Monday, July 28, 2014

More London

When Ben was in London 6 years ago, he saw Phantom of the Opera and he absolutely loved it. One of our "musts" was to see a show, specifically Phantom again because Ben loved seeing it in London and the atmosphere of the theater. One of my very favorite things about New York is the shows, so I was beyond thrilled to know that Ben wanted to go to one too! Since we wanted to pack the front end of our trip with the "musts," our goal for they day was to find tickets.

First, we walked right down the street from our hotel to a little restaurant called Ruffles. We had seen signs in the window for pretty cheap breakfasts and thought we'd give it a try. It was an adorable little place with mostly locals enjoying breakfast with us. Ben got a delicious bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, while I just went with scrambled eggs and toast. Then, it was off to Leicester Square for tickets. After our trips to Picadilly Circus I researched places for discount tickets and found "TKTS."

There was a bit of a line, but nothing too bad. While Ben stood in line, I looked at the board posted with show names and prices. We thought about a couple of other shows, but Phantom was definitely what we wanted and we got tickets for just 35 pounds each. Not bad at all! 

Our plan for the rest of the day was to go to Windsor....long story short, I didn't exactly research it enough and we ended up on the tube for about an hour to a place that apparently had nothing. According to the tube workers there was "nothing fancy" in Edgeware (literally the last tube stop we could have possibly gone to). The silver lining was that the tube workers were super friendly and we finally figured out where to go to get a BritRail pass. Everyone else that we had talked to about it before kept telling us all sorts of different places. 

We felt a bit lost for the rest of the day without a plan. We headed back to Covent Garden to walk around the shops and ended up watching a man put on a show in the center of the square. He was pretty funny, and ended up asking Ben, "the man with the viking beard" to help him get on his unicycle. The moment he started looking around for helpers, I knew he'd ask Ben. He's a pretty easy guy to pick out of a crowd considering he stands above everyone else! 

How do they do this?!

You can see in the last picture that there were lots of little kids at the show too. I think this group right in front of us was a group of school kids and it was hilarious to hear their reactions. The show was funny but also a little inappropriate and they kept looking back at their teachers to see what to do! 

Our next stop was a bookstore to make a plan for the rest of the day. Mostly Ben worked on a plan while I looked at the children's books. We found one called My Mummy that we got for sweet baby Clark. Then, we headed over to the National Museum. On our walk, we were literally able to walk however we wanted all over the streets because traffic was so backed up. People were completely stopped and standing outside their cars talking. It was crazy! 

Looking at the art in the National Museum was super interesting to us. It was just so crazy to see how old some of the art was. We walked around most of the museum and then sat on the steps to rest for a little bit. When we walked back out, the traffic was still the same, but we couldn't figure out why. After sitting there for just a little while, Ben looked over at me and said, "I think you need to take a nap." Apparently I looked like I was fading fast! 

After a good nap and some research for restaurants, Ben and I headed back to Picadilly Circus for dinner and the show. We were both so excited! We chose Nonna's Kitchen for dinner and it was awesome! The atmosphere was adorable, the service was great and the food was delicious! 

Ben and I split some bruschetta and a pizza + I got my first diet coke of the trip while Ben had a glass of wine! Ah! It was so amazing! I would totally have gone back to this restaurant. There was just something about it that I adored!

We double-checked how late the restaurant stayed open before deciding on dessert. Thankfully it was open until 11, so we headed to the show with full stomachs and decided to wait until after to walk back over. 

I was so excited to see the show, but I think I was even more excited to be back there with Ben. His time in London 6 years before was a super special time in our relationship. We weren't necessarily dating yet, but were absolutely smitten and would write letters and emails back and forth. Ben even bought a pink flip phone so he could call every now and then. I loved hearing about all the things he did and the places he saw and was elated to be back with him. It just seemed so special to be doing something that he enjoyed so much while he was there! 

We absolutely loved the show! It's a really neat show to see in Europe where it actually took place. I've always loved the songs and the singing was incredible! After the show we headed back to Nonna's for some gelato and then walked to the center of Picadilly Circus to watch another group of performers. The gelato was amazing and again, I can't say enough about the people at Nonna's. They were so sweet! 

Even though our plans for the whole day didn't go exactly to plan, we had such a fun day! 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day Two in London

After crashing hard the night before, we enjoyed sleeping in and getting ready at a leisurely pace. Once we were ready to go, we walked to the tube station and headed to Somerset House. I had never even heard of Somerset House, but Ben remembered it from being there six years ago and said it was beautiful. It did not disappoint. Of course, we got out our camera and were so excited to start snapping pictures, but it kept telling us that we had no memory card. There was clearly a camera card in the camera and we checked everything to make sure it wasn't locked, etc. We were super frustrated, but hoped to stop by a camera store or something later, so the day's pictures are taken with my phone camera.

Today was one of my favorite days in London, because we just walked and walked and walked. When we walked out of Somerset House, we went through Victoria Gardens. There were so many people enjoying the beautiful day. They were eating their lunches on the grass and just laying down soaking up the sun. I was super jealous of their lunch breaks! We then walked along the Thames River for a little bit taking in the sites before we started heading to Borough Market. 

It was a bit of a walk to the market...I think Ben wanted to hurt me! I love love love walking and taking in the city, where Ben enjoys walking around when we get to a site, but would prefer to get there by bike or train. I would say it was about a mile and a half to the market. It was actually pretty neat because we walked through areas that were not touristy. We got to see lots of flats/houses (how do you know which is which?), work places and even little shops and cafes that were tucked away. 

By the time we got there, we were famished, so we immediately started looking at all of the carts and shops set-up with food. This was on a Tuesday, so all of them weren't set-up like they would be on a Saturday, but there was still a very impressive selection of food. I was super excited to be adventurous and just try something new! We ended up at the individual carts and Ben settled on Ethiopian food while I got a Falafel wrap. We both enjoyed trying something new while we sat in the middle of the market and listened to a musician play. 

While we were walking around earlier, we saw some incredible dessert carts. One had ginormous chocolate chip out of control HUGE! If you know Ben at all, you know this was a must try. We had plans to meet one of my friends from college around 2, so we grabbed a cookie and relaxed on the Borough Market benches in the sun. 

An amazing dessert cart. Their baklava was out of this world! 

After our glorious cookie, we walked to the London Bridge just around the corner to meet my friend, Jena. Ok, can we talk about the London Bridge? Apparently most people think that the London Bridge is really the Tower Bridge, but we were on the for real London Bridge and I was totally unimpressed. There is a great view of the Tower Bridge, but it is literally just like a highway bridge here in the states. Ben thought it was pretty funny that I didn't believe him that we were on the London Bridge at all! 

Once we met up with Jena, we went on a fun walking tour of London. She works for a company as a tour guide and just so happened to be starting a tour the same day we started our tour, but she came over early to enjoy the city for a bit. It was so great to see her and get some suggestions on what to see and where to go! We walked across the Millennium Bridge which is apparently a big part of Harry Potter, and went by the the Globe Theater and St. Paul's Cathedral.  I absolutely love the history here! 

After walking by a ton of fun, beautiful sites, we hopped on the tube (in rush hour) to Picadilly Circus. I was for real sandwiched in between so many people. Ben thought it was hilarious, but unfortunately he was too squished to take a picture. We continued a walking tour of Picadilly Circus to Covent Garden. I adored Covent Garden! It was such a cute little part of the city with lots of restaurants, shopping stores, little shops, an outdoor market and outdoor entertainment. I made a mental note to make it back there before we left. We felt like we had walked at least 6 miles for the day, so we were getting a bit hungry and decided to head to a pub for some fish and chips. 

On our way, we passed by a cute little cookie shop called "Ben's Cookies" and had to stop! Apparently it was the day of the cookie! Ben got a chocolate chip (surprise surprise) and I got a peanut butter for an after dinner treat. 

Jena took us to a pub called Marquess and it was delicious! I got the renne pasta because I wasn't sure about fish and chips yet, but I tried Ben's dinner and it was incredible! The fish was so fresh! I am also a fan of the mashed peas...should I admit that?!?! We felt like total partiers because we didn't start heading back to our hotel until almost ten o'clock! 

Day 2 was such a good day in the city, and we went to bed exhausted again! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

We're Back + Our Big Announcement

WE'RE BACK!!!! We've actually been back since July 2nd, but we've been super busy catching up with friends and family and getting everything back in order. We had so much fun in Europe, but we are also so happy to be home! Before I go on and on about all of the places we went and things we saw, we did make a big of a big announcement before we left...

We had a very small extra carry-on added to our trip! We are expecting our first baby in December, and we could not be more ecstatic! It was pretty neat to watch the baby bump grow and grow while we were in Europe. I took a few "bump pics," but it wasn't until the week we got back that the bump was officially noticeable. I am now a little over 18 weeks, and according to Ben, I am officially pregnant! I absolutely love seeing the bump! 

I will post a pregnancy update soon, probably in between trip updates, but lets get started on our trip. Seeing as we were gone for 23+ days, this could take awhile! 

June 9th - Take off to London
Unfortunately, our air conditioner went out on the 7th, so we spent the night at my in-laws the night before. I woke up bright and early to get in one last run before leaving. I knew it would be a long time before I would be running again, plus there would be a lot of plane sitting. It was a perfect, rainy morning for a run! I was super glad that I got my butt out of bed. After my run, Ben and I headed back to our house to finish packing. I thought I had most of my clothes already laid out, but as always, it took be about 10X longer to pack than I thought it would. I kept overthinking everything. 

I tried to pack everything into two carry-on bags, one Kelty rolling bag a friend let me borrow and a big backpack (see above). All my clothes and shoes (two pair of sandals and a pair of tennis shoes) went into the Kelty and all of my toiletries and carry-on items went in the backpack. If anyone is interested, I am happy to do another post on what I packed, just let me know. 

After we got everything packed, we headed back to my in-laws to relax and plan some things for the trip before we left. I called a friend from college who happens to be a tour guide in Europe. She gave me some awesome tips, one being to download the app Ulmon Map Guides and the Tube Map before we left. These two apps ended up being awesome! They helped us navigate London and every other city/country we visited. She also gave us some awesome recommendations for places to visit while in London. All of this made be so excited to go! 

Our flight was at 7:50 PM, which ended up being amazing. We got to the airport with plenty of time to have dinner before we boarded. The international terminal at DFW has a bunch of options for dinner, but once we saw Cantina Loredo on the list, it was a pretty immediate decision. Of course we had to get our last fill of Tex Mex before we left! 

Having the flight so late was awesome, because we got on the flight, watched a movie (while others were served dinner...we didn't realize they would serve us), and then slept. We definitely did not sleep through the night, but we didn't officially wake up until they were serving breakfast. After that, the captain announced that we were about to land. The flight flew by, no pun intended! :) 

Going through customs and all that at Heathrow was a super easy process, but can we talk about the cankles caused by the flight?! Holy moly, I was so embarrassed! I had a feeling my feet would swell due to the pregnancy and the long flight, but I was not expecting what looked to me like elephantitis!! Ok, I'm being super dramatic, but they were definitely cankles! We quickly hopped on the tube and headed to Paddington Station near our hotel. The tube ride was a bit long and hot, and with not having eaten anything but some yogurt that morning on the flight, I was not feeling so hot. It felt awesome to get back up to street level and head to our hotel! Again, I can not emphasize how wonderful the Ulmon app was for this. It can be used offline, so the map popped right up! 

We stayed at the Park Grand London Hyde Park and I have nothing bad to say about this hotel. It was quiet and although our hotel room was small, everything was very nice. Who cares if your room is small?! We would only be in there to sleep! There was also a bathroom that we forgot to take a picture of, but it was a nice size. I think I was most surprised by the fact that there was no shower curtain, just a small piece of glass by the shower head. Weird!! 

We laid down for about two seconds before my pregnant belly growled and I realized I needed food soon, so we headed back out for the day! By this time, it was around 2:00 PM, so we walked around the corner to find lunch. We stopped at a small pub called Pride of Paddington. It was great! I got a tuna melt and Ben got a chicken caesar salad. I know I know, neither are really "English" food, but we didn't want to ruin our appetite for dinner and dessert! Definitely the highlight of lunch was the man sitting right behind Ben. He ordered the fish and chips and I will just say that from his very loud belches after each bite, I have a feeling they have very yummy fish and chips! Ben and I could not contain our giggles each time he burped. It was OUT OF CONTROL!! 

After our bellies were satisfied, we decided we should go see where Ben stayed when he studied abroad 6 years ago. We got back on the tube and headed to Imperial College. We walked around for a while and ended up in Hyde Park. I think we were both a bit too tired to walk the park, so we parked it under a tree for a while. It was such a nice day and I just laid my head on Ben's stomach and watched all of the families running around. There was a really cute group of kids chasing birds and also a dad teaching his son to skateboard. I loved watching everyone! 

Imperial College is the building on the other side of all the trees

A ginormous statue in Hyde Park 

We were a bit indecisive on what we wanted to do after Hyde Park, so we first went to South Kensington. There were lots of cute little restaurants and shops. We weren't really hungry yet, so we got back on the tube and went to Picadilly Circus, pretty much the Time Square of London. 

We walked around, went into some fun touristy London souvenir shops, looked at tickets for shows and just sat on the stairs you see above. People watching in Picadilly Circus was pretty awesome! After people watching and talking about plans for the next few days, we again got back on the tube and headed back to South Kensington for dinner. We stopped at a cute little place called Le Pain. Ben got an open-faced club sandwich and I got a quinoa dish. Exactly what I wanted at the end of a long, busy, draining day. We could tell that we were both incredibly tired by the lack of conversation had at dinner, and came to the conclusion that we should probably head back and get some rest. Obviously, this could not happen without getting dessert, so we walked across the street for a scrumptious crepe. 

It started sprinkling while we were in the restaurant, so we sat under a small awning and enjoyed a nutella and banana crepe for Ben and a strawberry, almond and butterscotch crepe for me. They were incredible! How could I not have taken a picture?! I guess the lack of sleep made me have a slight mental lapse... so sorry! 

It was a super early night for us. We went back to the hotel, cleaned up and got in bed. I think we were both probably out no later than 9:30. It was a great first day, and we needed lots of energy for the days to come!