London, England

As you can probably derive from the title, we went to London!

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We had a 4 day weekend here in The Netherlands, so we decided to take advantage of it and hop one of Groningen’s daily flights over to London to visit my aunt & uncle and explore the city!

…. and explore the city we did! I’ll break this up into days, because thanks to my Aunt Ann, aka: the ultimate London tour guide, we saw (and learned) a lot! Let’s begin.

London 101, Day 1: Lots. of. Walking.

and that’s not a bad thing! You might have noticed this from other posts, but just wandering around a place is one of our favorite ways to get to know it. And what a better way to start the day then with a walking tour!

We did a fantastic walking tour of “The City” with a company called London Walks. In case you’re like me and have no idea what “The City” of London is (I mean… aren’t we already in the city??) it’s actually a city within London itself. It’s also referred to as “The Square Mile” because it’s area is a square mile. It’s here where the London that we know today began.

Our tour started at the monument to the great fire of 1666. I vaguely knew that London burned at one point, but I didn’t know that the city (or various part of it) burned over and over and over. Seriously, if something was damaged or no longer around, and someone asked you what happened to it you could just tell them ‘oh, it burned’ and it would probably be true. 1666 was particularly bad, since it wiped out all of London. Hence the name ‘the great fire’.

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The rest of the tour walked us through the major highlights of The City. This part of town is known now for a few particular buildings: The Cheese Shredder, The Gherkin, The Walkie Talkie. We saw all of these, as well as a few other spots, learning some history & architecture along the way.

After the tour, we refueled with a little lunch, and then headed to the Millennium Bridge (built for the millennium), passing St. Paul’s Cathedral along the way. We only walked by it, but it is such a beautiful place. It’s on our list of ‘must sees’ when we come back.

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We walked along the south side of the river until we hit our next big stop; the Tower Bridge! Shane and I were particularly excited about this because 1) it’s iconic, and 2) you can walk the upper portion of the bridge where they’ve installed a glass floor.

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Naturally, we had to do it. Aunt Ann, being the smart lady that she is, sat this one out. Something about being 42m (138ft) above the Thames with only a piece of glass under her feet didn’t sit too well. And I won’t lie… it was reallllllllllly creepy. I literally tiptoed over the thing. Kids are out there dancing a jig and i’m over here holding the railing like it’s going to save me if the glass breaks. (Which apparently, it has before. Glad I saw this after). Eventually, we warmed up to it and took this fun shot!

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After the bridge, we hopped on a boat up for a short trip down (up?) the Thames to the London Eye! Shane wasn’t exactly thrilled for this one, but he didn’t have a choice. It was cool, nice views, I enjoyed it but it’s not something I need to do again.

London 101, Day 2: History Day

We woke up on day 2 with (not surprisingly) sore feet from the day before, but ready to go! If you noticed in the pictures, the weather at this point in the trip, and for the remainder of the trip, was absolutely PERFECT. It made up for the sore feet.

Anyway, first stop of the day, The Tower of London!

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As one might assume, the Tower Bridge leads to the Tower of London. The original castle, The White Tower, was built in 1078 and now it’s still the official palace and fortress of Queen Elizabeth II. The crown jewels are in the Tower of London, which we saw, and were quite impressive. Go figure, you’re not allowed to take pictures. Anyway, we continued our tour of the tower with this guy!

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Who is he you ask? A Yeomen Warder, aka: a Beefeater! And a quite hilarious one at that. These guys are the (now ceremonial) guards of the Tower of London. Back in the day they once watched over prisoners, and generally kept the place safe. Today they still keep the place safe, they actually live there, but with no prisoners. They also lead free tours, which we both highly recommend. We learned about the various murders and executions that once took place there, and saw the chapel (which you can’t do without the tour). It’s in the chapel where Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, was buried after her execution. After the tour, we did a little castle-wall-walking and then we were on to our next adventure!

Can you guess what this is? heh.

Next stop, Westminster Abbey!

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Again, no pictures were allowed inside, but Shane and I were both really excited about this place. Even though it’s just looking at stones and inscriptions, seeing the burial places of people like Charles Darwin, Issac Newton, Jane Austen, & Charles Dickens was a pretty neat experience. Not to mention, the Royal wedding was held here! The free audio guide gave a great highlight tour, but even without it you could stay there for hours just admiring the greatness of things. Well worth the visit.

We topped off the afternoon with a little stroll by the Parliament buildings and St. James’s Park, took a quick look at Buckingham Palace since that’s all you can really do, and then headed home for the day.

London 101, Day 3: Hampton Court Palace

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Saturday morning, our last full day, the four of us headed out of town to Hampton Court Palace. This has been home to a number of people, but most notably to us was Henry VIII and William of Orange (he’s Dutch!).

Most of the day was spent touring the palace (again, audio guides! Highly recommended). It was quite striking the difference between the part of the palace that was constructed during the Tudor times of Henry VIII vs when William of Orange lived there. By the time Willie moved in to the palace Henry VIII’s choice of decor was soooooo last century. He needed to keep up with those French Jones’ so he redid 3 sides of the palace. Unfortunately for the Dutchie, he didn’t have much money (he invested heavily in wars) so he could only afford to redo 3 sides, and had to opt out of the gold gilded ceilings.

We thought inside the palace was quite spectacular. Even more so, were the gardens. Not to mention it was the warmest day so far & perfectly sunny. We also saw the largest and oldest grape vine. Didn’t take a picture of it, but it was large. And a grape vine. I’m sure you can imagine it.

After spending most of the day in Hampton Court, we headed back into the city with a pit stop at Trafalgar Square before heading home.

We thought inside the palace was quite spectacular. Even more so, were the gardens. Not to mention it was the warmest day so far & perfectly sunny. We also saw the largest and oldest grape vine. Didn’t take a picture of it, but it was large. And a grape vine. I’m sure you can imagine it.

After spending most of the day in Hampton Court, we headed back into the city with a pit stop at Trafalgar Square before heading home.

So! A few take aways from London:

  • London is an awesome city. You should go there. We forgot how much we missed the hustle and bustle of a big city. And public transportation! I know that seems silly since it’s not like we drive anywhere, but I just really liked using the Tube. And yes, I minded the gap.
  • Cask Ale is Shane’s new favorite style of beer. I didn’t really talk about this, but of course we had a few pints. One place in particular was part of a ‘go back to real ale’ movement, which means un-carbonated beer. Sounds weird (to me at least), but it was good.
  • Walking tours are the way of the tourist world! I know we said this to you already, Aunt Ann, but you have made us a believer! We have the bad habit of wandering around and not knowing what we’re looking at. It makes the trip much more meaningful when you actually DO know what you’re looking at! Go figure.
  • Audio guides…Use them! Again, we usually avoided. Mostly to not be ‘those tourists’. But ya know what? YOLO, and get an audio guide because you’ll actually learn something. And who knows if you’ll ever go back to that place again.

So, we had a fantastic time in London with gracious hosts! And actually, we will get to return the favor and show them around our stomping grounds here in a few weeks! They will make the trip from London to Groningen. But, until then…

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 Tot ziens!

Whitney

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We are two Americans living in the Netherlands with our fat cat, Meatball. The Shwits is a diary of our time abroad!

8 thoughts on “London, England

  1. I’ve never been interested really in going to London, but you have me intrigued for sure! May have to attempt it one of these days!

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