Day 2 (I can't believe 1 day is already gone)
I am excited! Heath has generously woken up early on his day off to treat me to a jogging tour of the Royal Parks! What is also amazing is the weather- I have never been in London when I haven't been freezing cold in spite of my sweater, jacket, coat, scarf, hat....this is a London I don't know- short sleeves, and cropped pants and I am perfectly comfortable- incredible!
Now I better do a little stretching- don't want to cramp up in front of the Queen!
The first park is Kennington Park- just down the road from Heath's flat- not a Royal Park but still part of the tour. For the record, despite how it looks, I am not speed walking. I am 'jogging' (at least that's what I think I'm doing!)
Next we stop by Vauxhall City farm on the way downtown. Apparently the city started this little "farm" so city kids could be exposed to farming and have the opportunity to have a little garden. (Sounds like they may have picked up a little something up from President Kimball.)
Seriously, this is my running view- unreal! I am still not used to the fact that I am here in London!
Hey- she actually has a helmet on- that's a first!
The flowers at St. James's Park are amazing! Springtime is beautiful here!
The grounds at Buckingham Palace are also magnificent though many areas are blocked off- guess they don't want those pesky tourists to mess everything up before the Royal Wedding (can't say that I blame them!)
Hyde Park- little pause to admire the sculpture.....(and, yes, I am fully aware that I look ridiculous as my sunglasses aren't exactly 'running' glasses- but I have sensitive eyes.... I'll admit it- I'm addicted to sunglasses!)
Now through Wellington's Arch- I wonder how it will compare to the Arc d' Triomphe?
My choice of running gear pretty much screams "American Tourist"....oh, well, guess it's a good thing I'm not ashamed of my country!
Enormous Union Jack's lining the Mall- kind of makes you want to start singing "God Save the Queen!"
Drill practice in preparation for the Wedding.
Don't make him laugh....after all his years of training it would be tragic if he lost his job right before the National Celebration!
And now its back past Westminster, the London Eye, and across the Themes and that concludes the 7.5mile tour of the Royal Parks. What a glorious start to the day!
And the day is still young. Now it's off to the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew (or simply Kew Gardens) with Heath and George. Due to a serendipitous distraction, we miss our tube stop and get to take a quick trip on the famous Double-Decker bus. Got to admit it is kind of fun.
The Greenhouses are massive- and beautiful!
Heath gives us a tutorial
Kind of looks like of like a giant sword fern......turns out that's because it's a tree fern. I am brilliant!
Beautiful- my little Cannon doesn't do too bad with flowers. (Don't worry- I won't post every flower pic.)
Ugly fish- looks prehistoric.
Looks like a Rhododendron....cause it is a Rhododendron. Am I sensing a pattern here?
Random Churchill display- but really, can we ever say enough?
Creepy little worms in the aquarium.... Heath and I are actually pretty grossed out as they stare at us with their beady little eyes...I think they would eat us if they could.
And the grounds are absolutely breath-taking!
Impressively large tree....dwarfs Heath and George.
Carnivorous flower- looks so innocent!
The treetop walkway...doesn't look too high....
Ok- maybe it is a little high! Don't look down.....
Don't I look composed posing for a pic as I feel the walkway sway with the wind and creek with every step....I am calm, I am calm.....
The bluebells are in bloom- perfect place for a little rest!
I feel the urge to lay down right in the middle of the blooms and take a nap...will I ever wake up?
Queen Charlotte's summer 'cottage'. It is exponentially bigger than my apartment...though honestly it looks a bit drafty and old....I think I'm okay where I am.
Cool looking Japanese structure.
And with that we are done with Kew- A truly beautiful experience!
Now I just have to wonder....what can beat today?
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
The Old World.....this all began about 6 weeks ago when I was looking at my work schedule and I had an epiphany of sorts. I noticed that I had 7 days off in a row and with a little manipulation I could stretch that week into 10 days. My initial thought was, "I wonder how much overtime I could work in that time?" Upon further reflection, however, my thoughts began to drift. I am fortunate to be at a very flexible point in life; My full-time job provides a random yet pliable work schedule. My church obligations, while occasionally time-consuming, are not usually rigidly scheduled. I have relatively few home responsibilities. And I have happily emerged from my starving student days with the resources to enjoy a little financial freedom (ok- I'm not exactly rolling in it but gone are the days of living on ramen noodles and scrounging for laundry quarters). Add to this the fact that I just happen to have a brother who lives in London with an available couch to sleep on.......These thoughts brought me to the realization that it was my duty to take advantage of my lucky circumstances and do something with my time off. One email to Heath and a quick virtual visit to British Airways and my trip was booked! Ahh....just the sound of the word 'London' is enough to send me spiraling into my romanticized fantasies of the Old World!
The following is an attempt to document the experience....
Prep Day- April 14, 2011
Ok, Prep day is also departure day but in true Jaime style (thank goodness I opted out of the morning flight in favor of an evening flight) the morning is spent rushing around doing all my last minute errands.....replace my broken camera, buy American candy for Heath, purchase a travel bag, and (most important) the essential pre-trip mani-pedi. I go with a shade called "You Don't Know Jacques"....appropriate, I think, since I have now added 2 days in Paris to the itinerary.
All that done and I'm off to the airport (almost on schedule even).
Debit/Credit card- check!
Itineraries printed out- check!
Boarding Pass- check!
Anything else can be purchased or done without. The next 8 hours and 20min will be spent in my nice little window seat- fortunately, no one comes to sit in the center seat between me and the next passenger- perfect, I get to stretch my legs and sleep.....next stop: London!
Day 1- April 15, 2011
I arrive surprising well rested around 12pm. Good news: I receive a text from Heath telling me that he got the afternoon off and he's meeting me at the airport- Yay! He is awesome as he drags my suitcase all through the underground, on and off the trains for me- He really is the best!
First stop- Heath's flat. It is very fun to see where he lives and catch up with his roommate George.
No, Heath is not a missionary- he just got off work and that's my suitcase he's lugging.
OK- now that I'm free of my luggage it's time to hit the town- no time to waste!
I pass by this restaurant and take it as a good sign :)
First up, Boris bikes! Apparently, bikes for rent are a little project of the current Mayor. Technically, they are sponsored by Barclays and are therefore Barclays bikes but everyone here refers to them as Boris' Bikes. I like the sound of Boris' Bikes better anyway!
Yes, I actually ride the bike (it is too hard to capture a pic whilst riding). It is exhilarating! I can't remember enjoying riding a bike this much since I was a kid: the speed, the cool air blowing through my hair.....wait...wind in my hair? That's what's different this time- NO HELMET! And it feels amazing!! How I yearn for the old days!
*disclaimer: as a nurse I must emphatically discourage this practice- I cannot even begin to list the risks- how easily a little bump in the road can be life changing- brain injury, paralysis, DEATH! That being said, I am not a nurse this week so.....
Off we go to St. Paul's Cathedral (though I would be lying if I said that the Double-Decker buses whizzing by just inches from my helmetless head don't make me nervous).
I love St. Paul's in the evening: such an imposing and intricate structure!
The tulips are all in bloom too, stunning even in the dark (not sure why but I'm really into flowers this trip...maybe because it's spring and there are flowers to see?)
Time to move on....Shakespeare's Globe theatre....I would love to go to a show but I'm pretty sure I've already seen this one (though it does seem appropriate for the week before Easter).
Love the Union Jack- Reminds me that I am, in fact, in London!
And now a little trip by City Hall (Heath's workplace) before the night ends.
I'm sure we are the only tourists to try to keep this sculpture upright!
And finally, the amazing view of Tower Bridge just steps from Heath's work- I am jealous!
And with that day 1 is over....I love London!