Our favorite by far. London. We had two and a half days here. We quickly realized that there was just, flat out, not enough time. No way. There was so much to do and see we would simply have to come back. Once we made that decision, it sure seemed to take a lot of pressure off of us for this trip. We decided we would just kind of go with the flow, take our time, and enjoy what we did get to see. If we didn't see everything, its ok. We would be back. We had hop on/ hop off bus tickets for those couple of days so we decided to just ride that around for a while, getting on and off when we saw something interesting.
Our first stop. Buckingham Palace. We couldn't get too close because the royal army was doing a practice march or something. There were lots of people lined up to watch it, so we were glad we got off the bus just in the nick of time. We snapped a few photos and then carried on!
Of course, I couldn't come to London without doing a few Harry Potter things. I figured if we would be back, why not? Plus, Harry Potter is my absolute favorite. Ever. I am obsessed. There have been times I wished I was a wizard. Love HP.
So you can imagine my disappointment when I go to King's Cross station (in a torrential down poor) and this is what I found as my photo opportunity for platform 9 & 3/4. REALLY? They could really do a lot more. LAME. There was also several tours that were included in our bus ticket and there was a Harry Potter one. How could I resist. Scott was a good sport and tagged along. It was only an hour, so it worked out fine. We went through London at some filming spots and then at some of the spots the J.K. Rowling is said to of had some inspiration from.
The above picture is where Harry, Ron and Hermione leave a coffee shop after just meeting some death eaters. Watch the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, you'll see it! L-O-V-E!
The above is the sweet shop that is said to be one of the inspirations for Zonko's. I think it was more convenient on the walking tour and they wanted to sell Harry Potter lovers expensive candy, but lets not be cynical. It was great. I got a grab bag of Harry Potter candy that included licorice wands, taffy's and a dragon egg (easter egg filled with jelly beans... rip off). Oh well!
We also decided to see a few shows while in London. We went to Leicester Square and bought some tickets for a discounted price. We saw Phantom of the Opera the first night. Les Miserables the second.
We also found this little restaurant and had to take a picture. No time to eat!
Loved London, wished we had more time but we will be back, not to worry! We did try fish and chips (well, I tried fish and chips) and Scott had bangers and mash. Both delicious. Its what we had for lunch and dinner. We didn't even mind the rain.
What we learned
1. Take a bag of ketchup packets.
Every where we went charged us for ketchup packets! And we eat EVERYTHING with ketchup. Plus, their ketchup tastes different. It wouldn't hurt to throw in some mayo or mustard either.
2. Get nice, comfortable walking shoes. You walk everywhere! Get good shoes. If you don't, you will regret it later.
3. Take snacks. We took beef jerky, granola bars, fruit snacks, amongst other things. Our snacks saved our lives, especially in Switzerland when a value meal at McDonalds cost $13.
4. Take two cameras, in case you break one, like we did. Make sure they are good cameras. The only thing you get to really keep from the trip are your memories and pictures.
5. Put down the map. Get lost. We did so many times and ended up discovering so much about the city we were in. Plus, you will look less like a tourist.
6. Be careful where you exchange your money. Its usually better to exchange it over in Europe. We exchanged it at the Detroit Airport. Bad Idea. Still hate talking about it. I need to let it go. Ended up costing us about 300 Euro....
7. Find a McDonalds or Burger King if you have to use the restroom. They don't charge you! You have to be sneaky though!
8. Don't take pictures with people who are dressed up in historic garb unless you are willing to pay. They will charge you. It's not like Disneyland.
9. Brush up on some history before you go. It will make the trip so much more meaningful.
10. Take chances. Try some food that you wouldn't normally try. Eat gelato three times a day. Eat at the restaurants on the back streets. They are the best one. Or, eat where the locals eat, its probably some of the best food in the city. Listen to street performers. Participate in any tradition that promises to bring you back to the city. Shop. Some of my favorite memories of this trip are ones that totally made me leave my comfort zone, like showing up in Pisa without having directions to our hotel, yodeling in front of fifty strangers, or riding the french metro at one in the morning.
So glad we took a chance, went out on a limb, and jetted off to Europe, hope to see it again soon!