Minding the gap in LONDON

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January 27th 2010
Published: February 16th 2010
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This is a little late and I do apologize. Just not looking forward to the time it will take to upload all the pictures we took.

Well, this was our first official getaway weeekend. Thanks to Germanwings (www.germanwings.com) and their blind bookings. We got an amazing deal to fly to London. Only 30 Euro roundtrip for each of us. NOT TOO BAD. On the downside we flew into Stanstead Airport which then mean we had to get tickets to take the train from Stansted to get into downtown London where most of the main action is. We stayed at The Holiday Inn in North Greenwich. Located right near the O2-in Southeast London. We got a good deal with that at about 65$ US dollars a night..Cheapest we could find in the city. I really wanted to find an old eclectic Hostel but they were just if not more expensive then The Holiday Inn.

Our trip began Friday evening. With blind bookings you cannot choose your flight time otherwise we would have left much earlier friday and later on Monday. We had our hotel staff drive us to the S-Bahn at Universatit stop so we could catch the Bahn and
big ben big ben big ben

big ben in the background
take directly to the airport. Its very convenient. A funny story on our short 10 min ride. Our hotel also has a restaurant and does catering. So they drove us in their little catering van which is kind of small and reminds me of a VW van. I opened the back sliding door to get in but as we opened it we saw it was full of catering dishes and supplies, pots and pans. So we quickly shut the door. The driver loaded our 2 small bags in the back and Nick and I crammed into the front. Luckily they had a bench seat so we fit somewhat comfortably. As we pulled out of our driveway I heard a rattle. Then I began to wonder if we had actually shut the side door?????? As he pulled to the curb at our stop Nick and I got our and to our suprise...the side door was completely open. UH OH!! We thought. Had any of their stuff flown out as we made our journey there? We attempted to tell our driver, who only speaks German, that the door was open and he may have lost some stuff but he motioned us on. So we continued on our journey.We made our way to Stuttgart Airport a little early and ate at the Red Baron restaurant. Goulash and beer makes for a tasty meal. Once aboard the plane, which wasnt quite full, we were there in about an hour. Then the rush was on to figure out our tickets for our way to London. Once we purchased those for 28.70 pounds each(we decided to get roundtrip tickets so we wouldnt have to buy them again on Monday when we were heading back...saves time) We hopped on the train and napped on our 45min journey to London.

Once in London we got the 3 day Oyster pass which gave us unlimited ride within the 2 zones which is all we needed. I would recommend this to anyone who is staying for a short time. It saves you money and is so much more convenient to just go instead of waiting in line to buy tickets everytime you go somewhere. The other cool thing is they came in a nifty little Ikea holder. Hooray for IKEA. You can even buy other fancier holders in shops. Maybe if I lived in London I would consider that.

Now our first stop on the tube was the one right by Big Ben and the Parliament. I dont have the train map to give the exact stop names. We stopped here so I could get my first street view of London. It was a little chilly but still an amazing sight. To see something that you have only seen in books and pictures. By this time it was after 8pm and we were starving so we headed back to the train to get to our hotel. Once we were there and checked in we got directions for nearby restaurants near the O2. Our room was quaint. Somewhat modern with an average bed, small tv, and standup shower with an all you can think of use for liquid soap. At least it had a nice aroma of coconuts😊

Now, we made the 10 Min walk to the restaurants. We found a fabulous place to eat at called Nandos. Nando's speciality is succulent, Portuguese, flame-grilled PERi-PERi chicken served in a fun, relaxed atmosphere.Check it out: www.nandos.co.uk. It is really phenominal!!!!!!

After that we headed back to the hotel to sleep. Saturday was going to be an early morning!

actually enjoying his starbucks

We awoke before 7am London time(which is an hour behind Germany and ahead 5hrs for you Americans) We headed downstairs for our complimentary breakfast. Lots of good toasts and muffins and latte's. We caught up on World CNN news and planned our day. After breakfast and packing our bag for the day we headed back to the O2..Weather forecast for today: Heavy Rain..So we brought 2 umbrellas. We took the tube back to the city center. We did a lot of walking and found a Starbucks to get some much needed strong latte's. We pretty much walked all over town and ended up at Trafalgar Square and then we toured the National Gallery. No photos allowed inside unfortunately but we saw some amazing art. Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Monet, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michealangelo. One thing we didnt do here were the audio tours. I would recommend this to everyone because it adds more to your tour and overall excperience. Next time I go here I will definitely partake. The current exhibition there, ‘The Hoerengracht’ (1983-8), by American artists Ed and Nancy Kienholz, is a walk-through evocation of Amsterdam’s Red Light District(www.nationalgallery.co.uk) Very interesting and very life like (except forthe boxes/frames on their heads.) We spent several hours in here where we stayed dry and warm but hello?! We were in LONDON and soooo much more to see!

After the gallery we made our way over to St. Pauls Cathedral.St Paul's was used for the marriage of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer (www.stpauls.co.uk) Here we definitely did the audio tour. There is an admission fee if you are touring. Cost us a total of 25 pounds for entrance and an additional 4 pounds each for the audio. Well worth it though!!! The audio tour provides you with a key to the Cathedral Floor. It directs you to certain places throughout the Cathedral where it tells you the history about that spot and throughout you hear a choir singing. A very touching spot in the cathedral,The Apse, at the east end of the Cathedral, behind the High Altar, is the American Memorial Chapel. It honours American servicemen and women who died in World War II, and was dedicated in 1958. There is a large book inside a protective case called the roll of honour that contains the names of more than 28,000 Americans who gave their lives

Our 1st morning in London
while on their way to, or stationed in, the United Kingdom during World War II. It is kept in front of the chapel's altar. The three chapel windows date from 1960. They feature themes of service and sacrifice, while the insignia around the edges represent the American states and the US armed forces. The limewood panelling incorporates a rocket - a tribute to America's achievements in space.
Our favorite part of this trip was the journey up the dome. 257 steps above the Cathedral flooris the whispering gallery. They say a whisper spoken against one wall of the gallery can be heard 32 meters away on the other side. We continued up and out. Another 119 steps up andyou can walk out at the Stone Gallery and then an additional 152 steps puts you almost to the very top with amazing panaoramic views of London. The audio tour also includes a tour through The Crypt, which is the Cathedral's burial chamber. We spent a little bit of time wandering down there but cut it short to continue our journey back outside.

Sunday January 17, 2010

Another early day required to see all the rest of London. Buckingham

wow..quite extensive
Palace was first on the list as we walked thr gounds and took pictures. Unfortunately we missed the changing of the guards ceremony. After this we hopped onto the tube to head to ny favorite spot in London. Notting Hill. At first we werent impressed until we found Portabello Rd. Then I was happy! There were so many shops, antique stores, cafes, and restaurants. We found some good souvenirs then stopped into a store were all familiar with. LUSH. Its based out of the UK and prices are slightly cheaper because of this Im assuming. We bought shampoo and 2 soap bars. And since we were spending 20 pounds we got 20 pounds worth of product for free. So, we ended up with about 5 bath balls and 2 bath bars for free! --side note-- We had to throw away the shampoo at the airport because it was more then 100 ml. UUUGGGHHHH!!! I was so mad!.

After Notting Hill we headed back to the city center and decided to do The Original bus tour. Ive never been on a double decker bus tour so we went for it. (www.theoriginaltour.com) I believe tickets were 25 pounds each. And also included The River Cruise. The bus tour was definitely worth it. They allow you to get on and off so I recommend to anyone to use that to get to and from most of your destinations. We saw a lot of the same places we stopped at earlier by foot but we saw more in a shorter period of time and many great views and photo opportunities!

We ended our night at Spice Bazaar: Indian Cuisine. Rupert Street, Picadilly Circus. It was phenominal food! The best food we had there-yes beating the fish and chips and mashed peas we had the day before.

I know Im leaving out a lot. I will fill in more later. I have to work on loading pics!

Additional photos below
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London EyeLondon Eye
London Eye

view as we cross the bridge
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London Eye

From opposite side

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