London Trip

Last week I hopped across the pond for a week long trip to London. My Aunt generously gave me the trip for my birthday so that we could spend some time together, explore a city I had never been to and visit my cousin (her son) and his family. I wanted to write about the trip, but without so much detail as to bore you. So I decided to do a highlights list with pictures:

Friday night we went to Covent Gardens and saw a sword juggling unicyclist street performer and a group of five musicians playing for the crowd. We walked through Leicester Square, past many of the theaters. But the highlight of the night was Chinatown! Above is the feast we enjoyed including cashew chicken, fried noodles, rice, a couple of giant flowers made out of carrots (the best thing on the plate for one of my nieces) and freshly made dumplings. All along the streets you could watch through the restaurant windows as they rolled out the dough for the dumplings, stuffed them with pork, chicken or vegetables and formed them into unique shapes depending on the restaurant and the type of filling.

The London Zoo! Great fun for kids and adults. We spent the majority of Saturday at the Zoo, looking at lots of interesting animals, some of which I had never heard of before, much less seen (see above Okapi). We watched penguins swim and dive in their water habitat. Giraffes eat leaves only feet from us. Saw some big sleepy cats, two tigers and a lion. But at ages 2 and 4, the carousel won out as the main attraction for my nieces. Overall it was a fun filled day for all four of us, then we went home and took a nap.

Monday my aunt and I took the train up to Cambridge to visit some friends of hers and get the small English town experience. I was glad to have a break from the hustle and bustle of London, as I am a small town girl myself. We had a great view of the countryside on our train ride and arrived in the small, but very old and rich with history town of Cambridge. We spent the day wandering through the campus of Cambridge and King’s College Chapel. Surrounded by walls and gates, with old stone buildings around every courtyard. As I took pictures I couldn’t help but think how much Duke University’s campus (where my sister went to school) resembled this one. It turns out that Princeton University was modeled after Cambridge and Duke was modeled after Princeton, so it makes perfect sense!

Another great attraction in Cambridge is the River Cam, that winds through the town and college. You can go punting, a flat bottom boat guided along the canal, or admire it from any number of bridges. We shopped in the market and shops in the towns center. We finished off the day at a wonderful little Spanish Tapas restaurant, a great find with delicious food and college student pricing.

On Tuesday we took the tube down to the heart of the city to see the tourist destinations. Our first stop was The Tower. Surrounded by a moat and walls on every side it has served as a home to the British royalty, the crown jewels, a prison, a site of murder and execution. It was one of the most interesting and oldest historic structures we saw during the trip.

We took a boat ride along the Thames from The Tower Bridge (above) down the river to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

This is the southern side of the Tower, viewed from the Thames.

A twenty minute boat ride down the Thames brought us to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. These buildings are such an iconic image of London, the view of them from the river was picturesque.

Across the Thames from Big Ben is the London Eye. A large ferris wheel, 135 meters high, overlooking the city of London was built in 1999 and is visited by more than 3.5 million people every year.

We walked around London, past Westminster Abbey and down Victoria Street. Took a nice stroll through St. James Park, with beautiful ponds, flowers, trees and the perfect balance between natural landscape and overly manicured. On the other side of the park, we arrived at Buckingham Palace (above). Although it was magnificent, it was a bit of a let down. The guards were all inside the gate and since the Queen is living there this time of year there are no tours.

Here is a guard outside of Buckingham Palace, but inside the gates and safely away from any tourists that might tempt him to smile. At five o’clock we returned to Westminster Abbey for Evensong. Although normal admission for visitors is a pretty steep 18 pounds (almost $30 US, depending on the exchange rate) if you are attending Evensong it is free, plus you get to enjoy a beautiful service with songs sung by their boys choir. It was a beautiful service!

To end our evening and our trip we ate some delicious Italian food and saw the show Wicked. I highly recommend Wicked for anyone of any age or gender, whether you like musicals or not, I was very impressed! We had such a wonderful trip, thank you so much to my Aunt for giving me my first, but hopefully not last, trip to London!


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