As most of you know, Ben and I headed to London for vacation last month. It was fabulous!
Okay, for me, it was fabulous. For Ben, who is not as interested in Western history and sights, it was a good city that would be greatly improved with better beer. Since I’m the one blogging, though, we are sticking with fabulous! For most of the trip, my high school friend, Scott, played culinary tour guide and provided us with great companions by way of his entourage of visiting friends from various locales. This was much appreciated, especially since a good part of British culture is hanging in pubs for most of the evening—Ben and I have been together seven years, folks. Other people’s conversation is always welcome.
So the flights went fine, and British Airways actually has pretty good food, in case you were wondering. Not to mention how hilarious it was to me that the flight attendants wore dour expressions but spoke in very pleasant tones and genuinely seemed to want to make sure we had a good flight. It was an odd combination. Anyhow, we got in to London at about 11 am then took the Underground to the Euston Station stop, about two blocks from our hotel, the Thistle Euston (a little less than an hour trip). Thistle is an English hotel chain, and it was a great hotel, especially for Europe. There was plenty of room to walk around the room! Amazing. The lobby was nice, and we did have the complimentary breakfast one morning—and that was plenty. The food was good, especially the scrambled eggs, but do not try the fried toast. Toast does not need to be deep fried, trust me.
We caught up on sleep for our first few hours in London, then we headed out to meet Scott at the station and get our trip going! Sahar, one of Scott’s friends, let me in on Scott’s idea of “close by,” which bears a striking resemblance to when I tell Ben something’s just a few more blocks away. Our first destination was the Angelic pub in Angel, which we reached . . . eventually. Then Scott and I caught up over a few beers and ciders, swapping any Santa Maria gossip we knew (not much, I swear) and remembering our mutual awesomeness. Then we made our way through the neighborhood to dinner at Tayyabs, a Pakistani restaurant.
That food was fantastic. My request for great ethnic food in London was fulfilled.
That row of shops had people whose sole purpose was to stand by the restaurants and try to convince you to come in. Curry pimps, I believe the term was. After dinner, though, Ben and I were pretty tired, so back to bed to rest up for sightseeing the next morning in Westminster. A few of the sights on the way to Buckingham Castle:
And here’s Buckingham Castle and the Victoria Memorial in front of it.
Next up, we walked through Green and St. James’s Parks.
And then we went down the Horse Guard Road, passing many government buildings on the way to the Westminster Abbey.
There was strictly no photography allowed inside, so instead, I will simply gush about how much I loved touring it. It’s much smaller in scale than I expected, but absolutely gorgeous inside if you enjoy medieval and Renaissance periods of architecture and design. Lots of elaborate tombs for kings and nobles alike, along with simpler stones commemorating famous English artists and authors in the poet’s corner. There’s also a section for famous scientists including Darwin and Newton. The Lady Chapel of 1503, which houses the tombs of Henry VII and his queen is splendid, especially, for me, the carved seats and flying banners of the Knights of the Order of Bath. I enjoyed walking the Cloister, also, and imagining monks walking the stone hallways in days of yore.
At this point, we met up with Scott, who quickly left us to go pick up another friend at the airport, leaving us and Zahir, an Afghan friend who’s studying in Paris, to explore together. Zahir is nearly as photo-happy as I am, so we couldn’t have gotten along better. We strolled for a while along Whitehall, passing Downing Street as we ambled toward Trafalgar Square.
After resting a bit at that gorgeous location, we decided to go to the photography museum near Leicester Square. I also wanted to find the Hippodrome, which I convinced myself was some sort of Roman ruin in the area. We looked and looked and found Chinatown instead.
But no Hippodrome. Then we discovered that the photography museum had relocated, and dejected, we decided it was time for a pint and a snack.
Lo and behold, as soon as we took a table outside, I discovered a huge red building with the word Hippodrome painted on the side. Success! Well, except that it certainly wasn’t a Roman ruin, but at least we found it. After sustenance was achieved, it was time to go strolling again, this time through the Covent Garden area and the Strand. A few more sights for you:
At this point, we found Scott again at a pub above Covent Garden and met a few more of his friends, of whom I only remember one, Sanaz, because we hung out over the next two days. Sanaz is Afghan-German and is in training for Scott’s former job. She was there mainly to pick Scott’s brain, always a fun task and why not do it in London? So more pints were had, then Scott led us to Belgo Centraal for a Belgian dinner with . . . more friends!
The focus of Belgo Centraal’s menu is most definitely mussels, of which we were happy to partake. They make them very well. We had some with chorizo and some in a seafood smorgasbord called waterzooi.
And thus ended Day 2, well fed and ready for more on the morrow—seriously, we spent all day at food markets.
If you want to see many more of our London photos from these first two days or you simply can’t wait for the blogs on the next two, then head on over to our photo website.