In case you didn’t read that in a British accent, let’s do this again.
So we are a little behind in writing up our travels this trip, but there has been little down time up until now. We will be doing a much better job from here on out. Pinky swear. But this first post may be little long since there is a lot to squeeze in. And I will do my best to not make this simply an itemized list of sites we went to since there is so much to catch up on. Cool? Cool. Here we go!
After sitting in the Boston airport terminal – trapped in a single terminal, surviving on clam chowder and lobster rolls – for our exciting 10 hour layover, our plane starts to board. Kristi and I, having just been through our exciting move from Nashville, decided it would be a good idea to take Nyquil to knock us out for the flight to Heathrow. We timed it just right. That is until American Airlines made people UNBOARD the plane and delay the flight an additional three hours. I thought about inducing vomit to rid myself of the sleepy medicine, but decided to ride it out. Kristi immediately fell asleep on the floor and I walked around in a loopy daze until we finally boarded, immediately passed out, and neither of us woke up until we landed in London.
For those of you who do not know, we had a friend join us on the first leg of our journey. Her name is Katie. (She also has a bag named Rusty who you will meet later.) Due to our delay, we all arrived at about the same time, so Katie was waiting for us outside of customs. Always being prepared, we printed out directions to our hotel on Glouchester Street from Heathrow and surprisingly got without many wrong turns. But when we arrived it looked much swankier than in the pictures and interestingly had a different name on the front of the building. I went inside and asked, like a dumbo, if this was Royal Court Apartments. It obviously was not. I went back outside and told them I don’t know where we are, but this isn’t our place. We looked again at the reservations and realized our place was on Glouchester TERRACE. Not Street. Small but significant detail. (I will not name names on who printed out these directions. But she is cute.) Luckily, we were only a couple metro stops away from where we needed to be, and found the right place after about 30 more minutes.
It is now that I will introduce Rusty. Kristi and I are here for the long haul; a five week trek through Europe armed with whatever can fit on our back. Katie, on the other hand, was only there for 10 days and fell into what I call the “Packing Paradox,” a sort of reverse psychological affect where it seems the shorter the trip is the more stuff you pack. You might bring a couple changes of clothes for each day, because, hey, who knows what can happen. However long trips force you to only bring the essentials because there is no way you can have clean clothes for every day you’re gone. So enter Rusty, a giant sized luggage bag on wheels that we – I can say we because when stairs came (there are so many stairs) I took over Rusty duties – hauled through most of the UK.
We finally got checked in, dumped off Rusty and the gang, and headed directly for our first pub. We found a good place on Yelp within walked distance and saddled up for beer and fish and chips. Delicious. However we were not aware of this thing called “cask” beer and all three ordered from the most ornate tap they had. Much to our surprise, cask beer is served at room temperature and we almost told the bar tender that there is something wrong with their keg because our drinks weren’t cold. Oh, tourists. After a few hours the jet lag caught up to us and we headed home.
The next day we headed straight to the main sites, Big Ben, Parliament, the London Eye, and Westminster Abbey (which none of us were exactly sure what was until we went). All pretty great and all within a small area so we knocked them out pretty quick.
Oh, we also go the obligatory red phone booth picture out of the way.
After half a day, we figured it was time for another drink. So we headed to a much recommended place called Gordon’s Wine Bar. And it comes recommended for a reason. A relaxed place not far from the government buildings, full of 20-30 somethings in dark suits, a great/damp/musky cellar lit only by candle light, and a large outside seating area by a park. Wine by the glass, and meat and cheese plates on the cheap.
One thing that we were not aware of, and something that we feel all people traveling to London should know, is that the pubs close at 11PM. In some cases midnight, but for the most part 11. On our first real night out, we were amazed at the amount of overly drunk people when we arrived at the bar at 10PM. We chalked it up to Norwegian independence day (the bar was packed with them), but much to our surprise were quickly pushed out for last call after our first beer. Now, apparently clubs can stay open late, but you have to deal with a cover charge and thumping music all night. Not our scene. So we wondered around for a while and made our way back home.
The next morning we headed over to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard. I had no idea it was such a big production, with guards accompanied by a small marching band marching all the way from various points in the town, ending in front of the palace to play a few show tunes (really). Classic British.
And some video!
The construction you see is because they are getting ready for both a huge party called the Olympics (we didn’t see too much hoopla about it – classic British) and also the giant, once in a lifetime event called the Diamond Jubilee for Queen Elisabeth in a couple weeks (we did see a TON of hoopla for this one – classic British). However, we did see this clock counting down to either the Olympic opening ceremonies or the rapture. We’ll find out which one it is soon enough.
We realized we were close to Harrod’s so we went to check it out and see about doing some shopping. We had no idea it was a such a giant giant store with awesome restaurants on every floor. So we stopped in for some afternoon tea and scones. Classic British. And they had a GIANT toy section that Kristi and I wandered through for a while playing with everything. It is nice to say that this is now considered research for me as opposed to us being weird.
Next stop, the Tate Modern. I was pretty excited about this after I found out that Damien Hirst had an exhibit and his $78+ million dollar skull piece, “For the Love of God” was there. Platinum cast of a human skull from the 18th century, 8,601 flawless diamonds, and, if bought, would be the highest amount ever paid for a single piece by a living artist. We couldn’t take pictures of it, but here’s one I stole off the internet. It was pretty incredible.
So we saw that and a lot of other modern pieces that 70% of looked like poop. Actual poop. Or maybe that was just our interpretation. As with any modern art museum, there were some great, thought provoking pieces and some that just felt contrived. Overall really good though. We also got into a discussion about performance art, which is turned out to be extremely relevant in some random bar in Galway. (Foreshadowing!)
Now being armed with the information that pubs close almost after sundown, we planned our night accordingly and headed straight to SoHo for an early-ish dinner. (I am sure Kristi will get on to me about the lack of detail about each meal, as she has the uncanny ability to recall every meal she has ever eaten. Just know that all the meals were fantasticly great. Done.) We found a pub around the corner where while ordering drinks Kristi, of course, started up a conversation with two crazy guys who apparently had been drinking all day. Katie and I walk up wondering where she is, and I hear “Blake! Punch this guy in the stomach!” Confused, but not one to turn down a free stomach punch, I oblige and we are all suddenly best friends.
We roll with these two guys trying to find a pub open until midnight after getting pushed out of the last one after one beer for last call. After talking with a few door men, we finally locate one and took every advantage of the last hour that we could, pounding pints and shots (not Classic British, but whatever) in what turned out to be one of the craziest bars I’ve been in due to the insane bar tenders (all early 20’s dudes) who would jump up on the bar when songs would come on, swing the lights around, shout at people, dance, and light paper towel rolls on fire and hold them to the crotch when Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire” came on. And for some reason when last call happened they all started chanting “USA! USA! USA!” ‘Twas a good time.
We then said goodbye to our two friends and on the way to find a cab, actually stumbled upon an open bar. After midnight! I actually think it was technically a club for legal purposes because it had a door man and loud music, but it wasn’t clubby and at this point we were feeling good and ready to dance so it didn’t matter. And in hindsight, we believe it might have been a gay bar. This has yet to be confirmed, but our first hint was when Katie and Kristi went to talk to the doorman about getting in he was fairly hesitant until he saw that their third friend was a bearded Blake, and off we went inside. Our second hint was when a lot of people inside were either confirmed or unconfirmed gay. But whatever, no matter to us. We quickly secured our spots dancing on top of a coffee table and soon the whole place (it was fairly small) was rallying around us and the party got going. The owner kept bringing us free drinks and telling us to keep getting on the table, so we must have been doing something right. Right? Right.
Exhausted and feeling good, we talked a pedi-cab into taking us home. Which was not close and not easy with three people in the back, but he killed it. His name was Amet and we are forever grateful.
As pedi-cabs do, we quickly got into a race with another group headed in the same direction. We were both yelling trash at each other, but it was obvious that the group with three people had no chance. As it turns out, we were being dropped off at the same place and found out that the two guys lived right next to our hotel and they invited us over for a few more drinks. The odd couple, Vlad from Cost Rica (“Ahh, a traditional Spanish name” says Blake) and Tom from Manchester (classicly British in every way) apparently just travel around doing odd jobs and met in Austria (I think) at a hostel and decided to open a bar there. It lasted nine months due to “completely forgetting about making a profit” according to Vlad. It happens.
We chatted and drank in his flat until around 5AM when the sun was showing signs of life and moseyed back to our place. It was a night that we will never forget and one that makes a trip like this worth doing. Hopefully there will be more nights like this along the way.