Shannon's Visit: Nice and London

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February 11th 2010
Published: February 21st 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

I feel like weeks have past since Shannon has been here--we've been so busy!!!

I woke up super early on Sunday morning to go fetch Shannon from the airport. Her plane flew into Terminal 2, and she was supposed to head over to Terminal 1. By the time I got to the airport her plane had already landed--it got in early--so I sat down where I could see the shuttle drop-off and waited. Of course, I sit there debating the entire time whether or not I should head over to Terminal 2 to see if I can catch her, and I am worrying that she will get lost or confused or just sit there waiting for me to find her. Thirty minutes pass. Now I am really fretting, but I don't want to get on a shuttle to Terminal 2, because I know she'd just show up to Terminal 1 on the shuttle behind me and just get totally confused. So I wait. Finally, I see a tall, slightly disheveled blond hobble off the shuttle and look around like she has no clue what is going on. That's Shannon. So I run outside and yell her name and we proceed to hug and jump and down while lots of people just walk by and give us funny looks. Then, the first thing she says to me is, "You won't believe what happened to me on the plane". Of course I know what happened to her on the plane. Some crazy foreign man hit on her. She then proceeds to recount the story of the old Russian man, Alexander, who sat by her on the airplane. He bought her duty-free perfume while she was sleeping. I would try to recount the entire story here, but there is no way I could ever hope to capture the hilarity of Shannon's recounting of the incident in words. Needless to say, Alexander the 50 year old Russian man who lives in Monacco really wanted Shannon to come hang out with him.

So Shannon arrives in Nice. We hop on a bus and head back to Cimiez so she can throw all of her stuff down. Then, I took her to my favorite Crêperie in Vieux Nice for brunch. We both had the same thing I usually have--une galette complete and un crêpe nutella. Shannon got what could quite possibly be considered some of the best hot chocolate in the world--it was super thick and almost just like liquid chocolate. She died a metaphorical death after tasting the amazing crêpes and hot chocolate, and hasn't stopped talking about them since. My roommate and another friend met us at the Crêperie just as we were finishing up and the four of us wandered through Vieux Nice through Le Marche des Fleurs and down to Le Promenade des Anglais together. One of the guys that we had been hanging out with every now and then here--Rory--sent us a message and offered to show us around the yacht he works on. He was leaving Nice the next day, so it was his last full day in Nice and he was hanging around the boat packing up. So, we got a tour of an awesome yacht. He was the engineer on board so he even got to show us the engine room. You could tell he was pretty proud and really liked showing people where he worked. Needless to say, it was a pretty awesome boat. After hanging out on the yacht, I took Shannon up to the Parc de l'Ancien Chateau on the Prom over looking the beach. It's a gorgeous park with an amazing view of the Port, and the weather was absolutely wonderful. I had to take my sweater off and wear my cami under my jacket I was so hot (I know, be jealous because you guys at home have a ton of snow!) After the park, Shannon and I headed back through Vieux Nice to meet up with Kiran and Em for a bottle of wine at the Snug--an Irish pub in Vieux Nice. Definitely a wonderful first day.

The next day, Monday, Shannon and I were up bright and early to head to London. The flight to London was amazing. We flew over the Alps and I have never seen anything that gorgeous. We took pictures (refer to Picasa). We landed in Gatwick and took the overland train to Shepherd's Bush where our hostel was located. The train ride was absolutely wonderful. All of the tall, narrow houses stuck together side by side with mossy roofs. All painted white or cream or other light colors. It was just quaint. Exactly what I had expected and hoped for. The scenery was very moor-like--lots of greenery, lots of shrubs and just absolutely perfect. Admittedly, the scenery around train stations usually isn't the most picturesque, but even that I found to be absolutely quaint and idyllic. I don't think anything could have put a dent in the romantic notions I had of what England and London would be like, and I felt that way for the entire trip. We arrived at our hostel within the hour, checked in and freshened up before hitting the town.

First thing on the agenda was food. Obviously. I had done a little bit of research on the best Fish-n-Chips places in London, and we settled on going to the Rock and Soul Place in Covent Garden. Apparently, or so this website says, it is the oldest Fish-n-Chips restaurant in London. We had to ask for directions a couple of times, but we finally found it. Shannon and I were both a little bit surprised at first because the restaurant didn't look like anything more than a little hole in the wall. The floor that you walk in on was very small, with what looked like a deli-counter in front with the big menu behind it. A handful of tables and chairs sat on the other side. The walls were white tile and covered in posters of shows and things that were going on in London. Definitely very hole in the wall. Of course, after the initial "Oh, this is it," I got pretty excited. It's always places like that that have the best food. They did have the best food. The fish was fried just perfectly, the chips were aammmazing, and I actually loved the tarter sauce even though tarter sauce generally just freaks me out a little bit. We both died metaphorical deaths eating that meal. After eating we wandered around Covent Garden a little bit looking at all of the little shops. Covent Garden is quite possibly the most quaint area I have ever seen. So cute with all of the little shops and buildings, and then the large rather open-air building that houses the market and a ton of other little shops and boutiques and small restaurants. Absolutely adorable. Shannon and I started referring to Covent Garden as our little home because we never wanted to leave and went at least once a day. After wandering through Covent Garden we hopped on the Metro and headed up to King's Cross Station. We HAD to see Platform 9 and 3/4 😊. After the photo shoot that ensued, we hopped back on the Metro and went over to Picadilly Circus to look around for a while before heading back to the hostel.

Day two began a little earlier than expected since I didn't realize that England was an hour behind. Which means I accidentally woke Shannon up at 7 and not 8 am (we didn't even realize this until we got to Buckingham Palace later in the day). But our day started with a bang when we attempted to use Shannon's hair dryer (purchased in the states), with the adaptor that she was sure would work. Personally, I have never traveled out of the country with hair dryers or straighteners, because I was always told they would get fried no matter what. I think that advice holds. Upon turning the switch for the hair dryer we heard a loud pop followed by a small fireworks display and a puff of smoke. After a brief period of shock and then a moment of nervous laughter we just counted our blessings that I wasn't electrocuted and that we didn't burn the entire building down. Word of advice: just buy one when you get there. So once we had made it to Buckingham Palace, I thought that it was after noon and the changing of the guard had already occurred when there were tons of people all standing around obviously waiting for something to occur. That was when Shannon turned around and asked a police officer what time it was. Whoops. Sorry Shannon. Needless to say, we were just confused and never knew the actual time. Anyway, we got up and grabbed breakfast at a little bakery near the hostel and then headed into town. This was our big sight-seeing day. We started the day by going to Big Ben and Westminster. Then we walked down the street to Buckingham Palace and saw the changing of the guard. Shannon got attacked by two Chinese tourists who wanted to take approximately 500 pictures with her--peace signs and all. She tried to speak to them in English and they had no idea what was going on, but they were stoked about taking pictures with an extremely tall blonde. After the changing of the guard we walked through St. James' Park with the gorgeous lake and swans. Then we headed over towards Tower Bridge (think Sherlock Holmes). After Tower Bridge we wandered over to see the Globe Theater which does not exist except for a few signs indicating a few areas and a few rocks which may have been where the Globe Theater was located. However, during our search for the Globe Theater we wandered through a market. Unfortunately, most of the stalls were closed, but there were a couple left open. In the middle of the market was a huge stall with what could only be described as a makeshift kitchen and 3 or 4 huge woks with different curries for sale. The curry looked absolutely disgusting, so, when I saw it, I of course knew it had to be absolutely delicious. So of course I bought some, and it was the best curry I have ever tasted. Absolutely made up for the pointless journey to see the Globe Theater. But, needless to say, we were absolutely famished after the cross town journey to see the Globe, and by famish I mean it was time for a drink. So back to Covent Garden to grab a beer. Afterwards we went back to the hostel to get ready for the evening. We went next door to a bar to have a drink before going out, but the bar seemed more or less like an English version of Fridays or Applebees, so we went back to the hostel to drink for cheap. This is where I had my first taste of the infamous Bundy Rum--it's Austrailian and I am very sad to say not that great.

That night we took the overland train and met Rory and some of his friends at Chapham Junction. It was definitely great having someone to take us out on the town and show us around since we really and truly had no idea what we were doing. We went to quite a few places and had a wonderful time and then ended up house jumping to a few of his friends' flats in London. The first apartment that we went to had one of the best views in all of London--I am seriously not kidding. It was absolutely incredible. We ended up staying at one of the guys' houses since the trains stop rather early, but no worries because they fed us tea, and what Rory (and now Shannon and I) loved to call digestives which were actually cookies with chocolate more commonly known as biscuits to the English, and we had our own bed.

The next morning we were moving a little slowly, due to the previous night's adventures. We ended up grabbing a bit at a Panini place across the street and then spent the rest of the day wandering Covent Garden. We went up to Regent and Oxford Street where all of the good shopping was said to be located--we weren't that impressed since it was mainly stores that we have everywhere else. Then we wandered over through China Town--think hundreds of brightly colored paper lanterns hanging between buildings, tons of Chinese restaurants, and those restaurants where they have the meat just hanging in the window--cute except for that last mentioned little bit. Eventually, we headed back to the Covent Garden area and found a restaurant near the theater district where we gorged ourselves on fish and chips and cider for our last evening hoorah. What a way to end a wonderful trip.

Our plane flew out of London the next morning around 7:30, so we were up quite early. Of course the flight was absolutely breathtaking, and it was definitely hard to say goodbye to the gorgeous patchwork landscape.

The return to Nice wasn't quite as wonderful. I had filled Shannon's head with images of a lovely tropical paradise, and during our few days in London I kept telling her how much more she'd love the weather when we got home. Unfortunately, we came home to a rainy, dreary day, that turned into the closest thing to a blizzard one can experience in Nice. On our way home it started snowing, and, by the time we reached Cimiez, we had a good couple of inches of snow. Of course I had no food at home since I knew we would be traveling, so Shannon and I threw our bags down and ran to the store to stock up. It was seriously near pandemonium at this point. The buses had stopped running (even when we got off the bus driver was saying he couldn't drive up the hill). People were panicking in the grocery store like it was Snowmageddon. We grabbed all of the necessities--this included lots of cheese, and I forced Shannon to pick a bottle of wine after choosing a couple that I knew were safe choices. In the check out line you could see people frantically grabbing groceries and hear people yelling, "Toutes les routes sont fermées!" (translation: All the roads are closed!). Shannon of course got a huge kick out of this being from Minnesota. I, on the other hand, having also become slightly anesthesized by the normally wonderful weather of Nice, felt more akin to the panicking crowd. Finally, having stocked up on groceries, Shannon and I made the 2-3 block treck home in 2-3 inches of snow and proceeded to sit in the living room with my roommate and devour an entirely unnecessary and disgusting amount of cheese and wine.

By the next afternoon the snow had cleared. With Snowmageddon no longer upon us Shannon and I ventured into town. Shannon had not stopped talking about the crêpes since her first day here, so it was back to the Crêperie for brunch. Shannon had the same thing she had the first day, but I wasn't quite as hungry so I just had a desert crêpe and some cider. Afterwards, we walked down to the beach and spent some time taking pictures and just marvelling at how beautiful the ocean is--really I never tire of it.

On Shannon's last day my roommate came out with us. We wandered through Vieux Nice for a quite a while, went through Place Garibaldi so Shannon could get some gelatto (despite the fact that it was rather cold), and then my roommate and I decided we were hungry for lunch. We stopped at a restaurant we had heard some good things about, although it ended up being a better place for a quick snack than a meal. We all had tartines--basically an open-face sandwich with some sort of a spread on top. Shannon and I had a tartine with cheese spread with olive paste and sun-dried tomatoes, and my roommate had a tartine with brie cheese drizzled in honey and walnuts. Both were absolutely to die for. Unfortunately, we were still hungry after our snack, so it was off to the Snug for a real meal. That evening, Shannon and I got ready and went into town to see the evening parade for Carnaval. Unfortunately, I was told that if you wore a mask you could get in for free (i.e. the slew of silly pictures of us in my apartment wearing masks), which apparently is not true--you have to be entirely disguised. Whatever. We saw some of the parade, which to be quite honest was a little odd and maybe frightening, and then we both had to use the bathroom really badly, so we went to Ma Nolan's for some drinks and fun. All in all, I'd say quite a success.

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