London for Christmas

“Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.” – Kurt Vonnegut

There is so much to share about our trip to London last week!  We loved the culture, and Jordan really took to saying “cheers mate.”  It seemed like everyone there was so much more jolly than in Prague.  People were definitely in the Christmas spirit.  We were shocked to find out 1 pound is almost equivalent to 2 US dollars, but hey, when in London…  Our days were packed with walking, sight seeing, and learning new things.  The trip was a great way to get away before starting work!

Day #1: We woke up early to take a bus to the Prague airport.  Everything went smoothly at the airport, and before we knew it, we arrived in London!  We loved asking for things in English – what a novelty!  Our flight came into the Stanstead airport which is about an hour bus or train ride from the city of London.  After a little figuring, we understood how to get to our hostel and took a bus there.  We arrived at the hostel to find that they could only accept cash payments for the room – and guess what?  We had no Pounds and couldn’t take any more money out of the ATMs!  So we had to find another place to stay.  This was the point when Kurt Vonnegut’s quote resonated in my head – “bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.”  It seemed like we were wandering around London aimlessly trying to find a place to stay.  We finally found one and ended up getting everything figured out, but not without a little stress along the way.

When we finally had a place to rest our heads, we decided to check out the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.  There were tons of rides, ice skating, food stands, and even a bar on a carousel!  We just enjoyed walking around and looking at everything in full Christmas spirit.IMG_2384

Day #2:  Our second day in London happened to be the Winter Solstice.  We decided to check out Stonehendge.  Since the Pagans give special importance to the solstices, we figured it would be the perfect time to go.  We arrived and found out that the next day they would be letting people up into the center circle.  We couldn’t believe we missed such an opportunity by one day! But we still enjoyed walking through the ancient structures and seeing some old burial hills, too.
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Downton Abby

Day #3: We went on a walking tour of the city of London.  While it didn’t really measure up to the amazing walking tour we got in Prague, we still got to see all of the famous sites and learn a lot of history about them.  We got to see the changing of the guard and feed some squirrels – the guide brought along some bread and the people on our tour loved seeing how the squirrels would come right up and take the food out of their hands.

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Buckingham Palace

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The food was great.  We loved trying authentic fish and chips and pies.  At one restaurant, a Polish waiter gave us a free flight of English beers.  We loved London Pale Ale!

IMG_2380After the walking tour we went to the Science museum which was the best museum we saw while we were in London.  It wasn’t just for kids, there were lots of interesting things for adults, too.

IMG_2493We ate lunch at Cafe Concerto where the desserts in the window drew us in.  I ordered a walnut and apple risotto and for dessert we got this piece of cake.  At night we went to see a comedy show.  It was called A Year in Review and it was interesting because there were 6 comedians competing with each other for the audience’s laughs throughout the show.  Many of the jokes were really British and related to European news, but it was still really cool to go to a place that seemed pretty local.

IMG_2524 Day #4: On the fourth day, we went to the Natural History museum and saw some dinosaur bones along with other exhibits.  My favorite of which was the gemstones and minerals exhibit where I wandered, mesmerized through the isles of beautiful natural jewels.

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Day #5: Christmas Eve! We started the day with a ride on the London Eye.  We got lots of cool arial views of the city from the little pod on the giant wheel.  Then we saw the London Eye 4D experience that came for free with our tickets.

IMG_2546 IMG_2573 IMG_2577Afterwards, we wandered around a bit and went into the Southside Center to regroup.  We grabbed some lunch at a burrito place that was a lot like Chipotle except better.  Then we went to a candy store and bought some chocolate bars.  Mine was called Christmas Pudding and it had fruit, nuts, and spices in it.  Jordan’s was called blueberry flapjack.  Next, we went to the theater to see a show called Nevil Island.  It was about a group of businessmen that get stranded on an island.  The play was funny, but it also made you think.  We both really liked it.

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The set of Nevil Island

Most of the city was starting to shut down around 5, so we found a place that was still serving dinner and hunkered down.  It was an Asian small plate restaurant that was packed.  We sat at a table with 3 other couples.  You order by filling out a slip of paper with bubbles on it for what you would like.  After dinner, we came back to the hostel and drank some ciders at the hostel bar and talked to a girl we met from New York.

Day #6: Christmas!  We woke up early and hit the empty road to rent bikes and partake in the Charles Dickens ride.  It was a group of about 50 bikers and us with our rented city bikes.  We went to various Charles Dickens sites around the city.  The entire bike ride was over 10 miles.  We were exhausted by the end of the morning!  We ditched the tour early and returned our bikes, glad to be rid of them, and sat on some park benches to contemplate.  Later in the day, we both got to talk with our families and went out to a Mediterranean restaurant for dinner.

IMG_2621 Day #7: After waking up and checking out of our hostel, we went to see the tower bridge and London Tower.

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We walked back to Big Ben and Buckingham Palace where we wanted to take a few more pictures.  After some soup to warm up for lunch, we had to go meet our Couch Surfing hosts!! They live in south east London.  They were Ukrainian and Bulgarian.  They had an amazing dinner ready for us when we got there and we had a great time talking all night and drinking wine with them.

Day #8:  We woke up to a traditional Bulgarian breakfast of banitsa – deliciously greasy puff pastry with feta cheese and egg.  We loved it, and learned the recipe!  We were stuffed for a day full of tourist adventures.   We walked with our hosts to various tourist spots nearby their house.  We saw the prime meridian, the old queen’s house, the painted hall, and the maritime museum.

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The Prime Meridian
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A laser points out of the small black hole at night to show the Prime Meridian.
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View from the Queen’s house
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The Painted Hall

Our host, Evol, knew a ton about history, so we basically got a free walking tour just by him showing us around.

After all that, our hosts wanted to head back and rest, so Jordan and I decided to go to the Tate Modern art gallery.  We had been wanting to go since we first got to London.  It was a great way to end our visit.  We really enjoyed exploring the countless rooms of interesting art.

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We left London early the next day, sad to leave our hosts, but surprisingly, we both felt excited to head back “home” to the Czech Republic.  It only took a trip away to realize that this foreign place is really starting to feel like home!

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