At the beginning of September I finally got the chance to satiate my travel-bug... Of course it has since come back full force, but what are you gonna do?
Shannon and Bryan, who I happened to marry last year (don't get gross - I officiated the wedding), invited me on a speedy European adventure where we would stop in London, England; Basel, Switzerland; Strasbourg, France; Baden-Baden, Germany; and Copenhagen, Denmark. I had been to London previously, but all the other countries would be a new experience for me! When I found out how cheap I could get flights to and from southeast Florida, I said yes!
Getting over there was rough - trains, planes, and automobiles took over 24 hours to get me from southwest Florida to London. Worth it. Thankfully, my friends were all ready and waiting for me at the Victoria train station in London! Bryant and Shannon had already arrived and were with our friend, Sarah, who was a grad student there. They took me back to Sarah's flat in Hampstead, for a moment, and then we headed out for Sunday Roast! Sarah took us to a "nearby" restaurant called Spaniard's Inn and it was one of the most delicious meals I've ever had. The place itself was lovely and exactly what you'd hope a restaurant in London would look like. As exhausted as I was, the meal more than made up for lack of sleep.
As we really only had one day to be London tourists, the next morning we got a relatively early start and went to a cute little place for a real English Breakfast, called Ginger & White. I ordered a true English breakfast, obviously with some tea! Once we were all well fed, first order of business was heading up to Abbey Road, where we managed to get a couple of pictures, despite the other tourists all attempting "the perfect shot". As many people probably know (not Bryant), Abbey Road is pretty underwhelming, but we'll take any excuse for pictures.
To keep the tourist train chugging along, we went back down to the city center and hopped on the London Eye. Personally, I think we had the best weather to view the city in - classic fog and gloom. My kind of weather. Despite my fear of heights, I loved it up there. There was only one moment where I felt the need to sit down on one of the benches they have in the pods. You can basically see the whole city, even through the fog. SIDENOTE: Shannon and Bryant's camera makes our skin look flawless. Sarah sat out of the London Eye ride, as she had been on it already. I, however, did not get the chance to enjoy the ride on my first trip, so we made up for it this time around.
While I didn't freak out on the London Eye about the height, I had an issue with the Tower Bridge. Did you know they expect you to walk on a glass floor? Nope, not happening. Especially not with cars driving below. But we did get some nice exercise by taking the stairs up, instead of the elevator. (We were smarties and decided not to wait in what looked like an hour-long line.) The view from up in the walkway left something to be desired, if only because there are multiple screens and fences that inhibit good photos. That took us to just past the standard lunch hour, which meant it was time for me to meet up with another friend who lives in London, Ellen!
She happened to have a long break from work the day we were there, so we met up near Covent Garden. The rest of us were starving, so Ellen took us to Homeslice, in Neal's Yard, where we could get some of the best slices of pizza nearby. Neal's Yard was so colorful and seemed off the beaten path, (though there were clearly other people around) which made me love it more. The pizza slices were as big as our heads (think Sbarros, but not a chain business) and smelled like Italy. I felt right at home.
After our late lunch, Ellen took us through an area of London that I got to know really well on my first London trip, because I was on a mission. A mission to get a tin of breakfast tea from Fortnum & Mason. AKA one of the store-loves of my life, right up there with Anthropologie, Half Price Books, and Gypsy Warrior. The main reason I love Fortnum & Mason is the aesthetic... basically the same reason I love most things. Also, because when you're in there (on the first floor at least), it feels like a time when people actually valued and took care of their things. I am thankful to all of my friends for indulging my need to visit this store, as I know it was not high on any of their lists.
Ellen said her goodbyes and scurried back to work from Fortnums, but she was the guiding force in our next destination: Shoreditch. Apparently the hipster neighborhood of London, and it was a pretty cool area. I HAVE SEEN A BANKSY IN PERSON. No biggie. Over it. But we found a cute shop called Joy, where Shannon bought an outfit and I got two shirts: one for me and one for my sister's birthday present. It was perfect. I could've easily spent a fortune at that store, but I reminded myself that we still have four more countries to see and shop in. We also saw a train carriage on a roof, and tried some chocolate in its natural form... Not my fave. After Shoreditch, we made a "quick" stop at King's Cross and then back to Hampstead for dinner.
You're not allowed to leave London without stopping by an English Pub, so our dinner plans had already been made for us. We hit up The Flask, where I ordered the traditional fish & chips, with a waffle and ice cream for dessert. The others ordered other stuff. No one cares. Sitting down for dinner was probably not our best idea, because that was when it sunk in how exhausted we all were. WE LITERALLY WALKED THE ENTIRE CITY. I EARNED EVERY CALORIE I CONSUMED. (I don't actually count calories. I don't even know my own weight.) It was a long day, but I enjoyed every minute.
Also, I don't see why people hate on London food. Out of every city we visited, I'd have to say my favorite local cuisine was here. Simply more proof that my taste buds are out of whack with the majority of Planet Earth. ANY-WHO, London was great, I was truly happy to be back in that wonderful city. Shout out to Sarah and Ellen for being our tour guides, especially Sarah who begrudgingly gave us houseroom. Love you both! (I have fabulous friends.)