Travel

London Day 3

July 30, 2016

Our third and final full day in London was more successful (and dry) than the previous day. It was our day to take it at whatever pace we wanted and cross off any remaining things we wanted to see or do. We started off with a quick croissant + coffee breakfast from Caffe Forum right by our AirBnB. Pretty standard offerings, though they hadn’t had their truck delivery that day so they weren’t offering a lot of their normal foods. After breakfast, we headed to the one place Tim had at the top of his list for London – Abbey Road.

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We got there mid-morning and while there was definitely people there, it wasn’t overly crowded. You could almost tell when the tube stopped because people would either be heading out or arriving. Since we didn’t have a set schedule for the day, we waited around a little bit for Tim to get “the shot.” #fanboy It was actually pretty hilarious to sit and people watch. People would just walk right out in front of cars (FYI: it’s a busy intersection with no stop sign). We checked out the souvenir shop (didn’t buy anything) and then headed back to the tube and went to Trafalgar Square.

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The pigeons are mostly gone from the Square, as feeding them is no longer allowed. My mom has pictures from a visit there in the early 90’s with pigeons everywhere. I get why the city would want the pigeons gone, but the Square is just kind of boring otherwise. From there we walked down “The Mall” towards Buckingham Palace. We actually caught part of the Changing of the Guards ceremony by complete chance. We had no idea what time it took place. (11:30AM, btw) We found a pretty good spot on Constitution Hill road near the Canada Gate and was able to watch the band march by. So that was a really neat thing to stumble upon because I didn’t get to see the event last time in town.

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From there we walked down Birdcage Walk road to see Westminster Abbey. I felt the need to channel my inner Kate Middleton for a moment. We didn’t go in, but the outside of the Abbey is beautiful. We grabbed lunch from a place called EAT (a quick-service chain, but got great reviews) before heading to the National History Museum. Free museum with real dinosaur bones? Yes! Holy smokes, there was a ton of people. Free museum + dino bones + dreary weather = busy. It didn’t stop us from seeing the dino bones and the life-size model of a blue whale. HUGE!

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There was one last thing on my London to-do list that I had to make sure we did before leaving – get tea! Well, buy some to take home anyway. I don’t think I would have been able to convince Tim to go get afternoon tea with me, so instead we headed to Fortnum & Mason so I could pick some up. I purchased some loose tea in a lemon flavor and then bags of a berry tea. I’m happy to report that both are delicious. And because there was the tiniest Laduree store a couple blocks away, we picked up some macarons.  I can understand why the store has a lot of hype around it, however some of the flavors were complete duds (pistachio, vanilla). The chocolate macaron was my favorite.

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At that point in the day, I was tired! So we went to back to our flat to drop stuff off and regroup before heading to dinner at Franco Manca near the Earl’s Court tube stop for pizza. The pizza was really good. It’s neapolitan style (my favorite) with a sourdough crust. Apparently you have to request the pizza to be sliced, otherwise it’s up to you to cut it up to eat. (Had this same experience with a place in France.) We ended the evening with gelato from Oddono’s and then a couple pints at the Zetland Arms pub. We were heading to Paris the following day!

– m.

Travel

London, Day 2

July 28, 2016

Our second full day in London started out as an eventful and frustrating one. We decided to be super tourists and do a hop-on, hop-off bus tour through Big Bus Tours. I did one last time I was in the city and really enjoyed it! It was a nice way to see all of the highlights within a short amount of time, with the freedom to get out and explore as well. Well, that’s not the experience we ended up having and we called the bus tour a total flop. We can’t blame it all on the tour company, though–part of it was on us and part of it was on the weather.

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It all started with us getting to the Hyde Park Corner tube stop and not being able to find the correct bus stop for the tour bus. I think we went to four different corners before learning it was the one across from the Hard Rock Cafe. When we finally got to the correct corner, we saw how the signage is so small for the tour company that it’s easy to miss. Bus arrives, we get on. It’s not the correct route we wanted. We had no idea. So we did the full loop of the route we didn’t want to ride on. Fail #2. We actually ended up going back by our Gloucester tube stop and joked how we should have just gotten on there. Oh well, not the end of the world. We got off the bus after the full loop and waited for the correct bus. Bus arrives, we get on it. Well, it was the correct route, but we didn’t get the bus with the live commentary like we wanted. Fail #3 of the day and it wasn’t 10AM. We said “whatever” and sucked it up because we were on the correct route and wanted to enjoy the upper deck before rain set in later that day.

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The bus tour comes with a river cruise, so we opted to do that in the morning knowing it was suppose to rain the rest of the day. We hopped off near the Westminster tube stop and headed down to get on the boat, which would take us down by the Tower Bridge. The ride only takes about 30 minutes, and by the end of our ride it had started to rain. By this time, we were hungry so we headed to a pub near Tower Bridge called The Minories. It was cool because it was stationed under a railway, but the food was only okay.

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We headed to the Tower of London after eating. That was another attraction that I didn’t go see during my last visit to the city. Tim was super interested in it, so we went and ended up spending a few hours there. We didn’t opt for an audio or guided tour, but there was plenty of videos and info along the way for us to learn the history. I will say that I learned much more than I expected to! We started by doing the Wall Walk around the perimeter, then making our way to the Crown Jewels and the White Tower. By that point, I was over the crowds and the rain so we headed out. We actually stopped into the Starbucks outside of the Tower to dry off. And because I wanted hot coffee. No shame.

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We left (taking the Underground instead of waiting for a tour bus) and headed to the SOHO area of town. The rain had finally started to let up–yay! We stumbled upon Kingly Court, which is super cute and great by the way. You come across the best finds just by walking around! Our friends that live in Cambridge were coming down to meet us for dinner, so we posted up at Whyte & Brown for a couple of drinks while we waited for them to arrive in the city. Our friends came prepared for the evening with a dinner recommendation at a French restaurant called Pierre Victoria Bistro. It ended up being one of my favorite meals of the whole trip–everything we tried was so good! After dinner we walked around SOHO more before finding ourselves at an Irish pub in the middle of Chinatown. Go figure.

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–m.

Travel

London Day 1

July 27, 2016

May 2009 the last time I was in London. I fell in love with the city, even though I can’t exactly pinpoint why. It’s so similar to a big city here in the US, but…better. (Maybe? There’s quite a few big cities here I haven’t been to so I can’t fully compare.) Either way, I was super excited when we decided London would be a destination for our vacation. I looked forward to sharing memories, tidbits and parts of town with Tim.

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We left Cambridge and got into the city early afternoon. We stayed in this AirBnB in the South Kensington area, which worked out really great for our time there. The flat was set up a bit different than shown in the pictures, but still similar enough. (Last time I had stayed near the Pimlico Tube stop.) It was nice to be right off a main Underground line and have quick access to places, but also be staying in a more residential area of town.

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We got into London early afternoon, dropped our stuff off and took the Tube down to the Westminster stop so we could walk through the South Bank area. Even with rainy weather, there was still a ton of people! Visiting London before, I was told the best views of Big Bend and Parliament is across the river…so that’s where we headed! From there we walked from the London Eye area (which we never rode) down to the Tate Modern. It’s only about a mile, so it’s really not far and there’s plenty to stop and see along the way. We weren’t originally planning on stopping in to the Tate but did because of the rain. Had I been by myself, I probably would have paid to see the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit. She’s a favorite artist of mine. But instead, I walked through the museum questioning modern art as I’m sure most people do. I certainly try to appreciate modern art (especially with having a graphic design degree and taking lots of art history classes), but sometimes I just have to shake my head and wonder what drug the artist was on.

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We walked across the Millennium pedestrian bridge over to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The One New Change mall across the street that has a free rooftop viewing area plus a restaurant/bar. I actually felt underdressed when we arrived on the rooftop–the bar was a bit more swanky than I thought it would be. So we checked out the views, took a couple pictures and then headed down to the Cathedral. We got lucky with our timing to the Cathedral. The choir was performing so we were able to go in and walk around without having to pay. I didn’t get to do that last time I was in London! Pictures aren’t allow instead of the Cathedral, but I will say that it’s a beautiful church.

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We headed to Covent Garden, which had been a favorite spot on my previous trip. We walked around the area, stopped and had a couple drinks at Punch and Judy’s and then got food from Shake Shack. First timers! Neither one of us had had Shake Shack before, so hey…why not? I will say that while it was good, it wasn’t the most amazing burger I’ve tried. The shakes at Steak ‘n Shake are better, too. We also got gelato from Venchi there at Covent Garden. The strawberry gelato was ah-mazing! So, so good.

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We called it an early night and headed back to our flat. We had two more full days in London to plan out and prep for.

—m.

Travel

Cambridge, England

July 25, 2016

We just got back from our two week vacation to Europe and had such a good time. We came back exhausted, but in a good way. Originally planning this trip for September/October, we switched things up and went in July. I wasn’t happy about this at first, but I think everything worked out exactly how it was suppose to in the end. We hit up Cambridge and London, England, Paris, Bern, Switzerland and lastly Barcelona.

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After hearing great feedback about using Delta for international travels, we decided to give them a try. Overall we were really satisfied with them! We flew STL to Detroit and then over to London. Not kidding when I say Detroit’s airport was really nice! We flew with Delta’s partner airline Virgin Atlantic over to London and landed right at 6 AM after a 7 hour flight. I don’t think either one of us slept at all on the flight over. After landing in Heathrow, we took the Underground to the King’s Cross station and bought a separate train ticket up to Cambridge. That journey alone took two hours. The best man from our wedding and his wife live in Cambridge, so we really didn’t mind the extra travel. We were so excited to see them.

Once settled into our friend’s place, we headed into the main center of Cambridge and walked through the various schools. I didn’t understand this at first, but each school/program at the University basically has it’s own campus. There’s over 100 constituent college campuses within Cambridge (if I remember that fact correctly). We checked out the King’s College Cathedral, St. John’s College, and the Trinity College campus and some of their buildings. They’re all quite beautiful. It rained for a portion of the day, but we didn’t care. Rain became a common theme for our time in England.

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We grabbed lunch at The Anchor before heading back to the apartment for a bit. Of course we had to get fish and chips. The portion was big enough for Tim and I to split because neither one of us were terribly hungry. By that afternoon, both Tim and I were crashing from jet lag and needed a nap. Napping also became a common theme on this trip. (Apparently it’s harder to travel east and jet lag recovery time is double than when you travel west.)

The weather had cleared up that afternoon, so punting was in order! It was pretty hilarious to do/watch, but also really enjoyable from my standpoint because I just had to sit there. We rented the boat from Scudamore’s (no chauffeur, though). You’re able to take drinks and food out with you, so everyone got a beverage from The Mill beforehand. It’s super easy to run into things because the boats are so long and awkward. The boys took turns punting to get us up and down the canal. I’m glad we ended up waiting until later in the day to go because there was considerably less people out on the canal by that point.

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We ended the evening by hitting up The Grain and Hop Store to grab a bite to eat and watch the Euro Final. Portugal beat France in overtime. The bar was packed! We couldn’t even go upstairs because there were so many people. When Portugal scored and then won, people went insane. It was fun to experience. We decided to work off our drinks and food by walking home to call it a night. We were headed back into London the next day!

-m.

Everyday Moments

Summer-ing

June 29, 2016

“Summer-ing” (v): A word I made up to describe what I’ve been doing lately–enjoying summer.

Life has been busy since my trip to San Francisco!

  • I ran my first trail half marathon, and finished faster than I thought I would.
  • Flew back to Nebraska for my 10 year high school reunion. I got to see some of my favorite people that I don’t always get to when I go back.
  • The Mr. went to Europe for 10 days on a guys trip. Lucky them. He brought me back Gouda cheese from Amsterdam. Lucky me.
  • We have attended three weddings – two on the same day even!
  • Went and saw The Wizard of Oz with my BFF at The Muny. And get this – Karlie Kloss was there (she’s from STL) and her mom walked up to me and asked me to take the family’s photo! I had to do a double take when I realized who I was taking a picture of!
  • Had the Mr. do an IKEA hack
  • Helped get a new bathroom vanity installed on our main level (yay!)
  • Rebooked our Europe trip. Instead of leaving in September, we now leave in just over a week!

So about that last point…that had me all sorts of stressed for about a week. I’m just glad I hadn’t already booked more than just the first stop of our trip! I did have to rebook our international flights, a train ride and an AirBnB. The cost to rebook the international flights hurt. But…vacation! It also means I get to cross off another item from my 30 Before 30. I’m so far from being able to complete that list. Not what I had intended.

So if anyone needs me, I’ll be summer-ing until after my trip. Then I have lots to share.

–m.

 

Travel

San Francisco + Alcatraz

May 11, 2016

I headed west last weekend to visit a really good friend that lives in San Francisco. It had been almost a year and a half since my first visit out there, so it was time to get back! I’ve lucked out with weather because both times I’ve been there because it was absolutely perfect.

Friday
It took almost six hours to get from STL to SFO because of a connecting flight in Denver, but I was ready to hit the ground running…literally. I made a pit stop at Nicole’s office before heading to her place since she had to work the rest of the afternoon. I’m training for a half marathon so I decided that would be a perfect time to get a 10 mile run in. I ran from her apartment down near the Golden Gate Bridge before turning around to head back.

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Well I got 3 blocks from the apartment and tripped over uneven sidewalk and fell. Hard. Two very scraped up knees and a hand later, I called it quits after 7 miles. I had to walk to a pharmacy to buy bandages after that. My knees are still fairly bruised a week later, but healing pretty well.

We went to Uva Enoteca in the Lower Haight for dinner that night with a coworker. Such a cute little Italian place. We split a salad, pizza and stuff shell pasta. It was all super tasty.

Saturday
Saturday started off with a trip to CAW Pacific (Craftsman and Wolves) for coffee before heading down to Pier 33 for our trip to Alcatraz. The cafe had this really neat hanging display of a motorized bike parts on one of the walls.

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The boat ride to Alcatraz is only 10 or 15 minutes long and you get a great view of the Bay area. Once at Alcatraz, you’re free to roam and take in the island at your own pace. Not everything is accessible to visitors, but enough to stay entertained for 2-3 hours. The admission price includes the boat rides to and from, visiting the island itself and also an audio tour. I’m not the biggest fan of audio tours, but considering this one has won an award it was worth listening to.

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The audio tour consists primarily of the main cell house and a couple surrounding areas. I knew was Alcatraz was, but I wasn’t terribly familiar with its stories and the events that unfolded there, so it was pretty interesting learning about it all. I kept comparing it to the tour of the old Idaho State Pen that Tim and I had toured about two years ago in Boise. One thing I did not like about Alcatraz was how staged it was for visitors. The Idaho State Pen left everything untouched and as-is after it closed, whereas cells were cleared out and staged at Alcatraz.

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The rest of Saturday was spent walking through the farmers market down the Embarcadero. We stopped for hummus samples, bought macaroons from Tout Sweet Patisserie, got this delicious roasted cheese & bread dish from Cowgirl Creamery and then an empanada from El Porteño. From there we headed to Sight Class Coffee in the Mission. Since we were in the Mission, I wanted to find Jessica Hische’s studio because the design nerd in me really wanted to see it. After snapping a couple pictures we continued walking through the Mission and checked out Dolores Park, which was absolutely packed. We went to Town Hall Restaurant for dinner that night and had some fancy (and delicious) fried chicken and jalapeño corn bread.

Sunday
Sunday was our active, but lazy day. We started out with coffee (again) before grabbing our Getaround car for the day. The service comes in handy for when you don’t have a car, but at the same time it was more expensive than traditionally renting a car for a full 24 hours like we do on trips.

We headed north out of the city into Marin County to run some errands and then up to the Novato area for a friend’s going away party–they’re moving to Australia! It was really great to meet some of Nicole’s friends I hadn’t met on my last trip out.

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The rest of the trip was pretty low key and I was picked up the next morning before sunrise to head to the airport. We have plenty on our to-do list left for the city so I’ll be back again. In fact, there’s talks of a girls trip to Napa in 2017 so I’ll be really excited to head out that way!

–m.