London Redux

By abbieredmon

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Well, I found myself in London yet again. I'm getting to know this city fairly well!

Some family was visiting (their first time abroad!), so I went up to London for a couple of nights to see them. I arrived in the afternoon, and joined them for a stroll across Hyde Park. The weather was beautiful -- sun and warmth!

My aunt really wanted to see the Elfin Oak at the west end of Hyde Park, and that's something I didn't even know existed. It's a 900-year-old oak "tree." I say "tree" because it's really just a stump (no branches or leaves), but it is pretty cool. There are elves and animals and creatures carved into it and painted. Pretty awesome, actually! They've put a roof over the tree so rainwater won't biodegrade it faster than necessary.

After we left Hyde Park, we found ourselves on an accidental walk down Millionaire's Row / Embassy Row. We'd already taken a couple of irreverent pictures by the time we saw the sign prohibiting photography. Whoops :)

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This was my third time to St. Paul's, but I pay the entry price every time, because walking up the spiral stairs to the very top is always worth it. Love that view!

It was really fun to see the cathedral through my family's eyes. I've now been inside a lot of European cathedrals, and they're almost always beautiful, but you do kind of become accustomed to them at some point. It takes a pretty special one to take your breath away.

But since this was my family's first trip outside of the U.S., everything was new to them. And it was really fun and inspiring to see things the way they see them. St. Paul's IS freaking gorgeous, dammit -- a real marvel! The mosaics on the ceilings, the dome, the details -- the cathedral is beautifully artistic.

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We wandered down through some pedestrian-only streets toward the river from St. Paul's and had classic fish & chips for lunch at an awesomely traditional pub called The Blackfriar.

It was hugely popular as a good spot for a pint with folks on a break from the office. We were lucky enough to snag a table outside, and -- again -- we were having great luck with the weather!

I'm not a beer lover, so I usually sit out the drinking with my aunt while my uncle and my cousin sample the Guinness, but I've been trying to like cider recently, so I got a half pint in the spirit of things. It really was a nice day out.

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After lunch, we walked across the Millennium Bridge -- gotta do that as a tourist in London and a Harry Potter fan, of which my cousin is both.

She tried to remind me of the scene with the Millennium Bridge in it, but apparently you only see it for a second before it gets blown up, so I'm not surprised I can't recall it. I saw most of the Harry Potter movies only one time each, so I'm not an expert!

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We walked along Southwark Street, through Borough Market, and then my family got their first up-close look at the Tower Bridge, which is pretty cool.

I explained to them how everyone thinks the Tower Bridge is the London Bridge -- maybe because of the nursery rhyme? -- but that the London Bridge is actually a really boring, utilitarian bridge further to the west. Snooze.

But yay, Tower Bridge!

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There was a delicious surprise on the north side of the Tower Bridge: a little collection of food trucks! Crepes and ice cream and margaritas, oh yes!

And look how freakin' adorable that VW van is.

We were going to tour the Tower of London, but when we saw the entry prices, we changed our minds and decided to check out the Tate instead, which is free. #cheapskates #sorrynotsorry

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Well, the Tate may be free, but that did nothing to improve my family's impressions of it, haha. Let's just say that modern art isn't their thing. :)

I followed them (quickly) around the Tate, amused as they renamed some of the exhibitions. My favorites:

"What the Fuck?"

"The Melting Elephant"

"I Could Have Painted That"

and

"Those Rocks Look Like Balls"

Suffice it to say, the Tate Modern is probably going to be my family's least favorite part about their trip to London.

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So, the highlight of this last-minute trip up to London for me was seeing the QUEEN!

Saturday was the Trooping the Colour ceremony, which celebrates the Queen's birthday -- it's actually in April, but they celebrate it in June in hope of less rainy weather. The Queen rides down the Mall from Buckingham Palace to the Horse Guards Parade, where they do some intricate ceremony involving flags and a lot of marching around and horses. We stood along the Mall (instead of at the end), which is how we were able to see her so close up.

After an hour of waiting patiently as hoards and hoards of the Household Cavalry came by in their red jackets and tall black hats...

there she was! the Queen!

We also saw Kate, Prince Harry, Prince Phillip, and possibly Camilla, too.

But the Queen! We were only about 30 feet away from her -- it was crazy! And look how adorable she is in that carriage.

Definitely the highlight. And such a surprise!

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