22.07.2013 - 22.07.2013
London, England. What a city!
We flew over from Holland on a Ryanair flight (cheap but you get what you pay for) and landed around 9:30am on Thursday ready to check out this new city! We had to get a bus into London because Ryanair flies into random areas which are usually quite far from the city you are going to visit - makes you wonder if it's really worth the discounted fees once you factor in checked bags, transport into the city, etc. Anyway, it took about 3 hours total to get from the airport to our friends' apartment in East Finchley (30-40 north of the main city by tube) so needless to say we were exhausted. We took a bus from the airport, bus to another stop and walked about 15 minutes but thankfully did not have any checked bags (at least one thing we have learned traveling is how to pack lightly!).
We arrived at the apartment after getting a few groceries along the way and met a friend of Mike's who was crashing on their couch waiting to sign with a European soccer (football) team and such a nice guy! Grew up on PEI as well! After getting settled and had lunch, we went to a local cafe for a cold smoothie and some shade. The entire time in London was HOT. Like sweating everywhere kind of hot. Gross. But at least it was sunny! Right??
Nicole arrived home from work (she's a teacher) and happily took us into the city for dinner. Our first time on 'the tube' but no different from any other metro except it is much more expensive! We bought an 'oyster' card which you load with money and scan it when you use the metro - saves time and it's also cheaper than buying tickets each time. Convenient and cheap - thank you oyster. We got off at Embankment stop and walked across the river via an amazing pedestrian bridge. This city is alive. More than any other I've seen. There are people everywhere just enjoying themselves! Bars, restaurants and cafes line the river and I swear there were several hundred people at one bar lounging outside with their friends after work. Then the architecture - so cool and creative. Plus you keep walking and there's a skate park underneath a restaurant, The National Film Council and a restaurant built from shipping containers. It is a very unique place. We went to restaurant in the 'Young Vic' area and had a great time catching up. Then it was back to East Finchley and our weary bodies/minds couldn't be more ready for bed.
The next day Derek and I headed out to check out a few tourist sights like Canada House, some big and old churches (unsure of the names hah), war memorials, more churches, hung out in a park beside the Thames River, walked along the river and found the Royal Justice Courts. This was so cool because we got to sit in on an actual hearing. The lawyers and judge wore this white curly wigs and long robes! It was a defamation case involving someone named Carruthers and The Sun Times. Really interesting! From there we walked by the Covent Garden Market and met up with our friend Rosie who took us to Green Park and brought an entire picnic for our dinner. We sat under a tree for a couple hours then went to Bucky Palace (as they call it) to see where the Queen resides. I mean... If I had called ahead I'm sure we would've had tea together. It just wasn't enough notice. Obviously. From there we headed back to the metro where Rosie left for the night and Derek and I waited to meet up with our friends, Al and Mozzi. While we were waiting we had a solid celebrity sighting! Although not super exciting, still was cool. We saw Bill Nighy (was in Love Actually and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). Not like we talked to him or anything... That would be awkward.
The four of us met up and ventured to an Italian cafe (Al knows the owner) where we had a few drinks before heading back to East Finchley to a 'dive' bar/pub and Nicole met up with us there. We had so much fun! Then we stumbled home and crashed around 3:30am. The next morning was a wake up call that our bodies are aging and hate us. No more drinks this weekend!
Saturday was very hot out so we hopped on a bus to Hampstead Heath which is a huge park on the northern edge of the city. It's beautiful! They have a women only, men only and coed lake for swimming. I didn't swim but went with Nicole to the women's only lake to check it out. It was a little strange to me. Back from the lake was this tree/tall grass enclosed piece of land (looked like someone's lawn) where there were tons of topless women but made it very awkward if you weren't swimming and had to stand on a tiny stretch of grass looking at a tree so you didn't make eye contact. In this case, I'll take my rural towns with wide open beaches any day. But otherwise once we walked into the park, you felt like nothing was around you except open space, trees and fields. We took shelter under a huge tree for the next few hours before heading back to the apartment. Nicole's friend came over and Derek and I made our 'super salads' for dinner for everyone and played games and talked the rest if the evening. It was really nice just to stay in and relax. The next day Al, Nicole, Derek and I went to Camden to meet up with Rosie and eat lunch at this huge outdoor/indoor market. It is one of, if not the best food stall market I've ever been to. Huge areas of hot cooked food ranging from Indian, Japanese to Polish, Jamaican, German - basically anything you can think of! Derek and I got the Jamaican jerk chicken wrap and a beef/bean burrito. Oh dear lord. SO delicious! We all sat by the canal watching the people in boats and at restaurants and then wandered some more through the shops and antique stores. There was a section of the market that used to be an old horse stable and converted into more space for shops. It's conveniently called 'The Stables'. We finally had to say our goodbyes to Rosie and headed back where Mozzi made us a feast of homemade Hungarian goulash stew complete with dumplings and sauerkraut. Such a good dinner! Then we went to the Phoenix cinema down the street (has a restaurant/cafe/bar attached - genius!) and saw the Wikileaks documentary. Monday was our last day in London so we said bye the night before to our friends as they had to work early Monday and were gone before we were up. We had such a great time with them in London! Very happy we had the chance to go! Derek and I booked a hotel for Monday night close to the airport as we left at 6:30am the next day so made the long trek by bus out to Stansted airport and had curry/rice and fish/chips for dinner to round off our English experience!
The next morning it was back to Holland. We were so happy to be able to spend the next 5 days at Derek's aunt's house. My finger is so tired from typing (notice I said finger because I'm literally typing this with my pointer finger on an iPod). Ugh. Only a couple more entries to go before this journey is a wrap!