Saying Hello: A Day in London - Part 2

While writing this second London post, I debated separating it into even more sections due to the amount of photos that came from that one day in London. Surely two posts are enough, right? You'd think so, but I have a bit of a problem with taking too many pictures that I love (always have, always will), and I'm pretty sure that the Tower of London deserves a post all its own. Alas, I want to get moving on the blog-front (I have a lot of catching up to do), so this second post will just have to be massive. I'm sorry if it slows down your phones/computers/tablets... although I'm pretty sure that technology is far more capable of handling it than I give it credit for nowadays. Aye... I sound like such a grandma.

My previous London post left us in the lobby at our hotel in Westminster after my mom, Patrick, and I took our time checking into our hotel and taking turns in the restroom freshening up - brushing teeth, washing faces, the works. Oh, how wonderful it felt to wash away the grime of international travel! But now it was time to get out and about and make the most of our day in London. Eek!

Somehow or another, we ended up at the Big Ben/Westminster/Parliament area at the perfect time because we were able to catch our first glimpse of Big Ben at noon precisely. MAN, that sounded awesome (see the video below).  I was blown away by the size and beauty of the buildings and could have stayed there for ages. We had a lot to do, though, and we decided that we would come back to spend a bit more time there later that afternoon.

[and here is where the photo album begins, folks...]

[NOTE: Don't miss out on the story hidden between the photos!]

First real stop: The Tower of London. 
Of all the wonderful things to see and do in this marvelous city, the Tower was the absolute first thing on my list. I didn't care what else we did for the rest of the day as long as I got to go. Seriously, I've been aching to visit this historic monument, castle, medieval fortress, all-around wonder for as long as I can remember knowing that it existed. To have this massively important historical structure in such great condition is fantastic - you get to walk where kings reigned, where queens were imprisoned, where political prisoners were housed, where the symbol of a nation has pierced the skyline for nearly a thousand years. Guys, how awesome is that?! So, yeah, we went there first. <insert super-smiley emoji>

But first, coffee.

Holy moly, we were so fracking tired. Every fiber of my body ached, but we were determined to make the most of our day, kick jet lag in the face, and adapt to the time change as quickly as possible. Therefore, we needed coffee. We decided to stop at Costa before we entered the tower (mostly because of the incredible view... ahem). And then we went to get some more coffee at Starbucks after viewing the Tower, just off the River Thames with an incredible view of both the Tower and Tower Bridge. SIGH. Soooo. Tireddddd. 

The juxtaposition of old and new architecture in London is FANtastic.

A photo of my first realization that we were actually in England. As I walked down Water Lane, I came upon these two sweet littles full of giggles and squeals.
Her: "Now YOU kiss the crown!"
Him: "No, YOU kiss the crown!:
There was a crown emblem on whatever post that stood there, but they were having a blast trying to force each other to "kiss the crown"... Hello, England! You don't see that in America, that's for sure.

This particular beef eater was our tour guide. He was wonderfully funny and so very British. My mom later told us (and him) that he was their same tour guide when she came with my aunt and grandparents for their 50th anniversary trip. Grandmom was with us the whole time my mother was here, of that I'm sure.

My first experience with tower staircases. Far from my last. Those stairs are TINY.

This is the window to the room where Queen Anne Boleyn was imprisoned before she was beheaded by her husband King Henry VIII.

The spot behind the center window pane is where she was beheaded on the Tower Green. Most other executions took place outside the Tower in the middle of town. This is the view from the window pictured above - the same window she would have looked through. WHAT.

Wall etchings made by prisoners. So cool.

THE White Tower. This medieval fortress has been around for almost a thousand years!

Ah, Tower Bridge... you're so lovely.

Just outside the Starbucks was an area with fake grass and some vendors...? Riveting, I know.

Neither my momma nor Patrick were too thrilled when I dragged them onto the plexiglass to look at the view of Tower Bridge and the Thames from under their feet! :)

I could go on and on and on about how incredible the Tower of London was, about how I could have spent my entire day there just fawning over the history and the beauty it contained, about how real it made everything feel. I could continue gushing about what a marvelous idea it was for my mom to suggest that we (read: she) pay to go to the viewing platform at the top of Tower Bridge and what a spectacular view it offered. I could talk about how ridiculously stupid and romantic and utterly perfect it was to see the clouds rolling away from Big Ben to reveal an outrageously bright rainbow. I could ramble on some more about the Houses of Parliament and how magnificent those buildings are to behold. Or I could try to explain how awe-inspiring Westminster Abbey is all on its own - then add in the light of the sun as it set and another rain storm rolled through, enhancing the details, the structure itself, the colors, and the overall splendor in a way that is too perfect for reality. Or about how sweet and lovely Saint Margaret's Church is, even in the shadows of such a building as the Abbey. I could talk about them all in great detail, but there's only so much words and photos can do to convey the beauty of experiencing such things for the first time. Seriously, these views are made for the movies; they don't happen in real life. But they did. To me. What a wonderful world we live in!

After walking around Westminster Abbey for a bit, we realized that a storm looked like it was coming in and that we should probably find our way back to the hotel, take our bags up to our room, and find a sufficient place nearby to eat. We took the opportunity to walk along the River Thames since it would lead us back to the hotel at some point, more or less, and it was such a lovely walk. Everything was green, the light was fading, but the golden evening sun shone upon the rain-dampened setting. There was a monument that we stumbled upon as we made our way down the river; Patrick was more than thrilled to find that it honored William Wilberforce and others for the abolition of the slave trade in England. We made it back to the hotel, miraculously, and a torrential downpour began literally seconds after we walked through the doors. Boy, were we glad not to have been caught in that!

Eventually, after waiting-out the rainstorm, we ventured out to find dinner near the hotel... at a pub, of course. After finding out that our first choice stopped serving food at 8:00pm (literally minutes before we got there - a common trend, I've found), we ended up at The Barley Mow just down the road. If you've never been to England, what do you think your first meal would be? Duh. Helloooooo, fish and chips! All three of us decided on the same meal, and we all opted for a glass of water and, of course, a pint. To be honest, I had a half pint. Because they do that here. Whaaaaaaaat! So awesome. When the meals came to our table, we were a bit taken aback because they were GINORMOUS. ("These servings are ginormous!" Elf, anyone? No? Okay.) Seriously, we probably could have split the plate three ways and left satisfied. Despite how much food we ended up leaving on our plates (for shame!), the dinner was absolutely delicious; even to this day, that was the best tasting fish and chips I've had during our time here - by far. Birmingham isn't famous for fish and chips... or good food, for that matter. But that's a whole different blog post... because food is important. Heh.

We rolled our sleepy and stuffed selves out of the pub and down the street, found our way into the hotel, and collapsed into our respective beds after our sequential showers. It was an extremely long day with an even longer day to come, but it was one for the books to be sure. We're going back to London in a matter of days, and I cannot wait to get to know this beautiful (albeit overwhelming) city even more. We slept that night, and we slept hard. The next morning, after our delicious and very English breakfast, we had to make our way to our new home - Birmingham. Oh, the feels. Now that is a story, and one for another post altogether.