20190826

A Splendid Day in York

On the 5th day we left London.. we rented a car for the rest of our trip.. the United Kingdom has a great public transport system and while we did take trains all through out our spring break trip we M opted to drive this time around. It was a rough start with driving on the other side of the road.. and figuring out the road signs etc.. I must say that I think the roads in America are marked so much more clearly.. and the roads are also so much wider and smoother.

But very soon our rough start got a little rougher.. H threw up before we even got out of London. We had over three and a half more hours of driving left before we got to York. The drive itself was fine.. but when we were just about twenty minutes away from the hotel D threw up! Thankfully he was able to alert us beforehand and we were able to stop and he was able to get out of the car. Phew. We suspect it was the dinner form the night before.

York is a walled city in northeast England that was founded by the ancient Romans. We stayed in the Queen Hotel on the River Ouse, the location was perfect. Unfortunately the hotel was not. It was the worst hotel we have stayed at in a long time.. the carpets were damp.. three of us showered in cold to warm water before the fourth finally got hot water. The toilet needed several flushes.. 


We checked in and headed out around 3pm. We crossed the bridge and started to wander through its shop lined streets. We hadn't had lunch so we popped into Thomas the Baker for some savory stuffed pastries. Yum and just enough to tide us over till an early dinner. 

I must say.. York was delightful.





We took a walk through the Shambles, an old street in York. While the street was initially known for and home to many medieval butchers it is now known for being the inspiration behind Diagon Alley. 




and home to many Harry Potter themed shops.


We saw York Minster the second largest Gothic Cathedral in Northern Europe.


We walked up to the ruins of Clifford's Tower.. did not go inside. It was nice to just go up the stairs and get a view or the area. Shakespeare's Rose Theater was in the same parking lot. 


Afterward, we walked the walls of the city.. the wall is approximately 2 miles long, we didn't walk the entire length of it. They are beautifully preserved and are the longest medieval town walls in England. 


For dinner we found a little Thai place.. it was a real hidden gem call Mommy Thai.. so so good.


The next morning we had breakfast at Brew and Brownie. Yum!

Then we took a short walk.. just outside the walls of York to the National Railway Museum.. also free! It was a terrific museum.. we had to make sure we spent only a few hours there which was hard because it had just so much information and so many trains. They had donation jars scattered about and when a museum is so wonderful it makes you want to give back.




As you can see my hair has started to get wild.. the UK water did not agree with it.. and my hair straighter did not work. I had a converter.. and I have had no problems with voltage in Morocco or Eastern Europe.. the hotels did provide hair dryers but I can not use a round brush to save my life. So as the days went on my hair got wilder.. think Monica in Barbados (it's a Friends reference)


All in all it was a perfect 24 hours in York. 


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20190819

Four Days in London

Spoiler - It's going to be a long one.

This summer we set off on another adventure.. first stop was the great city of London. Since our 2018 spring trip to Morocco we have started to take red eye flights.. this way we can start our explorations bright and early and call it an early night. M and I don't really get much quality sleep but we power through.. the important thing is that the kids get their zz's.

We stayed at The Blandford Hotel in the Marylebone area and were just a few minutes away from the Baker Street Metro Station. The hotel was perfectly located.. the room was a little on the small side but everything was clean, the staff so nice and included a free breakfast.

DAY 1: We were ready to start the day around noon. We began with a quick lunch at Chik'n and then headed to Buckingham Palace.

     
We didn't go inside.. and it was nothing really special from the outside. We missed the changing of the guard but the two guards did march around. There were so many tourist everywhere and we not could wait to get away. None of the royals actually live in Buckingham Palace though most of them do have private apartments that they use when in town for their royal duties.


Outside the palace was the Queen Victoria Memorial Fountain. 

Next we headed towards Westminster Abbey, we did not go inside. 

A decade ago when we had just started to travel we used to go inside everything.. spend hours visiting the insides of churches, cathedrals, historic residences and palaces.. but we have now changed how we travel.. we'd rather explore neighborhoods and get the vibe of the city rather then go through a touristy checklist of the things everyone is doing. Many years ago when I watched Midnight in Paris I thought to myself 'man did I do Paris wrong'

Across the street was Elizabeth Tower.. better known as Big Ben. Fun fact - Big Ben is actually the name of the large bell inside the tower which is part of the Westminster Palace. Elizabeth Tower was under construction so not really a sight to see.



We headed towards Trafalgar Square.. we took a little break at a Costa Coffee inside a Waterstones Bookshop.


and then continued our walk towards Covent Garden, a lovely covered market in the West End. We first stopped at Milk Train to get these pretty ice creams! In the end it was just vanilla ice cream surrounded by cotton candy but they looked so pretty!



We continued on wards to Neal's Yard.. a colorful courtyard lined with shops and eateries..


We wanted to wrap up the first day early so we walked along a bit of Oxford Street.. the equivalent of New York's Fifth Avenue and then took an Uber back to Marylebone and ate at Zizi's Italian. Thankfully, we had only one little drizzle on our first day and otherwise the weather was lovely.

DAY 2: On the second day we got another great weather day. Coming to London, weather was one of my biggest concerns.. as adults we could power through rain but I wan't sure how the boys would react to it.

We had breakfast at the hotel and then headed to the Baker Street Station. Pro Tip - when headed to a large metropolitan city like London using the metro system is ideal. And being a few minutes away from a metro station makes it all so much more easier.


We exited at the Liverpool Station and made our way towards Old Spitalfields Market. This market has been in existence for over 350 years. But before we reached the market we stopped at It's a Butter Life for a slice of cake. The owners were so sweet.. when H couldn't settle on a flavor they gave us a bite of each! H finally picked a raspberry cake.


Old Spitalfields Market was full of artisans and artists.. there were a quite a few people selling beautiful OOAK clothing.. it felt like something out of Project Runway. One of my favorite artists there was David Wright who made insects of of recycled computer parts. He has an Etsy store where you can see his work.

We ate at the market.. unfortunately we both made some bad choices and neither of us loved our meals. Afterwards we headed to Brick Lane.. It was a Sunday so it was very busy..



Being of South Asian decent we weren't really looking for curry which Brick Lane is especially famous for or trying any of the cultural sweets.. But we did find really delish non South Asian gelato at a place called Dark Sugars.

We took another metro to the King's Cross Station. I gotta say.. London is doing a good job with their metro system.. they are so much larger, cleaner and there seemed a much smaller chance of being attacked by rats or an infectious disease on them then in the New York subway system.. eek.


While the boys have not starting reading Harry Potter yet and they have absolutely not watched any of the movies we did want to go see Platform 9 3/4. So we explained to them what it was all about and then went off to locate it.. to our disappointment there was a huge line... like a 100 plus people.. it was like a Disney attraction.. no way were we going to get in that line..


From there we got on yet another metro.. it was H's favorite thing to do.. and went to Camden Market.


While the Camden Market itself was extremely touristy and crowded it was the Camden Locks that we really liked. There were so many great food stalls and since we didn't have a great lunch M and I shared a roll from Roti House and just enjoyed the canal. We could have spent more time here eating our way through the market but we had dinner plans with an old friend and needed to keep our stomachs relatively empty.

We walked along the canal for a bit.. walking through a portion of Regents Park and then made our way to Primrose Hill for the view of the city. The view was alright.. not really picture worthy. Once we were done.. we grabbed and Uber and headed to Edgware Road for dinner.


Day 3: The sun was shinning and it was a beautiful day! We started the morning with the uber touristy London Eye. It's not something we would be drawn to.. we had people telling us it was a must as well as those saying it was a rip off and so slow and boring..


We actually enjoyed it and are very glad we went on it. If you decide to go buy tickets in advance.. even if it is just the night before.. and print the tickets out. It will save you a lot of time in the long long lines. I did notice they had some self service kiosks with smaller lines but we skipped all of that with our printed tickets in hand.. the line to get on the Eye was quick moving. Each capsule is quite large and they don't over crowd it with too many people..


Yes, it was a slow moving ferris wheel but it gave us ample time to whip out our phones and figure out everything we were seeing.. nerds.

Big Ben and Westminster

Out of the Eye and on to the Tate Museum of Modern Art. It was a free museum with a few restricted areas for paid visitors only. It was still large enough that we had to breeze though some of the areas.. we couldn't afford more than two hours at the museum.. I always have mixed feelings at a modern art museum.. I can't wrap my head around most of the pieces people have decided to call art.. 


A wall of carpet? I did very much like the Everything is Illuminated series of photographs by Naoya Natakeyama


The Tower of Babel by Cildo Meireles.. each radio was playing.. initially white noise till you listen a little closer. 

From the Tate Museum we headed to the Borough Market.. hungry.. M and I split up to get some food. I got the channa chaat from Horn OK Please and M got a salted beef sandwich and the boys got some pasta. There was no where to sit.. :(


Really good food.. I wish we had larger stomachs and we able to eat more but we needed to save a little space for Bread Ahead's magnificent doughnuts. They sell more than just donuts and everything looked absolutely delectable. 



Next stop Tower Bridge! We walked along the Thames to get to the Tower Bridge. 



We bought tickets to go up the bridge.. it was a short elevator ride up.. followed by a short but very informative video about the history of the bridge. Did you know the lower part of the bridge actually raises up to let boats pass? There are two horizontal walkways connecting the towers.. they are enclosed and have a section of glass bottoms allowing you to see the cars go by.


We finished crossing the bridge and walked around the Tower of London.. they had a lot of information about the tower at various points. We read a bit about it not feeling the need to go inside. It was once a fortress, an armory, a royal residence and a prison. It is also home to the crown jewels.


We went to St. Dustan's in the East, once a church its ruins are now a public garden. It was destroyed during WWII. It was a hidden gem.. emphasis on the hidden.. we almost walked right past it. M and I took a break.. the kids played in the ruins. It seemed to be a popular spot for taking insta outfit shots..




From there we took another metro from there to Chelsea. We spied the Monument to the Great Fire of London. The plan was to have dinner and dessert in Chelsea after we wandered the streets for a bit. But we were running a little late now.. so we wandered a little less.. and we couldn't really find a restaurant so we had dessert instead..


We shared a raspberry eclair.


Then we went to Peggy Porschen and had more dessert! I really loved all the flowers outside of the stores.. so pretty.

 H's choice

 D's choice

M and I shared

After we'd had our share of sweets we got an Uber and headed back towards our hotel to grab dinner at Nando's.

DAY 4: Our last day in London and we finally saw her true nature.. it rained all day long. We started our day in Nottingham.. the rain had put a damper on things.. the Portobello Market still hadn't fully opened..



We stopped to have lunch at GBK Burgers which was very good.. and then made our way over to Paddington Station the home of Paddington Bear.



From Paddington we took an Uber to The British Museum. The rainy day made it a bit crowded but it was large enough to contain everyone.. it was also free as I think all museums should be..


Okakagbe masquerade costumes made by the late Lawrence Ajanaku. It was a great, incredibly informative museum and a wonderful way to end our 4 days in London. The kids greatest disappointment was not being able to meet the Queen. 


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