We arrived in London around 9:00 in the evening after a long bus ride. We hustled out to get some staple English food, fish n’ chips and meat pie, and retired for the night in our old and slightly creepy hotel.
We woke up the next morning and buzzed through the National Gallery before making our way to a free walking tour of London. There were some truly impressive paintings in the gallery and only got a glimpse of about half of them.
We learned quite a bit of history on our tour – most notably regarding the Parliament Towers, Westminster Abbey (I see you, William and Kate), and Buckingham Palace. The flag was flying high at the Palace, which we learned meant that the Queen was in town – Happy Birthday Queen Elizabeth. We also learned about the origins of the ‘Changing of the Guards’ ceremony – Queen Victoria did not like appearing in public after her husband died, so this ceremony was created for ‘the people’ as a symbol of the royal presence.
We ended the tour with our second serving of fish n’ chips lunch and a couple of British brews. To end the day, we went to the National History Museum. It’s amazing how many museums in London are free! This was much appreciated since we basically had to give up our right arm to pay for the pubic transportation. This museum was awesome and we spent most of our time in the dinosaur section. Some of the most impressive dinosaur models, however, turned out to be replicas of fossils in US museums, go figure!
Next, we were off to Kings Cross station to catch a train northeast to Ely, a small cathedral city. Dan’s cousin, Glory, and her husband, Mike, live in Ely and we were going to stay with them for the week.
We spent the next few days exploring Ely, it’s cathedral and quaint streets. We enjoyed a jazz concert at the cathedral on Saturday evening, followed by Port wine and Stilton cheese back at the house.
On Sunday, we spent the day in the ever-famous university town of Cambridge. We enjoyed roaming the streets and taking in the sights and the markets. Later that afternoon, we wandered around the Town & Country Fair that was happening. The market vendors sold everything from fudge and cheese to jewelry made out of spoons, which obviously mesmerized Jess for hours. Once Dan dragged Jessie out of the market area, we enjoyed various entertainment gigs including Steam Engines, Equestrian Acrobatics, circus workshops, and our favorite – Bird of Prey flying displays.
There was a big crowd gathered around a man holding a large hawk. The trainer announced some bird facts and with the lift of his arm sent the bird flying into the air above the crowd. While swinging a rope, the trainer explained how the bird would return to him after a few moments. After about 10 minutes of stalling and nervous sweating, another trainer came over to inform him that the tracker had malfunctioned and the bird was gone. The trainer apologized to the crowd and quickly ended the show sending an evil smirk onto Dan’s face. Talk about a bad day at work for the trainer and emancipation for one lucky hawk!
The next few days were spent relaxing around the house and finding a tent for an upcoming music festival in the Netherlands. We enjoyed hanging out with Glory and Mike and learning about each other. After many needed home cooked meals and English beers, suddenly it was hugs and goodbyes and we were heading back to London.
With our flight to the Netherlands leaving early the next day, we cashed in some Hilton points and stayed near the airport. We were surprised with a hotel upgrade, which included free wine, fruit, chocolate and nuts in the room and complementary drinks at the lobby bar. Score!
We ventured into the city on our last night in London for an evening at a comedy show. The first comedian was clearly on something, but wickedly hilarious as he poked fun at typical Brits and other country stereotypes. We had so much fun that we nearly missed the last bus back to the hotel at 1:00 a.m. With our flight being so early, we were lucky to get 3 hours of sleep.
England was a great time to get a quick glimpse of culture but ultimately to relax. Our most memorable time will be that of sharing family dinners and laughing over beers. We had recently been rushing from city to city and England was our much needed break.