S: London Memories 2009 Jolene Gingrich
FC: London Memories 2009
1: December 24 - 30, 2009 found me headed to London, England with Kara and Jordan Kropf, Logan and Tamara Martin, Kayla Gingrich, Naomi Kuepfer, Trevor Martin, and Darren Bauman. Bettina and Evelyne came from Switzerland and joined us for a couple days. We had a crazy busy week that we stuffed full trying to see everything and go everywhere! | Adventures Ahead... | Kara | Bettina | Tamara | Trevor | Naomi | Yours Truly | Evelyne | Jordan | Logan | Darren | Kayla
2: We met at Logan and Tamara's Wed night to make last minute plans. Left there and headed down to Buffalo to the airport. Got there around 12:30 am | We found some unclaimed floorspace and tried to get some sleep before our flight at 6:05 am. We flew to Washington DC where we had a two hour layover before catching our 7 hr 14 min flight to Heathrow Airport, London, England. It was a long flight, but they actually served a decent breakfast!
3: We were extremely excited to step foot on English soil! When standing in line to go through Customs, Trevor tried taking a picture. I warned him, but was too late. A Customs Officer came over and made sure the picture was deleted. Since we were not landing until 10:00 pm, we booked a minibus to take us to our hostel. With Christmas being the next day, public transit was shutdown at midnight. We ended up waiting a long time for our driver. Finally found him, only to walk halfway to Scotland before getting to the bus. I was exhausted but drank in the sights!
4: We were booked at the Smart Russel Square Hostel for the nights we were in London. The first two nights we all were in a 9-bed dorm. As you can see, it was three bunks up, three bunks across. It was rather narrow beside the bunks, but we tried to be polite and make it work! | It was a lot of fun and was nice that we didn't have to worry about locking in our luggage while we were out on the town! The second night we were all quite hyper and it took forever until everyone settled down. From remote whoopie cushion to Trevor's surprise bunk party, it was not an early night's sleep!
5: Christmas morning we got up, 'enjoyed' the cornflakes, toast, and tea breakfast and walked up to the Charles Dickens museum. They weren't open yet, so we decided to walk the streets of London for awhile. I loved it. The streets are quaint, architecture amazing, and rather beautiful. They have a lot of plants and flowers decorating homes and businesses. Cyclamens seemed to be very common. The picture on the right is the fence surrounding the Royal Mail yard.
6: This was Charles Dickens' home in London. We toured the house and tried to enjoy a glass of mulled wine. The collection of treasures and historic information made it quite an interesting stop! | In the evening we came back and listened to an old white haired English man read 'A Christmas Carol' in Dickens' study. I loved it! Only Darren and I actually kept alert during the whole reading, thanks to making fun of the others, including Logan's snoring!!
7: The gorgeous splendour of an Old English Christmas! It was simply fabulous!! | Down in Dickens' study there were scads of first editions of his different books.
8: Picadilly Circus Perhaps one of the most walked through places of our whole trip. It seemed to be the biggest tourist place in London. Lots of tourist traps (souvenir stores), restaurants, shops, etc. We walked through here on our way to Westminster. We stopped at a tourist trap and also found this little cafe where we had our lunch. Yes, we are bundled up, but it is Christmas Day, and we are EATING OUTSIDE!! I still think I paid over 10 GBP for a panini and coffee. I don't want to believe it! We walked down through Waterloo Place, crossed The Mall, and past St James Park. Yes, we WALKED lots! Public Transit was down for Christmas Day. After traveling the day before, the walk did feel good!
9: I would say my favourite part of the whole trip was participating in the Christmas Day service at Westminster Abbey. Here we were able to listen to the famous Abbey Choir and be a part of a completely different worship experience. I'm still in awe of the opportunity we had!
10: What would a trip to London be without a photo shoot with the traditional Telephone Booth?
11: We were so hungry by the time the day was over. We walked all over to find a restaurant that was open. We came across this Sofra's and we enjoyed a most delicious dinner! My tzatziki, salmon, mashed potatoes and mixed veggies was a far cry from a traditional Christmas dinner! | CHRISTMAS DINNER
12: Saturday morning we took the underground to Victoria station to catch the train down to Gatwick Airport. There were two trains to the airport, half of us got the express, while the others ended up on the regular one. We had quite a time connecting again at the airport, but thanks to Logan's group spreading out over the airport to find us, we all got together. We boarded our RyanAir flight over to Dublin, Ireland! It was a short flight that was made enjoyable by visiting with a girl headed to see her boyfriend. She had recently been on a trip around the world and was all excited to know we were from Canada. "Canadians are so friendly!" It was quite exciting to see Irish land! Once landed at Dublin, we found the double-decker bus to take us into the city to our hostel. We were all quite hungry, tired, and excited!
13: Our hostel was a beautiful old building. We had a 12 bed dorm that had an upper storey with circular staircase up to two 'rooms'. We figured out which bed was whose, then dragged our weary bodies out to find dinner. It is amazing how quickly you can go from crashed in bed, to 100% psyched and ready to hit the town!
14: With our maps in hand, we headed out into Dublin. Checked out a few different restaurants until we met this lady on a street corner directing people to her restaurant. She took us back and down into this lovely wine cellar. It was of course amazing food again and we had some crazy fun times. The wine bottles made for a great hat rack. Trevor and Logan had found too much Irish Whiskey along the way and were full of mischief. The rest of us were all well behaved. After the meal, I found the lady again and thanked her for sending us to her restaurant. She wanted a picture with us, then with Jordan and Trevor. They happily obliged!
15: Canada Takes Over Dublin | After dinner we followed our trusty maps and walked along the canal then to find the oldest pub in Dublin, The Brazen Head. Sadly it was closed so we were not able to see inside. Across from it there was another pub open so we went in, and decided to split ways from there. Naomi, Darren, and I went out on our own to go see Dublin. | We tried to find areas on our map with the most interest areas and planned our route by that. We found many interesting buildings and haunts this way. Above we are posing by St Patrick's Cathedral. We walked and we walked for hours. I still say we walked on every street in Dublin, twice! It was definitely worth it though! Now I'd like to see Dublin in the daytime!
16: We walked up Grafton St, a busy cobbled alley with lots of interesting people. It was sad to see the young people stumbling along drunk. The first picture in the middle shows what kind of shoes a lot of these girls were wearing. I was amazed there were no broken ankles as I couldn't see how they could walk on the cobblestones with them and tipsy yet too!! | We had the shock of our lives when we noticed a Tim Hortons in a convenience store along Grafton St. It was heartening to see a touch of home and of course we had to go in. It was a little self serve joint which could have tasted better, but still, it was Tim Hortons!
17: It as interesting how empty most of the streets were. Naomi was our official crosswalk changer. They would have crosswalks in the middle of the blocks, that when we wanted to cross, you hit the button and stopped traffic! We were out walking until about 1:30am when we decided we should get back to the hostel. We got back and surprisingly everyone else was sound asleep. We caught up online a bit and crawled into bed around 2:30am. I didn't have any time with me, and knew we had to get up early to catch our flight back to London. I barely slept, between fear of oversleeping, noises through the walls, and fear of some drunk Irish man coming to occupy my extra bunk, it was hard to get more then a few winks of solid sleep. We hired two cabs to take us back to the airport. I was not thinking when I planned this part of our trip and we ended up almost missing our flight. We stampeded through the Dublin Airport to our gate and on to the plane. I don't even want to think how we nine Canadians looked!!
18: TRAVELLING & WAITING | We landed at Gatwick Airport, then scouted out the best way to get to Windsor Castle. While waiting for Kara and Jordan to purchase our tickets, the rest of us enjoyed Costa's, our frequent stop on the trip. Logan & Trevor put their hats out in hopes of a free train ride. For some reason, their collection didn't increase. Maybe the pile of luggage discouraged people? The train ride out to Windsor was quite relaxing.
19: Windsor Castle | At Windsor Castle we got to tour the State Apartments. It was incredible to see all the wealth displayed in the castle, and yet a bit sad. We were able to leave our luggage as we toured the apartments, but then had to retrieve them for the rest of our tour. The poor guard on the left stood so tall and still, moving only his eyes while people stood in line to take pictures with him. I wanted so badly to hold his arm but chickened out. Didn't want a bayonet pointed at me!! We enjoyed a delicious tapas dinner at La Tascas, an amazing Spanish restaurant in the old train station. We caught the last train back to London and found our rooms at the same hostel we had before.
20: ON TOP OF THE WORLD (almost) | Monday morning we got up and went to meet Bettina and Evelyne by Big Ben. We left the hostel late, then the subway had problems, and we got there quite a bit later than planned. Eventually we did connect and made our way across the Thames River to ride the London Eye up and around. It was so neat to see the different landmarks from the air. It is really a long way up there! | Evelyne and Bettina flew to London to meet us. Bettina had been in Ontario the beginning of the year and some of us had met her then. It was so fun to meet someone we knew!
21: On our way from the London Eye we found another Costa's. This one had a lovely lounge area and we all sat down to rest, relax, and plan our next move. It was great to sit and relax but I was a bit bummed out when we got to Buckingham Palace and realized if we would have kept walking we could have seen the Changing of the Guard. Ah well, my feet were grateful at least, not to mention the quiet was blissful as it seemed everyone was out that day. There were SO MANY PEOPLE, I was getting tired of the busyness.
22: We walked over to Buckingham Palace and spent some time wandering around the square in front. We couldn't tour the palace so could only look in from the outside. It would have been so much fun to tour it as well! All the people around was suffocating. We walked back Constitution Hill street.
23: At the end of Constitution Hill was the Wellington Arch. Here we caught the underground over to Leicester Square where we had lunch. I was fascinated by the LONG escalators in the undergrounds. I was thankful we didn't have to walk up and down stairs to get to the train we wanted!
24: Our next stop was the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street. Just up the street was a store called 'Elvisly Yours', I posed as I was born on Elvis' birthday! When we entered the one room of the house, this old man was standing there and supposedly was Dr. Watson. I tried Sherlock's hat on, but my bun got in the way and my hat wouldn't stay on!! Darren was able to pull the look.
25: Throughout the upper storeys of the house, they had various wax figures from the different stories. I don't know the Sherlock Holmes stories, so they didn't make as much sense to me. I was more intrigued by the antiques, especially the bathroom on the very top floor. The toilet and sink were so pretty, even the inside of the bowl had blue flowers in it! Half a flight up from the bathroom was a storage area amongst the rafters. After the tour, we browsed through the souvenir shop then pulled out our maps and went walking. We wandered a bit aimlessly through some of the back streets until finally came up with the plan to go see Harrod's!
26: HARRODS... what can I say? HUGE, pricey, and CRAMMED with people! When you see dresses for 7000 GBP or fur coats for 56000 GBP, you simply can't take it all in! I walked around with my jaw scraping the floor! There was a large sale on so the place was crowded with shoppers. | We had planned to meet outside the store in 30 min. I got in and survived only the women's fashions. I had had enough so got out. Kara was also through, so we walked around the block. It was definitely upscale shopping! Oh, and in case you wondered, the guys didn't go in. They waited until we girls were in, then took off to drool over expensive cars!
27: COSTA | Our most frequent stop was Costa's. It resembles Starbucks very closely but is actually a competitor. It was a great place to relax, warm up, and get our caffeine fix to keep going.
28: While walking back to our hostel we were on the prowl for a good place for dinner. This lady stopped us and invited us to her restaurant. There were 11 of us and they didn't have tables ready. We waited so long for it we finally gave up and parted ways from Bettina and Evelyne. We decided to head back to Russell Square area and find food there. | We got to the Underground station and the elevator up to street level looked like it had a long wait. So these energetic young people decide to hike up the circular staircase to the top! I about fainted almost to the top, but managed to make it. We found this amazing Chinese place and dug right in to satisfy our starving stomachs. Got back to the hostel and made plans for the next day, our LAST day in London. :(
29: On Tuesday we had purchased London passes and planned to spend the day again touring the city. Trevor and Darren had been talking and decided they would rather go out to see the Stonehenge. When Trevor told me, I asked if I could go along. They generously agreed and the three of us planned our day. We got up early and took the underground to London Bridge. The map said we were walking across London Bridge, but it wasn't the traditional bridge, we looked across and the next bridge over was the right one. We walked the streets over to Tower Bridge, past the Tower of London. On the way there was this sign with 'boyle' on it. Susan Boyle had just shocked the world with her singing and Trevor had been smitten... Tuesday was the only day we had that was damp and rainy, made for some miserable walking, but for as nice as the rest of the trip was, we couldn't complain.
30: We walked around by the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Snapped lots of pictures, but with it so rainy and miserable we decided to head back to the underground to catch our train out to the Stonehenge. | As we were walking back, we passed a Pret a Manger's. A little coffee shop I had noticed all over London. We stopped in to warm up and for some breakfast. Fresh tasty food made us fall in love with the place and wanting to bring them home with us! | Jolene | Trevor | Darren
31: We took the train out to Salisbury where we joined a double-decker tour bus out to the Stonehenge. We first drove through Salisbury where the tour guide pointed out historic buildings and places. Traveling through the English countryside was beautiful. It was neat to actually see a thatched roof house. I did not realize they are still around. Even though it was dreary and rainy, the weather seemed to fit the stereotypical England that you read about!
32: STONEHENGE... took me by surprise! I was expecting it to be quite a bit bigger, but still is amazing how these huge rocks were transported from miles away. It is only guessed what the Stonehenge really is from. On the bus back to Salisbury we went past all these mounds of dirt. They were graves of people from years ago. The size and shape of them meant different things about who the person was. | It was windy, damp, and chilly out there in the open countryside. We walked the path around the Stonehenge, taking pictures while trying to keep our umbrellas from blowing away. It was truly difficult trying to get good pictures, keeping your camera dray and holding on to a billowing umbrella! It felt good to get back on the bus and try to warm up again.
34: Everything British! | We had planned to meet the rest of our group as well as Bettina and Evelyne at Piccadilly Circus to go for supper. We got back early, walked around in this tourist trap. We also found some time to stop at Pret's and enjoyed a 'pre-supper'! Ah, the relaxation of being ahead of schedule!
35: We had seen these Aberdeen Steak Houses and thought we'd go there for supper. I wanted to order REAL English fish and chips, but was told they were out. So I ordered lamb shank instead and loved it! This restaurant was three floors high and served 1000 people. Up the street a couple blocks was another Aberdeen's!! | Riding the lift one last time from Russell Square station down to the underground to catch our train to Heathrow. Sad that our so looked forward trip was coming to an end!
36: AIRPORT PASTIMES... | Kayla Kara Naomi | Trevor Darren | Naomi | Tamara | Yours Truly
37: We had transit passes for the day, so we used those to get out to Heathrow before midnight. Our flight didn't leave until 7:00 or so the next morning, so we put in time at the airport. We found a wide range of activities to pass the time. When it was time to board our flight, we had the normal security check, but then had a very thorough security check just before our gate. We found out after we were back that Christmas day there was a bomber on a flight from England to the US, so they had extra precautions on all flights into the US. We had a tight connection in DC, but thankfully made it no problem. Got back to Buffalo and had to dig out the vehicles to head back home!! | Tamara | Logan | Jordan | Darren | Kayla | Trevor | Kara
38: Kayla brought a journal along for us to write in our memories, moments, comments, and complaints in during the trip. Obviously, some wrote more than others, but I believe we all got our moments of published success. Thanks Kayla, for the grand idea, it is a great way to preserve our trip and view it from the different viewpoints!
52: I walk the streets of London And notice in the faces passing by Somthing that makes me stop and listen My heart grows heavy with the cry Where is the hope for London? You whisper and my heart begins to soar As I'm reminded That every street in London in Yours Oh, yes it is I walk the dirt roads of Uganda I see the scars that war has left behind Hope like the sun is fading They're waiting for a cure no one can find And I hear children's voices singing Of a God who heals and rescues and restores And I'm reminded That every child in Africa is Yours And its all Yours, God, Yours, God Everything is Yours From the stars in the sky To the depths of the ocean floor And its all Yours, God, Yours, God Everything is Yours You're the Maker and Keeper, Father and Ruler of everything It's all Yours And I walk the sidewalks of Nashville Like Singapore, Manila and Shanghai I rush by the beggar's hand and the wealthy man And everywhere I look I realize That just like the streets of London For every man and woman, boy and girl All of creation This is our Father's world And its all Yours, God, Yours, God Everything is Yours From the stars in the sky To the depths of the ocean floor And its all Yours, God, Yours, God Everything is Yours You're the Maker and Keeper, Father and Ruler of everything STEVEN CURTIS CHAPMAN
53: And so ends 'Christmas in London' Thanks to everyone who joined me in this journey and made it a delightful trip!