Friday, June 13, 2014

England: Part One

It's high time I shared photos of my trip to Europe!  I went in September for the better part of a week and saw so many gorgeous things.  Sometime in the summer Nathen's parents asked us if we would like to join them on a wee trip to London.  None of us had ever gone and of course we said yes!  
We left on September 5th and arrived on the 6th!  On the way over we traveled from Seattle to Atlanta, and from there we went across the ocean to the fabled lands of England.  


Sunset #1


I didn't take many picture of the trip over, partially because we were all quite sleepy, and because my phone was off most of the time.  I quite liked this sculpture in the Atlanta airport though.  Reminded me of a giant net, this one perhaps to catch mermaids?

Finally!  Finally, we landed on foreign soil.  We collected ourselves and our luggage from Heathrow airport and went to meet a car service to take us to our hotel.  There were so many people with signs in many different languages and it was a little overwhelming.  Clamoring, caterwauling throngs trying to get from one point to the other.  We huddled close to each other and scanned the crowd for "Millbank" on a sign.  Nothing.  Just as we found a corner to pause and collect ourselves in, I caught sight of a sign bearing "Curtiss"!  Who would have thought to look for my name?  I hadn't counted it out of the realm of possibility.  Our driver was a dear wee man from Eastern Europe.  He welcomed us to London in broken English and escorted us to his car.  We loaded up and headed out!
He asked us what hotel, to which we replied, "Lancaster Gate"  After a pleasant drive we were deposited outside a formidable looking hotel that at first glance was far more luxurious than the one we were supposed to be staying at.  Our driver unloaded our luggage, thanked us, and drove off.  
We went inside.  The young Austrian woman at the front desk had a disapproving look about her and told us, cooly, that the Lancaster Gate Hotel, Hyde Park was just five blocks over.  We were in zipcode W1, not W2.  

A short stroll in the intermittent rain got us to our very comfortable little hotel.  

MUCH better!

Inside we unpacked the poor, squished little Monsters and got things settled.

The littles quite approved of our room!

We were all quite grumpy, but made our way to the first floor of the hotel where there was a bar and a dining area.  Real food, at a real table, in real chairs, with COFFEE (!!) and we were soon back to rights.  
Nathen, his dad Bob, and I went for a little stroll after a wee snooze.  The main road, Bayswater ran along  part of Hyde Park which also houses the Kensington Gardens.  We ended up at The Swan, a fun little pub on Bayswater with more decorative Victorian panelwork than I had ever seen in my life.  It's common enough in downtown Seattle to find some panels on the ceilings of restaurants, but in London it was everywhere and I loved it!

See the wall texture?  

We collected ourselves and had a glass of proper ESB, English Style Bitter, which I would compare to something like Redhook or Smithwicks.  Very tasty.  Along our walk, every pub we passed claimed superiority in possessing the best fish and chips.  When the Brits say fish and chips, what they mean is an entire side of fish!  Skin and tail on the bottom side, tender white flesh battered and fried on the other.  It comes on a bed of "chips" which I would categorise as steak fries.  Nice thick ones.  Fish and chips also comes with a side of mushy peas.  Part mashed peas and part al-dente fresh peas.  Not unpleasant, just peculiar.  I had myself a delicious plate of bangers and mash.
In comparison, I think many American flavours are wild, loud, and extravagant against traditional English fare.  Sausages in the US give me a stomach ache after one, here I can eat nearly three and still be happy.  

Mmmm, Beer!
We finally pootled back to the hotel and dropped into bed. Not bad for our first day in England!

Next Up: Portobello Road Market, Westminster, Big Ben, Millbank Road, and the Hop-on-Hop-off Tour Busses.

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