October 10 – 12, 2012
London Day 1
We arrived at Heathrow Airport from Reykjavik on Wednesday evening. After getting our luggage and going through customs it was off to London to meet up with Sam’s friend and former co-worker Rob. Rob and his girlfriend Judi were our hosts for our stay in London. They were fantastic hosts for us and we really appreciate everything they did.
The next part we should have had recorded- Rob had met us in central London, leading us back to their neighborhood where Judi showed up with their car to pick us up from the closest subway stop, and it looked like we were all piling into a clown car. Europeans drive much smaller cars than us Americans, which led to the funny scene. I was in the back seat with legs scrunched and multiple bags on me. I think my body temperature jumped to about 200 degrees.
Once we got to Rob & Judi’s home (which was a huge relief for me) we put our bags down and proceeded to have a couple of drinks. My drink of choice for the evening was Old Speckled Hen. Not only does it come in a huge bottle, but it is delicious- reminded me of a Bass, but lighter. I could have had about 27 of them on this evening, but I decided against it. That with the homemade pasta was just the trick to put me to bed.
London Day 2
This day was a late start as Sam and I tried to catch-up on some sleep. After we woke up, Rob accompanied us to the subway to help direct us to London. We got off at the Victoria stop and parted ways for the day as Rob left for work. Sam and I went to Vodafone to purchase a SIM card for our phone (a cheap UK phone Sam bought last time she was in the UK that uses a pay-as-you-go plan) so that we could contact friends in Europe as well as provide another avenue for our family to let us know that we are alive. We purchased the SIM card and were then told to wait 20-30 minutes until it registered. We did not even look at the phone again for another 3-4 hours, when we noticed it was still unregistered. I will have more detail on this, but Vodafone is AWFUL.
From there we began our walk around London. Sam has been to London several times, but I wanted to make sure to hit the highlights. Our journey started off walking to Buckingham Palace. It was cool to finally see Buckingham Palace in person after all the images that you see over the years. It is a great location with people constantly traveling through there, several parks right there, as well as some of the statues.
The highlight for me would have to be the statue with the guy riding the lion. I don’t remember if that was donated by Switzerland or the Netherlands, but whoever did it deserves some respect. That statue is awesome.
From there we strolled through St. James Park. It was a great day to be walking around as the clouds kept it from being too warm. We proceeded to walk by several other prominent places, such as 10 Downing where the Prime Minister lives. There is a lot of history right now with several monuments built to recognize old British wars and heroes. Next up was Trafalgar Square which is Sam’s favorite place in London. It provides you with some great views of London as well as contains signs asking you not to feed the pigeons. I noticed that the pigeons in London are fat, dumb, and happy. They just waddle along looking for the next sucker to feed them.
We proceeded to walk to other highlights in London including Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, Horse Guards Parade, London Eye, and The Tate Museum. We squeezed in as many sights as we could see before it started to pour around 5 pm. We hung around the Tate for an hour or so then busted out our umbrellas to race off to the subway. At the subway we ran into a slight delay, as Sam lost her day ticket, so we had to purchase another one (I had to get that dig in there).
By the way the red telephone booths that you may have seen in pictures or movies are disgusting. We Sam and I walked by one and I thought it would be a good idea to take a picture. The smell of urine alone made me want to hurl. It turns out that many of the telephone booths in the city have had the bottoms opened up so that all of the urine can drain out. That will conclude our portion of discussing urine.
After getting off the train we went to Tesco to purchase some food to make dinner for Rob & Judi as well as alcohol. We then proceeded to make dinner for them which consisted of chicken, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, and baguettes. For all of you that like to hate on my cooking, feel free to laugh as I put together this meal. They didn’t die of food poisoning so I guess I did okay.
I proceeded to try out the Tesco beer, which is a cheap way to get a buzz. I would have to compare it to Busch Light, so I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t think we have a picture of it, but if you are in London, just stop at a Tesco and you can easily find it. It’s the beer that is at least 1-2 pounds less than any of the other beers.
London Day 3
Day 3 consisted of us sleeping in a little later again. Rob took the day off from work to be our tour guide as well as take us to Wembley Stadium for the England vs San Marino soccer match. Despite what they say over here, I cannot refer to it as anything but Soccer.
Our first stop of the day was at Primark to purchase some clothes for the day and night as we were running low on clean clothes and our dirty ones had not dried since we washed them last night. Primark is similar to TJ Maxx where you can get clothes for relatively cheap. Unfortunately, much like any other time we shop Sam takes about 25 times as long as I do. Finally, we were able to get out of Primark and head out to London for our tour.
We started off our tour at The Shard, which is the tallest building in all of Europe. It is not 100% complete, but this is a fantastic building to look at. It really stands out compared to all of the other buildings that you see in London. I can only imagine how much it will cost to own or rent a space in this building.
The true highlight of this day for me, besides going to the soccer game, was going to Borough Market. If you are going to London you have to go to Borough Market. This has almost any type of food that you can imagine along with allowing you to sample free beer and wine. Borough Market is a very crowded place during the lunch hour, where you will see everyone in their suits and ties feasting on street meat. This is another fact that I appreciate about London, that many of the food locations make their food to cater to people on the go.
Along our way we stopped at The Anchor a proper English Pub located right on the Thames River. This is an extremely old bar, which has been around for around 400 years. The service was extremely slow, but eventually I got to try a new beer called London Pride. This would be your standard cheap beer at the bar, which was on draft at every English Pub we went to. I would have to compare it to Natty Light, it doesn’t taste particularly good, but it gets the job done. It is on the lower end of the price scale which I always appreciate. If you are looking to actually enjoy the taste of your beer I would recommend selecting anything but London Pride.
While we traveled to many other sites the other big highlight of the day for me was going to Wembley Stadium for the England vs San Marino soccer match. If you are not up on the current FIFA rankings, San Marino is tied for last place. Meaning they are the worst team in the world that FIFA will carry rankings for. This was expected to be a blood bath and it pretty much turned out that way.
Wembley is a fantastic stadium for a sporting event. We sat about 10 rows from the field a little to the right of one of the goals. We lucked out as it was the direction that England was attacking offensively in the second half, which meant that we caught a lot of the action right in front of us. England won 5-0 in a match that wasn’t even really that close.
A couple of interesting tidbits about Wembley Stadium for anyone interested. First, they don’t allow you to bring beer to the stands. I am not sure if this is true for all sporting events (hopefully not for the Pats game in a couple of weeks). This is due to the reputation that Brits have for being soccer hooligans, they outlawed drinking in the seats. It is important to note that you can drink in the concourse area, which led to many Brits making a mad dash for the concession stands as soon as it halftime to throw down their 3-4 beers before going back to their seats.
The other interesting tidbit is that the only real way to get to Wembley Stadium is by utilizing the subway system. Due to this fact the London Police does a stellar job of traffic control, limiting how many people can access the subway station at any point in time. While this may be hard to comprehend, it makes complete sense when you are there in person. Everyone behaved perfectly and it went very well. It was one time I wasn’t annoyed by the number of people and traffic leaving a sporting event.
I would have preferred a closer soccer match, but at the end of the day I could not complain at all. It was another great day in London. Seeing how Wembley is set-up made me even more excited to go to the Patriots game in a couple of weeks.
London Day 4
Our last day in London consisted of packing up our things as well as eating breakfast. Judi ran out to the local butcher and purchased some sausages which we proceeded to cook with our eggs. It was a great meal to send us off to Spain!
Thank you again to Rob and Judi for your hospitality it was greatly appreciated!
Overall London Experience (scale 1 to 10): 8
London is a great city, tons to do and see, easy to navigate. Great hosts and fun “proper” football game. Weather could have been better, food was nothing to write home about.
Check out our full London Picasso picture album