A special post from the UK where Aunt Jane is spending two weeks with her nephew, Ian, in London and Edinburgh.
Greetings from sunny London! Because I’ve been so delayed in posting, I’ll get right to it: Ian and I arrived last Saturday morning. We’re here in London for a week, and then we head north to Scotland, home of your ancestors, well, some of them at least.
We breezed through customs (I thought I heard the agent ask Ian if I was his sister), and were met by our burly driver, Nigel, sent by the apartment rental agency to take us to the flat we are staying in for the week. He loaded our bags into the “boot” (trunk) of his Prius and folded himself behind the wheel and away we sped from Heathrow to London.
Because it was Saturday, the rental agency was closed, so we had to pick up the keys at a “lock box” nearby. Lucky for us, Nigel knew the drill. The lockbox was hidden behind a low brick wall, covered by bushes, next to a pair of green doors, on a narrow one-way street that we never would have found if it hadn’t been for our gentle giant.
Keys now in hand, he deposited us at our flat in South Kensington, which is exactly as advertised. Very charming with two bedrooms, two baths, hardwood floors, and a lovely back garden patio that we’ve never used.
After taking a nap, we spent the rest of the day orienting ourselves to our neighborhood, having lunch at a gourmet burger spot nearby, and then laying in some initial supplies from the market.
Our neighborhood is perfect, filled with shops, restaurants, and pubs. As Ian and I walked about, we did notice a number of odd creatures roaming about. Green hair, some rather odd attire, but when I saw some one in leather hot pants and a breast plate, I knew it wasn’t just the jet lag clouding my brain.
Ian figured it out: London’s Comic Con was in full swing a few blocks away at Earl’s Court. I saw the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters, a bunch of Star Wars characters, Captain America, some woman covered in green ivy and lots of other odd creatures.
We made our way back home and stowed our supplies, then grabbed a taxi into central London. We walked around Trafalgar Square, and Covent Garden. Great people watching, as evidenced in the pictures below.
It stays light until after 9 pm, so we walked over the Thames to the bustling Southbank area, and had a drink looking back over the river at the London skyline. We found a nice Italian restaurant that also had the World Cup match on. A great start to our trip!
Our first full day in London was pretty full. We spent the morning at the Churchill War Rooms, which are fascinating. Located near Westminster, they’ve preserved the underground shelter used by Churchill and his war cabinet during World War II. It’s an incredible record of the war, including fascinating map rooms.
We needed to do something really British after that, so Ian and I had our first pub meal, which, of course meant fish and chips. We went to a great place called The Red Lion and had awesome fish and chips. Fortified, we walked down The Mall, the long road that leads from basically Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace.
And if that wasn’t exciting enough, we hopped on the Tube and went to Marble Arch and Hyde Park to Speaker’s Corner. If you’ve never done this, it’s quite the spectacle. Basically, people convene in Hyde Park and debate, loudly, their opinions on any topic. On the day we were there, however, all of the debate seemed to focus on conflicts between Christians, Muslims and Jews. We would of liked more diversity of content, although we were entertained.
We returned to our flat for a little nap before heading to a local pub to take in the World Cup final, Germany vs Argentina. Definitely fun to watch the match in a country that cares so much about the sport! The crowd seemed fairly evenly split between the two countries. We sat with a very nice Argentine family. And, despite, Ian rooting for Germany, we managed to keep the peace during the match.
Rico’s POV: It’s great to finally start to blog about our journey so far… I’d like to start my post with this statement: At no point in this trip has anyone thought that Jane was my sister although I could see how it could be confusing seeing as I could pass for a 25 year old.
After a pretty quick 6 hour flight we landed in Heathrow Airport and were greeted by a large man holding a sign reading: JANE ACKERMAN. I found it a tad bit offending I wasn’t included, but our driver could have easily eaten me for breakfast so I kept my mouth shut. As my aunt said the lock box containing our keys was hidden in a great spot but eventually we cracked the code and got into our apartment.
After settling in we took to the streets of London and, to both our surprises, saw hordes of super heroes, villains, zombies and movie characters gathering for the London “ComicCon”. I was little scared at first because I thought that people were dressing up in these costumes for the fun of it I’m glad to see they had a reason to do it.
For those of you that might not know this is my first time in the United Kingdom, having visited Holland for a 2 week exchange and Germany in a similar program. I was very impressed with everything about London; the architecture, diversity and layout of the city is marvelous. Very reminiscent of New York City as a melting pot of different cultures.
We’ve been extremely lucky to get such great weather (knock on wood) and our first landmark visit was to Trafalgar Square. A bit confused seeing a giant blue chicken in the corner of the square but overall it was a great spot for pictures. Later, we crossed the River Thames to the Southbank where I was able to enjoy my first alcoholic beverage in the UK :). I think jet lag got the best of both of us, so after a nice dinner and great World Cup match (Holland won the 3rd place consolation game) we retired to our flat.
After forcing myself to wake up and get out of bed (I could have slept for another 6 hours) I showered and was ready for my full first day in England. We visited the underground Churchill War rooms which were very cool. I learned a lot of interesting things that will come in handy next year for sure (One of my history courses is called Europe During World War II).
I finally was able to see Big Ben and the Parliament building which was just awesome seeing those in person. I then was able to try my first Fish and Chips which was delicious and I got to see Buckingham Palace up close, another marvelous landmark. After some tea with the Queen we journeyed to Hyde Park to witness the radical Christians debate the radical Muslims which I could tell was not going to end anytime soon.
We returned to our neighborhood to a pub nearby our apartment to grab a few drinks and a bite to eat and to watch the highly anticipated World Cup Final. It was such a great game and even better to see Duestchland take home the title. This is only the beginning of our action packed trip stay tuned for our next posts!
Next post: our visit to Westminster Abbey and the London Eye