Thursday, June 2, 2011

English Holiday-Part 1

Yes I'm still alive!  I know I promised to post about my vacation a few days ago but I'm a procrastinator and for whatever reason I have not been able to motivate to blog.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I took just over 250 photos and needed to figure out how to best organize and post about my amazing vacation.  So here is part one of my "English Holiday" which consists of Days 1, 2 and 3.

Day 1-Saturday
I landed in London around 10 AM (I think) and hadn't slept a wink on my overnight flight.  I went through customs, got my bag and took the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station.  I took a cab from there since I had my big suitcase and would have switched tubes and walk 20 minutes to Stacy's flat.  I got to Stacy's flat and she had a cute gift bag filled with English goodies including some Cadbury (yum) and a Hello magazine (among other things) waiting for me.  Turns out I had a gift for her too! :)  We hung out for a bit and then I took a shower to try to wake myself up a little.  We headed out into Stacy's neighborhood and she showed me around.  We had lunch and went into some shops.  It was a beautiful day so a lot of people were out and about.  After plenty of walking and shopping/looking we found a pub with an outdoor patio.  It certainly was time for a drink!  I enjoyed a pint of Strongbow Cider and it was delicious!  We had fun people watching and catching up.  London is such a diverse city with so many different types of people.  I love people watching!

We went back to the flat with the plan to cook a late dinner but neither of us were hungry so we just had a snack and I went to bed!  I was exhausted but didn't know if I would be able to fall asleep b/c it was still light out at 8:30 PM!  I think I managed to fall asleep around 9.

Day 2-Sunday
On Sunday morning we were up early and heading to Victoria Station to grab a train to Kent (which is known as the "garden of England").  I had made plans to visit one of the adoptive families I worked with at the adoption agency.  I've known them for many years and placed their son (S) with them.  I hadn't seen them in almost 2 years so I was very much looking for to catching up with them and seeing how big S had gotten.  Luckily for us, the school where S goes was having their annual {traditional} May Fair that day.  We got such a kick out of it.  It was so sweet and simple (in a good way)!  They had a lot of fun games set up that the kids could play.  Each game cost 30p and S had a big bag of coins!  Stacy and I watched as he threw cold, wet sponges at a kid to try to hit his face (think dunking boot but a little different) - this was by far my favorite game at the fair!!  Oh and did I mention that this fair served food and drinks (like the adult kind).  We had Pimms which were yummy.  I also ate a delicious scone with clotted cream and fresh strawberries - D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S!  If that was a common treat here I would be very fat.  So good!  And for those of you who wonder- YES there was a May pole.  When the kid's reach a certain age they get to be the ones to dance around the May pole (big honor).  It was very cute.  They dress in costume and do a dance that they have practiced for months.

After the May Fair was over S was very excited to give us a tour of his little town and home.  He asked many times if we were going to sleep over! :)  So cute.  Are next stop was to one of their friend's house (if you can call it that) for a drink.  Stacy and I were very excited b/c we had heard about their home and gardens and just knew it would be beautiful.  We were not disappointed.  Their home is an old converted mill and the water wheel is still there.  They have a beautiful pond with lily pads in their front yard and a big pasture with cows.  In their bag yard the there is a stream from the pond that runs through.  They have a beautiful Golden Retriever and CHICKENS and DUCKS!  Not sure why but I just love farm animals and always seem to get close to them when I travel (bottle fed the baby lamb in Ireland then got up close and personal with some baby calves another time in Ireland).  So of course I had to hold the chicken - when else will I have the chance?  Stacy was not impressed!  She didn't even want to take a picture of me holding it! HA!  S had fun chasing the chickens around the yard but never caught one!!  We then sat on the porch and enjoyed some wine, the company and the scenery.  It was a lot of fun. 

After our visit we went to see where S lives.  They are renting a home in a newer community that was build on an old military base from WWII.  It is called a "planned community" and has some stores and restaurants in the development.  He was very proud to show us around.  We then went to another little town to have dinner at a gastro pub.  We sat outside and enjoyed a great dinner.  We of course had to go for gelato after dinner too!  After spending a wonderful day together it was time for S to go to bed.  We were dropped off at the train station and said our goodbyes.  So glad we got to visit with them.  All of "my" adoptive families hold a special place in my heart but I have my "favorites" and this family is for sure on that list!! :)

Day 3-Monday
On Monday the only thing on our schedule was afternoon tea at 4.  So we slept in a little bit before heading out into the city.  We started out in Covent Gardens since this is one of my favorite spots in London.  In college I loved being there on weekends when all the street performers were out.  We walked around the markets and in and out of some shops.

And no trip to England would be complete without hat and fascinator shopping!!  We made a pit stop into Accesorize to do some modeling.  I actually would have loved to buy one but but those babies are very expensive.  I just couldn't justify spending 40 pounds on a little hat that I would probably wear once maybe twice.  That didn't stop us from trying!  Which one is your favorite?

All that hard work made us hungry and we decided to have a light lunch at a restaurant in Covent Garden that Stacy wanted to check out ( I say light b/c we had tea reservations just 4 hrs later).  Stacy told me this restaurant was created by a chef who won a Brittish cooking show (sorry can't recall the specifics).  It was very hip and fun and the food was tasty.  I did have the smallest margarita I have ever had in my life.  Like seriously it was two sips out of the straw and it was gone - not cool.  Thankfully the water at this restaurant tasted better than most in England and I was able to drink some!  After lunch we had a few hours before tea so the walking tour began!

I wanted to see one of my faves, Big Ben, so we first walked to Trafalgar Square.  It was very busy.  But this time instead of hundreds of pigeons there were hundreds of school children.  Not sure which is worse haha!  Actually I'm very happy that they removed all the pigeons.  It was pretty gross when there were all there years ago and I hated walking through there b/c of that.  Much cleaner now!  There is also a countdown clock for the 2012 Olympics which is pretty cool.  Let me tell you this city is VERY excited about the Olympics and the improvements to the city are visible.

Time to walk. . . just walk straight until you bump into Big Ben (just try to avoid all the people who are either also on vacation or just don't work and are in our way).  There was quite a bit of construction going on at the street/intersection around Big Ben so between that and the crowds it made it tough getting around but we managed.  I'm so happy it was a beautiful day so that my pictures looked nice.

I think Ben Ben and the Houses of Parliament are so pretty.  I just wish there weren't street lights, signs, people, buses, etc getting in the way of photos.  Managed to get some nice ones despite that.  Oh and I love how the London Eye is in the background.

Yes I'm a tourist and well even though Stacy lives there now she can still play along in the fun!  Notice our wind blown hair (no there wasn't a P.A. standing next to us with a fan).  It was SO windy!!

We then crossed the street to visit the wedding place of William and Kate AKA Westminster Abbey.  Thank God I've been there before to do the tour b/c the line was SO VERY LONG - around the building on both sides long.  Not sure if that was normal for a Monday or if more people are interested in seeing it b/c of the wedding?  Stacy took a nap on the lawn while getting some sun and I visited the gift shop.  Had to get the official Will and Kate wedding program! 

We then walked some more but to a tube stop!  Hopped on the tube to Green Park so that we would be closer to the hotel for tea.  Stacy again got some sun in Green Park while I walked through it to see the palace.  To be honest I really don't find the palace to be all that impressive or beautiful.  I remember feeling the same when when I lived in London.  I do love the guards though!  The area all around the palace looked really nice with tons of flags (later I would find out it was in preparation for President Obama's visit). 

Enough walking around.  Time for some relaxing at Afternoon Tea.  We went to Brown's Hotel which is one of the most famous "tea spots" in London and has received many "Best" awards.  I'd say it lived up to it's name.  We lucked out with a great corner table with pretty pillows and a big window behind us.  We ate a lot of delicious food (sandwiches just so so).  The scones - well you already know how I feel about that.  Yum!  I even asked for more.  So good.  The desserts were delicious too.  Then they come around with cakes and offer you more sweets.  I had to try the traditional Victoria sponge cake.  It was ok but I'd rather eat more scones with cream and strawberries.  It was a really nice afternoon (as it should have been for the price).  The service was wonderful which is rare in London.  I would definitely recommend going to Brown's Hotel for tea if you are planning a trip to London.

After that long rest time for some more walking right?  We walked through Leicester Square, Piccadilly Square and back to Covent Garden.  Stopped at a tourist trap shop in Piccadilly to buy some gifts for my nieces and lucky us ran into a street performer.  Of course I got a picture taken with her!

Finally time to go home and rest up for our overnight trip to the Cotswolds!!  Stay tune.  Hopefully it won't take me a week to write my next blog post.  Hopefully you made it to the end of this post and it wasn't too boring.  It was all so much fun and we were blessed with awesome weather!!  I love London and felt so happy to be back.


  1. looks like an awesome time! love the pics and narration!

  2. Wow-- that looks so amazing!! So glad you had a great time. :)

  3. I adore London! Covent Garden is my favorite area too! I am not sure what is worth either...100s of pigeons or school children in Trafalgar Square haha. I would have to go with pigeons, as I have a minor fear of winged animals haha. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog, and becoming a follower. I am so happy to have you on as a reader, and I look forward to checking out more of your blog!