Saturday, March 28, 2015

London Adventure!

For my birthday, Dan and I went on a trip to London! Besides our short excursion to Austria in December, we haven't been out of Hungary since August. As soon as we arrived in London, it was culture shock. We arrived at Victoria station, a large transportation hub which is constantly crowded with people running to where they need to go. Just to give you an idea, the population of London is almost the population of the entire country of Hungary. Budapest is not nearly as busy, loud, or crowded as London.

Our first place to visit was Platform 93/4 at King's Cross Station. We were allowed to choose the scarf of our choice - I chose Hufflepuff and Dan chose Gryffindor! - and we got a few quick photos. There is a Harry Potter shop next to the "platform" where we bought a souvenir magnet and a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans.

The next day, we hit some of the main highlights of London. The Tower of London was our first stop.

We saw exhibitions about currency, military history, and the crown jewels. Unfortunately pictures of the crown jewels aren't allowed but they are spectacular! Wow! They are impressive.

Next we went to St. Paul's Cathedral (no pictures allowed here either).

The inside of the Cathedral is amazing. We took a guided tour which I highly recommend. We were able to see a few special sections of the cathedral which are off limits to normal tourists. You might recognize one section in this's one of the stairwells used in the Harry Potter movies.

Speaking of stairs, Dan and I climbed all of the way to the top of the Cathedral...528 steps! Sometimes I felt almost sick endlessly climbing the tight spiral stairs but the view at the end was worth it. Here are some of the views from the top.

After the Cathedral, we went to Westminister Abbey for Evensong service.

This evensong service is a musical service sung by the choir. The choir wasn't the full size, as you may have seen at William and Kate's Wedding. It was rather about 8-10 men who sang a cappella. Most of the pieces were plainchant (one melody all sung in unison) but one was polyphonic (several voices, each with their own part). I couldn't find any recordings of these specific pieces so I'll post this one from the royal wedding. Take a look at the beauty of the addition to the wonderful music!

(For the visual highlights, start at the very beginning and then jump to 2:14, 2:52, 4:41, 5:31, 6:27, 6:38, 7:32, 8:02, 8:43)

Westminster Abbey is right next to Big Ben and the Parliament.  We enjoyed seeing these iconic places up close!

After supper, we went to Harrod's to browse for a bit. (That's Harrod's with the lights.)

Harrod's is a gigantic store with everything imaginable. We bought a few chocolate truffles, some special beef jerky, and a cute Hello Kitty dressed as a royal guard.

On Saturday, we started with a visit to a car dealership. I had searched online for a Bugatti dealership. The Bugatti Veyron is Dan's favorite car and we were hoping to see one in person. We'll just have to settle for the little model version that I got for Dan as a gift once. There weren't any Bugattis in stock so we browsed the Bentley collection instead.  Here is a Bugatti.

After that, we went in search of the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space), the time machine from the show Doctor Who. It looks just like a police box which we visited near Earl's Court Station.

After that, we stopped by Sherlock Holmes home, 221b Baker Street.

Our final stop for the day was the British Museum.

We wish we could have spent more time in the museum because it has so many wonderful things to study. Our focus was the ancient Egyptian exhibit including the mummy of Cleopatra!  Here are some pictures of our favorites.

On Sunday morning we went to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. It was a much larger event than I was anticipating. The guards marched in with two different marching bands and there were hundreds of people in the crowd!

As we were leaving Buckingham Palace, we went to Hyde Park. It was a big moment because we saw our first squirrel since coming to Europe! Dan and I have been searching Hungary for squirrels (mokus in Hungarian) but we have yet to find any. We enjoyed seeing the squirrels in Hyde Park.

On Sunday, we visited two special parts of London from the 17th century. First, we visited the Monument. It was built to memorialize the 1666 fire of London. Inside the tower is a spiral staircase leading to a lookout point. This time it was 311 stairs!

Here are some photos from the top. Look at all of the construction going on!

Looking down the stairs from the top. Yikes!!!

After the Monument we went to Tower Bridge. I find it interesting that the most iconic bridges isn't the one named "London Bridge." I wonder if there are any songs about Tower Bridge? Anyway, we were able to walk across the walkway and look down through the glass floor! Plus, there were several informational posters about famous bridges, including the Chain Bridge in Budapest!

When we were finishing up our tour of the bridge, it started to rain so we hurried to find a place to eat supper. We decided to go for the traditional food so we ate fish and chips and shepherd's pie. They were both delicious!

The last day of our trip was my birthday. It's fun to think that I turned 30 in London! It will definitely be a birthday to remember. We first went to the Royal Academy of Music Museum. Although the museum is small, it had interesting displays and instruments. My favorite part was seeing the famous horn player Dennis Brain's horn on display.

To finish the evening we had dinner and a show. We went to a great restaurant called the Brasserie. The main event of the day was the musical Wicked. Dan and I both loved it! The show has been in London for 8 years, which was evident by the amazing sets and design of the entire theater. Our favorite parts were the elaborate sets, bright costumes, amazing singers (woo! the high notes were great!), and the musicality of the ensemble. I don't think I've ever heard such dynamic range in a musical before. Wicked was all around fantastic!

Our time in London was short but packed full of events. Dan and I had a wonderful trip that we will never forget. On our next trip, we'll be in Berlin! I look forward to sharing our adventures there as well. :)

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