April 11, 2014

London (Again).

So many of you confirmed that this wan't a complete waste of your time that I've decided to give it another go. I hope it makes up for the fact that I didn't send you a post card (unless you're a new parent, in which case I apologize for the insulting one I sent your bébé).

You may remember my footballer friend, R, from the previous post. Did I mention that this is how I found him on Sunday?

The Urban Cowboy

Probably my favorite picture from the trip. He swears he wasn't posing.

London was a week-long event, so the trip wasn’t over after Sunday's shenanigans. After catching the last tube back to L's flat, I hopped into an Uber cab (shameless plug: I love Uber and the fact that you can use the phone app in any city) to haul my weary bones and my 50.2 lb luggage to my rented flat in S Kensington and Chelsea. 

Most of the trip was spent explaining the Amish to the Pakistani cabbie. Yes, they actually exist; no, they actually aren’t Jewish; yes, they actually still drive those ridiculous carts. I’m so thankful to have written a paper about them in grad school – oh, the friendships forged by useless knowledge of the simple life!

Trip Tip: If you can, rent a flat instead of getting a hotel room. They're usually cheaper for long stretches, and you generally get more amenities (things like an oven and fridge and dishes and not, to my dismay, things like hot tubs).

We stayed in this one, and we couldn’t have been happier (and on that note, always write a positive review after a great experience - just like you'd leave a tip).

The kitchen, where the magic happened. 

And no, we were not on a cruise.

On Monday morning, I met T and D, friends arriving from Atlanta, at the S Kensington stop. T and I were spending the week exploring while her husband D was attending a conference just outside of the city.

We hauled their luggage back to the flat before taking off on a whirlwind tour of the major sights, beginning with a quick stop for a café breakfast and a little learning at the Natural History Museum.

The gorgeous Great Hall

K + T

We worked our way east, through Hyde Park and Green Park, made a quick stop at Buckingham Palace, headed down the Mall to Trafalgar Square, then cut south to Westminster Abbey/Big Ben/Houses of Parliament. Congratulations if you kept up with that. This stretch is very touristy, but it's very British.

I don't know. The Louvre, maybe?

At that point, I realized I was killing my too-polite-to-mention-it-jet-lagged friends, so we took the tube to a pub along the river (the same one I’d been to the night before, in fact) for lunch - a sandwich we’d come back to eat again before leaving. Brie, bacon, berries, bread. The most sinful thing I'd do all week.

At this point, D had to leave for his conference, so T and I took a quick snooze before knocking a few things off of her souvenir list. She is one of the most thoughtful people I know; consequently, she was buying something for everyone she'd ever met. 

We visited some really terrible shops: shops full of eyeless Harry Potter masks and t shirts with the tube map printed on them and postcards using "mind the gap" for bad. R.I.P, English class.

There were some successes: it was during this trip that I discovered a new favorite: Fortnum & Mason, a tea shop with a very fun history. The beautifully-dressed staff is exceptionally polite, even by English standards, and everything is so bright and lovely:


...and shortbread...

...and honey - oh my!

Picnic baskets (or hampers, as they're called) lined my favorite wall.

After noodles in Covent Garden, we popped home to change into pajamas before heading right back out to Sainsbury's - the Publix of England, in my opinion - for frozen pizza and kettle corn. And my picture shows BBQ chips...so that, too. So much for the "sassy-twenty-somethings-taking-London-by storm" image.

The most challenging part of the trip came whilst converting the oven temperature from Celsius to Fahrenheit. Thank you internets.

On Tuesday morning, I made the annual pilgrimage to my old office building at 26 Fitzroy Square. The company has since moved to swankier spot in the city, but the memories (and the trash in the stairwell) remain.



So much more eager in 2013 - look at that over the shoulder grin. 

We tried The Breakfast Club in Soho, but the line was too long and we were too hungry. At the recommendation of my best friend, we tried and fell in love with Le Pain Quotidien: scones slathered thick with cream and jam, and lattes served in giant bowls around which you can wrap your hands.

We caught a mid-morning train to Denmark Hill (home of William Booth College (founder of the Salvation Army)) to meet up with D for a session at his conference. The session we attended discussed communicating with God, and it opened up some great conversation. T and I talked about how, in our quest to be so busy, we rarely take time to stop and just be; to listen, to think. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to pop into this event and gain some perspective. Also, the conference attendees were just incredibly nice and I met a Texan.

After the session, we all hopped on a train back to the city for a few minutes of Evensong at St. Paul's (think little boys in white robes with frilly necks) and made a quick trip to Brick Lane for curry (think heckling Indians and garlic-y naan and spicy masala). D then returned to the conference; T forced me into into a few more of those horrendous tourist shops. I was terrified one of the half-dozen people I know in the city would see me in one; however, this pic she snapped ended up being what that really humbled me.

I used to love maps; now I pride myself on not needing them.  

Bedtime came early – we left for Paris in the morning.

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