Sunday, October 20, 2013

Europe 2013: To London We Go!

Oh how we had been looking forward to this trip....SO MUCH. This is our 3rd year in a row of a "big trip", something that we wanted to make an annual thing after our Italy/Austria/Czech Republic/Germany trip. This year was 3 weeks in the British Isles, inspired by the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be playing in London this year. Over the next several blog posts I get to relive  England, Scotland, and Ireland, and share all of their awesomeness with you. It really was a fantastic trip.

Final cheers with American libations are the airport

Excitedly passing the time prior to our departure

Of note, we traveled on British Airway to and from Europe on this trip, and I could not recommend them any more highly. Seriously, coach has enough leg room for Adam (ringing in at 6'4"), complementary good headphones, a soft blanket and actual pillow, along with a full dinner AND breakfast (we took a red-eye) of healthy and actually tasty food. The hourly beverage and snack rounds were nice too, though definitely unnecessary.
Traversing from London-Heathrow to the city was more than we anticipated, as it is actually a 45 minute Tube (London for metro) ride into the city. You could get there more quickly if you wanted to spend the money on a cab or the Heathrow Express train, but we wanted to spend our money elsewhere. Honestly, the ride into the city via the Tube was a nice introduction to the country and city, with much of it being above ground with sites to see. The Tube was really easy to navigate and we found our stop without any issues.

Walking to our accomodations

After ditching our packs and organizing at our place, we very quickly escaped to explore the city. We just wanted to spend the afternoon and evening exploring our vicinity. By the time that we got back out, we were tired, thirsty, and hungry. A few blocks from our place was this AWESOME pub called "Three Stags". They have an awesome draught lineup, inclusive of ciders, and all of their food is organic and locally sourced. I love supporting places like this! The drinks were perfect, the food delicious, and the atmosphere nice and cozy. We will return here later, we were that impressed.

Breakfast/Lunch time

Jet fatigued but enjoying our first British drinks

After a few drinks, delicious food, and a nice rest, we were ready to get out and explore London. We were staying in the Lambeth North neighborhood, and you could not ask for a better locale central to everything in the city.

Random abbey

Love and the British Parliament

Through the next several pictures, you will probably (correctly) guess that the British Parliament was my favorite building. It is massive, impressive, and gorgeous.We ventured across it this afternoon and then came back during the night to see it illuminated by all of its lights. Unfortunately, none of the night pictures came out, but this is definitely a site to see when you come to London. From afar and up close, during the day and especially at night.

River Thames and Parliament

I really liked the Parliament building

Artist working in the park: I loved watching him work, envying his talent

The front of the Parliament building

British Parliament

The ornateness of the building and the fine details of the architecture absolutely enraptured me. We walked around this building for a while.

British Parliament

Westminster Abbey it directly across the street from Parliament, so it is very easy to accomplish two "must sees" in one place. There was a pricy entry fee and a long line for the Abbey, so we opted out of going inside, but it is a beautiful building.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

Gates of Buckingham Palace

I didn't realize it until looking through these pictures, but there are no actual pictures of Buckingham Palace. Honestly, I was not impressed with it at all. It is just a big, boxy, modern building...nothing impressive to look at. The gates though, impressive. As were the guards marching around. I usually love royal buildings, as they are so architecturally complex and beautiful. Not this place and I was really disappointed. I don't know why, I just expected more.  That or we should have stopped here before Parliament and the Abbey, it just paled in comparison.

Up close of the gates

Adam trying to decide on his next drink, the first still untouched

Loving my British cloudy cider

Hello Big Ben

Sunset over Parliament

Happily enjoy and The Eye

After the sunset, the pictures stopped coming out clearly, but we lasted surprisingly late into the evening. We came across a street festival and met an awesome local couple, Mark and Sam, and enjoyed many hours of awesome conversation, tasty hot food, and local beverages. It was a great start to this trip.