Friday, February 6, 2015

London Calling!

The ATKs just finished their first (very eventful) European vacation. That's right. After all these years of globetrotting, we have missed everyone's go-to vacation spot (pick any place in Western Europe). But not any more! We've just spent the last five days in London, enjoying a variety of food, dreary overcast weather, and general tourist must-do's. I wanted to share a bit about all the fun things we did and also all the songs I randomly sang based on visual, aural, and written cues we came across during our many walks all over town. (See above video for the first song.) I'm also going to try not to get too bogged down in the minute details which ends up making these posts to long and then are posted significantly after the trip/event has end. (Case in point this post about New Year's which I posted 29 days after New Year's occurred. Personally, I'm proud I published it in January at all. Baby steps.)

Anyways, it's a long and tiring journey from Kyrgyzstan to London (with a stopover in Istanbul.) All the flights that leave Bishkek are at 3:00 am so it's one of those "wake up in the middle of the night scenarios."  On the plus side, we were at the hotel in London by noon. We weren't really in a site-seeing mood, of course, what with the exhaustion and jet lag and all. Still we got some traditional British pub food for lunch (steak and ale pie for Mr. ATK and fish and chips with the largest piece of cod I have ever seen for me. There were also mushy peas on my plate. I did not eat those.)

Mr. ATK and his meat pie, chips, and pint of ale. Pip pip cheerio and all that!

The largest piece of fried fish I have ever seen.
And of course, this meal (and basically anytime I saw an advertisement for pies at pubs) had me humming "The Worst Pies in London." (There are better vocalists than Emma Thompson, but she's my favorite and I was at this concert, so... sorry, Angela Lansbury. Next Sweeney Todd reference is all you.)

Our main goal that day was to stay awake until 5 pm. So after lunch we had a stroll around Regent's Park and passed out promptly at 5.

For the next few days, we tried to see as many of the tourist sites as possible. We decided to invest in a "London Pass" which gets you into a lot of things for free after an initial investment of 73 pounds. That doesn't seem like much, but it's actually $111 USD. That's the one thing about London--the sticker shock. All the prices on everything are about what you would expect to see on the items in the US, except the price is in pounds and 1 pound is worth about $1.50, so when you do the math in your head, what is a "5 dollar foot long" Subway sub in America is a $9.00 foot long sub in London. Who wants to spend that much on Subway? On the plus side, we didn't eat fast food the whole time we were there.

So we were pretty obsessed with getting our 73 pounds worth from this pass. It wasn't that hard to do, since it costs between 15 and 20 pounds (usually closer to 20) to get into any of the big places--Westminster Abby, Tower of London, Kensington Palace, War Cabinet Rooms, etc. It was nice to finally see the inside of most of these places as the only previous time I had been to London was over a weekend while I was studying in France and I couldn't actually afford to go in anywhere. I just walked by and pointed at things.  So it was nice to see what the fuss was all about.

Selfie at Big Ben!

I really enjoyed Westminster Abbey. That was very cool. We didn't get a chance to visit St. Paul's Cathedral--we only saw it in the skyline. That did not stop me from singing, "Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag)" from Mary Poppins. In fact, I basically started humming that song any time I saw a church. I'm not picky.

Mr. ATK really wanted to go to St. Paul's. I think he wanted to see the inside. I also wanted to go, but mainly to look for a bird lady. I did see lots of pigeons all over London, and I have to say, they were all pretty fat, so I guess the bird lady has done her job. I don't believe for a second any of those birds have a bare nest. We'll be going back to London in a few months and we plan to see the cathedral then. I'll keep you informed about my quest to feed the birds. However, if it costs more than tuppence a bag, I make no guarantee.

We did some other free stuff, including braving the massive throngs of people to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

It was crowded, but not Wagah Border crossing crowded. Still, I was stuck looking at the backs of people's heads and shoulders for the most part. More than anything, this is what I saw:

I got great views of the whole thing on the cell phones of the people in front of me. We didn't stay for the whole thing. It turns into a band concert half way in and I was hungry, so off we went.

The other thing I really enjoyed was the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park. The weather was awful, as weather in England tends to be, but the memorial was lovely. I can see it being a wonderful place to spend time in the summer when, I assume, the weather is nicer. I was a big Diana fan back in the day and was sad (like so many others were) when she died. It's hard to describe the fountain and the pictures don't really do it justice, so I'll just link to the Wikipedia page here.

I liked this little kid running around and having fun at the memorial. Princess Diana did so much to help children around the world, it just seemed fitting that her memorial would continue to bring joy to children.

And of course, here's the video for the song I was humming along (and occasionally blatantly singing) while we were there. Of course, I forgot a lot of the new words and so kept switching to original recipe "Candle in the Wind" after I got past the "Goodbye, England's rose" part.

On our last day in country, just to top off the excitement of living the high life in London, we went to the doctor at BabyInc. (yep, that's a real and very reputable clinic) and saw pictures of the soon-to-be BabyTK.

Coming Summer 2015

To be continued......

Oh, and I also sang "Waterloo Sunset" a lot but couldn't really fit it in anywhere in the post. So here it is at the end. A reward for folks who made it through this whole thing.

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