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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 prices....so 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.
video

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!