Tag Archives: Westminster

London, Again

So, I went back to London. I just loved it so very much I couldn’t help myself! Plus, my complete and total obsession with the movie Love Actually has planted enduring dreams of London at Christmastime in my mind, so I jumped at the chance to go the weekend after Thanksgiving, right as November was poised to become December–my very favorite month of the year.

I’m sure no one’s surprised to hear that I went to the Kensington Whole Foods…three times in two days. The very best part was our Friday night dinner, which consisted of American-style Thanksgiving food! This in itself completely made my weekend. It was admittedly a little sad to be away from home on Thanksgiving for the first time, even if I’m away from home in Paris. But nothing else could have possibly been quite as warm and comforting to me that day as mashed sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce from Whole Foods.

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I also enjoyed an abundance of vegetables, which the French do not believe in, over the course of the weekend. Aren’t they beeauuutiful?

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Don’t worry, though, I also took the opportunity to enjoy some real English food. At last, fish and chips!

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I didn’t get any fish and chips in August because I was absolutely reeling from the horrible dollar to pound/euro conversion and the high costs of everything in Europe and was terrified my bank account wouldn’t last throughout the semester. In fact, I barely remember eating at all the first time I went to London…and know for a fact that we had beer for dinner at least once. Insanity! Don’t worry Mom and Dad, you’ll be happy to hear I’ve gotten over my shock at the conversion rates and now spend freely! (God help me when I’m a real person and have to learn about scary things like budgets and responsible spending.)

I actually got to do several things I didn’t get to the first time around, once of which was visiting Borough Market. Even though it was crowded, it completely lived up to my expectations. On my next trip to London, I’ll be back.

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So, now that I’ve gotten the crucial thing–food and everywhere they sell it–out of the way, let’s move on to culture and sight-seeing, shall we?

I insisted upon returning to some of my favorite spots. We wandered through Hyde Park, where I loved seeing all the swans gathered in a pond near Kensington Palace.

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I of course returned to Westminster to visit my favorite building in all of Europe. At least in terms of exteriors. Can I say that? I think I can say that. The Duomo might be a close second. Oh, I mean, the Louvre. That’s pretty impressive. Okay, I can’t pick a favorite. But I really, really, love, love this one. A lot. I mean, it’s been there, just being beautiful, for hundreds of years! Incredible. Incredible.

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I also went to the Tate Modern, but I don’t have any pictures because I accidentally checked my camera with my bag when I walked in. But it was awesome!

Moving right along to my very favorite part of the trip (aside from Kensington Whole Foods, obviously): anything and everything to do with Christmastime!

Starting with the Christmas lights on and around Regent Street…

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And ending, most importantly, with my Christmas dream to end all Christmas dreams: Harrods decked out in all its festive holiday glory. It was a verifiable wonderland.

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Maybe the funniest part of being back in London was noticing not how the city has changed since my trip there in August (not much aside from the Christmas decorations), but rather how I’ve changed. Walks that felt incredibly long on my first trip seemed to pass in an instant this time around. And, shockingly, I was not appreciate of but rather annoyed by our many attentive waiters–somewhere along the way, against all odds, I seem to have adjusted to the Parisian standard of service. I remember landing in London, fresh off the plane from the U.S., and delighting in how European London was. On my recent trip, I was surprised by how very American it seemed. Everything from the way people walked around with Starbucks cups to the presence of Urban Outfitters and Whole Foods to the way parents coddled (and, dare I say, seemed to enjoy the presence of) their children to the many pedestrians on the streets not dressed to the nines (how dare they!) served to remind me of all the things I’ve come to accept as normal in Paris that are not part of my life at home. Throughout the semester, I’ve maintained that both Europe and America do so many things right and so many things wrong. I keep threatening to build an island in the middle of the Atlantic that combines all the things I love best about Europe and all the things I love best about America…but maybe, just maybe, London could be that island?

I just wish they’d appreciate the importance of dressing well to go to the grocery store.

Oh God, they’ve got me.

hopped the pond

Greetings from Londontown!

I put together a little video of me discovering London, just for you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQcewTb94ag

Okay, just kidding. If you watched that…it’s obviously not me. (I just wished it was circa 1998.) But that’s pretty much how I’ve felt the whole time I’ve been here. London is amazing.

I arrived at Heathrow around 3:00 yesterday afternoon, five hours behind schedule due to maintenance issues with the plane in Dallas. Frustrating. Poor Allison had to wait for me in the airport for four hours, but it was such a relief to find her in baggage claim (with my luggage already on the cart, no less) once I cleared customs! In no time at all, we were on the Piccadilly line headed into London. I thought it was incredibly charming that the automated voice on the train warned us to “mind the gap between the train and the platform”…it sounded so nice.


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on the train

It turns out that navigating through London’s public transportation with approximately 100 pounds of luggage each is no joke. Luckily, we quickly learned that Londoners are incredibly helpful. People were helping us carry our bags up huge flights of steps, lift them onto trains, and maneuver them through bustlingcrowds. Needless to say, we were incredibly grateful. 10 Points for London.

We got off the tube at Gloucester Station, where we proceeded to catch a bus (a bright red double decker!) to get closer to the hotel. Unfortunately, I had us get off too soon, so we ended up having to drag our bags through the London streets. This was…hmm, not quite impossible, but the closest thing. And made all the more difficult by the fact that a wheel had broken off my suitcase at some point. So, I was basically lugging a fifty pound box through cobblestone London streets. But on the bright side, there was some seriously breathtaking architecture to distract me. Kensington, the part of London where we’re staying, is really great–it sort of reminds me of Georgetown. But British.


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our first view of London!


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After we got settled into the hotel, we set off to find a place to eat and ended up at the Price of Wales, a charming pub that was perfect and pretty much exactly what you’d imagine a British Pub to look like.


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We each ordered a Red Speckled Hen ale. (Side note: I learned the difference between beer and ale here. Apparently ale is warmer and less bubbly?) I also had a “Mature Cheddar and Pickle” sandwich…vegetarian pickings were slim, folks. When I told our bartender that I liked it, he seemed shocked. (I didn’t really like it. I just wanted to be nice. It was…okay. Interesting.)


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After we finished dinner, we headed off to Piccadilly Circus on the train. It was cool to see this part of the city all lit up at night. I suppose it’s sort of like the Times Square of London? It was sort of rainy and cold and we were sort of dazed, though, so we decided to find another pub and sit and observe.


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Off to the St. James Tavern…

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Which was also charming and perfectly British. Allison and I were talking about how nice the vibe of a pub is–there’s music playing and it feels lively, but it’s so nice to just sit down and actually be able to talk to the people you’re with. We were both getting progressively sleepier, though, so once we’d finished our ales, we headed back to our hotel and went to bed.

We were off to a late start this morning–Allison and I were both exhausted. Our first stop of the day was the Kensington Whole Foods, which is just right around the corner from where we’re staying. Okay, y’all. This place is my mothership. It’s the second largest Whole Foods in the world, and I love every bit of it. I actually took around thirty pictures while I was there, but I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say that this place is incredible. It has it’s own bakery, cheese section, huge wine store, several restaurants, chocolate shop, and a gorgeous selection of produce to boot. Allison basically had to pry me away.


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But I’m glad she did, because we headed off towards Kensington Palace! Unfortunately, it was under construction, so I imagine we didn’t really get to see it at its best, but it was still cool to have seen it in person. I didn’t realize how huge it is! (This is only one wing of the house.) I decided if I had to live there, I’d live in the guest house.


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From there, we walked through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park…

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Hyde Park

…to Buckingham Palace. Pleasant surprise: the fleur de lis motif on the fence surrounding it. Disappointment: there were no guards outside the gate, so I couldn’t try to make them laugh, a la Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen in Winning London. At least I think that’s the movie I’m thinking of.

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uploading this despite the fact that the wind chose this moment to blow my top in a very unflattering way

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so far away…

After that, we headed further into Westminster! I guess this is sort of a touristy spot to visit, but it took my breath away. The House of Parliament is pretty much the number one stunna of buildings, in my opinion. This might have a little something to do with a certain scene in a certain movie…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iy02K6x04N8&NR=1

Don’t know why I’m uploading all these movie clips. It’s a passing phase, I promise.


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We walked across Westminster Bridge, where we quickly got in line for the London Eye.

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This was the main touristy thing I wanted to do, and I’m so glad we did. The views were stunning. Apparently you can get married in one of these little cars…I’m considering it. The only bad thing was that it was raining, so all my photographs are sort of speckled. But oh well. You get the idea.


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My mom told me to find a way to get to the highest point in every city I visit to admire the view…mission accomplished, I think. 🙂

We wanted to sit down and get out of the rain when we got off, so we found a little coffee shop and ordered tea and crumpets. Perfect afternoon snack!


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Once we’d regained our strength, we headed back across Westminster bridge, and I took a few dozen more photos of the House of Parliament. I’m in love with a building. And generally just the view of London from the Thames. Oh my god. I was practically drooling.


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Big Ben!

From there, we walked past Westminster Abbey…I could get married there, too. I guess.

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And then to back to the Underground. We headed back to the hotel and rested there for a bit before headed back to Whole Foods (sigh, such happiness), where I’m currently blogging. Free Wifi has been tricky to find!

Sorry this post was so long. I’ll work on being a bit more concise in the future. If you’re reading this, I probably miss you bunches!

Tess

P.S. If you’ve made it this far, you’re a champ. I was going to add tons of my cool pictures, but this website is super slow. I’m working on downloading some program that’s supposed to make uploading photos faster, so future posts, I promise, will have more photos and less words! In any case, pictures will soon be on facebook, if you’re interested. 🙂

Edited to add pictures!