Sunday, August 2, 2015

Visitors: Kelly & Blair

Actual date of this event: 25-29 November

Remember Kelly? She lives in Germany and we visited her and her husband when we went to Stuttgart. Remember Cannstatter Volksfest? I'm still having a difficult time remembering that one. Anyway, Kelly had always dreamed of visiting London! So when her husband and two boys took off for the USA over Thanksgiving, her and her daughter (Blair) took off to visit London.
They arrived on a Tuesday around 2pm, so I decided that rather than going back to Wimbledon to drop the bags and head out, we would just stay in London. After I met them at the airport (did you know I always meet our visitors at the airport?), we took the Piccadilly then District line to Victoria station. We picked up some snacks from M&S (where Kelly &Blair became obsessed with their pre-made sandwiches). The weather was AWFUL. Not only was it November and by 3pm its getting dark for the night, but it was raining pretty bad. Welcome to London! Anyway, from Victoria station, we hopped on the #11 bus which went all the way to Liverpool Street station.
The bus passed some major sights in London, like Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Parliament and Big Ben, London Eye (seen from a short distance), Trafalgar Square, it went down Fleet Street (so we saw several churches and other points of interest), and then we finally got off at St. Paul's Cathedral where the bus planned to veer off into a less interesting territory. Basically, that activity cost us 1.50GBP and kept us out of the rain! 

Thankfully, by the time we reached St. Paul's, it wasn't really raining anymore, so we went up One New Change for some "sunset" views of the surrounding area.
Then we walked down to the Millennium Bridge to walk along the river. This is where we spotted our first Paddington Bear (see first picture of this post)! The movie was premiering in London that week, and about 25 Paddington Bear statues had been placed all over the city. Each bear represented something different, so we had fun looking for them during their visit. Anyway, we walked along the river until we got to Blackfriars so they could have their first pub experience which turned into a VERY BAD experience. An old hag (sounds harsh but she truly was an old hag) was so disturbed by us, Americans, being there. Telling us that we, Americans, are uneducated. And that it was rude that we weren't talking with a British accent. And that if one of us wanted to figure something out, like how to connect to the wifi, we couldn't because we would need the other two to help us. And that we didnt deserve to be in the UK. Anyone that knows me knows that I despise confrontation, but I spoke up to this lady as politely and Britly as I could. I told her that I thought it would be rude to pretend to speak with a British accent when we aren't British (any normal Brit would agree). I also told her that I pay UK taxes (for the most part, that is true). And lastly, that I had lived in the UK for 2.5 years and I had never come across someone as rude as her. Her response was "Well then I just wont talk to you anymore." and turned her nose away. But then 30 seconds later, she started back up again, so my response was "Why are you still talking to us?!" (My blood is boiling just thinking about this experience.) Eventually the lady had to pee, so we shoved her table further away from us and started chatting with another couple nearby who witnessed all of this (but in true British fashion did not step in to say anything) who apologized for her behavior as this lady is apparently a regular and known to do that. We should have known there was something funny about that empty table when many people were standing with their drinks. There is much more to this story, but you get the idea. Hopefully Kelly & Blair believe me when I say that is NOT typical pub or even British behavior.  But welcome to London anyway!
It is really such a shame because this is the pub that all of my visitors have named as one of their favorites.
After being frazzled at the pub, we continued along the river, and then cut up to The Strand through Temple to visit the Original Twinings Tea Shop.
We took a walk through the Somerset House courtyard where an ice rink and big Christmas tree were set up for the holiday season. Then we crossed Waterloo Bridge to get beautiful views of the city around us before heading to The Wellington for another drink. After we took the train from Waterloo, we grabbed Chipotle for dinner which was a must eat on their list! We got back around 8:30pm, then hung out with Luke for the evening before going to bed.

We woke up Wednesday to another not-so-great weather day, so we changed our plans a bit which wasn't a problem. We started around 11am, and made the long journey up to Camden Town.
We didn't eat breakfast, so we went straight to the food market or lunch. The jerk chicken wrap and mac-n-cheese were the highlights. Then we wandered in the shopping stalls. 
We had reservations for afternoon tea, so we hopped on the tube to Marylebone which is a more residential area, but has some nice restaurants, shops, and pubs.
We had afternoon tea at Reform Social & Grill where we got unlimited bubbles. And by unlimited, I mean, we would take a sip and the guy would fill it up again. We eventually had to tell him, "No more!" I am ashamed of myself.
We took a walk down Oxford Street, which is never pleasant, but the Christmas lights were out so it was pretty. Kelly bought some leggings from Uniqlo, and then we continued on our Christmas lights stroll down other streets.

We passed the US Embassy where there was a protest, then we headed to Hyde Park to check out Winter Wonderland. Since Kelly & Blair live in Germany, they go to these kinds of festivals all the time. They thought it was very similar to the German festivals except the British mulled wine was not anywhere near as good as German Gluhwein. It started pouring rain so we hid under a tent.

It was getting pretty late and it had been a long day, so we shielded ourselves as best as we could from the rain as we went back to the tube to head back to Wimbledon for the night (around 10pm).

Thursday was a much nicer day, which was good because we had quite a bit of walking to do! Around 10:30am, we took the tube to Tower Hill to see the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
We crossed over Tower Bridge so we could begin the usual walk along the south side of the River Thames.
Along the way, we stopped into Borough Market to have lunch - kangaroo burger, grilled cheese, and salted caramel fudge for dessert. 
While seeing the Shard, we decided to sit for a few minutes, so we stopped into the Bunch of Grapes for a drink. Then we hopped on the tube to Waterloo. We walked through the Southbank Christmas Market, saw the London Eye, and then crossed Westminster Bridge to the north side of the river to see the rest of the London icons.

Parliament (and Big Ben), Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, then a little further along to Buckingham Palace.

The most difficult part about visiting around Winter time is the lack of daylight. We only had a few hours to see everything before it started getting dark. We were probably close to about 5 miles of walking at this point and still had more to go, so we gained some energy at the Kings Arms pub before walking to Harrods.
To finish off the day, we had dinner in Fulham at the Cock Tavern - fish & chips, wings, and a pie - then made it an earlier night (9pm).
On Kelly & Blair's last day, we still had a few areas to check out in London, but there wasn't really any strict itinerary except for lunch plans and evening drink plans. They had wanted to get a few souvenirs, so we left around 11:30am to go back to Camden Town for some shopping at the Lock market. Then we took the tube back to Leicester Square. More Paddington Bears!
We had a late lunch reservation at 2pm at Sticks'n'Sushi, then we saw the last of the tourist stops in London - Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Carnaby Street, Soho, China Town, and Leicester Square. And of course, in the middle of that walk, we stopped at the pub for a drink.

Long story short: Kelly and I taught together back in Louisiana, and one of the families from the school now live a few hours outside of London. The parents were in London for a weekend away from the kids (who are now high school age) so we made plans to meet them for drinks at the Lowlander Friday evening. It was great to chat with them for a little while!
After drinks, we made the plan to go back to Wimbledon for dinner. Blair had mentioned that she hadn't seen people her age (at the time she was 19 years old). I hadnt realized until she said it, but London is filled with young professionals and older people. Maybe because it is so expensive? Luke and I had been to Edwards Bar in Wimbledon before where they have really cheap drinks and food, and it turns into more of a club at night, which brings a younger crowd. I think it was more what Blair looking for, but if not, Kelly seemed to enjoy it! We couldn't stay out too late though because we ALL had an early morning on Saturday, and we ALL had to pack bags. Kelly & Blair were going back to Germany, and Luke and I were off to Prague for the weekend!
It was a great time having Kelly and Blair in London. I hope they enjoyed it! Thanks for visiting ladies :-)

The difference in a pint -- When ordering a pint in Britain, one will receive just under 20 fluid ounces (or 570mL) which is the traditional Imperial Pint. As for in the US, one will receive 16 fluid ounces (475mL), which is what we have always referred to as a pint. While doing all of these pubs stop with visitors, I generally order half-pints.

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