Liverpool and London

I can honestly say that leaving Ireland was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.  After 3 months, I had completely fallen in love… with the country and with one particular person living in it.  Despite knowing I would see Kevin a week later in London, it was still impossibly hard to leave Dublin, and there were more than a few tears shed at the airport knowing that from that moment on, everything would be different.  We were no longer living in the present tense and avoiding the date on the calendar.  It had arrived.  And although I had two more weeks of vacation ahead of me, my Irish adventure was done.  The trip I had spent two years planning and dreaming about had come to an end.  There was no knowing when I would be coming back.  I don’t know if sadness is the word I would use to describe how I felt leaving.  Hopeless is a good descriptive.  Devastated might cover it as well.  

By the time I got to Liverpool, I was an exhausted hot mess, and I have never been so relieved to hug an old friend.  Jack and I have known each other since 2003, when we lived on the same floor at Bridgewater State University (BSC back then).  Jack was on the exchange program from London, and we hit it off right away.  When he came back to Bridgewater 2 years later, he lived on our couch for a month (how our RA didn’t notice, I will never know)… and when he came back a few years after that, he brought his girlfriend Amy for her first trip to the states.  They started in Boston and so we had a mini- college reunion to welcome them to the states.  As many times as Jack came to the states to visit?  Multiply that by about 6 and that’s how many times I told Jack I would be coming over to visit him.  After Ireland, England was my second most coveted destination, and there were so many times I wanted to go there that life kept getting in the way.  I was so happy to be able to visit after Ireland and spend time with Jack and his now fiancé Amy.  And I was absolutely thrilled to be ending such a sad day with them, because if anyone can cheer you up, it’s these two and their ridiculous stories told in their scouser accents.

 

The night I arrived, Amy’s family took us all out to dinner and we went over my itinerary for the week.  Unbeknownst to me, Amy had taken a few days off for my visit, and recruited her parents for the other days I was around, and just like that I had a full schedule of Liverpool fun on my plate.  Her parents were sweet as can be and after dinner we headed to their neighborhood pub, where everyone knew their name and I got my first taste of English pub life.

 

It was great to stay with friends in Liverpool because it meant some chill nights on the couch, which is what I needed after 3 months of go, go, go in Ireland.  It also lead to my introduction to the biggest train wreck of a show I have ever seen, The Valleys.  Think Jersey Shore with Welsh accents and lots more nudity.  I am ashamed to say, but I literally spent one whole day of my time in Liverpool with Amy and Jack on the couch, binge watching The Valleys and an almost-as-bad show called Made in Chelsea (think less Jersey Shore and more Laguna Beach or The Hills).  It was gloriously relaxing, even when Amy told me she couldn't wait until I was gone so she could stop eating junk food ;)

 

My first full day in town,  Amy and I visited both cathedrals in the city and went to lunch at The 23 Club.  The cathedrals in Liverpool are so vastly different and it was really cool to see the different styles of both.  The Liverpool Cathedral is spectacular and is the world's largest Anglican cathedral, and the fifth largest cathedral in the world.  The other cathedral in Liverpool is the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and is much newer, the Liverpool Cathedral being built in 1904 and this one being built in the 60's.  I have to say that architecturally, and pretty much every other way lol, I preferred the Liverpool Cathedral.  There's just nothing like it.  And the view from the top isn't too shabby either.  It's a much different feeling standing in the metropolitan cathedral, which reminded me of a much more modern church.

 

Amy also took me to the Tate Museum, and after that waited patiently for me while I spent an afternoon doing the Beatles Story.  Now, here's a fun fact about Amy, my first ever born and bred scouser friend... she HATES the Beatles.  Hates them, wants nothing to do with them, wouldn't mind if they didn't exist at all.  I can't explain it, because I don't think I have ever heard her give me a reason that I would consider valid, but there it is.  The girl from Liverpool despises the Beatles.  I, on the other hand, LOVE THEM, and fully embraced all that Liverpool had to offer in terms of Beatles activities.  So much so that I even had to cancel a private Beatles tour I booked for myself, because at this point in my trip my checking account was calmly reminding me to calm the eff down.  But I did still get my fair share of Beatlemania, thank God...

 

The Beatles Story is an awesome museum in the Albert Dock that I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone visiting Liverpool.  Seriously, this was one of my favorite museums of all time, because it was set up exactly the way I love:  videocassettes let you do the self-guided tour at your own pace, it's interactive, and there is a ton to see and listen to.  I could have spent the whole day there (and just might when I return to Liverpool this summer for Jack and Amy's wedding) and the gift shop was deadly for a Beatles fan.  Luckily, as I said, my checking account wasn't going to let me get too crazy, and so I managed to escape with just a set of 4 small mugs (ya know, for all the coffee I drink HAHA) and a magnet.

 

I also took The Magical Mystery Tour, which was AWESOME and very good for a travel on a budget :)  Since you're riding around on a big tie-dye bus with 40 other Beatles fans, it's much cheaper than doing a private black taxi Beatles tour.  I think the Mystery Tour cost me 14 pounds and was worth every penny.  Our tour guide was hilarious, informative, and the bus stopped at all the major Beatles sites in the city, including the homes of Ringo, John and Paul, Strawberry Fields, and Penny Lane.

 

The other place I can't wait to visit again this summer in Liverpool is Mathew Street, home of the Cavern Club and many other pubs that the Beatles frequented as they made a name for themselves in the music scene around Liverpool.   The Cavern Club was where the Beatles got their start and where they were discovered by Brian Epstein, and although the original Cavern Club was closed and filled in, they built a replica right across the street.  The original Cavern Club is also back open and I ducked in there for a beer, but the real action is happening across the street in the "new" Cavern Club.  Once again, this was a place I could stay all day.  It's an underground club with signatures from all over the world covering every square inch of the walls and ceilings, and bands playing good English rock... yes, you guessed it... lots of Beatles covers, lots of Oasis tunes... I was in heaven.

 

We also took a wander down to The Grapes one day, and Jack brought us back to the booth in the bar where the Beatles signed their first contract.  There was a commemorative picture of this event over the booth, and we sat in it and toasted and took shots to celebrate.  I'm sure Amy thought I was insane for taking as many pictures as I did, but I have loved the Beatles since I was old enough to know who they were, and I loved doing all this Beatles-related stuff in Liverpool.

 

After our beers at the Cavern Club and shots at The Grapes, we boarded the Mersey ferry for a water tour of the city.  Already buzzing from our first two stops, I really didn't need any more alcohol, but Jack went to the ferry concession stand and came back with a few beers for us to enjoy on the upper deck as we listened to the audio system tell us all about Liverpool.  By this point in the day I had purchased a Union Jack flag, and proceeded to take it out and wave it around in the wind while singing "Ferry Cross The Mersey" at the top of my lungs.  Moral of the story:  I can no longer handle day drinking like I was able to in college.

 

(me being ridiculous with my Union Jack flag)

 

As we came back across the Mersey, we noticed a helicopter hovering over the Albert Dock area.  After the ferry we had reservations to be on the Little Yellow Duckmarine, and it does it's "splashdown landing" right off the Albert Dock.  Amy and Jack were trying to figure out what was going on, and Amy told me how one of the Duckmarines had sank recently.  "I hope another one didn't sink, I really wanted to take you on that!"

 

Spoiler alert:  Another one sank.

 

Now, it's not really funny.  It's not.  I'm sure it was very traumatizing for the people on there, especially the children, to be on a boat that started sinking as soon as it entered the water.  But since I know no one got hurt, I know that there were no deaths or injuries or anything of that nature, I can say this:

 

It was funny.  Because we were supposed to be on the boat that sank, and the only reason we weren't is because it was full and so we had to take the next time slot.  And immediately, because of this fact, Jack started talking about how "his whole life had flashed before his eyes" and he was "seeing things clearly".  He and Amy were already engaged at this point, and he started talking about how they should get married right then and there and not waste any more time.  Mind you, we were in the McDonald's by the Albert Dock when he said this, and he proposed that the cashier could be the officiant and the drive through guy could give Amy away.  All this was after we had walked into the Little Yellow Duckmarine office to get our money back, and Jack had said "So the 5:30, is that just running a little late then?"  The look of daggers the girl working shot him... well, lets just say not everyone finds Jack's humor as amusing as I do.

 

After the Duckboat fiasco, we headed to Camp and Furnace for the Liverpool Craft Beer Festival.  Jack and Amy had gotten us tickets prior to me arriving, and I will say that I am pretty much always up for a beer festival.  What is it about getting hundreds of random strangers together and throwing really good beer into the mix?  It's just fun... that said, I definitely learned I cannot party with English scousers.  At the end of the beer festival, so about midnight, Amy was ready to keep the party going and hit some parties.  I was ready to put my fat pants on and hit my pillow :)  It's amazing to think that just a few short years ago I was going out every single Wednesday- Saturday.  WHAT HAPPENED TO ME??!?!?!   Old age has definitely taken it's toll...

 

Okay, before I go on too long, let me summarize Liverpool:  do the Beatles Story museum, the Magical Mystery Tour, the Tate Modern museum, go shopping and eat around the Albert Dock, visit the Liverpool Cathedral, and take a ferry across the Mersey while singing "Ferry Cross the Mersey" at the top of your lungs.  Okay, you can leave that last one out.  But everything else is a must-do ;-)

 

Here are some shots from Liverpool!

 

 

 

The famous Liverpool lambananas...

 

 

Amy, her mate Jenny, and Jenny's daughter Evie, who is going to be a flower girl at the wedding.  This girl is precious!

 

 

The Liverpool Big Wheel...

 

 

 

Albert Dock area...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beatles Story!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magical Mystery Tour....

 

 

George Harrison's birthplace is the photo on the left, and Paul McCartney's childhood home is on the right....

 

 

There are Beatles touches everywhere in Liverpool...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love this place...

 

 

 

 

Can't wait to visit the Cavern Club again this summer...

 

 

 

 

 

As important as the Beatles are to Liverpool history, the Titanic has a deep connection to the city as well.  Below, you'll see a photo of a group of windows.  The left window balcony is where it was announced to the world that the Titanic had sunk.  Below that, you'll see signs commemorating the homes of Thomas Ismay (founder of the White Star Line) and Captain Edward John Smith, who captained the Titanic on it's maiden and only voyage.

 

 

 

 

More scenes around Liverpool....

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Liverpool Cathedral...

 

 

 

View from the top of Liverpool Cathedral....

 

 

 

 

Around the cathedral...

 

 

The Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral....

 

 

 

Downtown Liverpool...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were taken in Croxteth Country Park...

 

 

 

After putting in so much effort to hold a baby lamb in Ireland, this was shockingly easy... you can just go to a petting zoo!  :)

 

 

Jack being Jack...

 

 

Another Place is an art installation on Crosby Beach in Liverpool that basically consists of iron statues of the artist's own body, facing the ocean in different spots along the beach... sort of creepy, but I thought it was a pretty cool sight...

 

 

 

The happy couple :)

 

 

Amy's parents are members of the National Trust, and took me on a tour of this beautiful Victorian home called Rufford Hall, built in the 1500's...

 

 

Amy's parents Kate and Tim on the left... aren't they adorbs?

 

 

 

 

After our tour, Kate and Tim took me to Southport and we meandered about for a few hours...

 

 

 

After a week in Liverpool with Jack and Amy, I headed by bus up to London to meet Kevin.  I was supposed to stay the whole week and a half in London with Jack’s parents, but then Kevin had decided to come over so we could have a few more days together, and so I split the week between a few days in a London hotel with him and the rest of the week with Sue and Stu :)

 

Let me just say this:  I had not expected to stay in a hotel in London, so I never did any investigating as to how much hotel rooms there cost.  When Kevin made the plan to come over for a couple days, I started looking into booking us a room… and basically wanted to cry.  London is the most expensive city I have ever been to in my life.  Hotel prices were ridiculous and I was worried we would end up in a hostel in the worst part of town.  Fortunately, by chance, I ended up finding Hotel Xenia in South Kensington, which had just opened a couple of months prior and was therefore significantly cheaper than anything else I could find.  Not only that, but it was right in the middle of everything I wanted to see, so it was the perfect location.  From the reviews on TripAdvisor that had been posted in the couple months the hotel had been open, I was expecting a nice hotel but a tiny room.  And for the most part, that was accurate.  But while the room was tiny, it was absolutely perfect, and as soon as I walked into it I wanted to live there.  The bed took up most of the room, but the ceilings were high and the bed faced a floor-to-ceiling picture window with a leafy view of the tree-lined road the hotel was on.  There was a flat screen TV over the desk, which had a crocheted “God Save The Queen” pillow on its chair.  There was also an iPad on the nightstand that was programmed with all sorts of information about the area and things to do in London.  And every night when we got back to the hotel, the bed had been turned down and there were two fresh pastries on the nightstand table waiting for us.  It was perfection.

 

The same can be said for the rest of London, which I can honestly say is my favorite city in the world.  Now I am NOT a city person… in all my years around Boston I never lived directly in the city, I only like visiting NYC every few years, and the city I live in now, Burlington, only has about 40,000 people in it, so it feels more like a big town than a city.  But London?  London is EVERYTHING.  I cannot even begin to explain how much I loved it there, and if money (and proper visas) weren’t an issue, I would move there in a heartbeat.  The history of it, the architecture, the museums, the beautiful people, the amazing food, the fact that there’s always something to do and see.  And the tube system was simply the best subway system I have ever experienced.  Seriously, I lived around Boston for 5 years, and I still get lost getting around that city on the train.  In London, we bought Oyster cards, downloaded the tube app on my phone, and we were home free.  We never had a problem, and it was the easiest system to navigate.  I was so in love with the tube system there, I bought a mousepad and mug with the whole system shown on them, with the mug having the Mind the Gap emblem over the tube map.  I think NYC and Boston could take a few pointers from the London tube system,  Just sayin’.

 

I arrived in London on a Monday afternoon, and after checking into the hotel, I headed out to meet my old college friend Adam for beers.  Kevin’s flight didn’t arrive until 7:00 that night, so I hopped on the tube and met Adam for some drinks.  Adam was another friend who went to BSC on the exchange program and although he had been allowed to stay in the states for a couple years for school, it had been years since the last time I saw him.  Not much changes, though, and we fell right back in to the old routine of him rolling his eyes at me as I told him one ridiculous story after another.  At the end of our drink date, he shoved a pint glass in my purse as a memento.  Such a good friend :)

 

As I headed back uptown to meet Kevin at Victoria Station, where he was taking the train from Gatwick, I checked my phone and Facebook.  A week prior, while I was in Liverpool, I had learned that a photographer friend of mine had gone missing while trying to recover his mountain bike in a state park in Connecticut.  I felt helpless, being so far away and not being able to help in the search, and I had been following the story from other photographer friends all week.  That day, as I arrived at Victoria, I saw on Facebook that a body had been found, and they thought it was Eric’s.  And although I had only known Eric for a couple years, and I didn’t know him super well, I found myself bawling.  Hysterically.  By myself, walking around the train station, trying to find Kevin.  I got a text from him saying that he was outside, and by the time I got to him I was a hot mess, not being able to control my crying, thinking about Eric’s pregnant wife Amber and their two children.  Eric was only 33 when he passed away, with two young children and another on the way, and it just devastated me.  As soon as Kevin saw me, he grabbed me and yelled “Were you mugged?!?!”  He was completely flustered and it took a few minutes to calm down and tell him what had happened, and when he finally understood he hugged me and just let me cry.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but learning about what had happened to Eric ended up affecting me quite a bit while I was in London.  I was edgy, I couldn’t sleep well… and poor Kevin ended up having to deal with my frustration and sadness.  Of everything I regret from my trip, this is what I regret most, and I wish I had those couple of days in London with him back.  I would hug him more, tell him I loved him more, not pick small fights over stupid things and then withdraw.  This is probably the most personal thing I have written, admitting that this is the pattern I follow when I’m sad, but it was definitely what happened in London, and I regret it enormously.

 

Kevin had never been to London either, so we spent the next few days exploring the city.  The weather was on our side most of the time, and we took the tube and walked everywhere.  We visited Trafalgar Square, which I loved, and walked through the National Gallery.  The amazing thing about London is that so many of these incredible museums were free, including the National Gallery.  We attended the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, which was an incredible thing to see. The monarchy sort of fascinates me, and so I took a million pictures at the palace, even though most of the time it was too crowded to see what was going on.  My advice on the Changing of the Guard is to get there early in the morning to get the best standing spot that you can.

 

We visited Leicester Square, which I didn’t like as much as Trafalgar Square because it reminded me of a small-scale Times Square.  It was much more commercial, with a movie theater on one side and a Ben and Jerry’s on the other (not that I was complaining about that…).  Seeing theater in London was a huge deal to me, so the big draw to Leicester Square was the same day ticket counters.  I love the theater, having spent years going to plays with my mom and various friends, and the London stage is supposed to be the most renowned theater in the world, along with Broadway in NYC, so it was a must for me while visiting.  I was tempted to drag Kevin to see The Phantom of the Opera, since the original stage it showed on in London still plays it, but we decided instead to see something neither of had seen.  We chose Once since it is set in Ireland and it had just opened at the Phoenix Theater.

 

When we arrived at the Phoenix and found our seats, we were commenting to each other how cool it was that the stage was set up like an Irish pub, complete with bartenders and drink specials listed.  And then we noticed a couple people going up there, on stage.  It took a little bit of pondering, but we finally realized that we could go up on stage and order a drink.  WHATTTTTTT!!!!  There was no way we weren't doing this and we hurried up to the stage.  We ordered beers from the bartenders at "the pub" and they were served in commemorative Once tumblers.  We started chatting up the bartenders, who furthered this already amazing experience by telling us that we were going to be part of the show.  The actors would be coming out any minute and they would start playing, just like a normal Irish pub, and we would be "pub patrons" who could stay up on stage and listen to the music and dance until we were ushered off and Act 1 officially began.  I was in 7th heaven and I couldn't believe we were actually lucky enough to be standing on a London stage, as part of the show, no less.  It was crazy to look out at the theater filling up, while we sipped our beers on stage.  I suddenly wished I had dressed better for the occasion!  We stayed on stage for the first couple of songs and then made our way to our seats.  It was, by far, one of the coolest experiences of my entire trip.  I will never forget it.

 

The day after Kevin left, I went back to the theater alone to see Stomp.  I had less choices when I went alone because it was a Sunday matinee and there wasn’t too much to choose from, but I had always wanted to see Stomp and had heard it was incredible in London.  It didn’t disappoint and it was honestly one of the best things I have ever seen in my life.  For anyone who has the chance to see Stomp, DO IT.  The talent of the performers in that show is just mind-boggling.

 

While he was still with me, we did a few more touristy things, like the London Eye and Westminster Abbey.  The London Eye was another must-do for me and I thought the views were spectacular.  Of course we didn't have the best weather day, but you pretty much never do in London :)  I had never been in a sightseeing pod like that (I had skipped the Liverpool Eye) and so I was really glad I got to see London from that perspective with Kevin.  Westminster Abbey was really cool as well and I was glad that we paid for the whole tour and were able to do it at our pace.  Although it was sort of a rough start... those who are friends with me on Facebook already know this story :)

 

Kevin and I are walking around the outside and we walk up to a guard and this is basically the conversation that ensues:

 

Me:  "I'm sorry to bother you but I have a super nerdy and touristy question to ask you."

Guard:  "Go ahead..."

Me:  "What door did Kate come in?"

Guard:  "Who?"

Me:  "Kate Middleton."

Guard, confused:  "Well Kate wouldn't really come here..."

Me:  "Well I know she doesn't come here every Sunday for service or anything like that, but the day she got married, what door did she walk in?"

Guard:  "Um, Kate got married across the street, at Westminster Abbey..."

Me, TOTALLY CONFUSED:  "Wait, isn't this Westminster Abbey?"

Guard:  "This is the Houses of Parliament."

 

Hahaha yup.  That actually happened.  Am I embarrassed that I didn't recognize basically the most recognizable structure in Great Britain?  Yes I am.  But hell if it's not a funny story to remember.  I turned around and Kevin was basically dying.  Although in my defense, he didn't recognize it either :)  We sheepishly crossed the street and took the tour at the Abbey, where I did indeed find the door that Kate walked through on her wedding day :)

 

Jack and Amy came up from Liverpool for Kevin's last night and we made reservations at the Sydney Street Grill, which was a fancy sort of steakhouse.   We were really trying hard not to spend too much money in London, so this was our night to splurge.  It was so nice to get dressed up and go to dinner all four of us, and pretty much immediately Jack and Kevin developed a bromance and basically ignored Amy and I.  It was awesome though... we had such a wonderful meal at this place and such a great time with the 4 of us.

 

On Kevin's last day, we went to Portobello Road and did some shopping, Kevin's absolute least favorite thing but also the only day I could work in a Portobello Road trip :)  Portobello Road was so, so cool, and basically everything I was expecting.  It was also so, so long... I'm pretty sure we only covered about half of it and we were there for HOURS!  But it was awesome to walk among the vendors, looking at all the different antiques... it reminded me of going to the Brimfield Fair, only on one long street instead of several open fields. I didn't buy much because I didn't have much room left in my suitcase at that point, but I did buy a print of London and a couple other small things.  I also loved the area surrounding Portobello Road, which is the Notting Hill area.  True to the movie, this area is absolutely gorgeous.... big tall rose bushes everywhere, beautiful, colorful town homes... I actually have a ten hour London layover on my flight to Scotland this summer, and this is where I requested my friend Adam and I meet for the day.  Again, if money was no object... I would be living in Notting Hill, no question!  Or at least have a house there.  You know, a second home :)

 

There were also a couple things we thought about doing and then decided to skip.  We took the tube to the Madame Tussaud's museum as something fun and goofy to do... and then got there and saw the OBSCENE price of admission and decided against it.  I mean, really... talk about ridiculous.... I wish we had known that Sherlock Holmes' house was on that same tube stop, but we didn't and instead hopped back on the tube and headed to the London Eye.  On Kevin's last day, we also decided to skip the entrance fee and tour to St. Paul's Cathedral, and instead relax and have some drinks and tapas and just take in the view of St. Paul's Cathedral from an absolutely perfect adjacent roof deck spot at a restaurant and bar called Madison.  Seriously, I felt so indebted to Adam for telling me about this place, because it was perfection.  The open terrace has comfortable couches and chairs, and the view of St. Paul's Cathedral CANNOT BE BEAT from this spot.  Some of the pictures of it below were taken from there, including a couple I took from outside the elevator on the ground floor of the building Madison is in... the building itself provided nice reflections of the cathedral.  It was the perfect last afternoon together, if there could be such a thing... Kev and I relaxed, drank some wine, looked out over London, and talked about the previous two months and what our favorite parts were.  I felt lucky to get that last relaxing afternoon with him, without having to rush off to do an tour or something.

 

I won't talk about our time at the Gatwick Airport, saying goodbye for the last time.  Honestly it's emotionally taxing to even think about, and obviously some things should stay private.  But I can say this:  I love Kevin for loving me so well, and for the things he told me that day that I will hear in my head every single time I start to doubt myself or whether I am good enough.  Because of him, I know that I am.  I'll be eternally grateful for that.

 

The rest of my time in London felt fairly empty without him, but thank God for wonderful friends and their families.  Jack and Amy were amazing and had made all sorts of excellent plans for us.  Jack had gotten tickets to the Royal Ascot horse race, and so Amy, Jack, Stu and I got decked to the nines and headed to the race course.  I, being the typical non-better who knows nothing about horse racing, decided to bet once on whatever horse whose name I liked the most.  I saw there was a horse named Berkshire, which is a place near where I grew up in MA, so I laid my money down on good ol' Berkshire, who was NOT an extraordinary horse and not even expected to place.  THAT DAMN HORSE WON THE RACE!!!  First race of the day, I pocketed 100 pounds.  I was PSYCHED to say the least, jumping up and down and celebrating my accidental victory.  And yes, I did the smart but un-fun thing and pocketed the money without betting for the rest of the day :)

 

Ascot was also the place where I got to see the Queen of England.  Talk about a cool experience from the trip... Jack had told me that she would be there and while I held out hope that I would get to glimpse the entire Royal Family, it was just her riding in her royal carriage.  She rode in proceeding the races, and while everyone cheered and I basically lost my mind from the sheer awesomeness of the moment, I said to Jack "So what next?  Do we all break into God Save the Queen?"  Jack laughed and said "Nah that would be a little much..."  about 30 seconds later the entire place was singing God Save the Queen.   No joke.  It was one of those great moments and I closed my eyes and listened and laughed and it was the perfect English experience.

 

Jack, Amy and I also decided to go to Wimebledon on one of my days in London.  Yup, I went to Wimbledon.  I have really really cool friends, because had it been up to me I probably wouldn't have even known that Wimbledon was happening while I was there.  Luckily, Jack was all about it.  Unluckily, queuing for tickets to Wimbledon is a 4 hour process that starts at, oh.... 4 AM IN THE MORNING!!!!  That is pretty much what time we woke up to get to the queuing field.  That's right, there is a field at Wimbledon for the lines.... and they are happy to hand you a 25 page brochure about how to queue correctly when you arrive.  Not to mention that this particular morning ending up being my harshest lesson in English weather:  despite being late JUNE, it was freezing.  Like, not a little bit chilly.... FREEZING.  I stupidly did NOT wear enough layers, or socks.... and I was so cold that I legit bought a tote bag from some English newspaper seller so I could get the blanket that came with it.  I then used the Wimbledon sweatband that was also in the bag to warm up one of my feet.  And nothing worked, because it was freezing, and the ground was all wet.  Needless to say, I was not so much a happy camper while queuing, but once we got in our moods improved greatly :)  We got to see Nadal warm up and Andy Murray play, and I was thrilled a week later when Andy Murray won Wimbledon!  It was very cool to get to see those people up close and personal.  Towards the later afternoon, I ended up so tired that I ended up falling asleep on the lawn while we watched a match.  At that point I decided to call it a day, and was very impressed with myself when I had to take two buses and a tube to get to Sue and Stu's house on my own and I managed to find my way without getting on the wrong bus or train.

 

Jack also took an afternoon off to go sightseeing with me.  We started the day by heading to Abbey Road, as I really wanted to see the Abbey Road studios and re-enact the famous Beatles photo taken on the crosswalk there, that graced the cover of the Abbey Road album.  Word of advice:  DOING THIS DURING THE DAY IS A COMPLETELY FRUITLESS VENTURE AND SHOULD BE AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS.  It's a very busy street and there are literally tourists lined up on each side waiting for their turn to rush out.  The problem with this, of course, is that when the cars die down enough for you to run out to take the photo, there are people running from both sides so you inevitably ruin each other's shot.  It was such a cluster!  I couldn't even believe it lol.  After awhile, we just gave up, but my advice would be to go at sunrise when no one is there yet and the streets are quieter.

 

We also visited the Tower of London and took the tourist ferry from there over to the Tate Museum.  We went under the Tower Bridge and doubled back to the Tate, where Jack is a member and so we had access to the "members only" café and terrace.  I had visited the Tate Liverpool with Amy, but the view from the Tate London was spectacular and another great place to sit with food and drinks and just soak it all in.  After we finished touring the museum, we walked to the Hummingbird Bakery, where I got a cupcake called "The American".  The American was basically a maple and bacon cupcake.  Sounds about right :)

 

On my last day in London, Jack and Amy brought me down to Brighton to meet Jack's Nana.  Brighton is by the ocean and we spent the day visiting with Nana, eating a great lunch on the Brighton Pier, and taking some engagement snaps of Jack and Amy.  Brighton was gorgeous and we got a great weather day, despite some pretty threatening rain clouds.  They made for a great backdrop for pictures of the beach though :)

 

Here are some of my favorites, from my favorite city in the world...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One year later, editing these... I noticed that the cab driver in the following photo is giving me the thumbs up haha!  It made me smile when I saw it... I never noticed it before :)

 

 

 

London tube, I love you!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our perfect little hotel in South Kensington...

 

 

Covent Garden...

 

 

Trafalgar Square was one of my favorite spots in London...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buckingham Palace...

 

 

 

 

 

The Changing of the Guard...

 

 

 

 

 

 

This dog, with it's nose in the air... I can't... so freakin funny.

 

 

The Houses of Parliament... NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westminster Abbey ;-)

 

 

 

 

The London Eye...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tower of London...

 

 

 

 

 

London from Tate Modern...

 

 

 

St. Paul's Cathedral...

 

 

 

 

 

Portobello Road, Portobello Road, the place where the riches of ages are sold... I need to watch Bedknobs and Broomsticks again!  Love that movie :)

 

 

 

Notting Hill is so charming...

 

 

Abbey Road, a must-stop for any Beatles fan...

 

 

Brighton to visit Nana... my last day in England!  There she is... love her!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have two more blog posts coming your way that sum up my trip and my experiences... it only took a year but I am finally finishing up this trip blogging!  I will explain the delay and more in my final Ireland blog post.  Stay tuned!  xo.