The follow-up to our huge European whirlwind was a mid-week, three-day excursion to London. We flew taking advantage of RyanAir's wonderful airfares and spent the rest of the time experiencing as much as we could of what London has to offer.
Though less than three days is too short to get a real understanding of what such a huge city steeped in rich history is like, we were able to stay with our new friends, Valerie (from Quebec) and Tony (from New Zealand) and get a local perspective on one part of the city: Stratford. We had a great time staying at their place and meeting their other guests, people from Iowa, California, Israel, Germany, and Slovakia. Everyone was really friendly and the roommates had an awesome way of tracking all of their guests. They had a huge piece of blank cardboard that they called a map and every visitor had to draw their country or state on the map in relation to London. It was so interesting to see how easy it is to be confused with the shape and spacial relations of each region! We ended up having at least two Californias represented, Michigan was located south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and Egypt bordered Australia to the north.
Aside from our fantastic experience at Valerie and Tony's, we also had an opportunity to see the sites of London. We toured Notting Hill and Chelsea and checked out the hip coffee shops and vintage stores.
As we didn't want to miss out on the well-known sites in London, we also made a point to go downtown and see Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, the Royal Mews, the London Eye (I don't understand the fascination with huge ferris wheels in Europe), and Big Ben.
I was most impressed with the Tate Modern, which was recommended to me by a friend who lived in London over the summer. I'm not an art expert by any means and I found the Tate to be very stimulating and the collections were extremely well organized and not overwhelming. Perhaps the best part was going to the top floor of the building, an old power plant, where the museum renovators built another floor for a bar and restaurant. The view from this glass-walled area were absolutely magnificent and there were people from all walks of life relaxing and enjoying themselves with bottles of wine.
Another really amazing part of downtown London was the new Millenium Bridge. We only walked across this bridge at night and there are areas where you can look down and the grate is so wide that you can see the waves of the Thames crashing immediately beneath you! It's terrifying but also totally exciting. From a distance the bridge is amazing as it is lit in neon lights.
The reason you aren't getting any photo posts for this trip is because I plugged my camera in to ensure I could take as many pictures as I wanted during our stay, and promptly forgot to pack it in the mad mix of trying to pack three days of belongings into a carry-on. Oops! We bought a Kodak one-time-use camera while we were there and I realized I hadn't used a real film camera in years! Anyway, one of these days we will get the film developed and perhaps share them on this site.