Saturday, June 27, 2015

The United Kingdom: Arriving in London

Before I dive into the memories and exciting experiences of this trip, I should preface by saying that I don't remember the first week of this trip as vividly as most. This is widely due to the fact that I was 8 weeks pregnant and while I luckily was not sick, I was overly exhausted. The first trimester exhaustion does not mess around... and add to it jet lag and I was pretty much a zombie for the first 5 days of our trip!

Aaron and I are not great flyers. We don't get sick or nauseous... well not much. The main issue with us flying is that we don't sleep. So taking red eye flights internationally means we are SO TIRED when we get to our destination. We landed in London just after sunrise, went through customs and the plan was your drop our stuff off at our hotel just north of Kensington Gardens. I would have given my right eye to be able to check into our room early and take a shower and sleep for the rest of the day, but no luck. We couldn't get into our room until 2p and it was only around 9:30a when we arrived. So we dropped our bags off and headed for the tube!

Oh I can't tell you how amazingly surreal it was to be back in London again and with my husband no less. I tried to not leave Aaron in the dust as I raced through the London streets and worked the tube stations and trains like I had never left. I also tried not to overwhelm him with stories of Phoebe and I wandering around the city and inside jokes that made no sense to him, but came flooding back into my mind like they were clear as day. I was giddy... and tired... and giddy... and slightly nauseous because of how tired I was. But I wasn't going to let that stop me!

We took the tube from Kensington Gardens to Waterloo station and started our  London adventure with Westminster! I wanted Aaron to see the first sites of Big Ben from across the water. That is the best way to truly take in the majesty.

It was such a gorgeous sunny day! It was perfect to be able to look across the bank from Waterloo station and see Big Ben over the water! I remember my first time seeing that clocktower and it still takes my breath away! I was so excited for Aaron to take it all in!

Wanted to remember our little stow away along the journey!

I think I see Peter Pan!
We took our time making sure to see every angle of the clocktower. Aaron was in awe. He said that while a lot of tourist attractions, especially the most famous ones, can end up being a little overrated, Big Ben was NOT overrated! I realized when he said that that I had been subconsciously a little nervous that we would travel all this way to the city I love and that Aaron would be let down and disappointed and not appreciate it the way I did. Not so! He was soaking it all up just as he should and as I'd hoped he would.

After gawking at the houses of Parliament and Big Ben, we went on to Westminster Abbey and stepped in to take the tour - after waiting in line for almost an hour of course. 

I love being married to a history nerd like me. I also love that he isn't as knowledgable about European history as I am. So I have the perfect partner to waste hours reading all the plaques and taking in all the history and story of a place and I also have someone that appreciates all the colorful scandalous stories I remember from my history classes that you won't find on those little plaques. I entertained him with stories about all the king and queens and the events that took place within the walls of abbey. Also, if you are ever taking a tour of Westminster DO NOT miss the audio tour. Jeremy Irons leads you through the Abbey and it is completely fascinating to hear all the significant facts you may miss just looking on your own. HIGHLY recommended!

I have to say we pull off exhaustion well!

had to sneak a photo of Aaron during the prayer time 
After we made our way through the abbey, it was time for lunch! Aaron and I had a great planning partnership in the midst of preparing for this vacation. I had spreadsheets and lists and maps of all the historical and famous spots we would visit and he had researched out all the best pubs in the city with beer on tap that he was excited to try. So I was in charge of the tourism and he was in charge of keeping us fed and hydrated. So our first meal stop in the city was the Buckingham Arms just down the street from Westminster Abbey.

You can't go to England and not have Fish & Chips, so I figured I would get it out of the way on the first day! Pardon the beer in the photo of my lunch. I was pregnant, but at this time no one knew, so I felt the need to keep up the facade and include Aaron's beer in my photo.

Speaking of pregnant, our little stow away had had about enough by this point in the day and so had I. There had been no sleep for me in nearly 30 hours, and I was 8 weeks pregnant, so I remember sitting in the pub after lunch and realizing that I either needed to go to bed or I would pass out or start crying (pregnancy hormones are wonderfully exciting). It was also time to check in to our room at the hotel, so instead of soldier on like we had planned, we decided to head back for a quick nap and then more exploration!

Our hotel room made me so happy! That  big fluffy bed may have been small, but it was so inviting! Sadly my body thought it was time for full night sleep, so the 2 hours nap FLEW by and I felt even worse forcing myself to wake up than I had before going to bed in the first place.

But we had a limited amount of time in the city and there was so much more to see!

We decided to make our next stop Harrods! Aaron loves the mall and window shopping, so I was excited to show him this ginormous department store filled with things to eat and explore and just look at!!

One of my favorite things about Harrods is the rooms of food! There is an entire room in the store devoted to cheese, or to chocolate, or to sea food, etc! We decided this was a perfect place to find dinner and then we would hop over to Hyde Park and sit by the water and have a picnic! We took our time wandering the store and seeing all their is to see. We also bought the little stow away a gift! The Harrod's Bear is a collectors item for sure and we found the softest and sweetest bear as the first gift for our baby!

Harrods is basically the size of an entire city block

Picnic in Hyde Park while enjoying dinner

Sunset over the Serpentine
Since we had taken our time in Harrods and leisurely walked to the park with our food, and because it stays light out WAY later than anywhere I have ever been, it didn't really occur to us until we checked out watches, but we were eating dinner at 9p!! And the sun was still out!

Also funny story, but while we romantically had a picnic as the sunset in London, we were also being serenaded by Taylor Swift through the trees on the other side of the water during her open air concert in the park. Technically I can say I have been to one of her concerts, cause I literally could hear it clear as day.

After we finished dinner, we spent the rest of the evening strolling through the park as it got darker and darker. Hyde Park turns into Kensington Gardens and so we walked by my beloved Peter Pan statue and then by Albert Hall and the Albert memorial.

It was an eventful first couple of days and the sadly we hit the ground running at a pace that was not sustainable, and would sadly not turn out well in a few days time, but for this day, we were happy and excited and SO READY for bed.

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