Friday, June 10, 2011


i am seriously struggling to adequately sum up two and a half weeks spent in six very different and incredible-in-their-own-right locations. ultimately, it's impossible to share or even record for myself a picture-perfect memory of all that happened. i've gone back and forth as to how to even organize my experiences - chronologically? geographically? type of activity? ultimately, i've decided on a lame mixture of them all. and so, without further ado, we begin with london. 

ah, london. the land of royalty and red double decker buses. telephone booths on every corner and world renown landmarks dotting the skyline. i flew from salt lake city to chicago and then chicago to london all by my lonesome. well, there were other people on the plane, i just didn't know any of them {ryan flew from san fran and ed and lindsey were on a different airline}. 

my previously assigned seat happened to be right next to a lovely elderly woman who has lived near london her entire life. she told me her must-sees and -dos {which were all already on my list - phew!} and we chatted about everything and nothing for a few hours. she was rather large and had serious knee problems so there were no potty breaks for me unless she was already up - which only happened once and i didn't take advantage. as the clock ticked on and our arrival time drew near, the pilot announced we would need to circle for 20-30 minutes as we had yet to receive clearance to land. 

initially, i was only worried about my lack of a potty break, but that thought quickly fled my mind as we circled london proper. something, according to my friendly british neighbor, you don't normally even come close to seeing when flying into heathrow. i spotted landmark after landmark from my too-good-to-be-true-bird's-eye-view from my window seat and my heart was a flutter. as we glided past the city and lowered to the ground, the tidy row houses and miniature moving red buses came into perfect view and my two and a half week journey truly began.

although i flew "alone", all four of us landed within a half hour of each other. with two internationally-enabled cell phones we all found each other and began the first of many treks through public transport with our luggage in tow. {which, by the way, can i just toot my own horn for a second? the luggage in this picture is all i packed - minus the cute little girl - for the entire 2.5 weeks in seven cities with very different climates, activities and agendas. toot toot.}

forty five minutes later {after a much-needed potty stop for me}, we found our way to each other and the holiday inn express limehouse via the london underground and quickly settled in. 

the next few days were go go go. we had a lot on our wish list and i was determined to get most of it accomplished.

in no particular order, we saw:

the elegance that was st. paul's cathedral
{if you ever find yourself in london, go to st. paul's. and go all the way to the top. don't be afraid of climbing the 1,100+ stairs. it is worth the view.}

the creepiness that was kensington palace
{it's under construction and they've turned it into this strange 'enchanted palace' with stories about princess and larger than life creepy dolls and the lights off with lasers and eerie music playing. if it weren't for the gardens, i might have been down right angry for wasting my time.}

the grandeur that is the tower of london...
{royal armory - henry the viii must have thought a lot of himself, crown jewels and torture chambers, among other things. we loved it!}

...and big ben and parliament

the nerdiness {and i'm not ashamed to admit it} that was the makeshift platform 9 3/4 and millennium bridge
{the real platform 9 3/4 was under construction so they created a smaller version for super cool tourists like me.}

the bringing of textbooks to life that was the british library special collections
{we're talking originals of the magna carta, sacred texts, canterbury tales, handel's messiah, wedding march, bolero, {and others from mozart, haydn and beethoven}, jane austen's writing desk, manuscripts from wordsworth and milton, notes from leonardo da vinci's notebook, illuminated manuscripts the world over, the beatles yesterday lyrics scrap page, items from the travels of sir hans sloane and more. i'm such a nerd!!}

the intricacy that was westminster abbey
{no pics inside...}
the old world preserved that was the british museum...

...and the national gallery
the never ending yumminess that was harrods
{we only made it through the food area}

the royalty that was buckingham palace
{although we felt a little short changed when we heard the changing of the guards was an actual short changing of the guards that day - not the real deal.}

the awesomeness that was portobello market
{only open on saturday mornings. we got there bright and early and found some gems!}

the expensiveness that was the london eye
{and should have been included in our london pass, but sadly, was not. boo.}

the dream come true that was les mis at the queen's theatre
{except when someone stole our seats for the entire first half and when linds and i got locked out of the theatre after a bathroom break at intermission!}

and i'll never forget 
  • sprinting, seriously sprinting, to catch the dlr before it closed when we all had to go to the bathroom
  • freezing cold night pictures of big ben
  • a two hour bus ride to crouch end and back
  • asking someone where a particular gallery was and them replying, "it's in scotland!"
  • ed crouching down to get a picture of the train platform and the conductor gliding by saying, "cheers mate. you do that again and you'll be out of the station."
  • horribly crude irish men at our hotel the night we tried to play cards in the lobby.
  • hilarious tour guide on the city cruise boat tour {"wave back you miserable git!"}
  • church at the peckham ward

our minds were filled with the lyrics to fergie's london bridge and "i'm hen-er-y the eighth i am..." for a majority of the journey. we nearly perfected our british accents {especially lindsey, who continued to speak that way the entire two weeks}. i don't really want to talk about he frizz that was my hair. lindsey's flat iron was apparently too powerful for europe's outlets and it never worked. in maren-dome this is a very scary thing. but overall, london was a success. ryan would like to live there. it was that good. lots to see and so great to be somewhere so foreign with no language barrier. ah, london.
{p.s. isn't this the greatest pic? the eye, big ben, westminster abbey, a red bus and a telephone booth.}


Erica said...

once again I will say: I wanna be maren layton when I grow up.
this post gave me the chills, several times. loved it!

ashley said...

I can't tell you how much I'm going to love your blog for the next few days. I did study abroad in London and you are killing me with jealousy over here! And I love that you noticed Henry VIII's armor - hilarious!

Catriona said...

Wow, you saw a lot. But not us in south London. Maybe next time... ;)

Mary said...

I'm so glad you went to the british library! Isn't their collection amazing?!

ed and kelli said...

my favorite post so far. love this. LOVE the big ben and parliament pictures!

Ed & Lindsey Harman said...

London was oh so fun! Might get around to posting one day. I should just send everyone to your blog :). FYI- Not important, but it's Fergie that sings "London Bridge". We'll have to get together a Europe CD. :)