London: drool-worthy

On our fifth and final full day in London, Pieter and I decided to mix things up a little and combine the touristy with the ‘local’. (Or so I like to think.)

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We spent the morning at the Natural History Museum, which was so unbelievably busy that we were unfortunately unable to see what we had come for: the dinosaurs! I’d like to think this was a blessing in disguise: if we’d waited in line for the dinosaurs, we may never have stumbled upon ‘the Vault’, a tiny little exhibition room hidden at the end of a very, very long hall dedicated to minerals. What the Vault lacks in size, it more than makes up for in terms of wow-factor. Rocks from Mars, glowing diamonds, and a teeny vial with what a little sign called ‘the oldest thing you will ever see’ … stardust dating roughly from the Big Bang.

Needless to say we were suitably impressed.
Not to mention the building itself, which is just gorgeous.

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We tried to do the whole round of the museum, but it would have taken days!
So after a little bit of silliness, we were on our way.

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I was desperate to see some of the more residential (read: famous) areas of London before we left, so we headed to Notting Hill for some lunch and beautiful views.

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I’d read raving reviews about Taqueria on Westbourne Grove, and we were not disappointed. The food was so good that both Pieter and I fell into a delighted silence, broken only by groans about how delicious everything was. It was so good that I didn’t even take pictures – seriously, it was practically a spiritual experience.
You get the point.
YUM.

Anyway … On our little stroll, I happened upon a funny little store that I couldn’t help but photograph.

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Next it was off to Oxford Circus to brave the crowds and do some shopping. Luckily, we were both well rewarded for the effort!

There was some semi-serious talk of returning to Taqueria for dinner, but we were also craving bar food, so we gave GBK a try. This time, I was ready to capture any deliciousness that might come my way.
Which was fortunate, because it was another oh-my-goodness-this-food-is-so-good-I-can’t-think event.

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What you see here is the ‘jolly cow’ (portobello mushroom sandwiched between melted blue cheese, topped with lettuce, garlic mayo and a home-made onion ring), the ‘sliders’ (three mini burgers for optimal tasting), and a side of onion rings. What you don’t see is our other side – chunky fries – and our blue cheese dipping sauce. It was that kind of evening!

We were much better behaved the next morning, and decided to better explore the area where we’d been staying.

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Beautiful and drool-inducing!
It was the perfect trip – I’m already missing it! On the bright side, they’re predicting 20 degrees here in the Netherlands on Sunday. Extra motivation to get my work done before then?

London: metro zone 2

I’ve learned something very interesting today: while it takes me an hour to write up 500 words on this blog, it takes me an entire DAY to write the same amount for an essay. Totally inexplicable.

All I can think about is wonderful London, so I’m back already for part two of my trip!

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On day 3, we made full use of our Oyster cards and ventured beyond zone 1, the centre of London, and out to Wimbledon. The sun was finally shining after two days of miserable weather, and so we unintentionally got off a stop early to walk through Wimbledon park. Birds were chirping, huge amount of people were out jogging, and we even got the chance to wear our sunglasses – it was a great start to the day!

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After enjoying the museum, we got to experience Centre Court. I’m not much of a sports person, but this felt like a special experience all the same I have to say. I may even have resolved to learn to play tennis … must have been the sun.

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In the afternoon we met an old friend of Pieter’s for a drink at Covent Gardens. Being the tourists we were, we actually had no idea that Covent Gardens were not in fact gardens and had expected there to be just one ‘micro brewery’ in sight … A misunderstanding that resulted in our wandering helplessly around the market until our friend could find us!

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The rest of the afternoon was spent with a gorgeous, sunny walk through Hyde Park and a gawk at Buckingham Palace (how could I resist?), before we said our goodbyes – but not before we got ourselves invited for a Sunday roast! We spent a lovely hour at a charity bake sale hosted by the Londoner (a great source of food inspiration throughout the trip!) before exploring the Kensington gardens and playing a very competitive bowling match at Queen’s Ice & Bowl.
(I had my camera on a weird setting for most of the afternoon, so alas I have no pictures!)

Also, Pieter found haggis chips.

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We woke up extra early the next morning as we were going to … the zoo!

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The sun was out again and everyone was getting in on the action.

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We got to play with some very friendly monkeys …

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One of us may or may not have overstepped his boundaries and got bitten …

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We re-fuelled ourselves with an ‘animal shake’, which turned out to be one of the best decisions we made that day: Maltesers, Crunchie bar and vanilla ice cream with a mountain of whipped cream and caramel sauce.

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Apart from all of the animals, I loved the fact that the London zoo is very active in environmental conservation efforts. It’s nice to know that my squealing over how cute everything was actually went towards a good cause.

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We ended up spending over six hours here, and had to rush to make it to dinner. Our friend had gone all out and made a full Sunday roast, complete with imitation chicken for me – it was so kind of him! We all left the table groaning, having stuffed ourselves with roast potatoes, carrots, peas, and my first-ever Yorkshire pudding. Who knew that wasn’t a sweet thing? To polish everything off, it was fruit cake and jam. We were truly spoiled.

I know I’m just repeating myself, but what a fantastic trip. I’ll be back for instalment three as soon as I can!

Lovely lovely London

My apologies for neglecting my little blog this past week – if you didn’t already know, Pieter and I got the incredible chance to spend 6 days in London! It was my first time in England and I fell head over heels in love with it. How could you not? Now I’ve got some pressing assignments to get to, but I can’t help but relive some of the trip.

We were truly magnificent tourists: on day one, we equipped ourselves with 7-day Oyster (transit) cards, London passes, and a heaping pile of maps and tourism brochures. Then we went out to see the world. Within three minutes of ‘alighting’ at Westminster station, we came across our first photo op.

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For all the hype surrounding these, no one ever tells you how bad they smell!
Unfortunately, that face is candid.
Also, yes. It was snowing.

But we made the best of it! The afternoon went by in an excited frenzy: Big Ben, the parliament buildings, the Supreme Court, Trafalgar square, the National Gallery, our first of many trips to Prêt-à-Manger (now lovingly referred to as Pret, like the Brits!), and a mind-blowing stroll through Harrods, before sitting down to big plates of fish & chips. What a perfect way to start a fantastic trip.

The Supreme Court - court 3

The Supreme Court – court 3

Gorgeous sights on the way to the square.

Gorgeous sights on the way to the square.

Canada House!  Right on Trafalgar Square.

Canada House! Right on Trafalgar Square.

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The next morning, after an absolutely huge English breakfast (complete with vegetarian sausage for me), we headed back out into the city. Westminster Abbey was our first priority. We weren’t disappointed! Much like Harrods, it was like walking through a whole other world.
We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but the cloisters were just as beautiful so we seized the opportunity.

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Keeping with the ‘extremely old and historic’ theme we had going on, we next headed for the Tower of London. It was PACKED with like-minded tourists, but that didn’t stop us from having a grand time!

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Maybe too grand a time …

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Next it was Tower Bridge, which offered beautiful views of the city, and then a meander through Borough Market before heading off to China Town for dinner and – of course – a show!

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All of this in vicious winds, I might add!

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Fortunately, mulled cider was in the cards.

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We ended up enjoying ourselves a bit too much at the market, and had to rush through our China Town dinner to make it in time for … Jersey Boys! The show was really fantastic – I’ve never heard a man sing like that (live) before. Unbelievable! Plus, it was funny, gripping, and packed with great music.
Back at the hotel, we actually found out that the role of Frankie Valli was played by former member of S Club 7, Jon Lee. Pretty much a dream come true for my thirteen-year-old (and present) self.

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I’ve been uploading pictures like a fiend and I’ve only reached the end of our second day, so I think it’s time to pause. It’ll be round two in a day or so!