Thursday, August 27, 2015

Europe - The first days.

First full day in London (Tuesday) saw us catch the tube into town with BH but first she fixed our Oyster Cards - had bought Visitor cards instead of the regular ones and couldn't get the weekly deal. Ended up on our own at Paddington Station, and went in search of breakfast. Ended up at McDondalds (I know! Go to the other side of the world and eat at Macca's - terrible!), struggled with their wifi for a bit and then made our way across the road to Marble Arch and Hyde Park.

There are heaps of these deck chairs dotted through all of the parks which you can hire. It's so weird, I never saw anyone using one and I can't imagine using one myself... The other thing that weirded me out is that despite it being the holidays, there were almost no children. At home there would be kids riding their bikes, playing, etc, but the only kids I saw at Hyde Park were tourists - except for a handful at the Princess Diana Memorial.

We walked most of the way around the lake, but while we were making our way up to Kensington Palace, the skies opened and we realised that we had left our umbrella at the house. Decided that we'd come back another day to finish it off and quickly left out the nearest gate - which happened to be the one next to the Albert Monument and the Albert Hall. Neither of those offered much in the way of shelter so we kept going and stumbled upon the Natural History Museum - walked around the corner and saw the line. We figured that standing in the rain for an hour would be dumb and continued on to the Victoria and Albert Museum. There was no queue, so we dragged our sorry butts inside. Oh my goodness that place is AMAZING. The first room we went into was huge and full of the Queens Raphael paintings... That was a very impressive start, and finished with a cast of the Trajan Column from Rome, constructed in AD 113 - all 200 meters of it. Totally mind blowing. Also bought/drank the most expensive bottle of water ever in their beautiful, beautiful cafe.

Decided we needed to get back to the house, so wandered off down the road (as we do) and Willy pointed out Harrods - I was so excited. We went inside and the wide eyes came out again. We walked around in bemusement - the food halls (?) were incredible, like Farros on steroids, and the rest of it was just crazy. It made us laugh that you can buy a hard boiled egg for 75p in the same place you can buy a £18,000 bottle of wine, a £26,000 bottle of whiskey, or an original Picasso. So weird.

Finally made our way home to Tooting Broadway from Knightsbridge Station, and ended up going out for dinner to Spoons with BH - Willy had the Philly Cheese Burger and I had the most amazing burger, I can't remember it's name but it had a beef patty, bacon, onion rings, and cheese sauce made out of Stilton and Blue cheese, plus it came with a really good gin and tonic.

So, Tuesday in retrospect: Marble Arch, Hyde Park, Albert Monument, Albert Hall (Outside), Natural History Museum (Outside), Victoria and Albert Museum, Harrods.

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On Wednesday we gapped it out to the Elephant and Castle Station and spent 45mins effectively getting from one side of the roundabout to the other - to be fair we did give up for a while and stopped for the full breakfast at Spoons. It was the best breakfast you can buy for £2.99, tasty as! Much better that MacD's. Finally got our bearings and made our way to the Imperial War Museum.

What an impressive and intimidating building! So full on, those giant guns out the front don't exactly add a welcoming vibe either. Inside is not as immediately in your face, however the press vehicle that got hit by a missile seriously injuring the two journalists inside (one of whom got killed when a tank shot him two years later - the footage of which was playing on repeat) had me in tears before we even got into the first exhibition. Oh dear. Two hours later and we were only halfway through the WW1 section (our starting place), and it's a 5 (?!) story building...

I loved that museum, probably even more that the Victoria and Albert Museum from Tuesday. It was easy to get around, and everything was super interesting - the WW1 and Holocaust sections were particularly well done and shocking. It took us about 5 hours in the museum all up - oops. Willy was a bit over it by the end.

Because the weather had cleared up, we walked down to the Thames and walked from Lambeth Bridge then crossed at Westminster Bridge. Along the way we saw the Garden Museum (previously Saint Mary's Church from 1500-something), Parliament House and Big Ben, The London Eye and Westminster Abbey. Then made our way to Saint James's Park, followed by Buckingham Palace. Two things about Buckinham Palace - one, I never knew you could see the London Eye from it and two, I never knew it had a busy intersection right outside. Didn't manage to spot the Queen, but did see more police with machine guns - our third lot so far and really, really weird. Kind of thing you expect in America, not London. Doesn't seem very Brittish. Despite their machine guns, they are very friendly - I watched them smiling and chatting with tourists.

Waddled off to the Greenfield Station and stopped by Sainsbury's on the way home. We cooked BH dinner! Just burritos but it was fun. What wasn't fun was finding the sour cream - who knew it could be that hard! Went into the dairy aisle and found the cream cheese, thought "Oh yup, it'll be here somewhere." It wasn't. Found the cottage cheese - not there either. Bugger. Eventually found it in the fridge opposite - up the other end of the aisle. We put those items together at home, but here two are counted as cheeses and the other as cream. Also strange was that they only had one brand and size of it. At home we could have chosen one of at least six options.

Some of our favourite groceries that we've bought while we have been here have included Leichester Red cheese and beetroot dipped in malt vinegar. Oh my gosh they are amazing and addictive. Also bought a twenty box of Becks for £10. If our exchange rate didn't suck so much, that would have been really good! Lots of NZ wine around too, and not super expensive either.

There's a 99p store opposite us and Pound Land just around the corner so buying random/basic stuff is really cheap. Unfortunately our umbrella (second, as first was at house) was bought out of desperation and definitely not 99p. Our SIM card was though, but we must be doing something wrong, as £10 should have given us 1.2gb's - 24hrs later I was down to £2 credit, so I'm losing it like crazy somewhere. Oh well.

Photo's to come...

Off for another adventure today - till next time!