TraveLANG: New York City in February

Have you ever had a day so perfect that even before it was over, you knew you’d remember it forever? I had one of those days on February 20th. I had been in Maryland for the week because Louis was there on business. On a whim, we decided to spend Saturday in New York City. And it was SUCH a great decision. We lived on the east coast last summer (oops, I should probably blog about that…) and visited New York City almost every weekend, so we figured it would be fun to visit in the winter.

We woke up at 6:00 in the morning, got in our rented Nissan Versa and enjoyed the most gorgeous sunset on our drive. We arrived at the NJ Transit Secaucus train station a few hours later and caught the next train into the city.

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The weather was perfect. It was just cool enough for our heavy jackets and just overcast enough to take great pictures. I warned Louis on the way to the city that I was going to be taking a LOT of pictures all day…trust me, I pared them down quite a bit for this post. ūüôā¬†2

Our first stop was The New York Public Library to see the beautiful architecture.3

It was beautiful on the inside…almost like a museum in itself! We wandered the hallways, popped in all the unrestricted rooms, and tried not to annoy the many people studying inside. (Probably unsuccessfully.)45

I loved how grand and ornate everything was! We both agreed the library looked like how we imagine the American version of Hogwarts may look…or at least the American Ministry of Magic. (Yes, I know there is a whole new chunk of information about the wizarding world in North America that we’ll learn even more about soon…Praise the Lord!)67

As you can see, we pretty much had the place to ourselves, which made the structure even more impressive and easy to admire.8

This was the “globe room”, which suddenly made me realize I desperately “need” a globe somewhere in our apartment. ¬†9

I distinctly remember saying we needed to take pictures of the rows of books below, “So we’ll remember we were in a library!” …As if we’d forget?¬†10

With Kindles, iPads, and tablets, I feel like hardbound books are starting to become a thing of the past. However, so many rooms we walked through in the library seemed like they were frozen in time 30 years ago, which I kind of loved. I couldn’t pass up taking a picture of the sign on the microfilm reader¬†below reading: “Please Be Careful Not To Bang Your Head Against The Overhang When Getting Up From This Microfilm Reader. Thank You.” Louis and I wondered how many times this happened before they decided a sign was a necessity. ūüôā11

More things of the past? These payphones! (So archaic in fact that I just had to Google “public phones” to remember what they were called…) We stopped and made a few calls (psych.) before exploring more.12

Louis loved these lions made of Legos created to resemble Patience and Fortitude, the stone lions guarding the library.13

After we had our fill of the library, we wandered over to¬†Rockefeller Center. Since we were last there in the summer, we were eager to see the ice rink for the first time! We’ll have to go back during the holidays sometime to see the famous Christmas tree! (Made famous by Home Alone 2 in my mind, of course.)14

After watching the ice skaters for awhile (and sadly seeing no one wipeout), we walked over to admire St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It really is quite beautiful.¬†15

Our journey continued over to The Plaza Hotel…again, famous for being in Home Alone 2.¬†16

We admired the general splendor from the outside, and I lost track of how many times I said, “Guests of The New Celebrity Ding-Dang-Dong stay at the world-renowned Plaza Hotel, New York’s most exciting hotel experience!” Please tell me someone knows what I’m talking about. (I’ll give you a clue…HOME ALONE 2)17

Once inside, we tried to act like we were staying there, but I think our touristy outfits and my insistence that we take selfies in every mirror may have given us away.18

We climbed the marble staircase and found a beautiful ballroom that I’m 99% sure we weren’t supposed to go in to, but life is short, and I was happy to admire it.19

We decided to balance out the glamour of The Plaza Hotel with a DELISH lunch at Shake Shack. I stayed in line to order our food, while Louis awkwardly stalked eating people in an attempt to snag us a table. His stalking paid off, and we got to enjoy our burgers and fries at a table with a window view. Anyone who has tried to get a seat at the Shake Shack by Times Square at noon, knows what an achievement this was! 20

With our tummies full, we strolled over to Times Square. I just feel like you can see in the picture below how HAPPY we were. It was such a wonderful day so far and not even halfway over!21

We snapped between 2 and 200 selfies from every possible angle, because…why not?22

There was also a cool art exhibit (?) of these giant gold shards, so we snapped another picture together there.23

After I had my fill of Times Square pictures, we walked over to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. We couldn’t come into NYC and not see a Broadway show, so we snagged tickets for the matinee of Finding Neverland.¬†24

We joined the already forming line outside the theater, next to the van below, which Louis remarked looked, “like a unicorn…no! A uniCONE.” Is it any wonder I never get tired of hanging out with him? Hilarious. He insisted I take a picture, so we could remember it forever.¬†25

Even though we purchased tickets relatively last minute, we managed to get fabulous 5th row seats in the mezzanine, which were awesome¬†considering how tiny the theater was. The show was amazing! We both loved it. It was funny, emotional, and heart-warming. Plus, we got the extra special treat of seeing Kelsey Grammar during a limited time engagement as¬†Charles Frohman/Captain James Hook!!! Yes, Kelsey Grammar, as made famous by Home Alone 2….er…I mean, Frasier! He was so talented and hilarious! A true highlight of the show.26

The show ended around the time the sun started setting, so we decided to stroll through Central Park to enjoy the sunset on our way to our last stop in NYC.272829

There were people out walking their dogs, jogging, and relaxing. It was a totally different vibe than when we were there this summer. It felt more laid back, and I was happy there weren’t as many tourists crowding the walkways or people bothering us to buy their self-produced CD or take an overpriced carriage ride.¬†30

We walked over to Bethesda Fountain and Terrace (ALSO SEEN IN HOME ALONE 2, SORRY NOT SORRY) to snap a few more selfies. For people who aren’t as avid Home Alone 2 fans as we are, this spot was also seen¬†in Gossip Girl, Elf, and Enchanted. ūüôā It’s a great, easy-to-access photo opp!¬†31

Once we’d had our fill of Central Park, we quickly walked to, possibly, our most important destination of the day…Ladur√©e. We became addicted to their vanilla macarons this summer, and we couldn’t wait to have more! I don’t care if this sounds snobby, but you haven’t had macarons until you’ve had Ladur√©e. Seriously, no other macaron I’ve ever eaten even compares. We spent an embarrassing amount of money there, and we had no regrets. We ate them immediately as a snack, for dessert later that night, and as breakfast the next morning. Worth. Every. Calorie. ¬†32

We caught an Uber from Ladurée on the Upper East Side back to the train station to head back to Secaucus. Instead of driving straight back to Maryland though, we decided to make a pitstop in Princeton. We lived there last summer, so we wanted to head back to our old stomping grounds to enjoy some spots we used to visit all the time.33

First we went to Conte’s to enjoy some delicious pizza. This place is the epitome of a college town pizza spot. Drinks served by the pitcher, the only decor is beer and sports posters, and college games are on every television. Most importantly, they have great pizza!¬†34

We couldn’t eat, TOO much pizza though because we definitely had to go to The Bent Spoon. To give you an idea of how amazing this ice cream parlor is, there was a line out the door when we got there…at 10:00 PM…when it was 30 degrees outside…in the middle of winter! If that doesn’t prove how delicious their ice cream is, I don’t know what will.35

They make it fresh with local, organic,¬†seasonal ingredients every day, and it is indescribably delicious. Louis stuck with his traditional double scoop of vanilla bean, and I got a bit more adventurous with strawberry mascarpone. YES. STRAWBERRY MASCARPONE. It was seriously the best flavor I’ve ever had there…and possibly the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.36

Once we finished every last lick of our ice cream cones, we hopped back in our rental car, and drove back to Maryland. We finally climbed back in bed around 1:00 in the morning, bellies full of east coast treats, minds full of fun memories, and totally content.

Shout out to Louis, my sweetheart of an adventure buddy who is always coming up with amazing things for us to do together and always being up for anything. I can’t wait to see where life takes us next!

If you made it this far, thank you for letting me recap our day in painful detail. It was just such a perfect day, and I want to remember every little piece of it forever.

Siggy paint

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Christmas Gifts for The Globetrotter

Christmas gifts for the globetrotter

Well, the first gift I would get a Globetrotter is probably a basketball followed by a trampoline. HAHAH. JUST KIDDING. GOTCHA! I’m ACTUALLY talking about your friend that travels a lot! Now that we have THAT straightened out, I figured I’d share a few gifts perfect¬†for your friend that seems to be getting on a plane to a different location every time you talk to them!

External Battery

external battery

Louis and I invested in an external battery this summer for our time on the East coast, and it was so worth it! Whether we were taking pictures ¬†or killing time on the train, it was nice to not have to worry about our phones dying. Make sure to get one that is compatible with whatever devices your friend¬†has, and if you find out they’re “not an iPhone person,” get that sort of negativity out of your life right now. Haha, just kidding. ūüôā Shout out to non-iPhone users…whoever you are!

Headphones

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A nice pair of headphones is great to have on a long plane ride. A wireless and noise-cancelling pair like these would be perfect, so they¬†can tune out that annoying person two rows back and not get tangled up in the wires if they¬†drift off. Maybe you could include an iTunes gift card and your favorite playlist, so they’ll have some new jams to enjoy. Disney’s Great Hits Volume 3? Anyone?…just me? Ok.

Selfie Stick

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As annoying as these are and as much fun as I’ve made of them, I have to admit…they can be pretty convenient. I’m all for asking someone walking by¬†to snap your picture, but sometimes for some weird reason they don’t want to spend twenty minutes doing a photoshoot of you to make sure you look your best while making sure to include the background at just the right¬†artsy angle. This will help your friend get the perfect Instagram shot however long it takes.

Inspiring Journal 

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A journal explicitly for recording travels would be a great gift. It would encourage your friend to take a few moments each day on her trip¬†to reflect on her adventures and write them down, so she’ll never forget.

Luggage Tags

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Sometimes, a simple luggage tag is all your need to help spot your bag out of the sea of black luggage rotating around the baggage carousel. This one is great because it fits on several types of bags and has a strong cable to help insure it doesn’t get ripped off the¬†bag in transit.

***Extra tip: “Wrap” your Globetrotter friend’s presents in a Trendy Carry-on! They’ll be able to pack some essentials in it for the plane JUST in case their other bags don’t make it to their final destination. ūüôā

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Beware! Shopping for these items may give you the travel bug too, but at least you know you’ll have a friend ready to go on adventures with you! Happy shopping!

Feel free to check out my other gift guides here:

The Fashionista

The Foodie

The Homebody

The Disney Fan

DottedSiggy

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using these links, I may receive a small percentage at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting Hoots of a Night Al!

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EngLANGd: Part 4

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Our last full day in London brought us absolutely beautiful weather! Such a lovely send off! We started our day with breakfast and more pictures on our way to Westminster Abbey. We loved walking past the London Eye every day on our way to our adventures.

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Our stroll from our hotel was pretty and quick, so bright and early we got into the already forming line and waited for Westminster Abbey to open for tours.

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Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside the Abbey, so you’ll just have to allow me to paint you the scene with my words. Or, you could always just google pictures of the interior. ūüôā Until then my outdoor pictures will have to suffice!

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We used the audio tour to explore the inside of the Abbey. It was…different. Parts of it were as regal and beautiful as I imagined they would be. However, there are SOOO many people buried there. Like, hundreds maybe? Not even kidding. Maybe this is common knowledge, but I was not expecting to be walking next to and on top of graves the entire time we were touring. It was like a giant, indoor cemetery…very odd! The walls and floors were lined with tombstones, memorials, and vaults. It was neat to learn the history of the chapels and people buried there, but I was expecting more of a church feel and less of a mausoleum.

We wandered around admiring the statues, architecture, and stained glass for a couple of hours before we headed¬†outside. The corridors leading out of the Abbey were 100% from Hogwarts, so naturally, we took tons of pictures! You can’t tell me these hallways won’t lead me to the Great Hall.

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The corridors surrounded a beautiful courtyard with more stained glass and photo opportunities.

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Next we found Britain’s oldest door, which dates around 1050! I pretended to knock on it, while fearing it may disintegrate, before we headed into the chapter house.

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This area was a beautiful octagonal room full of stained glass and wall paintings that dated back to the 1200s. I loved the tall, extravagant ceilings! The architecture was stunning in here.

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We explored Westminster Abbey for a little while longer, and took a few more pictures of the lovely exterior.
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By that time we were cold and famished, so we headed to a nearby pub and grabbed some Steak and Ale pies. Nowhere near as good as fish and chips, but it was nice and warm on a chilly day!

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The rest of our day was mostly unplanned, so we decided to go to the Natural History Museum on a whim.

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It was one of the best decisions we made! The museum was jaw-dropping!

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We were floored by the amazing architecture. When you come in, you are greeted by a huge dinosaur skeleton, which inspired us to quickly head into the dinosaur exhibit.

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It was so great! They had so many fossils and skeletons and a huge animatronic tyrannosaurus rex. Louis was so psyched…he’s been a huge dinosaur fan since he was little.

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My personal favorite part was the mineralogy area…in particular The Vault. It housed some of the most beautiful stones! I wish I had taken some pictures, though I doubt they would have done the gems justice. We spent some more time in the main lobby while the sun set. The evening light coming through the cathedral-like ceilings was stunning. If I’m being honest, I think I was more impressed by the architecture at the Natural History Museum than at Westminster Abbey! Even if you aren’t a huge museum fan, this is a must visit when in London.

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The museum was closing, so we strolled next door to the Science Museum. We mostly visited here because they were having an exhibit about 3D printing, which Louis is super interested in. It was neat, and I’m so amazed by all of the things that can be 3D printed! It is creepy and exciting all at once; I feel like we’re totally living in the future. We explored a few more exhibits, but we were pretty exhausted by this point. I’m sure there are a ton of areas that we didn’t even set foot in, so maybe this should be on our list to visit if we ever go back!

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The Steak and Ale pies from earlier hadn’t really held us over, so we headed to find some dinner. We decided on Bella Italia, a place that had been suggested by my friend, Anne. It definitely didn’t disappoint! We were seated at a small table for two upstairs. We enjoyed some delicious Italian food (pepperoni pizza and spaghetti bolognese because we’re so adventurous), and talking about how great our trip had been.

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After dinner, we found the most adorable bakery, Hummingbird Bakery. I got a red velvet cupcake, and Louis got vanilla and carrot cake cupcakes. His carrot cake cupcake was literally the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten. I’m so lucky he shared a bite with me. ūüôā I’m happy we got to spend our last night strolling around London and enjoying the ambience of the city and each other’s company.

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When we finally got back to our hotel, we took an Uber car to a hotel by the airport. We had an early flight to catch, so we wanted to be close by. The next day, we loaded up, headed to Heathrow and hopped on a plane back to Texas!

18We had such an amazing time on our trip across the pond! It definitely made me want to travel more with Louis because I realized how much there is to see in the world! I feel so thankful and blessed that we were able to make such fun memories together.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for following along with my recaps of our EngLANGd adventures! I loved reminiscing about our trip and sifting through my hundreds of pictures to share. I’m so proud of my recap title, I guess our next trip will have to¬†be somewhere else ending in ‘land’…ScotLANGd, IreLANGd, ThaiLANGd, SwitzerLANGd…we should be good to go! ūüėČ

DottedSiggy

 

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EngLANGd: Part 3

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When I last left off, we were getting a good night’s sleep for another busy day. We woke up well rested and excited to explore!¬†The rough part was the weather; it was definitely the coldest, rainiest day we experienced in England EngLANGd. Naturally, we decided that meant it was the best day to experience an almost entirely outdoor attraction, The Tower of London. Obviously, a great decision.

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We took the tube across the city and arrived to the dreary looking palace. Even though the weather wasn’t very enjoyable, I think it did add to the ambience of the Tower. Since this was a site where many beheadings, imprisonments, and acts of torture took place, the overcast, rainy day definitely aided in setting the mood.

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We stayed protected under the umbrella taking selfies and snapshots throughout the spacious¬†grounds. Much of our tour included hiking up several of the towers to see and read about what they had been used for during¬†the Tower’s 1000-year history.

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Throughout the Tower there were several chicken wire sculptures of various animals. They were such amazing sculptures, and they represented many of the species that lived in the Royal Menagerie in the past. Over the years, they had monkeys, elephants, tigers, lions, kangaroos, and more! There was even a polar bear that was tied to a long rope and allowed to go fishing in the Thames in 1252. Can you imagine floating by on a boat and seeing that? Bizarre.

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My favorite part of the Tower of London was FOR SURE The Crown Jewels exhibit. The exhibit had scepters, Coronation spoons, tons of regalia, and crowns, crowns, crowns! I wish I could have taken pictures in this exhibit because all of the pieces they had were so elaborate and beautiful! One scepter alone held a diamond that is 530.2 carats. Insane. Everything was exquisite and so uniquely designed. One of the most bizarre things was a stunning crown that was only worn ONCE when the Queen traveled out of the country because none of the crown jewels are allowed to leave the United Kingdom. I thought since they were never planning to use it again, I could have it, but no dice.

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After a ton of time in The Crown Jewels exhibit, we braved the rain again. We took a bizarrely happy picture in the torture chamber (below, left), and a quick shot in front of the iconic London Tower Bridge.

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I took a spin back around to the Crown Jewels to possibly swipe a few, but upon passing another torture chamber I chickened out.

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Another favorite part of ours was the Tower of London Remembers exhibit which featured the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red art installation. 888,246 handmade, ceramic poppies were placed around, under, and over the Tower of London to represent all of the British fatalities in World War I. The visual impact was stunning and a touching tribute. 

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The Tower of London was a really amazing place to visit, and I wish we had gone when the weather was more cooperative.

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The rain finally did us in, so we snapped a few more selfies, and began the stroll back to the underground to head over to the British Museum.

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We decided to mix it up a bit for lunch, and eat fish and chips. (…It’s a joke guys, because we had already eaten so many fish and chips.) Once again, it didn’t disappoint, and once again, we¬†didn’t eat a single pea.

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We trekked through the rain a bit further (seriously, it didn’t let up all day), and finally arrived at the British Museum.

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Oh my gosh. This place was NOT messing around. Before even considering the amazing collections housed in its walls, the museum stopped us in our tracks with its beautiful architecture. We admired the glass domed ceiling for quite awhile before heading into the Egyptian exhibit.

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The sheer size of the museum blew us away the entire time we explored. There was room after room packed wall-t0-wall with priceless artifacts spanning thousands of years.

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Plus, all of the pieces were so accessible. We were able to get up close to so many different sculptures and statues.

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The overwhelming amount of areas and objects to see made me realize how little of the world I have explored and how little I know of history. It was inspiring and humbling all at once.

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I think one of Louis’s favorite parts was the original Michelangelo sketch framed below. As someone who has always been interested in art, I’m sure that was so exciting to see in person. We spent several hours at the museum, but I know we barely scratched the surface of all the things to explore. I’m sure you could visit there daily and still not see all the museum has to offer.

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After leaving the museum we were feeling very cultured and full of¬†desire to explore and experience new things…so we ate McDonald’s for dinner.

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After dinner, we strolled along the Thames and enjoyed London all lit up for the evening. It truly is a beautiful city.

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Louis took the panoramic picture below to show the proximity of our hotel to Big Ben. You could literally see it from the lobby! It was the perfect location for our trip.

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On that note, another long, day had come to an end in London Town. We curled up in our cozy bed, watched a bit of British television, and drifted off.

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DottedSiggy

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EngLANGd: Part 2

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As, I mentioned in EngLANGd: Part 1, the second half of our trip included time together in London, which was amazing! After Louis finished working the last day, we took the train back into Padington Station and took the tube to our hotel. In London, we stayed at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel, which I cannot recommend enough! We received a complimentary upgrade, the hotel and room were beautiful, and the location was so convenient.

Once we got settled in our room, we decided to head out for some dinner. While crossing Westminster Bridge we were accosted by some creepy swindlers insisting we take pictures with them. After politely declining several attempts, we obliged their requests. Once we did, they demanded we pay them. Um, thanks, but we didn’t really want bad Fiona and Charlie Chaplin impersonators in our pictures. We didn’t pay them obviously, but we saw them (along with many other) scammers¬†every time we crossed the bridge bothering tourists and being generally sketchy. Just a word to the wise to avoid them if you ever cross Westminster Bridge. ūüôā Also, if you’re going to barge into my picture, at least smile. Geez. “Fiona” looks so annoyed.

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London was seriously beautiful at night. The uplighting on Big Ben, The Palace of Westminster, and The London Eye, gave the entire city a very magical look.

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We finally arrived to the underground and took the tube to Piccadilly Circus. The tube was so easy to use, and we got Oyster Cards to make the experience even simpler. The underground is totally the way to travel around London.

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Piccadilly Circus was described to me as the Times Square of London. It had several restaurants, pubs, clubs, and shops along with some beautiful Christmas decor.

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We settled on dinner at another pub and ordered, what else, fish and chips. After dinner, we were pretty tired from another day of travel, so we climbed into our comfy beds and rested up for a busy day ahead!

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We awoke bright and early and ready to explore! First up was more pictures in front of Big Ben. Guys, I’m not even sorry to say we took probably close to 100 pictures in front of Big Ben. The fact that we had a perfect view of it every time we left our hotel was just too tempting.

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We decided to get tickets to tour The Palace of Westminster, where Parliament resides.

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We took more pictures of the beautiful surroundings until our tour time.

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The inner grounds of the Palace of Westminster offered more great views of Big Ben, so we happily snapped some more shots before heading inside.

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The oldest parts of the palace were built in 1097, so there was a long, rich history to explore. Inside there were countless statues, paintings, mosaics, and stained glass windows portraying several of the people and events that impacted and shaped England.

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We put on our headphones to start the guided audio tour and enjoyed strolling through the giant and magnificent building.

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I had to high five the statue below for being so great. I also seem to remember Louis making me pose extra long for this picture to ensure maximum embarrassment. Oh and the green sparkles around my eye in the left picture? Probably just more proof of wizards in London.

11One of our favorite things we learned about on the tour was the Black Rod. He is a speaker for the Queen, and one of his main duties is summoning the House of Commons to meet with the House of Lords. Per tradition, when he comes to call on them (in ceremonial clothes no less), they slam the door in his face. Hah. Silly, English traditions. I am sure this is a very desirable and distinguished position, but the image of a man dressed in a costume purposefully having a door slammed in his face just cracked us up.

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We were only able to take pictures for the first third of the tour, but we more than made up for it back outside with more Big Ben selfies. The picture on the left was actually used for the front of our Christmas card! (Along with the phrase, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”, which I thought was a great, discreet clock reference ūüėČ )

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After a million selfies, the crowds thinned out, and we decided it was the perfect time for some solo Big Ben shots. I snapped this perfect picture of handsome Louis. Then it was my turn.

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This unsuspecting man strolled past, so Louis was waiting for him to keep walking to take my coveted Big Ben picture. Lucky for us though, he decided to stop and stand just to my left FOREVER. I started laughing of course, we gave up, and continued on to more adventures.

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We walked down Whitehall to The Household Calvary Museum. There were some beautiful horses and fancy guards with snazzy ponytail helmets. We strolled around for a bit before heading to St. James Park.

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The park was gorgeous. It was beautifully landscaped and full of couples strolling hand-in-hand, locals walking their dogs, and families enjoying the day. We stopped for lunch at Inn the Park (clever, I agree), and enjoyed views of St. James Park Lake.

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We continued our walk through the park until we reached Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, we were unable to tour the palace due to the time of year. We simply had to admire it from the outside, which, I’ll admit, was a little underwhelming. After seeing so many other grand buildings¬†around the city, the palace seemed a bit lacking. I’m sure my opinion would change completely if we got to tour the inside, so perhaps we can head back to do that someday.

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I also had a quick conversation with the Queen and one of her guards.

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We walked back through the park sharing some delicious ice cream and snapped a few more iconic pictures.

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Another ride on the tube took us over to Covent Garden, which was amazing! It was full of shops and restaurants and TONS of people. I wish it had been less crowded, so we could explore more. With all of the crowds we decided to just grab what we could for dinner, which meant we ended up at Shake Shack. It was totally delicious. No regrets here.

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From Covent Garden, we walked back to our hotel (another mile-long journey), putting us around walking 10 miles that day. By the time we made it home, we fell into bed! We still had more days to explore though! See you soon with EngLANGd: Part 3!

DottedSiggy

 

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