Friday, May 29, 2015

UK Trip 2015: Day 4&5 - Train to London and Buckingham Palace!

Riding a train has always been this great mystery to me. While we've all taken our fair share of flights, those of us born and raised in the South don't often take a train unless we are visiting another part of the world or the Northeastern part of the United States. It's just not a common mode of transportation for us. That being said, we knew we were going to take the train to London, and purchased our seats weeks in advance - but we suddenly realized that beyond that we didn't really know what to do.

Do you arrive hours beforehand, like you do with air travel? Is there a security line? Are we checking bags? What is the situation? I'm sure we lived up to the dumb American stereotype, but we had to ask lots of questions of our darling hotel concierge the night before we left Edinburgh. She made it sound simple enough, and boy, was it ever.

Wait! Before we "leave" the Scotland part of this blog series, I keep forgetting to mention Donnie Milburn's! What is Donnie Milburn's, you ask? Well, near our hotel was a pub called Deacon Brodie's. Grant could never remember the name of this pub and kept calling it Donnie Milburn's. So that is what it will forever be called. 

On a I'm-totally-joking-and-not-serious note, I told Grant that if this baby is a boy that I think his name should be Deacon Brodie. Okay, back to the train!

We arrived at the Waverly train station in Edinburgh, grabbed some breakfast and sat around. At one point, Tiff and I looked at the platform and realized our train had arrived, and the doors were open. We wheeled our luggage over and texted the boys to come on. We found our coach and our seats. We were able to just walk right on and put our luggage away. No one checked our ticket or even an ID. This was just so weird to me, but it was a nice change from the intensity of the TSA Security lines of airports. 

Someone had advised us weeks before to spend the extra money needed to get a First Class train ticket. This was only about a $15 upcharge, and I'm glad we did it. We had great, spacious seats (with outlets!) and meals and snacks and drinks were brought to our table throughout the 4.5 hour ride. Snacks included the Tunnocks' Tea Cakes Grant was so obsessed with. He grabbed 2-3 every time the cart came by. (By the way, someone did eventually come check our tickets.) (I was glad, because that would've been a lot of money to spend if we actually could have ridden for free!)

The boys watched Days of Thunder on an iPad while Tiff and I rested and read books and made fun of the boys. The usual. 

Here's me and Grantley on the train, as well as a pic of some of the gorgeous scenery we passed:

All in all, I'm so glad we took the train. It was a great experience, low maintenance, and we had fantastic views for much of the trip. 

We arrived at London Kings Cross, walked to the nearest Tube Station, purchased an Oyster Card for each of us (the way you pay for the tubes for the duration of your trip) and hopped on the Piccadilly line to Gloucester Road to check into our hotel in London. We stayed at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in Kensington. This hotel was another great location. Grant and I were not overly impressed with our room, but then again we weren't there all that much. By the time we checked in and freshened up, it was late in the afternoon. We decided to take a walk through Kensington Park as it was so close.

Kensington Park was beautiful and was filled with people and incredibly obedient and proper dogs that were not on leashes. It was fascinating. 

The park is also home to Kensington Palace, the residence of William, Kate, George and their new baby Charlotte. 

I had brought over a casserole for the family but no one was home to accept it at this time. I just didn't want Kate to have to cook dinner that night, you know?

Just kidding. Everyone knows they are at their "farm house" right now while they adjust to life as a family of four. Remind me to do that when my new baby comes in November, okay?

The next day we braved the rain and visited the Tower of London. 

As it was so cold and rainy, our tour from a Yeoman Warder was cut short and was held in the beautiful chapel, but it was still quite informative and entertaining. We went through the Crown Jewels which was AMAZING.

Y'all. The gems. The stones. There are pearls in the top of the crown that were the pearls from the earrings of Elizabeth I. It was really all breathtaking and one of my favorite things we saw on the whole trip. 

And then there was this lion, whose face was so funny I almost died:

We ate lunch at the Tower of London. Grant had something called an Ox Cheek. I had chicken and vegetable stew that was served with "a crusade of rice" which is pretty much the only way I'll be serving my rice from now on. "Would you like a crusade of rice with your red beans and sausage?" YES.

Here's the Tower Bridge!

We left the Tower of London and hopped on one of the big red double decker tour buses. We listened to the audio commentary. Well, me and Tiff did. The boys listened but chose to listen to their commentary in Japanese and German just for the heck of it. 

We hopped off at Buckingham Palace and I was squealing. I've always wanted to go! We knew months ago that we would not be able to enter as the Queen is currently home and they only open the palace for tours when she is away for the summer at Windsor Castle but I was thrilled to even see the outside! 

We did swing through the palace gift shop because I knew I needed a Buckingham Palace coffee mug!

We ended our evening with a walk through Hyde Park. Tiffany and I were exhausted when we got back to the hotel. We all took a little rest, then the boys went back out for the night. Us girls weren't feeling up to it, so the guys brought us Italian food to our hotel room. I came down to Tiffany and Justin's room, and she and I crawled in bed and watched the Season Finale of Scandal that I had purchased on iTunes because WE JUST COULDN'T WAIT ANY LONGER. We were already days late and we just knew if we didn't hurry and watch it that it would be spoiled for us on social media. 

The finale did not disappoint! We spent the rest of the night talking and visiting and then the boys came back. The 4 of us Facetimed Ellie and then me and the man went back to our hotel room and crashed and that was the end of that day. 

Come back Monday to hear about Westminster Abbey!

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