Kathryn and Brandon, our fantastic friends from Oklahoma and our first multi-day visitors in our new country, were due to arrive early the next morning in London. They were staying with us through Christmas and we couldn't have been more excited to see them! As a belated anniversary celebration (and because we had to spend the night in London anyway in order to be at the airport bright and early), Patrick and I got a train from Birmingham and spent the day wandering around London doing nothing of consequence aside from exploring the city. It's free to do that, you know.
We'd been there before, of course. Kathryn and Brandon were arriving on practically the same exact time schedule that we had when we arrived in London way back in September.
(If you so desire, you can read about part 1 and part 2 of that particular adventure. Or you can just look at the pictures. Heh.)
And you know what? We absolutely fell in love with London all over again.
Our hotel put us in Kensington Gardens, and we weren't a bit sad about that. We actually chose that location because it offered tons of beautiful walking space while also being super close to a tube station, plus we'd never been to that area. The hotel wasn't all that great (London is really, really expensive and we had 10 days of travel ahead of us so we didn't have the desire to splurge before we even began our holiday travels), but the location was spot-on.
I'm not kidding when I say we had no particular agenda. We just wandered around London and went wherever we fancied. We got to explore Kensington Gardens, see the exterior of Kensington Palace, saw the Peter Pan statue, Hyde Park, the Italian Gardens at the crossroads between the two parks, took a peek at 221B Baker Street, stumbled upon The Criterion (helloooooo Downton Abbey fans!), Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square (which is pronounced "Lester"... so silly), saw a Star Wars version of the "changing of the guard" at the Odeon Theatre in Lester Square because it was the premiere weekend, walked down the Thames, saw Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the outside of Westminster Abbey, were in awe of Selfridges and how it is so much better than ours in Birmingham, and so many other little things. We didn't "do" anything at any of these places, but a day walking around and seeing these magnificent sights is a day well spent in my book.
London has a completely different feel at night, and I kind of dig it. Unlike in Brum, we feel completely safe while walking around London after dark. Of course we're not stupid and use common sense, but it just has a unique vibe to it - energized but relaxed, buzzing but not roaring. There are plenty of places in city centre of Birmingham that are a bit sketchy at night, but the "centre" of London is so very different.
That's off-topic. Anyway.... my main point in bringing that up was to say that we got to experience two very exciting things that night (see... night... they are related... kind of).
1) We were avoiding some of the Christmas carnival and Star Wars crowd at Leicester Square and turned down a back alley to make our way around. Lo and behold, we saw Jim Broadbent come out of a backstage door! Jim Broadbent plays Zidler in Moulin Rouge and Horace Slughorn in Harry Potter. He was playing Scrooge in A Christmas Carol... and we saw him!! It was clear that he wanted to get out of sight in a hurry, but he was nice enough to sign an autograph for a fan. We didn't bother him, but I did take a video as proof!
2) We ATE DINNER AT CHIPOTLE. Oh, holy mother of pearl, I was in absolute heaven!!! Why London gets to have multiple Chipotles and Birmingham has none is beyond me. Sigh. Seriously, guys, I nearly cried - it made me that happy. It was a glorious taste of home just hours before I got to hug the heck out of some people from home. I was walking on Cloud 9.
|Kensington architecture is beautiful.|
|Kensington - we fell in love!|
|This was odd and fascinating and totally random. |
They put up a gum-receptical and circled the spots of gum on that sidewalk with chalk.
|The Albert Memorial - that structure is massive!|
|The Albert Memorial|
|Gosh, he's so cute. I miss his long hair.|
|We saw people riding horseback on this bridge. I'll never forget the sound of their hooves going "clip-clop"!|
|Hello, Peter Pan!|
|The Italian Gardens. I can only imagine how gorgeous they are in spring and summer!|
|Walking in Hyde Park. London has so much nature and it makes me so jealous!|
|The Marble Arch|
|The Marble Arch|
|I was trying to get a picture of him smiling but he wouldn't; he thought I was going to die by way of the underground.|
|The Criterion! Eek!|
|A cup of crappy coffee in Trafalgar Square is still good because it's a warm drink and the views are fantastic.|
|William Shakespeare monument in Leicester Square|
|The "changing of the guard"... hah!|
|Jim Broadbent being a generally nice guy for his fans.|
|CHIPOTLEEEEEEEE, my loooooove!!!!|