London, Day 1

Before I boarded the airplane yesterday, I mentally prepared myself for aseemingly endless flight. I have flown to Europe before, and know the trans-Atlantic flight can be a doozie. With the help of Gerrard Butler in The Bounty Hounter and a two hour long nap, I made it through, safe and sound in London, UK. After going through “customs” (no one was there), Benny and I hurried our way to the Tube, only to find it utterly confusing, and to find out that the next train doesn’t arrive for another 45 minutes. Once our train finally did arrive, it was empty. It was also 6AM. By the time we had to transfer to another train, they were packed. And I thought the green line in Boston during rush hour was bad. Also, while on the train, almost everyone was reading the morning newspaper which is handed out for free at every Tube entrance. It is not so much a newspaper as it is a giant gossip page and David Beckham ad.
After an hour long Tube ride, we arrived at our exit exhausted, but we weren’t done yet. We had a ten minute walk to our hotel. Turns out, Benny has a poor sense of direction, and yet thinks it’s a good idea to try to find places without an address, directions or a map, so our walk ended up taking us round and round a park as well as an accidental run in to the Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace

Once we arrived at our hotel, it was 8AM, so our room wasn’t ready yet. We checked our luggage and had breakfast at the hotel. English breakfast serves a lot of similar dishes to US breakfasts, but they cook it a lot differently, plus the meat and cheese doesn’t go through the same processing that it does in the US so it tastes a lot better. The most noticeable differences were the scrambled eggs (much runnier, but creamier and eggier…weird, but good), bacon (thicker and baconier), and many different varieties of cheese (some I have never heard of).
Following breakfast, we changed out of our grungy airplane clothes into fresh clothes and made our way out to explore. We started with an audio-guided tour of Westminster Abbey. It was gorgeous, from the stone chiseled sculptures to the marble floors to the stain glassed windows, it was everything I had imagined and more. But aside from its stunning beauty, it was amazing to learn about the coronations and funerals that take place there. We were also led on a tour of grave sites of deceased kings, queens and other English notables such as Chaucer and Handel. It was interesting to see the time, care and money that people had put into giving the deceased a gorgeous final resting place. I think what struck me the most was how real this tour made everything for me. Learning about kings and queens and the Bubonic plague in school made it all seem like a fairy tale. Once you actually go to visit the graves of knights and Mary Tudor and so on, it all finally seems so real.
Westminster Abbey

After our tour of the Abbey, I snapped a few shots of my big Ben with the real Big Ben and we hurried over to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. Little did we know that people wait around all morning to watch the changing, so if you are not there two hours before it starts, you are late. We did get to see the most entertaining part which is the new guard following the marching band into the Palace grounds. It also turned out that today was the 150th anniversary of the cadet school, so there was extra pomp and circumstance involved with the guards that continued throughout the day. There was also a tea party being held on the Palace grounds that was invite only. It was cool seeing all the women dressed up with their big tea time hats like they had just come over from the Kentucky Derby.
The guards

We were still stuffed from breakfast, so we continued our exploring by heading over to Piccadilly Circus to do some shopping. If you are looking for expensive jewelry, clothes or leather products, it is the place to be. Apparently, if you are looking for an English Premiership jersey in your size, it is not. I ended up buying a child sized Manchester United jersey (Go Reds!) at Lillywhites. What is interesting is that child sizes are not measured by small, medium, large, etc., but by age. So to give you an idea of how small I really am, I ended up buying a jersey sized for ages 11-12. Benny bought a couple of toy guards from the guard gift shop and then we headed back to the hotel with hopes that our room was ready. We really needed a power nap to get us through the rest of the day. The room was not ready and we were told to wait 45 minutes, so we rested in the lounge while a harpist played pop songs. When we finally got to our room, the hotel presented us with a bottle of wine for our honeymoon and for the inconvenience of our wait. We took an hour long power nap and then left for dinner. Dinner was nothing fancy, just a sandwich and chips at a local sandwich shop (simply named EAT). From there, we walked along the Thames River to our evening walking tour. The London Walking Tour came highly recommended to us by one of Benny’s friends and coworkers. This particular one was the Jack the Ripper tour which took us to the various places that played an important role in the murders such as where the bodies were found, where the girls lived and where they were last seen alive. They also discussed the gruesome details of the murders as well as the most famous speculations about who Jack the Ripper could be.
After our already long and exhausting day, we decided to save the nine pounds and walk back. I have run a marathon before and three miles never seemed as long as the three miles it took to walk back to the hotel. Needless to say, we both passed out as soon as we got back. Our plans are fewer today, but hopefully just as exciting.


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