Surprise!! Euro Trip #2
I See London, I See (Pt 1)
I See London, I See (Pt 2)
I See London, I See (Pt 3)
After a long day of travel, napping and eating in London, I woke up on day 2 in London ready to go ... at 2 am of course.
Stupid time change.
Luckily, I managed to roll over and snooze for a bit longer, finally officially waking up around 6ish. Even then, though, I still quietly laid in bed and putz'd on my iPad until about 7am, not wanting to wake my husband. Considering it was Sunday and he was lucky enough to finally have ONE day off work in the last 2.5 weeks, I wanted to let him sleep as long as possible.
Eventually though, after both of us taking a lazy approach to getting ready for the day, we finally found ourselves leaving our room and scouting for breakfast around 8 or 8:30. Since my husband was staying in the executive suites at the Hilton, we technically qualified for free breakfast in the lounge. But having eaten the same sausage, "bacon" (not American crispy bacon, btw), hash browns, scrambled eggs (which appeared to be made from a powdered mix) and random mini pastries, I couldn't' blame my husband for wanting to venture out and get something new from the great, wild unknown.
Since Paddington Station had a handful of grab and go options, we decided to walk down there and see what looked good. In the end, we each got a filled croissant type pastry and bottle of orange juice from a stand that looked promising. And, as being all things European and pastry, this did not disappoint. My mozzarella and tomato croissant was flakey, warm and delicious. My husband was equally impressed with his ... which I think was some sort of ham, mushroom and swiss type combo, I don't recall exactly.
Not being picky, we sat on a bench in the station and enjoyed our breakfast while the pigeons flew by about 10 feet away. Mmmm ... appetizing.
After enjoying our meal, we decided to take advantage of the early morning, no foot traffic situation, and hopped the tube (subway) to Waterloo Bridge. There we got the first of some spectacular views I had during this trip.
The London Eye (ferris wheel),
with Big Ben slightly to the right of it.
For any Bond fans that saw the latest movie,
obviously this building is STILL standing.
Since it was a beautifully clear, albeit cold morning, we decided to just take in the sites around the Waterloo Bridge by foot. My husband, being more familiar with the area, guided me around various streets while I took in the views.
And of course, I had to take the obligatory tourist photo along the way.
After a good hour of wandering / exploring, we decided to hop the tube back towards the direction of the hotel, as we had an appointment that direction at 11am. Not needing to go all the way to the hotel, we exited a stop or two early and popped up a few blocks from Hyde Park. There, we walked the neighborhoods, and got to see first hand how they walk the dog in London:
Once we got to the park itself, amused by the comings and goings of people doing everything from their daily run to their daily horse ride, we decided to grab a bench and just people watch. I was simply amazed at the diversity of people and activities that passed us by - everything from local Londoners to Russians speaking their native tongue, elderly on their daily walks to toddlers being pushed in strollers ... the park really had all kinds.
With the colder weather, sitting wasn't conducive to keeping warm, and eventually we were motivated to get up and keep moving. Walking along the outside of Hyde Park, on the sidewalk which adjoined the street, we made our way towards the Queensway Tube station. Along the way, we passed dozens of artists with their works displayed on the park's fence, which were available to purchase. Much like the goings on inside the park, the diversity of the artist's works outside were equally mixed. From classic ocean scenes to abstract paint splatters, there was a canvas for any kind of art connoisseur who might pass by.
Unfortunately, most of the pieces were much too large for me to want to bother bringing home, so making a purchase was entirely off the table. But looking was fun none the less.
Eventually we made our way to the Queensway Tube station, where we were a tad early for our 11am appointment - a bike tour! If you recall from my previous Euro Trip recaps this spring, we had fairly good success taking group bike tours, so we thought it would be worth a shot in London as well. Using our Amsterdam bike tour agency as a reference point, we took their recommendation and booked a tour with London Fat Bike Tours.
My husband, in originally hearing I wanted to do a bike tour in London, thought I was actually a tad deranged. (Um ... you married me dude ... you're surprised by this now?!) In his defense, though, I didn't know that the traffic in London is rather, uh, let's just say ... intense. Luckily, I had picked the Royal London tour option, which took us largely through the parks system, avoiding roads for all but maybe 5 minutes of the ride. Once my husband heard that bit of news, he was markedly more on board for the day's adventure, which started at 11 and ended at 3.
Anyway - back on topic. After we met up with our guide and got our bikes, we were off!
The tour was nice and leisurely, taking us through some of the more scenic areas of nearby parks and passing landmarks along the way. Once again we passed Big Ben, the London Eye, and a few new sites as well - Westminster Abbey, Buckingham and Kensington Palaces, and a few other more notable attractions. Of course, like our other tours, around the halfway point we broke for about 30 minutes to have a lunch and bathroom break, too.
Since I had seen most of the sites we passed on this tour earlier in the morning, I had already taken the photos I wished, so I didn't end up taking many other photos on the tour itself. Unfortunately, that leaves this part of the recap to appear a tad boring. Sorry about that.
I should have at least taken a photo with my bike. Drat.
After the tour wound down, we returned our bikes and thanked our guide, and then we were on our way.
In discussing the tour with my husband as we rambled back to the hotel, we both agreed that this tour was nice but ... in comparison to the other bike tours we took in Amsterdam, Paris and Rome it seemed a little lackluster. Of course, I'm spoiled enough to be able to make the comparison, so that doesn't mean that I don't recommend this particular tour. It just wasn't as impressive as some of the others I've done, that's all. In the end, I'm still glad we did it, and it was certainly nice to give my swollen, post-flight pregnancy feet a bit of a rest while still taking in the sites.
By the time we made it back to the hotel, it was around 4pm or so, and we were both looking forward to having a little relaxation time (sssshhh ... don't tell anyone I wasted more time on this trip taking yet another nap).
Around 5:30 or so, we decided to venture out of the hotel again for another scenic walk around London, guided by my husband. The walk was slightly less that ideal due to the winter sunset happening well before 5pm and everything being shrouded in darkness. Regardless of the dark, we had a nice stroll along one of the canals in London, and we did have the benefit of being able to see all the canal boats tied up for the night along the edge of the canal, so that was cool. I was actually quite surprised to see so many were house boats, and wondered if that was a common living accommodation for Londoners.
After walking for about a mile or so, we arrived at our dinner location. My husband had eaten here earlier in his trip, and although he said the food was just so-so (though better than many options he had eaten at during his visit), he did enjoy the walk along the way, so that's how we ended up at The Waterside Café in "Little Venice".
The restaurant was a traditional English pub, and had the typical dark wood interior and heavy wood furnishings along with a somewhat standard pub fair menu. After perusing the menu, I decided on the fish and chips, while my husband had some sort of pork roast platter. Both were tasty, though not what I'd rank "delicious", so don't go there expecting a blow your hair back experience. Just a nice, solid meal.
As you can see, I was far more interested in what I ordered, as that's what got camera time.
Oh, by the way - pro tip: in London pubs, the servers don't take your order at the table. Make sure once you review the menu that you walk up to the bar to place any food and drink orders.
After dinner, we repeated our leisurely stroll back to the hotel and called it a night, since my husband had to work the next day.
The next morning, since I was on my own after breakfast, I decided to adventure the tube and do some exploring. I ended up in the Piccadilly Circus area, which is kind of like a mini Times Square with a giant TV screen flashing advertisements at you all day, and lots of traffic humming by.
There, I did almost a full day of shopping (especially at Hamley's Toy store, and regretfully not at Liberty of London, though I wanted to buy lots there) and took some fun photos of the holiday street decorations I happened to pass.
After a long day on my feet and only a short lunch break, mid afternoon I decided to return to my hotel for a short break (and yes, another nap - I'm pregnant and dealing with a time change, OK?!). After dropping my bags and recovering, I headed out for adventure #2 of the day : Hyde Park and Winter Wonderland.
The walk to Hyde Park was shorter than I expected to reach the park itself, but MUCH longer than I expected once I was inside the park. Seriously, that park is huge!! I felt like I could see Winter Wonderland for ages before I finally got there.
Finally, though, I made it to the entry, and all that laid inside ...
Of course, along the way I couldn't help but chuckle at a few of the offerings as well (like a European style Paul Bunyan, a "shoot the ornament off the tree" gun game, a rollercoaster called "Thriller" that had Buddha as a mascot, and a boiled corn on the cob hut). Perhaps this is why they had free admission? (Kidding)
Eventually, after spending close to two hours roaming the spectacle and finally seeing it all, though partaking in nothing (pregnant = no rides, boo), I found myself on the absolute furthest possible corner of Hyde Park from my hotel and in the pitch dark. Not wanting to wander the park alone in the dark, and being right by a tube station, I opted to ride back to the hotel instead.
My feet were quite glad for that decision, though riding the tube didn't exactly promise me a seat during rush hour, so I did still stand quite a bit. At least it was less walking that it could have been.
Finally, I made it back to the hotel and met my husband, where we went out for another dinner at nearby Bizarro's, a reasonably priced Italian restaurant. Now that place, I actually DO recommend if you're in the area. The pizza I had was quite tasty, and my husband enjoyed his pasta as well.
Full of carbs, after dinner we headed back to the hotel for yet another bout of shut eye.
Hey! I needed my rest for the next day of adventure!! Stay tuned for more!