London Days 1 & 2

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Chris and I asked our friends to watch the kiddos while we took a mini vacay to London!

London or bust!
We had an afternoon flight to the Stansted airport from Nuremberg. After checking in with RyanAir, we grabbed a quick bite to eat. So, where did we go for our first meal without kids? McDonald's. And we even got Happy Meals. :) Neither of us was very hungry yet, but we knew it would be awhile before we could get a proper dinner so some chicken McNuggets sounded perfect.
Above the clouds.
Our flight was nice and smooth and after landing and waiting at passport control, we hopped on the train to London!
Then we road the Tube. Planes, trains, and automobiles!
We stayed at the Rydges Hotel in Kensington. The room was nice, bed was very comfy, and the location was top notch. It was right by a tube station that had three of the most useful lines for getting around London. 
We got settled then decided to walked down the street to see what we could find for dinner. We saw this hip little burger joint and got some dinner. 
Me | My burger. Gooood. 

The weather predictions for the day were not good, so when we woke up and saw blue skies we decided to head out and take full advantage before the rains came. 
We rode to Westminster and got some lovely pictures of some iconic London sights: Big Ben with the Houses of Parliament and red double-decker buses.
Since nothing was open quite yet, we decided to do a Rick Steves self-guided walk. 
There were two, count em two!, couples taking pictures in these phone booths with Big Ben in the background, lol. Heck, I would too if I lived in London and was gettin' hitched!
Me and my love. We were celebrating our 9th anniversary a little early. 
London, baby! #joeyfromfriends
Walking down historic Whitehall street. 
The Horse Guards. Sans the horse guards.
Flowers at a pub.
At the end of Whitehall is Trafalgar Square. Chris is standing at the base of the central 185-foot-tall column topped by a statue of Lord Horatio Nelson.
Just off the square is the church St. Martin-in-the-fields. Chris actually wrote a paper about this church back in his undergrad art history days. 
Lovely, serene interior.  The church was built in the 1720s and is an oasis of peace on the wild and noisy Trafalgar square.
Looking back towards the organ from the altar. 
Then it was on to Piccadilly Circus. The square is in the heart of the West End theater district and is surrounded by great shopping streets. Fun fact: the top neon billboard is a Coca-cola ad. They've had a sign here since 1954. 
Cool statues/fountains nearby. 
After Piccadilly, we hopped on the Underground and road back towards the river. We got off at the Embankment stop and walked across the Golden Jubilee pedestrian bridge across the Thames.  
Looking towards "The City" section of London and St. Paul's. 
We were planning to go on the London Eye next, but it was a pretty penny, or rather a pretty pound, and with the weather rapidly deteriorating, we skipped it and walked back to Westminster to tour the Abbey. 
Westminster Abbey is the greatest church in the English speaking world and it is where English royalty have been wedded, crowned, and buried since 1066. A thousand years of English history lie within including 3,000 tombs, the remains of 29 kings and queens, and hundreds of memorials to poets, statesmen, scientists, and warriors. 
No photos were allowed inside. Boo hiss. 
The abbey | The cloisters
Pretty building nearby. 
I have this thing with stairs. 
Notice my socks (above). I can't tell you how many pairs of socks I've purchased on our adventures. You'd think by now I'd have found the perfect pair of travel shoes, but alas, my requirements are long: warm, comfy, waterproof, and cute. Any recommendations??? The boots I was wearing soaked through so we bought some socks at a random souvenir shop.

As we were walking towards the abbey it was a downpour with super strong wind so we got completely soaked and chilled. After enjoying the beauty inside the church, we high-tailed it back to the hotel to dry our socks and shoes and get warm. When we were ready to head back out we rode the tube to Covent Garden. The centerpiece of the square is an iron-and-glass arcade covered market. 
In 1973 the produce stalls of the market were converted to boutiques, cafes, and antiques shops. We were just browsing for something to eat when we stumbled upon... Shake Shack. Our lives were forever changed. We had of course heard of this place and knew it had a cult following among New Yorkers, so we had to try it. It. Did. Not. Disappoint. For our first, yes first, trip we got two Shack Burgers (the shack sauce is where it's at) with cheese fries and a root beer. Wow. It was good. So good, in fact, we went back every. single. day. Thinkin' wherever we move to next it needs to be close to a Shake Shack.
Just cuz it's cute.
We made our way back to Trafalgar Square and went to the National Gallery. Displaying Britain's top collection of European paintings from 1250-1900 - including works by Leonardo, Boticelli, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Turner, Van Gogh, and Monet - this is one of Europe's great galleries. 
It's a huge museum, but our handy Rick Steves had a great tour that made sure we didn't miss any of the highlights. Chris always loves a chance to see a piece by Leonardo in the flesh. 
One of the gallery rooms. 
Back when I first met Chris in 2004 he had a poster on his dorm room wall of a cartoon done by Leonardo. He had never seen the actual work in the flesh before, but he finally got to. This is Leonardo's Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist.
Some more highlights from the museum.
Vermeer's A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal
Van Eyck's The Arnolfini Portrait | A Van Gogh Sunflowers for my malm.
Lovely art in a lovely setting
Monet's The Water Lily Pond
Van Gogh's Two Crabs. I'd never seen this one before, I really like the bright colors.
From the front portico of the museum you get a great view of Trafalgar down Whitehall all the way to Big Ben. 
UK pride. 
Pink taxi. I wanted to flag it down and ride it somewhere just to ride in the pink taxi.
We were loving exploring the city together in the SUNSHINE (the weather was all over the place the first day!) so we decided to walk to Buckingham Palace.
We walked down the Mall along St. James' Park. 
The Queen Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace.
This lavish home has been Britain's royal residence since 1837. When the queen's at home the Royal Standard flies, otherwise just the Union Jack is raised. She was home, but we decided to not disturb her by ringing the doorbell.
Being just two crazy kids exploring the city on our own (without our two crazy kids), we on a whim decided to buy tickets to Phantom of the Opera while we were out by Covent Garden. We stopped by the hotel then changed into some nicer clothes and rode the tube out to the West End for dinner and the play.

Piccadilly at night. 
Chris' phone does better nighttime pictures than my big, expensive camera.
Chris next to the tallest man in the world - Robert Wadlow.

There's a back story behind this - I don't even remember where we were, but my family went on vacation when I was a kid and we stopped at the Robert Wadlow museum and it just so happened to be his birthday so we got to enjoy cake and ice cream with his relatives.

One of the (few, lol) downsides of traveling without kids is we didn't have the stroller to prop my camera on to get selfies. We succumbed and bought a selfie-stick. Here's the salesman showing us how the product works. Our very first selfie-stick-selfie. For SOME reason I made us get a bright pink one :)
We Googled nearby restaurants and found a well-reviewed Thai place. Chis got some Panang and I got Tom Kha Gai soup with a side of rice. It was really good and we just loved our fancy date night in the big city of London.

There were some great seats available for day-of-show purchase so we were right up in the action. The play was at Her Majesty's Theater and it was so much fun. 
Having fun with the selfie-stick.
I've loved Phantom of the Opera soundtrack for as long as I can remember so seeing the play was such a thrill and delight. I could see it again and again and again.
Then we called it an amazingly fun first day and turned in for the night. 


  1. How fun!! LOVING all the photos!! Monet is my absolute fave artist! I would love to see it in person someday!!!!!!

  2. So so fun! This makes me really miss London! We tried the Shake Shack in D.C. this past summer and loved it, too.

  3. SO much fun! It brought back memories when Chase and I were there in 2013. When we were out there we saw Wicked and fell in love! They are so much cheaper to watch Broadway shows out there then in the states.

  4. Um, your thoughtful inclusion of my favorite painting made me cry a little. I'm happy you got to go back to London with Chris. What a great recap!


Paige Taylor Evans © // Quinn Creatives DESIGN