Thursday, April 8, 2010

London Day 2

Tuesday morning we took it slow. We slept in, got ready at our own pace, and headed downstairs to experience our first breakfast at the hotel. When we booked this trip, one of the perks of our package was that breakfast was included, and we were anxious to see what exactly that entailed. I mean, was this going to be a cramped room with a cold cereal bar and a waffle iron? Breakfast totally exceeded our expectations. Waiters served tea, coffee, and toast, and the buffet included a traditional hot English breakfast as well as pastries, cereals, yogurts, fruit, breads, cheeses, meats, and a variety of spreads. The first morning we wanted to try the English breakfast, and I have to say I wasn't all that impressed. It was just too heavy for an early morning meal, especially considering the amount of walking we were doing each day! We were, however, very grateful to have the hotel breakfast available. Quickly getting ready at an early hour to venture out into the drizzly, windy, cold London weather for breakfast just sounded awful.

This picture doesn't really have to do with anything, but it was taken on the street on the way to one of our many destinations, so I figured I would throw it in here at the beginning of the week...

Our first stop of the day was Tate Modern, the city's modern art museum. And guess what? Apparently, Andreas and I do not appreciate most modern art. We wandered around the museum for a while, enjoyed a Pollock or two, blankly stared at a material piece that included ravens pinned to the wall with arrows, and decided we were ready to leave shortly afterward.

Just outside of Tate Modern is the Millennium Bridge, a foot bridge that connects the museum to St. Paul's Cathedral. Fun fact - when the Bridge first opened in 2000, it had a serious wobble that required the bridge to close immediately and not reopen for over a year!

Andreas was convinced we should buy a hot dog from a vendor nearby for a quick snack. We totally should have opted for the roasted peanuts. They smelled waaaay better.

At St. Paul's Cathedral we took a fantastic tour through the Geometric staircase, the cathedral floor, the crypt, and the Quire. Our guide was adorable and passionate and obviously enjoyed his job very much. At one point he asked our group if any of us were Harry Potter fans (he was about to reveal that part of the fourth movie was filmed in the location we were visiting) and I stood there alone with my hand proudly raised :). After the tour we climbed up to the Whispering Gallery and beyond. That was an adventure in itself with 500+ narrow stairs and involved a fair amount of huffing and puffing on my part. The rain and wind at the very top cooled me down in a hurry.

The views of London from the top were incredible. The locals refer to one of the buildings in the background of our picture as 'The Gherkin' due to it's pickle-like shape.

The last thing we did at the Cathedral was attend their Evensong service, during which most of the lesson is sung by the choir.

After spending the entire afternoon at St. Paul's, we were famished and exhausted. We stopped at Pizza Express for bruschetta and pizza before heading back to the hotel. Once home, we realized the train tickets we had purchased to visit Paris the next day required that we print them online before presenting them at the station. We begged the receptionist to print our tickets at the front desk, and she kindly obliged us since the hotel hadn't opened their office amenities to customers yet. With that minor detail taken care of, we decided to take a walk around Westminster at night. Probably not our brightest idea. Granted, it was beautiful, but we had a lot to take care of before catching our train at 7:30 the next morning.

That night was pure chaos. We got back to the hotel, cleaned up, and only then started planning our day in Paris. We had a general idea of things we knew we wanted to see (the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, duh), but we didn't really know what all Paris had to offer and we certainly weren't familiar with the lay of the land. We spent the next few hours hurriedly considering friends' suggestions, travel site recommendations, blogs, Google maps, Metro prices, train times, potential weather, what to pack, and shoe options. We knew we were up late, but didn't actually realize how bad it was until our neighbors started knocking on the wall for us to quiet down. Woops! We had a trip to plan! After getting everything sorted out we finally got to bed, but of course it took both of us forever to fall asleep. We had a million thoughts, concerns, and ideas racing through our heads and I'm not sure either of us ended up getting more than four hours of sleep. We did make it to our train the next morning, but just barely...

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