted was a slice of New York pizza. We eventually found a suitable place (Ray's on 7th Ave) and grabbed some pizza. We kept walking and made it to the edge of Central Park. We walked along Central Park and then headed back up 5th Ave to our train.

Simon at Central Park

We were both pretty giddy the whole time. It's fun to be spontaneous!

This was the first sight we stumbled upon in New York.

Way cool picture in the had multiple levels and included so many aspects of New York.

We made it back to the airport with plenty of time to spare. We got on the plane and were overjoyed (read with sarcasm) to meet our seatmate for the next leg of the trip. First, he was sitting in one of our seats and argued with Simon for a minute or so before finally giving in and moving over. Next, he made it very clear that he was interested in minding everyone else's business. Long before take-off, he began advising other passengers to close the overhead bins ("or everything will fall out"). He also made comments about very obvious things to absolutely no one at all ("Here we go." "Now we're taking off.") Not sure if he was drunk or just nervous about the flight. Thankfully, he slept for most of the trip. We watched a few movies, ate some food, and slept our way all the way to Manchester.

Intro to Vacation Posts

So, in June of 2011, Simon and I took a two week holiday to the U.K. Being from England, Simon has family and close friends still living there. We spent our time seeing sights, visiting, and relaxing. It was an amazing experience (my first visit to Europe).
When I got home, I began working through the pictures we took. There were nearly 600! In an effort to make these posts enjoyable, I will be writing one post about each day, sharing the most interesting or telling pictures from the day. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

New kitchen!

Through a great gift (wedding present) and wonderful sacrifice of my amazing in-laws, we have a brand new kitchen!!!! There is still more work to do (flooring, back-splash, paint, kick-plates, etc) but I still sigh every time I use this fabulous new kitchen! Enjoy the transformation!




Vegas Baby!

So, recently, a friend and I met in Vegas...but here's how it all started...

My friend Kim texted me one day and said, "Wanna run away with me to Vegas?" I laughed and texted back something like, "Can't go until after state testing...sorry!" About a week later, it was my turn to text and suggest a getaway to Vegas. She texted back and said she would love to go. I laughed it off and mentioned it to Simon. He asked if we were really going to go, to which I replied, "Kim will never really do it." Later that same evening, Kim called and asked if I seriously wanted to go to Vegas. And the planning began....Simon found a great deal on a plane ticket and the dates were set: May 18-23. I found a great deal on a room at the Stratosphere. Before I knew it...the day had come.
I went to work on Wednesday (May 18th), came home and packed, and left for Vegas about 11 that night. My plane arrived just before midnight Vegas time (about 2 am TX time). I found a shuttle and was on my way to the hotel.
When I checked in, the lady said they didn't have the room I ordered, so they found me a different one for the night. I settled in pretty quickly and fell asleep. After all, Kim would be arriving the next day and I wanted to have plenty of energy to explore and have fun!
Thursday morning I woke up and got ready. My intention was to wander around the hotel and find some breakfast (since I had already been starving the night before when I went to bed and it was now some 8 hours later). I took the elevator down and quickly became tired of the casino lights and noise...and lack of food. I decided to wander out the front door and see what was outside. The weather was absolutely perfect!!! I crossed the street and quickly found an IHOP...but I was in Vegas. I could eat at IHOP at home. I thought, "I'll walk a little further and if I don't find anything, I'll come back here." Well, about an hour and a half later, I found myself near the southern end of the strip. This is between a 3 and 5 mile walk (can't remember how far I got). I stopped on the way for a smoothie at McDonalds (I realized that I had walked away from an IHOP because I could get that in TX, but by the time I reached McDonalds I was really hungry and tired of waiting for food). This stroll confirms something about myself that I have recently learned: vacationing for me is less about "do this and this and this and this and this" and more about enjoying where I am. I had a similar experience in San Fransisco this past Christmas...Simon and I walked to Chinatown and then just kept walking...before we knew it we were at the pier. I'm not sure if this makes me old or not, but I really enjoy it.
Eventually, Kim showed up. She was slightly delayed because of rain, snow, and almost running out of gas. I made her pick me up at the south end of the strip (there was no way I was walking all the way back!) and after a few U-turns, we finally found each other. It was so good to see my good friend. The last time we had seen each other was at the end of my wedding reception, nearly 21 months before. We headed back to the hotel and proceeded to be assigned to our new room. We had paid for the cheapest room and I was not the least bit worried about the view (wasn't really planning on spending much time there anyway!). However, when we got into our new room, I was so excited! Not only did we have a great view of the pool and mountains, but we looked right up onto the tall part of the Stratosphere and had a great view of where people fall when they choose to jump off the top (a service they pay for...not out of desperation after losing their life savings at the slot machine or blackjack tables).

Alright...for those of you who made it this far...I applaud you. However, I have bad news...after my two week vacation in England, I have forgotten everything I did in Vegas. I really want to get the England blog done, so I may or may not come back to this at a later point. Quick run down of the rest of Vegas: lots and lots of eating, Cirque du Soliel show, Jabbowakeez show, Treasure Island buffet (YUM!), poolside chilling, Ethel M chocolate factory (free samples!) and much more fun. Thanks Kim for being an amazing friend to run away with.

Desserts from Treasure Island Buffet