Olivier and I visited London the weekend before last. He had a holiday from work on Monday, so we took advantage of the long weekend and ventured back to London where we always have fun, despite iffy weather. I almost wrote "unpredictable" to describe the weather, but that, in my opinion, would be inaccurate, as there always tends to be some rain when we are there, despite predictions from weather.com, my go-to source before all travels. And so the story-telling of our enjoyable weekend in London begins... (I must add that I am currently enjoying my coffee from my I Love London coffee mug, my souvenir from our previous visit)
It all started Friday evening right before 7. I was all packed up and ready to go to the train station to take the bus to the airport when Olivier arrived home from work. He informed me that we might as well drive and pay for parking as opposed to paying for the bus, as the difference was quite minimal. I was definitely okay with this since I really don't like taking the bus home and walking after flying. However, instead of finding the cheap lot, we ended up in the minimum 44 euro lot for 96 hours, which was longer than we needed, and definitely more expensive. Oh well, we bit the bullet and stayed there, since we were worried we couldn't leave the lot without paying the full price (no parking attendants). After our cramped EasyJet flight to London Luton, we ran to catch our scheduled bus at 11 pm. We made it just in time, but they had already overfilled the bus and taken our seats, so we waited for the next bus, with the promise of being first to board. We found our way to Olivier's brother's apartment and went to bed immediately, as we were all exhausted.
Luckily for us, Saturday was a nice day. We left to explore the city with Vincent, Olivier's brother, and his fiance, Laura. After a bit of walking near Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus, we found ourselves unable to get over to Westminster/Parliament area because of barricades. After asking a police officer what was going on, he informed us that it was the Queen's birthday celebration. Many people were out, hoping for a glimpse of the queen. We got away from the crowds in search of an alternate route, but once again, found ourselves unable to cross. We decided to give in and wait, and just maybe we'd get to see the queen. As it turns out, we never saw the queen. This is probably because we were not in the right area to see her. There were not very many people waiting...mostly just barricades, police officers here and there, and random tourists.
She never came down the street where we were waiting, but we did get a different surprise. All of a sudden we heard the sound of horses approaching...two carriages to be exact. And who was in that first carriage? None other than Kate Middleton, Prince Harry and Camilla!!! I waved and snapped a picture.
In case you're wondering, the second carriage also had some royalty, but I don't know who they were. Finally we made our way down the street where they were opening up the barricades. All of a sudden floods of well-dressed Brits exited a building, apparently having just attended the Queen's event. I got to see some pretty cool hats and men in tails. Once we approached Downing Street, we had to move aside as the gates opened and David Cameron, the PM, made his way out in his car. I don't have a picture of this because the car flew out rather quickly and he was hidden behind tinted windows. We knew it was him because the guards told us. Once we finally made it to Westminster (well across the street from it anyway), we saw Kate's mother, and I ran up and caught a quick snapshot from behind. I know, that was a stalker moment, but I had to go for it.
Finally crossing the River Thames, we got some great shots of Big Ben and Parliament, along with the London Eye, the huge Ferris Wheel.
After a quick lunch at Eat., we made our way further down the bank and watched street performers doing things I previously thought impossible with their bodies...circus-type stuff, like extreme flexibility, gymnastic stunts, etc. There was even a little air-show for the Queen's birthday celebration. Blue, white and red streamed across the sky, which actually looked like the French flag. Vive la France! Funny.
We continued down the river, taking in the cites, and eventually met up with friends Philippe and Elodie who were also in London for the weekend. Here we are in front of St. Paul's Cathedral, and then again with Vincent and Laura.
With Philippe and Elodie, we continued our walk and enjoyed the English Summer Cocktail, PIMM'S in a few different bars, and ended the evening at a Lebanese restaurant, where we were surprised with a dancer after dessert.
Exhausted after the day of touristing, we made our way back to Paddington, the area where Oliv's brother lives. We were asleep within minutes of our return.
Unfortunately Sunday was filled with rain. Of course, this did not stop us. Olivier and I made our way to Camden Town where there is a huge market...It reminded me of a huge craft show, actually, with people selling their diverse goods. We checked it out, but since it was raining and we didn't find anything that we wanted to buy, we found a pub and enjoyed the traditional fish and chips. We made our way back to central London for some more shopping and eventually went back to Paddington to relax and escape the rain at the apartment. We went to a pub for dinner with Elodie and Philippe and then wandered to another bar for PIMM'S before returning home.
Olivier and I packed up our things on Monday morning and spent the early afternoon on Oxford Street, perusing the stores. We didn't purchase anything, but we did meet up with Elodie and Philippe one more time before heading back to Paddington to get our stuff and head to the bus stop to get to the airport. Overall, we had a very enjoyable weekend in London. It was filled with exciting and unexpected happenings, great friends, and fun.