European Vacation: London Calling

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After a couple days in Stockholm I hoped on a flight and headed to London. My other dear friend  Sarah lives there and I couldn’t fly across the world without seeing her as well. I was sort of in the neighborhood. Also I have never been to London. I am not sure why it took me this long to get there, especially considering how relatively easy it is to get there and they speak English. But I loved it.

There was something so familiar and yet foreign to London. We grow up seeing all the London sites on TV and in movies so it was fun to finally see  those in person. Also London has the same sort of glamorous energy that NY does. It is hard to describe. Something that I am happy San Francisco doesn’t really have but it is fun to visit. You know the fast pace, fancy cars, international jet set, dressed up women, people thinking they are very important. Also the best part  was that London was getting ready for the holidays and there is something so magical about a big city getting all fancy for the holidays.
Once I got to London, I grabbed lunch with Sarah and then set out on (yes, another) hop on,hop off tour. This was especially helpful because London is HUGE and I would never have been able to see everything had I tried to walk it. The tour took 2 hours and I am pretty sure that I saw every monument and important site in London. This was also an open air bus so needless to say once it got dark I was freezing.

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But I did get to see this view of London’s Big Ben and the London Eye from the London Bridge so that made it worth it.
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On Saturday morning we woke up early and hit the streets. Our first stop of the day was Borough Market which is basically foodie heaven. Every sort of delicious thing you can imagine is all under one train overpass. I stuffed my face with some cheese, a pretzel and an almond cake thing. All were amazing.

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From Borough Market we took the subway or tube as they call it to Hyde Park. Since my goal was to see the Queen, Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace seemed like a likely start. Well I wasn’t the only one in search of her Majesty.  We got to Buckingham Palace and there were hoards of people. Thousands of people.

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Luckily and not so luckily we stumbled onto the palace’s changing of the guard. Which I am sure was cool, if I had been able to see it. Here is my view – note that I have my camera raised high above my head into order to attempt to get a picture. All I saw that day was the back of some guy’s head.
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But I did manage to get a glimpse of these guys. I have always wanted to see one up close and personal and try to make him laugh, but this is the closest I got. I think they were hiding from me.
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Sadly no Queen was to be found, turns out she was out-of-town, so from Buckingham Palace we hoped on the bus to Chelsea to grab some lunch. Chelsea is exactly what I envisioned London to look like – quaint and organized. Everything looks the same and has this wonderful old historic look to it. I think this might have been my favorite part of London. Turns out I am not the only one, apartments and homes in this area are not cheap.
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After lunch we stopped at the Victoria and Albert Museum a beautiful and free art and design musuem. Plus how could it not be a must stop site with this beautiful Chihuly dangling in the foyer.

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From there we wandered over to Portobello Road and finished off the whirlwind sightseeing day with a couple glasses of wine – because that is how the locals do it. Along with way we found a photo booth. Who can pass up a photo booth. I certainly can’t.
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Amazingly I was only in London for about 36 hours but felt like I saw a ton.  One of the things that I loved about London was the graffiti. I know that sounds weird, but there graffiti seemed almost like an art form and took the shape of these huge murals. Here is just one of the many graffiti/murals that are painted throughout the city.

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Another one, although I don’t think this one was supposed to be artistic. Someone apparently didn’t get to see the Queen either.
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My last day in London was finished off with more eating. Obviously. Sarah took me to this delicious spot named St. John for some donuts. I am down for any restaurant that has the guts to put a pig as their logo and then say they only serve bread and wine.
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After our donut we walked through a vintage/flea/flower market and I stumbled upon these prints. I picked one up for 10 pounds and am pretty excited about it. I think they are hilarious. I snagged one with the fox on it.
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After my brief stop in London I headed home to SF via Sweden. It was definitely the long route home, not the best planning on my part, but I got to see this beautiful sunset over Sweden which made my 20 hours of travel worth it. Well sort of.
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It is nice to be home but I had the best time in Stockholm and London. What was so great about my time there was not only experiencing beautiful historic cities but also catching up with old friends. It is amazing how quickly time goes these days and it is special and rare that you can remain friends with someone for over  14 years, even when they live worlds away.

Thanks for the great trip Jess, Nils and Sarah – till next time!

 

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