Europe Trip: London, Day 1

My husband and I recently returned from a trip-of-a-lifetime to Europe, full of moments and stories that we will probably share with future grandchildren just as my grandparents do now. I wanted to get some of these stories down now, while they’re fresh in my mind, since perceptions and memories can change over the years.

With an action-packed agenda planned, complete with extensive train travel and even a few nights of camping, we were determined to pack light. With only two (rather large) backpacks and a smaller carry-on/purse sized bag for each of us, we headed to the San Francisco airport, already feeling a slight twinge of guilt over leaving our pup for the three weeks that we planned to be gone (although she was certainly in good hands with my parents for 2 weeks and our friend, Matt, for one week).

After a long flight filled with movies, books, and attempts at sleeping, we arrived in London! We were so excited to begin our adventure together. After we got off the plane, we took the subway (or Tube, as they say in London) to our hotel to drop off our bags. We were staying at Tune Hotel, a pretty cheap place but in a great location, two blocks from the London Eye and right across the river from Westminster Abby and Big Ben. It was around noon when we got checked in, and although we were tired after the long flight with no sleep, we didn’t want to waste a second. We headed out the door and walked toward the London Eye. On our way toward the bridge, we stumbled across a wonderful street fair along the river. There were tons of booths with food, gifts, and art and a live band playing in the park area. We bought a coconut with a straw in it to drink the coconut milk and soaked in the city.

We were determined to see a theater show while in London and had heard that we could get a deal on the day of the show. We walked all over town trying to find a show to see and find the place to buy the tickets. Finally, we were able to snag seats for The Wizard of Oz at the Palladium for that evening! After this great find, we needed food so we went to a cool, old underground wine bar that had been recommended to me by my coworker called Gordon’s Wine Bar. This is supposedly the oldest wine bar in London, dating from 1890. The atmosphere was wonderful, but the only food options at the time were cheese and bread. We ordered a ridiculously large amount of both since we were so hungry, and began gnawing on it immediately. Our hunger didn’t seem to fit in with the candlelit tables filled with well-dressed wine connoisseurs. We ordered a couple glasses of the house specialty, port, and weren’t able to drink much (a combination of being hungry and not enjoying the taste of port). Then we headed back out to the streets of London and made our way over to the Houses of Parliament.

As luck would have it, we got there just in time to make the last tour of the day! It was an excellent tour and we both learned a lot about the London political system, the House of Lords and House of Commons, the Queen’s role, and where everyone sits during important meetings or discussions.

After the tour, we had just enough time to hurry over to the play (via the Tube), grabbing a quick snack and coffee on our way (it was nearing the end of the day and we still hadn’t eaten an actual meal!). The theater was beautiful, as were the voices of the show’s stars. Unfortunately, we were at about hour 42 with no sleep and were having a tough time keeping our eyes open throughout the show. I kept nudging my husband when I would see him drifting off to sleep or hear the early rumblings of snores coming from his direction. An intermission ice cream gave us the sugar rush we needed to get through the rest of the wonderful show.

Even though we were completely exhausted, we didn’t want to miss out on the Saturday night London scene, so we made our way over to a local pub and sat on the patio (which is basically just tables that are sitting in the cobblestone street) and enjoyed a few beers and people-watching. There were lots of people out and about, particularly quite a few girls who seemed fairly underdressed for the chilly weather.

As the crowds began to die down, we hopped the Tube again and made our way back to our little hotel on the other side of town, feeling both tired and excited for what the next day would bring.

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