Although the area is pretty obnoxious with hordes of people and cheap tourist shops, I don’t think anyone can walk through Piccadilly Circus and not appreciate the beauty, especially at night…
Thursday, September 29, 2011
I took this picture on our way into London…
I had taken it with the plans to talk about how much I love the taxis here. Not only are they all cute and British-y, but they are roomy enough to take all our luggage on and still be a comfortable ride. I can’t tell you how often we ride with suitcases in our laps.
I failed to take the picture off my camera and saw it today. Now it’s a farewell photo for my beloved Toms.
I’ve lost my favorite pair of shoes! My most comfortable pair!! In a city where I walk about 3 miles a day!! How did this happen? Well, I don’t know. I really don’t. I can’t imagine anyone would have taken the ragged things and in truth I found a hole forming on the back edge of the left one the last time I wore them.
Not that a hole would stop me from wearing them. I’m a total hobo these days and own very few things that don’t have at least a few pinholes in them from laundry tags. I’m tired of replacing what hotels and constant wearing and re-wearing (we’ve been in fall weather allllllll year this year) destroys.
I’m already really missing my Toms and hate the fact that they’ll be my very last pair since I recently found out that their founder supports and donates to a bigoted “straight families are the only families that count” organization.
Goodbye, Toms. I’ll remember you fondly.*
*Except for the whole “I gave money to a company that supports and organization that thinks I’m a second class citizen’ thing. Hopefully, the whole “I bought a pair of shoes which in turn provided a pair of shoes to a needy kid” cancels it out.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
I went to the Natural History museum yesterday and was quickly reminded I’m not really a fan of Natural History museums. I don’t like seeing stuffed animals and I hate replicas of just about anything. I want to see the real thing! They did, however, have a fascinating exhibit going on though that I really enjoyed. It was about sex in nature.
Now, I know some of my American readers are thinking--- OMG- did she say sex was fascinating on her blog?!?! I know they are because that’s how we roll in America. We’re total prudes! Please note that I say “we” because I, too, am a prude. I just didn’t realize I was until I left the good ol’ U S of A and found myself with mouth agape clutching my heart at people making out (read- practically doing it) on park benches, up against buildings and just about anywhere in public throughout Europe and South America. That is NOT okay in the U.S. and although I think my mind has broadened considerably with travel, I’m perfectly okay with clinging to my own culture on this one.
The exhibit was really very enlightening though. It was so interesting to learn about the different mating rituals of different species as well as the technical aspects.
Nature is truly freaking amazing- like a female mallard is routinely forced by males to mate, she can’t fight them off, but to ensure her offspring are getting the genes she deems the best she literally controls a number of internal passages and opens the real one that leads to the eggs only to the one duck she wants to have little ducklings with. Or how about that male guppies hand (fin?) over a sack of sperm to the females that they use at their own discretion to fertilize their eggs. Ooh or that there are 450 species that are known to have homosexual relationships. I guess that whole “it isn’t natural” argument is really out the window now isn’t it?
Aside from all the interesting facts, I’d say the very best part of the exhibit were these Green Porno clips starring Isabella Rossellini…
Absolutely hilarious, even for a prude like me.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
These signs were everywhere in the cable car and train stations in Chamonix-Mont Blanc…
Translation- hold your ice pick in your hand so you don’t gouge someone’s eyes out with it hanging on your backpack in a crowded cable car or train.
We actually saw people who didn’t heed these signs and can’t tell you how dangerous it was as they pushed their way through the crowds. Le idiots.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Save the nightmarish 3 hours it took to get home last night, we had a great weekend! Just like on our honeymoon, I’m going to pretend the UK border control wasn’t acting like you were trying to enter the pearly gates and remember only the wonderful parts of the weekend.*
Friday night we arrived in Geneva. Aside from one very rude train worker guy who treated me like an idiot for not seeing the fine print on a sign, it was incredibly easy to get into the city. 6 minutes from the airport to the city center and our hotel was about a 2 minute walk from there. Oh, and the ticket was free! Actually, when you visit Geneva all your public transportation is free. Which is awesome in itself, but even more so in a city where everything is apparently made of gold, or at least you’d think so with the prices. Seriously, my jaw is sore from dropping at the prices of everything all weekend.
We hit the hay early that night because we had an early tour Saturday morning. After a quick breakfast and 5 minute walk to the bus station, we were off to the French Alps. We stopped in Chamonix, a ridiculously quaint little French ski village. Chamonix is famous for being the site of the very first winter Olympics and being at the base of Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in Europe.
As we were pulling into town I realized I had to start facing the fact that I had booked a tour which I knew included very high cable car rides. Very high, as in over 12,000 feet high.
I was pretty nervous when we got on…
It was actually two separate cable cars, but I ended up doing very well, thank you very much…
See, I totally did it without any tears or freaking out. Although if you look closely you can see my kung fu grip on the rail.
Once up top we were blown away by the scenery…
We felt like we were on top of the world, high above the clouds and amid the gorgeous Alps. It was just absolutely breathtaking and I took a million pictures so be sure to check out the album.
Afterwards we had a delicious lunch in Chamonix and then took a little mountain train to the Mer de Glace glacier. There we took yet another cable car and then descended 400 steps to the glacier. Each year they tunnel out an ice cave in the glacier where you can walk through and look at ice sculptures…
We walked inside a glacier! Unbelievably cool, both literally and figuratively.
It was actually very disheartening to see how the cable car used to take you to the glacier, but thanks to global warming they’ve had to add all the stairs to get you lower and lower.
400 steps is no joke on the way up, but the views were really beautiful and we thankfully got a seat on the little train on the way back to Chamonix.
We were totally wiped by the end of the day…
A couple hours later and we were back in Geneva where we both took a much needed nap before heading out in search of dinner.
Sunday was spent walking around Geneva…
The old town part of the city is really lovely, full of narrow winding streets and beautiful old buildings. And of course the jet d’eau was very impressive.
We strolled around, visited St. Peter’s Cathedral, found some lunch and eventually headed out to the airport.
Then we arrived in London and breezed through immigration. We didn’t have to walk the back 40 to get to the train station only to find out we had to wait 25 minutes for the right train. We didn’t choke down food at Victoria Station because it was already so late when we got into the city and we so didn’t want to cry when we finally collapsed onto the bed 3 hours after arriving.**
All the pics from the weekend…
*Although I would like to state for the record- UK, you are not heaven. Far from it, my friends. You have separate hot and cold faucets, a horrible health care system and an exorbitant amount of tax money goes to furnishing a lifestyle for a queen and her offspring. Helloooo, it is 2011. I assure you, I do not want to illegally (or legally for that matter) want to stay in your country indefinitely, so no need for the 3rd degree. Also, maybe you should have more than 3 people working at the border when 3 flights are arriving at Gatwick.
**Or that’s how I’m going to remember it.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Just to update those who care and especially to update my friend who is coming and I know reads the blog- we have a great room now! It’s large, totally not creepy and there is no sign of this guy…
They even promised us we could have this exact room each week. Thank goodness.
Hope everyone has a great weekend!! We’re off to Geneva and to take a peak at Mont Blanc!
The tents at Oktoberfest are insanely crowded. The beer maids (I’ve totally made that term up for them. I have no idea what they call them, but waitress sounds wrong) blow whistles as they plow through the crowds with their liters of beer and food…
If you don’t heed the warning be ready to be pushed pretty aggressively out of their way. I saw more than a few elbows thrown. I pray I don’t hear a whistle in public anytime soon, because I’ll likely throw myself to the ground. I’m still a bit shell-shocked.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
I think I’ve mentioned before how I have a hard time at museums because I want to touch stuff. And by that I mean, I really want to touch stuff. I have a tough time being able to appreciate it without putting my hands on it. If we’re touring some castle or church or temple or what have you, I’ll inevitably touch walls and door handles as we walk through. (Note to self- maybe this is why you’re always sick?!?!) Anyway, I want to touch things and if it’s a book, I’ll want to smell it as well.
Victoria and Albert Museum, you are awesome…
Ming vase from the 16th century and I got to touch it! Legally.
There aren’t a ton of things in the museum you’re allowed to touch, which yes, I realize makes a lot of sense, but there were a few and it was enough to make this museum-goer a very happy one.
It also made me realize that I’m not the only weirdo who wants to touch things at museums.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
We all headed to the tents on Saturday to partake in some good ol’ Oktoberfest-ness. Because we didn’t have a table reserved (you need to do that 6 months in advance) we had to get there super early to ensure we could even get into a tent. Because it was opening weekend, no beer can be served until the mayor of Munich cracks open the first barrel of beer at noon. It was a painful 3 hours of waiting.
It was then a painful attempt to actually get a beer. You have to order from the beer maids and they only serve beer to you if you’re at or near a table. The tent is a madhouse and this is what it looks like when hundreds of people have been waiting 3 hours or more for beer…
That’s Silvia, she was awesome. She was serving the table we were standing by and she always sold us beer. She even kicked out some rude Aussies and let us have their seats since we were such great customers.
I’m not going to lie- the first 3-4 hours were not pleasant. At all. It was crowded and hot and we were all cranky and on the verge of a meltdown when we finally got our first beers…
It was quite possibly the best beer I’ve ever had in my life. Anyway, once the beer was in our hands, we all cheered up immediately and had a great time…
Note to all who wish to one day go to Oktoberfest- have a reserved table and don’t go on opening day. Also, do some upper body training because those beers are so freaking heavy.
Sunday, a few of us headed out of Munich to see the Neuschwanstein Castle a couple hours away. It rained the entire day, heavily with very few moments of reprieve.
The castle was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty's castle. It was by far the most impressive I’ve ever seen. We couldn’t take photos inside and since it was pouring most of the day I have little to show from our trip photography wise…
It was an incredibly fun weekend with some great friends! Can’t ask for much more.*
*Except a reserved table (hellooo, I’m too old not to stand that long) and better weather on Sunday.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Even for a nomad, we’re feeling extremely unsettled right now. If I lapse in posts, this is the reason. We’ve never had so many unknowns, changes and upheavals in one round before and it is taking a toll on my patience.
First we were told we HAD to get an apartment in London, no easy feat when you have to secure 6 of them. Then the schedule changed sending some people to other locations, then sending us all to Ireland for 4 weeks, then only 3 weeks for us, and finally only 2 weeks. Because of all the changes in timing it was impossible to secure an apartment and we were finally told we could stay in a hotel. Thanks to the very last minute change, our hotel didn’t have room for us last week. So, we had to stay at a different hotel, move our luggage over on Friday and then check-in to the new place when we returned from Munich.
When we finally arrived at midnight, to what is supposed to be our “home” for the next 5 weeks, we are less than impressed. Our room is a nightmare, literally. We were “upgraded” to a suite. Yay! Except wait, this suite hasn’t been upgraded…ever. It’s like a chopped up, creepy old apartment with little rooms connected to a heinous bathroom that even if a tidal wave of bleach washed over it, it would still look and feel dirty. We’re on the first floor and facing a very busy street so loud doesn’t begin to describe our nights. The whole floor is actually creepy. I’m not kidding when I say when I walk down the hall I’m waiting for blood to come spilling out of the elevator or these two to come walking towards me…
So, we wake up Monday morning with the mission of finding an apartment…again. London is insanely busy in October and because of the “deal” this hotel gave us, our budget is extremely low. I spend hours scouring the web and begging apartment people to help us find a place. If this is the hotel’s upgraded suite, we want out of here and pronto…at least before I start looking for a ax…or a big wheel, I didn’t want to see what character I was going to turn out to be.
Then Jules comes home and tells me the other girls can’t believe our stories about our room. Their rooms are nice. Mmmhmm, sure. Except, we go to look at them and they are. They are normal hotel rooms with normal bathrooms, even have a pullout sofa (which we need for our friends coming to visit) and no sign of the twins or blood spilling elevators on their halls.
As soon as some people check out this afternoon, I’m going up to look at a room the front desk guy assures us is on par with what the rest of the team received. Wish me luck because at any moment I could seriously start talking to my index finger, Tony.
*If you have not read the novel or seen the movie, The Shining- this post will not make a lot of sense to you. AND you should totally see that movie- it’s a classic!
First off, sorry for the blur, the Tower of London doesn’t have the greatest indoor lighting…
I told you monkeys should be avoided! The Tower used to have a menagerie of exotic animals that the public could come and see. They obviously had no clue how to take care of the animals properly, hence an open room with wild monkeys running around. They once had a polar bear they tied to a rope to let it fish in the Thames and an ostrich they killed feeding it nails and scraps of metal because that is what they thought the giant bird liked to eat. Zoos have come a long way.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Saturday, September 17, 2011
The world’s smallest body armor…
How cute is that? The sign said they originally thought it was made for a son of one of the queens who was a little person, but it is now believed to have been made for a 1 year old prince. Not that I think that a 1 year old should be riding off to battle or whatever, but come on- it’s cute.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
I loved seeing these markers as I walked around Dublin…
and they inspired me to finally get around to reading Joyce’s Ulysses. I’m just a few pages in thus far and I can already see this is going to be a labor of love…or maybe just a labor.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Seems the Wife was correct in thinking they only needed 2 weeks in Dublin for the job, so we were moved to London a week earlier. We arrived Saturday morning and after a small incident where our cabbie dropped us and all our bags 4 blocks from the hotel* we were happy to be here.
We had a lot of difficulty finding a hotel in London for this week because it seems a week of a million events in the city. We’re staying in a truly obnoxious part of town, Leicester Square. The only good thing is that it’s really central. We walked down to Buckingham Palace on Saturday…
and met up with our Londoner friends for dinner later that night. Did I tell you how excited I am to live somewhere with friends?!? Yay!!
We spent ALL day yesterday at the Tower of London. Alllllllll day.
It was a gorgeous day and we loved it, although our feet did not…
Okay, there is one other good part about our hotel’s location; we’re right by Chinatown. After making our way back from the Tower, we only had to take our barking dogs just a few feet to some really good Korean BBQ before falling into bed. We haven’t been in Europe in a while and we’ve got to get back into Europe touring shape!
I was a bit sad to miss the Blarney stone yet again, but that and our lovely Irish friend are just reasons to go back. I truly love Dublin, but I’m really excited to be here a bit early. London is just, it’s London. There are a million and three things to do here and I plan on taking full advantage of our little stint here. It isn’t often that I’m so spoilt for choice on how to spend my days.
Pics from the weekend…
*According to the bellman who helped us, the hotel offers a shuttle service so the black taxis are angry with them. Per this bellman, “this is a new low and means war'’!