Monday, July 27, 2015

Visitors: The Berry's

Actual date of this event: 15-25 October

It had been a while since Luke and I had visitors, so we were looking forward to family visiting. We were excited to have Julie (Luke's mom) to London since she had only ever visited us in Aberdeen (read about it here, here, here), and Austin (Luke's brother) had yet to visit us overseas.
Julie and Austin had so many complications with their flight over the Atlantic! The original plan was for them to depart Lafayette to Houston on Monday afternoon, then depart Houston to London Monday night to arrive on Tuesday morning. After a cancelled flight in Lafayette, then a severely delayed flight in Lafayette, then a missed flight in Houston, then a severely delayed flight in Houston, they FINALLY arrived to London on Wednesday afternoon. What a giant mess! Generally, I take my visitors into Westminster upon arrival to show them some of the world's most famous sights at the start of the trip, but there was not enough time for that. So after taking the tube from Heathrow to Wimbledon, I thought it would be best to just go straight to the pub! It was the best I could do after their stressful journey to see us.
After the pub, we took the bus to drop the bags at the flat. We decided to walk up the hill to Wimbledon Village and headed straight for pub stop number two at The Swan. We had a few drinks and a snack while we waited for Luke to meet us. In true British fashion, it started raining in the meantime. We walked in the Village a little bit before doing an early meal at the Dog & Fox pub. We made it an early night as we all had to prepare for our weekend getaway.

We had an early morning on Thursday as we hopped on a plane to visit Rome for the weekend. It was a great weekend! Read about it here.
Since we had a long and exhausting weekend in Rome, I allowed Julie and Austin to sleep in a bit on Monday. Yes, allowed, because normally I don't allow visitors to sleep away their time in London... just ask any of our visitors! Anyway, we started off taking the train into Waterloo to begin the usual Westminster walk. We saw the London eye first, and enjoyed the views of Parliament (Big Ben) from across the River Thames.
Then we crossed the tourist-heavy Westminster Bridge to see the London Eye from across the river.
I promised Austin a visit to an historical pub, so I chose the Red Lion on Whitehall. It is known to be frequented by Ministers of Parliament, and also has a bell to call the MP's back to Parliament when they are at the pub during the day. Then we made our way back to Parliament.
Austin wanted to check out the Victoria Gardens next to Parliament where the location of the Burghers of Calais Memorial is located which he learned about the previous summer in France, so we walked our way along the gorgeous building to the gardens. Afterward, we walked to the famous Westminster Abbey.
Nearby is one of my favorite parks in London, St James' Park. Its such a serene place in the midst of all of the hustle and bustle of Westminster. We enjoyed watching the ducks and swans, and thankfully the pelicans were out... the Louisiana folks got a kick out of this! We crossed the pond where there are two beautiful views - one looks toward the Eye and Horse Guards Parade, and the other toward Buckingham Palace.
We made our way up the Mall to see the Royal Guards on duty. It is always fun to see these guys up close which isn't possible at Buckingham Palace.
Next stop was Buckingham Palace!
We were pretty much done with our day at this point, so we took a walk through the lovely Green Park.
And rewarded ourselves with a pub stop at the Kings Arms. We shared an afternoon snack of Fish & Chips and Steak & Ale Pie.
At this time, we needed to head back to Wimbledon since Luke would be arriving home soon. We took the tube then train back, stopped at the grocery store for some dinner supplies, then spent the evening hanging out with Luke at the flat.

Tuesday was a bit of a mess for touring London - it's like a big puzzle trying to plan each day so that there is more seeing stuff and visiting pubs, and less walking and tube riding. We made it work though. We started the day taking the train to Blackfriars. Almost every visitor I've had in London has named The Blackfriar as one of their most memorable pubs they visited. It is a must on my itinerary of London, so we started our day with a pick me up.
We took a short walk to St. Paul's Cathedral afterward. Look how blue that sky is!
Next door to St. Paul's is a large shopping center, where the rooftop gives great views of the cathedral dome with the London Eye in the back ground. This has also become a must-do on my itinerary.
One of Luke's must-do things is a visit to Camden Lock market, so we hopped on the tube up to Camden. The area has a totally different vibe than most other areas of London - let's just say this is where Amy Whinehouse lived and passed. We walked thru the market to check out the shopping stalls, ate at the food market, and of course had a drink at the bar. Austin really enjoyed all of this!
We hopped back on the tube down to Chancery Lane where we visited two historic pubs, both on the "oldest pubs in London" list. Ye Olde Mitre is a very small and quaint pub located in a semi-hidden alley. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is also located on an alley, was frequented by Charles Dickens back in the day, and has a unique cave cellar basement.
Afterward, we took the tube back to Wimbledon to see Luke and cook him dinner hah!

Wednesday and Thursday turned in to some pretty heavy shopping days, but we of course added in some pub stops to keep Austin interested! We started the day taking the tube to Lancaster Gate to take a walk thru Hyde Park. We visited the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and stopped for coffee at the Lido Cafe on the Serpentine.
Then we meandered our way thru Knightsbridge until we got to Harrods. I showed them the highlights of the department store - the chocolate hall and food hall - then we visited the Christmas department so Julie could buy a few ornaments.
Knightsbridge seems to be a dead zone for pubs, but of course, we sought out one of the few in the area to have a drink at The Gloucester. Then we walked our way thru some Chelsea Mews to visit a needlepoint store called Tapisserie.
Afterward, we stopped for a drink at the Gloucester Arms for a drink, then wandered back up to Kensington High Street to see the Royal Albert Hall & Memorial. Along the way, we spotted a perfect place for a picture of the Berry's! Austin was thrilled.
Julie loves TJ Maxx, so it was a must for her to visit TK Maxx, so we stopped in there for a quick look. Austin needed a reward after the shopping stops, so we met Luke at one of our favorite pubs, The White Horse in Parsons Green, that has a huge selection of Belgian beers. Then, the four of us went to Bodeans to have a BBQ dinner.

Thursday was going to be a pretty long day, so we took it easy in the morning and went out for a late breakfast. We stopped at Bills in Wimbledon to have a proper English breakfast before getting on the train to Waterloo. One of the best views of Westminster can be seen from the Hungerford Bridges at the Southbank.
Then we walked our way to Trafalgar Square.
Continuing on, we walked thru Leicester Square to Piccadilly Circus. Now that I am thinking about it, its a bit funny that I tell people Piccadilly Circus looks similar to Times Square (but not as ginormous), and I haven't even been to New York City!
We walked our way up Regent Street where NFL flags hung over the street. As this was October and football season, NFL flags hang in various areas since London hosts a few NFL games each season in hopes of forming a team here.
Not long after, we made our way to the famous Carnaby Street before we needed a pub stop.
After a drink at the Shaston Arms, Julie and I went into Liberty of London, so she could buy some fabric, while Austin hung out at the Shakespeare's Head pub.
We met back up with Austin, then we all headed to meet Luke. Along the way, we took a walk thru Soho and Covent Garden where Christmas decorations were already displayed for the upcoming season.
We met Luke at The Crown in Seven Dials for a drink before we headed to China Town to have dinner at Tao Tao Ju.
We had the brilliant idea weeks before their visit to all attend a theatrical show. We decided Luke and Austin could have some quality bro time and see the Book of Mormon, while Julie and I would go see Jersey Boys. Everyone really enjoyed their evening!
We met back at St James Tavern before taking the train home to Wimbledon.

Friday was Julie and Austin's last day in London, so we made it a big one. We started off heading to London Bridge to have an early lunch at Borough Market. Such yummy choices, but we were able to narrow it down to a German sausage, a French grilled cheese with raclette, an Italian ham & salami panini, and of course wine.
In the middle of our market visit, Julie decided she wanted to buy a canvas Borough Market bag as a souvenir. The man selling the bags, jokingly said to her, "We don't take your American Dollars!" And her response was, "That's all right, I got yall's dollars!" If you're not laughing, take a minute to think about why that is funny :-) Austin and I were cracking up, so it required a mention in this blog post for sure! Anyway, back to the market, I always have my visitors take a sniff of fresh truffles which usually results in a funny face :-)
Luke took a half-day at work, so while he was on his way to meet us, I took Julie and Austin to the base of The Shard which is Western Europe's tallest skyscraper.
After we met Luke back at Borough Market, we began our walk along the river toward Tower Bridge.

After crossing Tower Bridge, we arrived to the Tower of London. At the time of Julie and Austin's visit, the World War I poppy display was in progress. The porcelain poppies began being "planted" in July, and more and more were added daily until November 11 to represent each fallen British soldier during WWI. It was such a beautiful and moving sight to see.

After the Tower of London, we had a drink at the Hung, Drawn, & Quartered pub.
Then we ventured to one of Luke's favorite areas of London, Shoreditch.
We walked thru Spitalfields Market, then up Brick Lane. We stopped at the Old Truman Brewery for the best fried chicken at Mother Clucker's food truck. We can't let a visitor leave without taking them to a BrewDog (a Scottish craft brew bar), so we stopped to make sure Austin tasted the strong ones. Afterward we did one more pub stop at The Owl & Pussycat before leaving Shoreditch.
For dinner, we made it a special one at Sushi Samba located at the Heron Tower skyscraper (now called Salesforce Tower). Luke and I always wanted to try Sushi Samba, but it is very difficult to get a reservation. I was on the ball though, and 9 weeks earlier, I woke up at 3am in the morning to get us a reservation! Literally. The food was really good, but of course, it was pricey. It was a special occasion though!

It seemed we did not want the party to end because we all agreed to stop by Bierschenke on the way home for another drink - a liter of beer that is!

From there we took the tube then train back to Wimbledon.
On Saturday morning, Julie and Austin had an early flight back to the U.S.A. It was sad to say good-bye to them since we had such a great time all week. I think we showed them a good time because Austin really wants to come back, and Julie is in the process of scheduling another visit! Thanks for coming to visit, moms and bro!

Luke and I no longer live in Wimbledon and it felt VERY strange to be mentioning it over and over again.

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