Honeymoon Trip: Post Nine

20 Sept. 2012
7:47 am Denver time

Well, back on an airplane – this time back to the USA. Last I wrote, I was still in London and getting ready to start our last day. Well, last full day at least.

When I stopped journaling, we left the hotel and started walking our normal route – down Piccadilly toward Piccadilly Circus. We turned right at Regent St. and headed down toward the Thames. We made a turn at St. James Park … but went the wrong way. It wasn’t a big detour, but a little one, and we got to see the backside of Westminster Abbey (although, it may really have been the front), which was cool.

From there, we headed past Parliament
London photo bb-hop13.jpg
and across the Thames, with the Imperial War Museum being our destination/goal. Dad suggested it and it was free, so we figured, why not. It was only for the “modern wars” (WWI to more recent), but still pretty cool. The exhibits I really remember were a wartime (WWII) house (LOVE propaganda posters),
London photo iwm6.jpg
London photo iwm8.jpg
the secret war (that is, espionage) and one on the Holocaust.

The secret war one was pretty cool. I really liked the exhibition in that it raised questions at the end regarding espionage and spies and intelligence and whether it’s still needed. It provided a whole bunch of quotes for both the pros and the cons, but it left it open for discussion rather than making a judgement, which I appreciated. Plus it got Brandon and I discussing it, so mission accomplished there, I guess. British museums respect the fact that their visitors are intelligent people who can read and think. I feel U.S. museums dumb stuff down a bit too much.

The second exhibit I really enjoyed was the one on the Holocaust. It wasn’t as viscerally powerful as the museum in D.C. (no smell of shoes, for example), but extremely well done and I thought almost better than the Holocaust museum. Plus it was free! It had a lot of little anecdotes about people – mostly the Jews – and shared a glimpse into their lives. Sometimes that person lived; sometimes they didn’t. I was also struck, when reading their thing on Hitler’s rise to power, how my dad was right in that it was very similar to Obama’s. Felt kinda awful thinking it, but y’know.

(side note – it was really nice mostly avoiding election talk over here. couldn’t avoid it completely, but it was nice to have TV on and not see 5214630937 political ads)

From the Imperial War Museum, we headed back toward the Thames. We grabbed a tiny snack from a cafe (I grabbed a Magnum bar; forget what mrrmrr had – possibly just a Fanta) and kept heading along the Thames. We passed a lot of stuff I’d never seen before – the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre,
London photo globe.jpg
a book market, etc. We passed by an Eat, where we stopped for ham and Jarlsberg baguettes (and a packet of crisps for me).

We came upon the Clink Prison Museum
London photo london23.jpg
which we hadn’t heard of and almost checked out, but it seemed just the slightest bit too cheesy to do that day. So unfortunately, we passed. We did stop at the Starbucks just down the street, though, for some more souvenir coffee cups. I also saw they actually had signature hot chocolate, which I haven’t had in years. Obviously I had to get some. I had forgotten how good it was … and how rich. It was nice having it, though – I had drunk SHC on our engagement trip to Monterey back in November 2009 – to have it again on our honeymoon/1st anniversary trip felt lika nice full circle type of thing.

After Starbucks – where we learned it was International Talk Like a Pirate Day, we saw a pirate ship
London photo london25.jpg
just down the street … and got our first London cache (finally). Then back along the Thames toward Tower Bridge, past the London Dungeon. We got some pictures of Tower Bridge – lucky enough, we got to see it in action for a cruise ship –
London photo tower3.jpg
tower5 photo tower5.jpg
as well as the Tower of London, just across the way. We headed back from whence we came, detouring off the path to find another cache.

We had brought some travel bugs with us and really wanted to drop them off, so we found a cache where we could. It definitely took us off the tourist path, to essentially a graveyard for prostitutes and unknowns.
London photo crossbones.jpg
London photo crossbones2.jpg
It was really quite cool and something we never would have seen had it not been for geocaching.

From there, the search for possibly another cache took us to the other side of the river, but we soon realized the difficulty and terrain – if the tide was in (which it was), it was totally inaccessible. Dangit. So back to the hotel it was,
London photo bb-hop16.jpg
since we were both about dead by that point. We got back and flopped, eventually deciding we needed dinner. We gave up and decided to treat ourselves to room service – honeymoon and all – but room service was being retarded and we couldn’t get through over the phone. We really didn’t want to eat at the restaurant, but didn’t have much of an apparent choice by that point. We went downstairs, told the front desk that room service essentially sucks and went to the restaurant … before realizing that we were way too underdressed. We decided to take the staff’s suggestion of ordering food there and having them take the order to room service. Much better. About 30 minutes later, we got our Hilton chicken club (meh), extra chips (mmmm) and sparkling water.

After dinner, some naughty reading, some last good honeymoon sex, and then bed.

The alarm went off early this morning so we could shower, pack and eat breakfast while still catching a tube line out to the airport by no later than 8:30. We were on the Underground by 8:15 which was good. We got to the airport and checked in with plenty of time … which was good, because security at Heathrow was a disaster. Apparently there was a terrorism threat or something, because tons of people and bags were taken aside for additional screening. Both our Travelpros were set aside, but thankfully just re-ran through and fine. But Brandon’s Timbuk got the full treatment, causing us to be stuck near security for at least 20 minutes. However, all was good and we obviously got on the plane.
Heathrow photo heathrow.jpg

We had our pretzels and our hot lunch (sketchy salad, roll, crackers and laughing cow, either chicken and mushrooms over rice (eh) or some beef with wine sauce, ptotatoes and veggies (ick) and some crumb cake). I already watched Cars, am journaling now … and not sure what’s next …

Honeymoon Trip: Post Eight

19 Sept. 2012
9:50 am London time

Well here we are, our last full day in London. But before I start it, let’s recap yesterday …

Yesterday we ate breakfast and then head out into the city. We walked along the park and up toward Marble Arch and Oxford St. On the way, we passed Grosvenor St./Sq. and little parts of me giggled – the Pride and Prejudice fangirl parts of me, anyway.

At Marble Arch, we turned right and down Oxford St. We stoped in a few stores:
– Primark, a discount-like department store. I saw some cute stuff that was relatively affordable, but I wondered about practicality and the line to try stuff on was ridonk.
– Harvey Nichols, which had the Yo! Sushi on top of it … pretty sure it used to be a Marks and Spencer back in the day …
– Selfridges, to look at the food hall
– H&M (found nada)
– Topshop – again, a disappointment
– Hamley’s, a giant toy store where we bought some Olympic-themed taxi cabs.
Hamley’s was on Regent Street, which we continued walking down. We found Carnaby Street, center of the swinging ’60s (not as cool as I thought it might be) and continued down and found ourselves back in Piccadilly Circus. Frothere, we headed back to the hotel, stopping at M&S for their 3.50 pound lunch deal (sandwich, drink and crisps/fruit). Drink was fine as was the fruit, but the sandwich? Yuck. Ew. Nasty. So lunch was fruit and the snacks we had back at the hotel.

After a little bit of resting, we wandered back down to Hyde Park to finally do the Cycle Hire bikes (like Denver’s B-cycle or Boston’s Hubway). We had fun riding through the park
London, Cycle-hire bikes.London, Cycle-hire bikes.
London, Cycle-hire bikes.London, Cycle-hire bikes.
London, Cycle-hire bikes.
but had issues trying to change out cycles. What started out fun turned kind of disastrous, unfortunately. We got Brandon a new bike and just kept mine (no space to change out) and went back toward the hotel. The CycleHire machine was being screwy with Brandon’s card and we wanted to make sure his card was still okay.

Back at the hotel, we checked it out and everything was happily okay. We chilled for a bit and hashed some stuff out (namely, why I have to be happy for mrrmrr to be happy) before heading back out to dinner.

We walked to Leicester Square and found a pub – very similar to the one we ate at a few days ago – and had dinner. I tried a Staropramen, a beer I’d had in the Czech Republic and enjoyed, but unfortunately, it was a bit too strong for me this time around. My fish and chips
food4, Fish and chips.
was delicious (mushy peas less so) and Brandon enjoyed his steak and ale pie.

After dinner, we walked up to Covent Garden to try and find dessert. Failing there, we just ended up grabbing some ice cream at the Haagen Dazs in Leicester Square – me lemon sorbet and Brandon cookies and cream. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped in Cool Brittania, a touristy shop to pick up a few things and then in Waterstone’s, a book store. I picked up The Ninety Days of Genevieve for Gen (erotic book with a character named Genevieve? No way I can resist that …) and the Wild and Wanton edition of Pride and Prejudice for me. I’ve started it and … it is interesting. Lydia is made out to be a complete little hooker … which isn’t really a surprise, really and yeah. Some of it isn’t surprising – the sexual tension’s kind of obvious in the original – but it’s also strange all the same.

After some reading of questionable things, it was finally time for some honeymoon sex (yay!) and then bed.

Up this morning, food, shower and a little packing and now it’s time to enjoy again.

Honeymoon Trip: Post Seven

18 Sept. 2012
9:35 am London time

Back again, this time after breakfast!

Yesterday was fairly lazy. After we ate, we essentially stayed in bed with our compression gear on until about noon. I was able to find a relatively comfortable spot to read in so I grabbed on and enjoyed it.

Around noon, we finally started moving. First stop was Boots to get more ibuprofen. We then stopped at Starbucks for a bottle of water and we got more travel mugs. They had a fun thing on the menu board with actual instructions for customers to order their how-you-like-it frappuccinos. I think we need that back in the states since people STILL don’t know how to properly customize their damn drinks. We also chatted with the barista at the register on visas and traveling and whatnot.

From there, we went into Green Park and took the meds before strolling down to Buckingham Palace through the Canada Gates at Green Park. We took a few of the requisite photos
London, Palace Guard.
london13, Canada gates to Hyde Park.
and then headed back towards Knightsbridge. We stopped for lunch in the National Geographic Cafe (we’d been in the store a few days prior) – Brandon had a sandwich and I tried some grilled sourdough (too grilled) and the soup of the day – a mushroom parmesan (too much parmesan). Essentially, lunch was a fail for me.

After lunch, Brandon stopped in a cafe for a slice of lemon cheesecake and an Americano. I stopped in Topshop, a British clothing store I always read about. It did have quite a few cute things in it, but I didn’t get anything for two big reasons:
1.) stuff was really pretty expensive (and the conversion rate was ridonk – 2 to 1? srsly?)
2.) I really couldn’t find a damn thing in my size
It was really kind of depressing, honestly. It made me feel broke (which I kinda am) and fat (which I’m not comparatively, but in the world of fashion, yeah I am). So that was fabulous.

Depressing aside, we headed back toward the hotel, discussing deep issues along the way. Why does it seem like everyone over here can afford this ridiculously expensive crap? Why do I feel like a broke-ass piece of crap when America is supposed to be so wealthy? Brandon explained it as they’re taken care of over here – they a.) get paid more in the more-menial jobs; and b.) get retirement taken care of thus eliminating the need to save. Essentially, kind of what the Democrats want, if we’re going to get political. And it really made me think … is that really so bad? It seems more “fair” … and yet I know te systems over here aren’t quite as awesome as they seem on the outside given economics and stuff. It made for some really deep thinking that I still haven’t figured out. I think I’ll need to do some research when I get home.

In any case, we stopped at Marks and Spencer food market on the way back to the hotel. Brandon ditched me to go back to the hotel because he needed to pee, so I stayed to wander and pick up a few things – a bag of crisps, a bottle of sparkling water, shortbread for me, Twix for Brandon and a profiterole dessert to try (it was okay). Then back to the hotel for a few more hours of vegging out and reading.

Around 7p, we went back out again. We wandered down toward Piccadilly to find some food. Neither of us were horribly hungry, so we just ended up getting 2 pound pieces of pizza from a cart … that tasted like crappy 2 pound pizzas. Blech. We wandered a few different paths after that, including into the Chinatown area.
London, Chinatown.
We also had another fairly deep discussion – basically on why I’d been kind of quiet the last few days (besides being in pain).

I explained it as that I’ve been finally been able to truly relax on this trip. Everytime (well, virtually every time) I or we have traveled, it’s always been go go go with lots to see and very little time to see it in. We know we’re in said locatino for so little time that we need to maximize the time we have. We did it in Paris, for example. But in London, we have so much time that the first day here, we said we had time – plenty of time – to explore and see things. So we have taken our time and relaxed. And yes, that’s meant a decent amount of time in the hotel room reading, guilt free. I haven’t worried. Except for an uncomfortable bed and some pain, I feel almost free. There are money worries lurking in the back of my brain (because it’s ass-expensive here; see earlier), but otherwise, I’ve essentially been able to truly decompress and relax for the first time in who knows how long and it’s been really, REALLY nice.

Our wandering got us onto some quite possibly sketchy streets, so we made our way back to tourist land and actually found a donut shop. It was a very expensive donut shop – 1.75 for a doughnut which is what, $2.75? $2 more than most places! – and they were quite horrible, but it was fun
food3, With an overpriced doughnut.
and made us laugh, which I think we both needed at that point.

After finishing up those awful pastries, we popped in another Boots – ideally to find something cheaper to drink, but they failed on that. However, we were able to find the stupid toothpaste his mom wanted as well as a few Cadbury bars for mrrface. We got those and headed back to the hotel, stopping in M&S again for drinks and, for me, another bag of crisps. Stupid salt.

Once back at the hotel, Brandon made me take a sleeping pill, but I don’t really think it worked too well for me. I dunno. I slept, but I don’t think as deeply, soundly or as quickly as I should have.

Still, back up this morning, then breakfast, then shower and now, off to start the day.

Author’s note: That Chinatown photo is probably the photo I’m most proud of from the entire trip.

Honeymoon Trip: Post Six

17 Sept. 2012
7:45 am London time

Another day, another morning in massive pain. I woke up around 1am and couldn’t really get back to sleep. My back’s not as bad, but my legs oh god. I gave up and tried compression tights. We’ll see how they do.

Anyway, let’s go back to yesterday. Last I wrote, I had finished breakfast and was catching up here. Well, after that, we got ready for the day and started wandering. We kept our pace slow and steady as we ambled down toward Covent Garden. It was early enough that not much was open, but there was still a craft market going on, so we wandered through there.

Seeing nothing that fancied us (except peaches at a fruit stand, which Brandon got), we wandered back toward Piccadilly to Charing Cross Rd. and then walked down to Trafalgar Square. We got a few pictures and continued down to Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey. After a few pictures there,
bb-hop5, Architecture of Parliament.
bb-hop7, Brandon and Big Ben.
bb-hop8, Us.
bb-hop10, Us and Big Ben.
london9, Phone box.
we walked over a bridge to the other side of the Thames.

While over there, we grabbed a snack of ice cream (gelato, really – an adequate coffee for me and a crazy rich dark chocolate for mrrmrr) and then did something on Brandon’s list – the London Aquarium. I always like seeing fishies and the like, so had no problems with this. It wasn’t the best aquarium I’ve been to, but it was cool nonetheless with lots of opportunity for learning – they do that a lot over here.

We popped out near some giant arcade which we peeked in for a second to fulfill something Brandon wanted to do but never did last time he was in London. We didn’t bother to play any games, though.

After the aquarium, we walked back over the bridge, essentially retracing our steps, passing the Horse Guards
london7, Brandon and a horse guard.
and Churchill’s war rooms, walking past St. James Park. Almost to Piccadilly, we stopped in a place called Eat for lunch. Brandon had a ham and cheese baguette and I had a ham and cheese toasty. Both were good. We stopped in Lillywhites, a giant (and crappy) sporting goods store after that, marveling at the differences (and similarities) in brands from here in the UK to back in the U.S.

From there, it was back to the hotel, with only a stop in a bookstore on the way. I didn’t find either book I was looking for, but I found an erotic novel I may buy Gen before we leave.

At that point, we were fairly dead, so we decided to lay low in the hotel until dinner … which we wandered off to get around 6:30ish. We walked up the very snazzy Bond Street up toward Oxford Circus (kinda) in search of Yo! Sushi. Yo! Sushi
food, At Yo! Sushi.food2, At Yo! Sushi.
is conveyor belt sushi and a place that Gen and I ate at a bit last time we were here. We got lucky in that Sunday is all-you-can-eat if you so choose …otherwise, it can get super expensive. I mean, dinner was still pricey anyway , but y’know.

Post dinner, back down Bond and to the hotel for a bit more reading and then a crappy night’s sleep. 😦

For now, breakfast. With these dead legs (on both of us), today is going to be interesting …

Honeymoon Trip: Post Five

16 Sept. 2012
9:07 am London time

Completely spaced out on writing yesterday until too late … and it’s not like I didn’t have the time.

So, yesterday. We woke up, showered and went downstairs for our happily FREE breakfast. It was huge and wonderful. Totally makes up for the crappy, overpriced one we had in Paris.

After breakfast, we went back upstairs and finished getting ready for the day. We left and found our way to the National History Museum. Sure, we have nature and history museums in the states, but this one was a lot cooler in a lot of ways. It had a better sense of organization and people flow through most of the exhibits.
nhm2, Natural History Museum.
nhm3, Natural History Museum.
nhm8, Natural History Museum.
Plus in their human life area, you actually saw a penis in a vagina AND naked people. Never would have seen that in the states.

We had a small snack of a blueberry muffin before seeing the dinosaur exhibit. We’ve seen better,
nhm28, Natural History Museum.
nhm30, Natural History Museum.
but it was still pretty awesome. Kidlets were super happy, and that’s all that matters.

After the NHM, we walked over to Harrods. We really didn’t buy much as it’s really just stuff we can’t afford. Brandon did get two Cuban cigars (I looked at super expensive booze while he did that – most expensive bottle I found was $46,400!). We got a UK-themed Christmas ornament in the Christmas shop and I got two London2012 Olympic figurines in the toy shop – one triathlon and one “Athletics” of a hand-cyclist (Paralympics).

We had hoped to grab a bite to eat at one of Harrods’ many eateries, but cost was a tad prohibitive, unfortunately. Still, though, we needed food. We ended up stopping at a pub – Brandon got fish and chips and tried a London Pride beer. I had a chicken and mushroom pie – kind of like a pot pie, but so much better.

After eating, we walked back to the hotel and collapsed, calling it a night.

At breakfast today, we both learned we essentially slept like crap. Plus our legs hurt, so we’re trying to figure out what to do today. I’m not sure what we’ll do, but we’ll find out later tonight!

Honeymoon Trip: Post Four

(Another in a series about my honeymoon/first anniversary trip to Paris and London, taken from a journal kept on the trip.)

14 Sept. 2012
6:42 pm London time

Hello from London! Not much to really write about, as today was a pretty laid back day, all things considered.

The day started out early, as we had to catch a fairly early train to London. We hung around the hotel just long enough to snarf some breakfast … which we found out WASN’T free as we left. Dang near 50 euros for breakfast for the two of us for two days. I should have had about a gallon of oj and 30 croissants each morning for that price.

We checked out and bought our last metro ticket and hopped a train to Gare du Nord. Once there, half the escalators (or more) seemed to be broken, so Brandon groused the whole time (he had two of the three suitcases). Eventually, though, we got to where we needed to be, checked in, cleared customs, got our passports stamped and got on the train.

Train, Brandon getting on the train to London.
Train, Getting on the train to London.

The train ride from Paris to London was fairly uneventful. I was super tired and tried to nap, but was unsurprisingly (for me) unsuccessful. After a while, I just gave up and read my nook. In no time at all, we were in London ready to start the next part of our journey. We figured out where we needed to go, bought a one-way tube pass and hopped the Underground to Green Park and our hotel.

We found the hotel with very little difficulty and, as we were super early, left the bags and went to go get a bite to eat.

We also got few pounds out of an ATM. For lunch, we decided on Pret a Manger, essentially a coffee shop with grab and go sandwiches. I chose tuna and cucumber on a roll (tasty) with some fairly sketchy lemonade and Brandon had a ham and cheese toasty (warmed-up sammich – also tasty). After eating, we wandered back to the hotel and read a little until our room was ready.

When we got our room, we found out we were upgraded to a king deluxe room … possibly b/c of Dad’s uber-Hilton status, but most likely because we mentioned we were on our Honeymoon while checking in. Either way, upgrade for us!

Once in the hotel, we kind of died for a few hours, just relaxing and reading … but it felt super good. We probably could have stayed lazy all night … but our stomachs decided we needed food. We walked down toward Leicester Square before Brandon decided Hard Rock was probably our best option so we backtracked down that way.

At Hard Rock, Brandon had a burger and I had some chicken avocado club … so very touristy and American of us, but meh. Tasty food.

After dinner, we came back to the hotel where I’m currently writing from. We’ll probably just continue to have a lazy day, but I know we’ll have more adventures tomorrow!