Apr 20, 2013

walking through beauty { europe 2 0 1 2 }

Days 4 + 5 of my time in London last summer were filled with lots and lots of walking. This was one of my favorite things about Europe: walking is an adventure and a practical mode of transportation.

{ d a y  4 }

I spent the morning shopping in the Ealey Broadway district (right outside of London proper) and found some affordable and adorable {always a good signs when these 2 words are in the same sentence!} tops from the shops. My two favorite shops in London were discovered on this shopping day: Next { similar styles as H&M } and PRIXMARK{ somewhere between F21 and H&M, with ridiculously low prices }. I bought gifts for family, belts, and a few tops for myself.

I wish I had taken photos on this day. I think I was starting to go through camera-fatigue and left it at home to charge.  Here's what some of the areas during my walk looked like (photo credit in caption hyperlink of the next 5 photos).

Duke of York in Hanwell

Hanwell Broadway
Ealing Broadway, where I shopped till I dropped
The evening was spent in my cousin's neighborhood. They had visitors from Spain for dinner, so we all took a walk to a nearby parish where the bell ringers where making beautiful chiming music. Lucky for us we had several kids with us (by cousin's daughters) who were adventurous and called up to the bell ringers and asked if we could climb up the tower and see the bells. It's amazing what you can do if you have 2 adorable, lively girls :) I'll post a few photos I googled to give you a taste of what it looked like since I forgot my camera at home for this excursion (I really regret it!)

St. Mary's
After climbing the tower of the parish to watch the volunteers pull the long strings to move the massive bells and create the chiming sounds, we walked to the neighboring park, which was beautiful. A long waving path lined by trees and bushes led us to an Alice in Wonderland-ish maze made out of bushes. The little girls darted towards the maze and I soon followed suit and acted like a little child. It was great... I got lost a few times in the maze and could not stop laughing at how ridiculous I probably looked, but it was lots of fun.

Millenium Maze at Brent Lodge Park

{ d a y  5 }

I was back in the heart of  London on my fifth (and last!) day in the U.K. The morning started with a 3 hour free walking tour with Sandeman's  New Europe walking company. The guide was entertaining and full of great tidbits about London's history. It was an excellent walking tour, especially since it was free! Of coarse tips are very much appreciated (and well earned!).

Some of the highlights during the walking tour included Wellington Arch, Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street (home of past prime ministers), and Westminister Abbey.

Westminster Abbey
beloved Big Bed during the walking tour

I had lunch at Pret-A-Manger (I loved this place! Their baguette sandwiches were cheap, but so tasty!) and then continued on for my own personalized walking tour through two of the large parks in central London -- Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Both parks were beautiful in their own way. I had the misfortune of wearing my wellies (it was raining on and off all day. These are not good walking shoes, but they are practical shoes in the oft-rainy London!), so my feet were aching the whole time, but I still couldn't imagine a better place to spend my last afternoon in London. The clouds would part for short while throughout my walk and the birds with chirp, geese would float upon the Serpentine (snake-like lake) and I would pretend for a few minutes that I actually lived in this city of history and royalty. Oh, it's fun to dream!

Hyde Park is one of the largest parks in central London and is one of the royal parks. It is divided in two by the Serpentine and flows into the neighboring Kensington gardens. You can tell as soon as you enter these gardens because they look more Italian than English.

 the Serpentine

the Italian-inspired Kensington Gardens
Although my feet were super sore and all I wanted to do was relax along the Serpentine, I had to keep going. I wanted to get at least a few minutes in the Natural History Museum before it closed. I luckily arrived about 20minutes before closing time and regretted that I had not come earlier because there so so soooo much to see!! I practically half-ran-half hobbled through as many exhibits as I could look at during those few sweet minutes and then came smack-dab in front of a huge dinosaur skeleton in the main lobby. It was amazing. This is most definitely on my list of places to visit next summer when I return to London!

Afterwards I walked around in the adorable South Kensington area and then finally headed home to my cousin's flat via double-decker bus one last time

Here are a few tips for London:

  • Bring {or be prepared to buy} an umbrella and Wellies/rainboots. I was there in the middle of summer and most of my 5 days had at least a little bit of rain showers. As a Pacific NW-er, I was used to the rain, but I was glad I came prepared. It allowed me to explore despite the weather.
  • Not just for London, but for any trip: bring comfortable shoes that are waterproof, or bring insoles that can be interchanged between shoes. My rainboots were worn several days and they were not comfy at all but they were practical, so I had to bear the ache of my achey flat feet.
  • London is not well known for their food, so do not splurge on eating at restaurants. Try several local staples, such as beans and fries for breakfast, tea (of course!), fish and chips, but stick with affordable places. Splurge on food anywhere in France and Italy, not here.
  • The tube is exciting and practical, but also try to use their bus transit system. Not only will you really feel British by riding in a double decker, but you'll be getting more views of London than if you're in the underground tube. AND as a bonus, the bus is cheaper than the tube. I had one of those "OMG, I am really in London!!" moments while sitting on the front seat of the top part of a double-decker, reading a book, and taking peeks around as we drove through suburbs of London. It was one of those simple, but so meaningful moments when I could soak it all in. 
  • This is a more general tip for any traveling: take a break from all the busy touring and just soak it in once in a while. I brought my journal along everywhere I went and would jot things down when I took a few minutes to just sit and realize what a cool experience I am having. 

next up: P A R I S !

1 comment:

  1. I'm totally going to the Brent Lodge Park maze next weekend - I never knew about it and I've lived here a long time!!
    I totally agree with your tips - but the food is getting better slowly. It's just that we have to compete with France & Italy :-D


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Elle Alice