Thursday, 28 October 2010

London calling

At the beginning of August we popped over to London for a long weekend to catch up with friends (and take in some of London, since neither of us have ever been before). Thanks to our wonderfully crazy (but marvelous) friends Dave and Ginny we didn't have to contend with public transport from Stansted Airport, but due to road works on the Blackpool tunnel, the trip took over an hour!


Literary themed pub number one
Summer menu at the Lewis Carrol pub
We spent Friday walking around town and trying to see as much as possible with our friends Catherine and Kieran. Because of the school holidays, the queues to get into various tourist spots were horrendous, so we just walked past most things and took photos of them instead. It was a typically wet, grey and cold London day, even though it was the middle of summer, so queuing wasn't really an option.  Nat and Kieran went for a hike to the top of the Monument (to the great fire of London), all 311 steps, while Catherine, a sleeping Matilda and I strolled around the bottom. We didn't get much further when Nat and Kieran stumbled across a literary themed pub (the Lewis Carroll), and needed a refresher around 11am.

Tower of London
Next on the strolling tour was the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. This was the only time during the day that we saw any blue sky. The Tower of London was a beautiful building.

Tower Bridge

The walk across Tower Bridge was very pretty, well the bridge was, the Thames leads a lot to be desired. Shame that the river below was so dirty, I hadn't realised how tidal the Themes River was until we crossed it and you could see where the high tide mark was.
Big? Yes. My head? Maybe not quite
The aim of our strolling was to get to the Borough Market where we could pretend we were in an episode of Market Kitchen and find ourselves some lunch. The boys had burgers with haloumi-vegetable patties, I had a free-range chicken wrap and Catherine settled for the same.  Our sweet treat was a meringue, which was about the same size as Nat's head. Throughout the meringue were little bits of who knows what, possibly chocolate, possibly cookie dough, which just made it even more awesome. It did take four of us to eat it though!

After lunch, our whistle-stop tour continued...[and this is Nat from here on in]  As others in our little tour group, who will not be identified by name, wished to make an attempt to tick off every sight in London, the afternoon was a whirlwind of sights: the London Eye, Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, NZ war memorial etc....This meant there was only enough time for one more beer!  Disgraceful I know, and made worse by picking a terrible English-themed pub as our destination for the second (it was raining in our defense).  No matter, it was a grand old day, even if the memories are now terribly blurry.  The evening concluded with a visit to a gastro-pub somewhere in the vicinity of Lewisham  (chilli and cider for me, non-alcoholic beverages and burgers for everyone else) and a rigorous "debate" about schooling in NZ for which I'm still apologising for.

The 'ouses of Parliament, just one of the many sights so familiar yet so cool to finally see in real life

Windsor Castle - huge I tells ya
Our second day in Great Britain's capital featured brunch downtown at one of Carluccio's restaurants, then a trip past Harrods and Piccadilly Circus to Fortnum and Mason, where despite being tempted by chocolate covered scorpions and honeyed ants, we bought nothing but sparkling water, tea and a scone for Matilda.  Next, we headed to Windsor Castle, which is absolutely massive, and lunch at a cafe on the outskirts that may or may not be owned by Prince Charles.  Afterward we headed back to London for a wee bit of shopping in Covent Garden.  Shoes were had by both Sara and I, Campers for her, very thin-soled Terra Novas for me, and I had to be dragged kicking and screaming (almost literally) out of the brand new Apple store there.  However, the true highlight of the day was purchasing a Guardian, a Mirror Mail and a Sun!  Oh what joy.  Being able to peruse through such newspapers was a real treat, even if my enthusiasm for them wasn't quite as infectious as I'd hoped.

Our last day in London was a quiet one, with tea and scones in Greenwich, and a bit of a browse through a couple of Sunday markets.  The afternoon was spent barbecuing and socialising back at Dave and Ginny's, where a great time was had by all.  Overall an exquisite trip, and it was almost devastating to have to return back to little old Bayreuth and the ridiculousness of living in a foreign-speaking country.  Oh well.

A lot of people describe London as crowded and dirty - but like Berlin, we simply loved it!

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