Day 5: Recapping Our British Holiday Across the Pond

3 Aug

We cannot believe we are flying home already! It’s been an adventurous last few days and we are so grateful for our good traveling mercies in the city and while flying.

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Would we do it all again? In a heartbeat! We’ve shared a lot of new experiences with each other, and it’s just been good to hang out as sisters. Here are just some of our observations and experiences we didn’t put in our day to day entries, in case you want to know a little bit more about British culture and how surprisingly different it is from ours.

Slang/Common Expressions:
*Brilliant- this word is used from everything we would say as just being “good”, “ok”, “that’s fine,” or “amazing.”
*Rubbish- trash or garbage
*”The Bill”- we would say, “Please bring the check” in America. We made the mistake several times of asking for it and were always corrected, “You mean the bill?” Get it, got it, good!

Currency- trying to master their currency was a little easier since we were familiar with it from years past. Coins range from one, two, five, ten, 20, 50 pence, one and two pound coins, and five, ten, twenty, fifty, and hundred “notes” or cash. FYI: £1=$1.56.
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Tube- while it is the cheapest and fastest form of transportation, it can at times be chaotic and stressful to get around if you’re not used to and aren’t familiar with which station or direction (eastbound/westbound) and different platforms to use. During morning and afternoon rush, it can be wall to wall people, stuffed into the tiny cars like sardines.

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The color-coded map can be overwhelming at first, but once you determine your destination, it’s just like following the (insert color) brick road! For the Olympics this year, they have the main sporting event venues marked in pink on the tube map and stations for easy planning.

Tube stations can be like being at an airport, everyone’s in a hurry and no one likes to wait, so the best thing is to keep right and let the hurried folks pass by you on the steps and escalators.
Our tube pass, or Oyster Card, failed many times when trying to get through the turnstiles leading to the underground. This happened to me on my first trip and it happened to Lauren and me several times, making us have to get assistance from the personnel. Many were having the same problem. No regrets on using it though! It saved time and money!
Going to miss our Bayswater Station!

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Street walk: walking on the busy sidewalks in the city we noticed that people are not always willing to move out of your way, so it was our assumption that one person usually had to make the gesture of stepping aside to let others pass. This was not our southern hospitality way of making others feel welcome, and don’t expect doors to be opened for you either.

Street signs are confusing- streets aren’t always labeled and with so many different squares and districts and neighborhoods, as well as one way streets, we got lost on foot a few times but always found our way.
Driving on the wrong side of the road: We were not about to get behind the wheel in London nor on a bike! We think Hwy. 431 is bad on a Friday or Atlanta has bad traffic. London was even more so congested with the Games. The London Eye actually lit up green, yellow, or red according to traffic flow in the city.
Temperature is measured in Celsius, so the thermostat in our room took some getting used to, 19 degrees felt like 73 or 75 to us.
Greenwich Mean Time (more daylight hours): During summer, it gets dark around 9:00 PM and the sun rises at 5:30 AM, which is great for touring all day! However, it takes your body a little while to get used to, just as when our Daylight Savings kicks in here.
Credit card machines do not like American cards. It frustrated the clerks at times because our cards were a different procedure than the locals; however, we found it to be more cost efficient to pay with credit and debit cards than pounds.
They do not use the word vacation. People would ask us if we were here “on holiday.”
Kids are so mature and multicultural, despite some of them having potty mouths (see previous blog).
Paying 30 pence to use public restrooms
Rocket- this is used on sandwiches, pizzas, and burgers and is what we know as the leafy green arugula.
No ice in water & no iced tea, only hot tea!
Have to specify still or sparkling water- Sparkling water is like carbonated water and is more commonly requested by the locals than still, which is tap water.
Their postage bins on the street say “franked mail.”
Measurements (stone, kilometers, meters, etc): Signs on the street say meters & kilometers instead of miles.
Fashion trends we noted were girls wearing short shorts with black pantyhose (tights) and either heels or ballet flats, which 9 out of 10 wear around the city. Guys’ fashion was very distinguished in colored pants or skinny jeans and blazers.

It was nice to see this while in Brighton! The decor inside looked so modern!

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And here’s the world’s largest McDonald’s inside Olympic Park. Seats 1500!

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Here is our hotel room, which we loved! The front desk was so nice and helpful.

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Ironically, we were staying a block away from the Bayswater Inn, where I stayed on my senior trip back in 2005. It still looked the same! Good to be back!

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Here is a picture of Whiteley’s Mall a block from our hotel.

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It was a three story mall with numerous stores like French Connection, H&M, Zara, Marks and Spencer, Nine West, Gap, and many more boutiques and restaurants. Here is a picture of our sushi experience on Sunday at Yo! Sushi:

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A trip to UK is not complete without bringing back some chocolate!!

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We say next time we go, we will stay in the city of Wimbledon and explore more there and take one or two days to go into London.
All in all, we were able to do everything we wanted to do! Lauren and I shared lots of laughs, memories, and sisterly bonding. We stayed up late telling each other stories and catching up on life, and were good company to each other traveling home yesterday when we missed our connecting flight from D.C. to ATL due to security back up and our flight getting in late. We thankfully were placed on standby for the 10:00 PM flight and were the last ones to board on this oversold flight! Otherwise we would’ve been spending the night in D.C. Our Uncle John was waiting to pick us up a little after midnight when our flight came in and our luggage was still there! We were able to crash at our Aunt Kristi and Uncle John’s house for the night and catch up on sleep and get over some jet lag before going back home today. Whew!

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The people were nice, food was yummy, weather was a good mix of warm, chilly, and sometimes wet.

Until next time, London:

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Cheerio!

<a

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Day 4: Tennis anyone?

1 Aug

Back on schedule today with blogging, just completed Day 3’s blog since we were so tired yesterday.
Anyway, Lauren and I left out at 9 for Wimbledon, which was a 30-minute tube ride. Once we got there it was a 30-minute walk to Wimbledon Stadium. We wore short sleeves today since the forecast was upper 70’s and a 20% chance of rain. Note to self, bring jacket anytime and everywhere when in England! We should know this!

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Wimbledon was so neat to see in person. We had tickets for Court One, so here’s our lineup:

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The good thing was we were able to walk in and out and observe other games if we chose to, except in Center Court. Our first match in our court was a great one! Switzerland’s Roger Federer to Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin. Rain delays were common throughout the day, and they played the live match with Serena going on at Center Court, which has a roof.

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Resumed playing thankfully:

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Brought it in for the win:

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After Federer won, the next match in our court was against Victoria Azarenka and Nadia Petrova.
We sampled the Wimbledon famous treat, strawberries and cream!

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While watching the games, the family sitting next to us actually knew someone from Birmingham, AL! The lady, who was in her late 70’s, had 10 grandchildren! One of her dearest cousins named Marie and her husband Robert live in Birmingham where she makes curtains and has her own business of drapes and antiques. I gave her my business card to which she gladly accepted and said, “One should not be in business if you can’t give out a card!” Her name was June and she was a spunky lady, discussing sports and her love of yoga, tap dancing, and New York. We have been fortunate to sit by and meet up with such ” lovely” people. On the walk over this morning, however, we asked a lady if we were walking the right way for Wimbledon and she was very helpful and said she was headed there herself and to follow her. Along the way, she asked where we were from. I said “Alabama.” She quickly stated, ” I would say ‘Aluubuma’.” Grrr. Lol!
2 Sistaaas

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We left our court around 5 and this was the final score when we left:

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We ventured to Court 2 to watch Venus Williams playing against A. Gerber. Her family was there too.

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What a cool day! Totally worth it!
We caught a double decker Olympic shuttle bus back to Wimbledon Park station and rode the tube back to our stop at Bayswater. We shopped a little more at Whiteley’s before coming back and changing for dinner around 8:00. We went to a local pub called Prince Edward’s. We had wine and cider ale. We also ordered hummus, split a salmon and potato dinner, and each ordered dessert.

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Yay for sticky toffee pudding!

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Lauren got a pear-apple crumble with custard sauce! Yummy!
Perfect ending to the day! Not ready to go home tomorrow, but none the less, it’s time and we miss everyone back home and the simple things we take for granted! We will update more on that tomorrow! Until then, carry on and play on, USA!

Day 3: Brighton Beach, LUSH, & Delivery

1 Aug

Lauren and I were so enthused and excited from Monday that it took us a while to go to sleep, but we drug ourselves out of bed on just 3 hours sleep to catch our 10:00 train to Brighton Beach. Hence, the need for this, which I picked up at the local Boots Drugstore near our hotel.

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We took the tube to Victoria (think Grand Central Station in NYC). We boarded our train to carry us into Brighton. It was just under an hour ride and once in the city, we bought a £1.50 bus ticket to take us to the pier.

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Once there, we went to this restaurant called Harvester.

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Lauren had yet to try fish and chips on the trip so she finally got to experience this traditional English meal. She loved the fish, which is a cod fish battered in vinegar and this particular restaurant had parsley added into it, fried golden brown and served with chips (fries) and mushy peas, which she didn’t care for!

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I ordered a vegetable goat cheese and Brie roast ( vegetable patty with cheese on top), buttered potatoes, and English peas.

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After lunch we walked on the pier, which was like Coney Island with its amusement park rides, arcade games, traditional fair-type foods (fish and chips, doughnuts, crepes, ice cream, coffee and tea).

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We rode bumper cars and I rode the Horror House ride by myself, Lauren was too chicken. ;).

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We accidentally got on the wrong bus to take us back into the city (right bus #, wrong direction). We finally got back to the main bus station and had to buy our return train tickets to the city on the 3:49 departure train.

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Brighton was neat, with its coastal flare, quaint shops, and pebble beach (no sand). However, due to our lack of time and dreary cold weather on Tuesday, we both felt we probably could’ve used that day to explore more in London. But we enjoyed seeing another part of England.

Once back in Victoria Station, we knew what would make the day complete: LUSH! We shopped a good 45 minutes in this organic bath and body shop. I first discovered LUSH on my first trip to London back in 2005. Lauren and I have been in love with it ever since with its bath bombs, lotions, makeup, shampoos, and soaps. Once we got our LUSH on we knew our day wasn’t complete until we got our yogurt fix.

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A trip back to Frae in Notting Hill to sample more natural frozen yogurt was perfect, but we were in the heart of rush hour on the tube so it took a while to get there and it was wall to wall people on the train, but well worth it! We decided to walk back to our hotel from Notting Hill. On the way back we saw a restaurant called The Diana Cafe. It was small but was covered in pictures of the late beloved princess.
Later in the evening after a brief rest, I went to Whitely’s Mall a block away and did some shopping at Marks & Spencer and some other stores. I found the cute little Olympic suitcase I used last week in the blog when I talked about packing! A little under £40!

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Around 8:00 we realized we needed a bite of dinner. Our friendly hotel staff gladly recommended a good pizza place and ordered it or us. We were eating garlic bread, Napoli pizza (anchovies, olives, capers, and goat cheese), and tiramisu in under 20 minutes! It was delicious and we saved the tiramisu for the next day. Yummy!

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On a side note, one observation we both are just in awe of and find humorous is that the children here are “illy disciplined.” A boy on the train that couldn’t be more than 5 or 6 got in a quarrel with his friend and loudly exclaimed, “Go back to your $&@& seat!” and his mum thought nothing of it! While we were eating at Tinseltown, a boy sitting across from us, age 7, was sitting under a picture of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes and loudly exclaimed “I hate that &@!$?#%!” Again, his mother said nothing. We are both shaking our heads at this one! Lol!

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That’s all! We will work on day 4 blog later tonight. It’s been a good day at Wimbledon! Cheerio!
2SATP

Day 2: Kensington Palace, Taxi, Tea, and USA Bball!

30 Jul

Ellllllo!!!
After a MUCH needed good night’s rest, Lauren and I hit the streets early and knew we’d need our strength so we found a cafe near Notting Hill Gate & Hyde Park called Lo Sputino. I ordered a spinach and mushroom quiche and iced coffee and Lauren got scrambled eggs and toast. The waiter was very kind to us and did little gestures for us like bringing us a fresh city map, as ours was showing a little wear, ha, and he saw me searching for Internet connections and offered their cafe Internet code. The food, coffee, and fresh-squeezed juice was perfect! We tried a special “brown sauce” the waiter informed us about that was wonderful on eggs. It was like a sweet and tangy BBQ sauce.

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After breakfast, we headed outside and entered Hyde Park, which would remind you of Central Park in Manhattan, with its lush trees, walking trails, gardens, etc. We made our way to Kensington Gardens and Kensington Palace to tour for the morning. It cost £16 to go through. Princess Diana lived there, and William and Kate will move in soon, but sadly, we didn’t run into them.
We did however get to see many of Diana’s famous dresses, see where King William III lived, as well as Queen Victoria. The Gardens were carefully manicured and bursting with summer blooms. Today’s weather couldn’t have been more perfect for strolling in Hyde Park.

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We stumbled upon the Italian Garden, Peter Pan statue, and eventually worked our way to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. It was a peaceful and playful area, with kids running through the icy water, some even naked!

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Next we took the tube to Victoria to find The Hard Rock Cafe and our afternoon tea at The Goring. Both were close to Buckingham Palace. We arrived a little after 3:00 for our tea reservation (running through Hyde Park, past the Palace–no time for pictures!).
The Goring, which came recommended by all of our London guidebooks, as well as the United Airline July magazine as the best tea service, did not disappoint.

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We spent a good hour and a half relaxing from our nonstop day, taking in the grandeur of the hotel and sampling some of the best tea (Afternoon) and finger sandwiches, scones, and desserts. I’ll explain more in the picture caption.

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It was one of the best ways I’ve ever experienced to really enjoy your day…why don’t we embrace tea time more in America?!?

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We rushed back on the tube to get back to our hotel, change clothes and head out again for our first Olympic Games!! We took the tube all the way to West Ham, walked almost five miles to and once inside Olympic Park to get to the Basketball Arena.

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Passing the Orbit, the famous world’s largest McDonald’s (seats 1500!), and most other sporting facilities along the way. The people were friendly and helpful and security check was easy. Once we found our seats, a Canadian family sitting beside us asked if we would switch places with their other family so they could sit together. We were happy to oblige and even got better seats with the switch. In our new seats we just happened to be sitting beside a husband and wife from San Francisco. Turns out they have been to every Olympic Games since the early 90s and are staying the entire time of the London Olympics. They were able to give us helpful tips on which tube stations to take back and a few other things to do in the city. In the first basketball game Canada defeated Great Britain much to the Brits’disappointment. Lauren bought an American flag to proudly wave in the game.

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They did the traditional kiss cam, but also did this crazy bongo cam where you had to pretend like you were playing the wooden drums on camera!
For dinner (when we finally got hungry) we sampled some chicken curry inside the arena. Lauren got a Flake 99 for dessert. We heart Flake bars, and this is an ice cream cone with a Flake bar in it. Divine.

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USA’s Lindsey Whalen (#4) was awesome! Great name!
Basketball started at 8 PM but USA didn’t start playing until 10. We left at the beginning of the fourth quarter and USA was dominating Angola 69 to 29. We took the tube back to our hotel and arrived around 12:30 AM! I’m so tired as I’m writing this so forgive typos and I’ll post more tomorrow, today’s just been crazy! But in a good way!! Tomorrow is a full day at Brighton Beach. We miss you all back home so much! Thank you for your prayers and well wishes!

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At the moment it’s 2:31 in the morning and we are too tired to sleep. We’ve walked well over 10 miles today and we ache all over but it was worth it! A massage may be in order at Brighton!
Love y’all!

Day 1: Taking on Notting Hill, Tubes, & Tinseltown

29 Jul

London, good to be back!
Saturday was spent traveling. Lauren and I met up in Atlanta at our Aunt Kristi and Uncle John’s house (Hotel Burgess) for a quick visit and then John dropped us off at the airport for our 7:20 PM flight. We barely had enough time to get to our next gate from D.C. to Heathrow in London.
We boarded at the scheduled 9:15 PM but didn’t leave the gate until 11:30 due to other international flights being cancelled and seats having to be worked in on our flight and also waiting on delayed passengers from other flights. (Our row and window seat we had to ourselves for the first hour was quickly sadly taken!)
We hadn’t had time for dinner so at 12:30 AM we gobbled down some ‘oh so yummy’ flight food! “Beef or chicken?”
Due to the normal crying babies, turbulence, and sitting upright for 7 hours, we just didn’t sleep, but it didn’t hold us back at all today!

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Arriving a little later this morning, we went through customs without a hitch. We saw a few Russian athletes there in the Olympics line. We couldn’t tell what sport they play. Once we got our checked luggage, we hopped on the Heathrow Express train that took us from the airport to Paddington Station in the city in 15 minutes! From there we took the Tube to Bayswater Station, close to our hotel. Our room was ready and soon after getting things unpacked we went to the mall around the corner, Whiteley’s. Last time I came in 2005 we stayed at the Bayswater Inn, just a few blocks from where we are at The London House Hotel. It helps being familiar with the area. Sunday has been relaxed where we’ve been today, making it easy to explore. We ate lunch at Yo! Sushi inside the mall. Very cool place in which you order from a menu or do the all you can eat sushi for £19.99, in which you eat as many sushi rolls that come buzzing around the conveyer belt around the booths and tables inside! Lauren and I split some rolls (cucumber, California, salmon nigiri, edamame, pumpkin croquet, and seaweed salad! It was delish!

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After our energizing sushi, we were able to shop at H&M! Lauren got a cute polka-dotted top and I bought two dresses. Then we headed out for Notting Hill. We spotted an organic yogurt shop as soon as we came out of the tube station. It was meant to be!

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We walked around Notting Hill, went in bookstores when it began to pour, and enjoyed a nice stroll in the beautiful neighborhood.
After crashing for a bit this afternoon, we decided to try a local favorite nearby, Tinseltown! Yep, call us homesick on this first day, but we were curious if the Britons could master the American cuisine. I got a veggie burger and fire-roasted veggies and Lauren got a burger and baked beans. Very clean, pure tasting, but the real star was the dessert:

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Feast your eyes on The Titanic Delight for Two! Oh yes we did, we fell for it, and it sunk…yummily down to our tummies! We had quite a sugar high from this sinful monstrosity made up of ice cream, caramel and hot fudge, Oreos, M & M’s, Ferrero Rocher, Flake bars, and whipped cream, but really, they had us at Flake bar.

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We loved this fun Hollywood themed restaurant, but promise to not go with any more American themed restaurants on this trip!

http://www.tinseltown.co.uk

It’s been a good first day here! The energy of the city with the games is contagious! We got as accustomed as possible with the tube, the traffic being on the opposite side of the road, language barriers, 6-hour time difference, etc. We still think it’s surreal being here after planning for so long.
Tomorrow we have a bigger day planned since the weather promises to be better, with highs in the low 70’s with little or no rain. Stay tuned, keep calm and carry on! Chat us up if you wish!!
2 Sisters

A Few of Our Favorite Things

26 Jul

A Tower of London Beefeater

Everyone has their personal favorite things to do, places to eat, shops to go to, etc. on a trip. Lauren and I are lucky that we share the same tastes and interests, some that even our parents question where in the world we got it from ( i.e. sushi, vegan tendencies, mushrooms, the band The Killers, karaoke, and foreign travel in general).

That is the special bond that sisters share. You need no explanation, you just are joined that way.

What are your favorite things to do in London? Or any of your favorite cities??? Sometimes the best parts of a trip are those accidental discoveries that you just stumble across, wandering aimlessly around. It’s the quaint coffee shop off the beaten path, that bistro on the corner with the fab fried green tomato BLT, that vintage shop where you got the one of a kind 60’s sheath, or the hotel entrance that instantly grabbed your attention from the street.

We hope to find some of those unique places. If you have any suggestions, let us know!

So, here are the must see’s, do’s, and eats for us on this trip (in no particular order). Fingers crossed, it all works out!

 

Shopping at LUSH is a MUST! Lauren and I became obsessed with this store first in London! Organic bath bombs, shampoos, lotions, and more! If you haven’t experienced this bath and body euphoria, as the Brits say “Get on with it!”

www.lushusa.com

Tennis at Wimbledon–we’ll be here on Wednesday for the Olympic match

Women’s Basketball on Monday

Though the tube (subway) is often cramped and noisy, I never grow tired of hearing the British woman’s voice over the loud-speaker telling everyone to “Mind the Gap.”

Peace and tranquility in the city? It’s Hyde Park. Feed the birds, take a canoe ride, a picnic lunch, people watch, or just a leisurely stroll.

What pasta is to Italy, burgers are to the US, and tamales are to Mexico, meet England’s comfort food–Fish & Chips! Cod fish battered with fries and the green stuff–mushy peas!

Brighton Beach (about 1 hour from downtown). Amusement park rides, a historic pier, great food and crafts. One beach you won’t need a swimsuit for.

Afternoon Tea at The Goring Hotel (www.thegoring.com). We are fully bound and determined to figure out what Eton Mess and Eggs Savoury are and decide if we likey.

 

Kensington Palace is where Princess Diana lived for many years, as well as William and Kate. Her dresses are on display and the gardens promise to be Queen worthy.

“Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament!” –Love me some National Lampoon’s Euro Vacay! This picture is stunning at daybreak. Hoping to capture a similar shot when the city is just waking up.

I couldn’t resist this pic of a traditional Calvary/Foot Guard you might see around Buckingham Palace. We hope to see them, beefeaters at the Tower of London(which, shhh, is where all the Olympic medals are kept safe, among other things,) or at least someone famous (i.e. The Queen, William and Kate, David Beckham, Madonna, haha.)

 

And so begins the packing…

25 Jul

I’ll admit, I procrastinate. All throughout college, when is the best work done–at the very last possible minute. I know. It’s awful. Don’t judge. 🙂

But I would go into panic mode if I didn’t start packing for this trip that is approximately 3 days away! Ok, so list after list, I think I have it down, right? The hardest part by far is the weather. While we are enjoying a cool (ha) 96, England is sitting pretty at 69 or below for this next week. I am thinking layers. This can be hard, for my go to wardrobe in the summer is dresses. I’m packing dresses, leggings, jeans, long sleeve, lightweight sweaters, comfy shoes, and of course, jackets…and an umbrella for those wet days.

What am I missing?? Passport, check. Toothbrush, dbl check. And all the other items (chargers, camera, book, toiletries, makeup, Hello Kitty pj’s)… One thing for sure, packing light so I won’t have to pay extra on the way home for being over the weight limit!

I decided (again, last-minute) I needed a small backpack instead of a cross body, which can get heavy after walking all day. It’s a girl thing. So I went into the Willow Tree in Boaz yesterday for a Vera Bradley backpack (Suzani print, so pretty), and found these beauties: