My friend Val, who lives in Chicago, had a work trip to London. She extended her stay through the weekend I got to meet up with her. I always seem to be tagging along on people's work trips but not having to work! That is the way to do a work trip. We had a super fun girls' weekend.
I haven't seen Val in 3 1/2 years since she and her husband came to visit us in Japan! I cannot believe it had been that long. You can see our trip from Japan here http://trackers.travellerspoint.com/67/ and here http://trackers.travellerspoint.com/68/
We spent the first day wandering around London and enjoying the sunshine. London was may more crowded than I had expected. It was also already decorated for Christmas. The first place we ran into was a grocery called M&S. This place was so cool because it was full of little prepared meals. It also had food that was all cut up and ready for cooking. This is such a contrast from German groceries where there are basically no prepared foods. Hungry for a rotisserie chicken or sandwich? Forget it. You better start looking for the ingredients to make it from scratch. But this place had everything already prepared with the nutritional content. It was such a great store for city living. It reminded me a lot of Fresh and Easy (for those of you in AZ).
Here are some pics from our walk along the River Thames. Also, a pic of the famous Globe theater and an attempt at a selfie.
The first night we went on a pub crawl with some Brits we met along the way. We ended up visiting 4 pubs and a champagne bar. We sure know how to start the weekend out right. The first couple guys who took us around to all the pubs were really fun and we had a great time getting to chat with some locals. The second group we met were a little older and shared some interesting information with us. Random fact that is still mindblowing to me: according to British men, women should not drink pints of beer. This is seen as unlady likelike and frowned upon. Men prefer their women to drink white wine or from a half pint glass if they "must" drink beer. You can see the look of disgust on this Brit's face as he sees us with our pint glasses. Wow! Such old fashioned thinking! I was really surprised. Don't worry ladies, I spoke my opinion on this although I know it didn't make much of an impact.
The next morning we returned to the front of one of the pubs we had visited.
We also briefly checked out the Burough Market. Being that it was Saturday, it was crazy crowded so we decided to head back on Monday for some snacks. Here are some pics though. This market is SOOOOOOOO awesome. It has tons of street food, gourmet cheeses and meats, and all other kinds of food products. I loved the set up and design of the stalls. They really go all out for style points. These pics show paella, curry, and pies. They have definitely stepped up the food quality here. I guess they heard about their reputation for bland food. That stereotype is deserved NO MORE!
That afternoon we enjoyed some udon noodles and gyoza! Gotta get my Japanese fix whenever possible. Then we went to the theater production of "Once." If you haven't seen the movie or heard that soundtrack, you should. It kept my attention span and you know how short that is! The production was, of course, different from the movie but it was still creative and fun although some of the visual slapstick British comedy was a little much for my taste. The neatest part of the show was that the stage had a bar on it as part of the set. Prior to the show starting the audience members could go up on stage and have a drink and the band from the show was playing Irish and Eastern European music. That was really unique and cool. No pictures of the stage (copyright protected).
Here are some pics from the trip home. We didn't make it until 3:00 like the night before.
The next day we went on a tour of the tower of London. This was such an interesting spot. We were given a tour by a beefeater who by requirement is a former military servicemen. I learned SO much on this tour but I won't blab on and on about it in the blog. Ask me about it sometime if you are interested. Here are the top things I learned:
Anne Boleyn was executed in this square by having her head chopped of in the French style with a sword rather than the English style with a chopping block. They brought an executioner from France specifically for this task as she was very scared of putting her head cut off in the English style (understandably slow). Apparently, the man was such an excellent executioner that her lips were still moving in prayer after her head was cut off.
They do not know where the term Beefeater comes but the gin company does send each beefeater a bottle on his birthday.
They keep 8 Ravens on the property at all times due to an old superstition that plague will come upon the Tower and all of London if there are not Ravens. One beefeater is assigned as the Raven master.
The crown jewels are kept here on the premises of the Tower of London and each year in May the Queen's crown is removed and she wears if for a special meeting (can't remember the meeting....I am sure it can be googled.)
Here we are eating some chips (aka fries) in front of the tower. The monkey and lion statues are made from chicken wire.
The beefeaters live on the property in these houses. Some other important people live in these houses too but I don't remember who they were.
Here I am in front of the Tower of London.
They were already decorated for Christmas with lights and trees and beautiful store windows. One street had pictures from the 12 days of Christmas song. We ate dinner at an amazing Thai food restaurant and wandered around the shopping streets. Low and behold we came across a restaurant that is only in 3 places in the world: North Shore Hawaii, Yokohama Japan, and London England. I have now been to all 3! What are the chances? It is a burger joint. Too funny.
The next morning we went back to Burough market and it was considerably less crowded. We enjoyed some delicious treats including a chicken pot pie, thai noodles, and some mini cupcakes. I just love the little shops in this market. They were so cute, we both needed pictures with them.
London is even cooler than I thought it would be and the food far exceeded my expectations. It was also much more crowded than I had expected. I am really looking forward to going back with Quinn and enjoying another pub crawl and a show! Also, looking forward to my next meet up with Val. I wonder where it will be?