UK Trip 2015
I just wanted to sort of "journal" some of the highlights and events from my recent trip with my mom to the United Kingdom Da duh duh duh ... da duh duh duh duh duh!. I will do this in three posts in chronological order of my trip. First we stopped in London, where I had been twice. Then, we ventured into new territory for me, the Lakes District in Northwest England, and Edinburgh, Scotland. I hope you will enjoy some of the pictures that go along with the journal entries. If you aren't one for reading my blarbedy blargh of a blog, then I suggest you skip to the bottom of each article for a link to my photo albums.
July 1 - Wednesday
We arrived int London on Wednesday afternoon following a dreadful flight with United. I don't know what it is with them. But aren't you glad I am wasting precious blog space whining about United (it goes without saying, right?). And yet I fly them because that's who I fly for business, and I ought to get enough miles to do something useful... right ... right? Well no more!
Well, we got off to a flying start. Here's a photo of mom showing overwhelming excitement to be in London.
Kids these days and their cell phones. They ought to get out and enjoy the real world!
Picture of the swanky hotel I put us up in.
After mom posted her first few photos (which could only be successfully completed by finding the only reliable WiFi signal in our Eden Kensington Plaza lodging, the bathroom), we headed out on the town to get dinner and wear ourselves out in an attempt to avoid any serious jet lag.
So we headed out to tourist central in the area of Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square. We had some surprisingly good Indian food, given that we were in such a touristy area.
The National Gallery above Trafalgar Square
July 2 - Thursday
We got plenty of sleep and then took the Great Western to Windsor from Paddington Station... except it was actually multiple canceled trains and some delays which delayed us in arriving punctually at Windsor Castle. But let us forget that hassle.
Our guided tour at Windsor Castle was delightful, and we also saw an equally delightful choir (made up of retired men, it appeared) perform in St. George's Chapel inside the Castle compound.
We then had a mediocre lunch at a chain in Windsor, and I finally got ahold of a good data sim to pop into my phone. Now we could use Google Maps to wing public transportation!
The main tower at Windsor Castle, was likely a wooden fort at the time of William the Conquerer
On our return to London, exasperated from getting to Windsor and back (with the aforementioned cancellations and delays), we decided to go somewhere a little more peaceful. And I'll tell you what, The Regents Park did not disappoint. We saw some beautiful flowers, ponds, and other gardens. This park is probably my favorite out of the larger parks we went to in London (including St. James and Kensington Gardens/Hyde Park).
Avenue Gardens at The Regents Park, London
We then strolled through SoHo and got some fish & chips at a place my brother had recommended to me last time I was in London called Golden Union. The food was decent, but by no means the best fish and chips we would have on this trip.
We ended up sitting in Leicester Square relaxing for an hour and watching street performers before heading to see our play for the evening, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I highly recommend you look into seeing this play, especially if it goes on tour and shows near you! I found the stage especially creative.
The Gielgud Theatre, at the time of this post showing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
July 3 - Friday
We slept until a good hour (as on most days of the trip) and then headed across the street from our hotel to the little museum area in London between Hyde Park and Kensington. Of note in this journey (more like a 10 minute stroll) is the utility of the many-colored neon vests the school children sported for their visits to the various museums. Now that's a "no child left behind" all of us can wholeheartedly support.
The Victoria and Albert Museum is certainly a work of art. While there are millions of "things" in this museum, I think what is most impressive is the fashion in which they have laid out the artifacts and the building. But to be honest, our short visit of a few hours was not enough to take in this overwhelming museum. So we got a pamphlet showcasing the greatest wonders of the museum, and used that as a guide to efficiently take in the museum. I would love to visit this place frequently if I lived nearby.
One example of the elaborate design and layout of the Victoria & Albert Museum
After checking out the museum, we essentially walked back across the street to recuperate in our lodging (and again, for mom to sit in the bathroom and upload some photos on the only reliable WiFi in the room). At this point I was tired and without plans (and I think mom was in the same boat)... Boat, say you? What a smashing idea!
Yes, that was something we could do that would require little energy, a boat cruise! So we went to the crowded tourist area in Westminster to where the boat tours launch. There were a million people in one line. That was clearly the boat tour to take... but alas, we got tired of waiting and risked taking the less popular cruise offered by Thames River Services. Fortunately, this tour was educational and fun! We learned about the various buildings along the waterway (featuring many multi-million GBP condos and chapels with ceilings built partly out of the Mayflower [maybe]) and laughing my head off on account of the witty tour guide. That guide had a gift, and I think he probably isn't lacking in tips.
The Tower Bridge as viewed from our TRS Cruise to Greenwich
The tour ended in Greenwich, home of the Royal Naval College. We walked around the cute little area (which I wouldn't mind visiting again) for a couple of hours. There was a nice street food and crafts event in the town, where we got some gnocchi and empanadas (if you know me, I try to get a little Argentina in everywhere I go). The boat ride back was not quite as pleasant, as it was mainly filled with the ramblings of two annoying ladies debating where Judy Dench's and one of their other friend's condos were located. But at least they found themselves incredibly interesting!
The Royal Naval College in Greenwich
The day's events wore mom out, but she could see I was anxious. What me? ... Never!!!
So it was time to venture out on my own. My travel style is to just walk and see what I see. You may miss a lot of main attractions this way, but you may also stumble upon some treasures here or there (I will not prove this here, but it is my self-justification for mindless amblings). Anyhow, I went out to Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. The skies were perfect for photography that evening, so I recommend you check out that section of my photo album.
Queen Victoria statue outside of Kensington Palace
July 4 - Saturday - Independence Day in London
After a series of extremely affordable attractions on the previous day, I was really wanting to fork out some cash. What better way to do this than going to the Tower of London (okay, you're probably saying I should've taken mom to an exclusive tapas bar, and I now see that was a better call). As expected, the Tower was crowded. But we did enjoy that White Tower's main museum and the Crown Jewels. Fortunately we arrived right at opening and were able to see these attractions, as the complex was quickly too crowded. If I am not mistaken the St. Martin's Tower was also a good one!
Yours truly before Waterloo Block at the Tower of London, wherein lie the Crown Jewels (the monarchy's bling!)
Since it was convenient to the area, we headed to London proper to see the big ol' Saint Paul's Cathedral. Our plan had been to relax in the area, get lunch, and attend the evensong before our play that evening. Unfortunately, I did not see that there was an ordaining of deacons that day, which threw off our whole entry into the Cathedral. So I feel a little poorly about that. I have been inside once for an organ recital, but this was mom's only trip, so that was a bummer.
Mom in front of St. Paul's Cathedral
For our Independence Day Lunch we found a trendy little American Restaurant, The Fat Bear. The food was "quite nice." Wait a second... Americans don't talk like that!
I had a ribeye steak and mom had some ribs. The rib's smoking wasn't quite the transcendent experience you might get at the best BBQ joint, but it was superior to my own BBQ. The meal also came with several nice sides, and we did not leave hungry (or with much cash left in my wallet. But with all these money comments I'm probably starting to come off as quite the miser)!
Since we couldn't enter St. Paul's evensong, we hopped back on the Tube to Westminster Abbey for another evensong, where mom also had the privilege of walking on Darwin's burial place. I think this extra little jaunt was wearing (making this a candidate for most exhausting day of the trip, right next to our first day in Edinburgh), but worthwhile.
Crowds departing the evensong at Westminster Abbey
We finished the day off at Shakespeare's Globe, watching a very well produced "Measure for Measure." It was nice to finally see some Shakespeare in England. Sadly, my photo from the Globe has mysteriously disappeared from both my phone and the cloud (likely operator error, but what did I do?). I always enjoy seeing a professional Shakespeare after seeing high school or college productions. Good actors can make you understand the play without your perfect understanding of the difficult language.
And yes, we did hear fireworks coming from somewhere in the city. You gotta hand it to them American Folk! USA!
July 5 - Sunday
We headed to the Hyde Park Chapel in the morning, where we attending a spiritual and enlightening fast and testimony meeting. I love attending church in different places, to hear and learn the similar struggles and blessings people experience in all places. Though there were many tourists at the meeting, there were also many locals expressing their faith. For Mormon culture fans, Sister Stephens (formerly of the General Relief Society Presidency) and her husband were at the meeting, having just been sent out to lead the mission in London.
Hyde Park Chapel, London
After church, we headed to Buckingham Palace to join the much less reverent masses in witnessing the changing of the guard. This is not something I would do again. The event is just lots of crowds, (not that this is shocking for London in July) and the changing of the guard is quite frankly slow boring. Perhaps take time to enjoy something less crowded in the area while all others are at this event. But I will say that the gardens and St. James Park were beautiful. So I don't regret the visit.
Crowds for Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
We wound down by going to the Chippy with the best results we could find on Yelp, Bailey's Fish & Chips. This turned out to be one of the best food decisions of the trip as we not only were treated to the best fish & chips of the trip, but were also afforded the opportunity to get out of "tourist central" without traveling that far. Really, this was a pleasant respite. You wouldn't believe the change in scenery and pace you will observe with only a twenty-five minute bus ride.
I also highly recommend Bailey's to any visitor. I won't say that this place is unknown (see the number of TripAdvisor Reviews), but the batter and fish were excellent quality, affordable, and the people running the place were incredibly nice. I don't know how often you will get two people fed (soda's included) for 10 GBP in the London area... especially not if it's any good.
A Fulham street, probably Lillie Rd, near Bailey's Fish & Chips
July 6 - Monday
Monday we packed our bags for our departure to the Lakes District. I was excited for a train ride through he Midlands and on to new vistas.
In the morning we mainly strolled around the area near Euston Station, having been far too punctual for our train. Goodwin folk are punctual to a fault. So we dragged (did drag, drug?) our luggage through some of the local plazas and parks. Finally we showed up at the British Museum. Mom took about a 30-minute walk through while I guarded the luggage.
Euston Station, for lines heading North out of London
We were then off on our Virgin Train Service to the Lakes! Ahhh, the Lakes! It was going to be my favorite part of the trip!
To see all of the pictures from this part of trip, please see my Google Photos Album.