London – Day 3

London Day 3 Travel Itinerary Europe Abroad

Good evening.  Here marks the end of our third day in London.  We started out the day with breakfast at the cafe next door to our hotel.  They have the best blueberry muffin with a gooey blueberry center.  I also got a flat white coffee — not sure what this really means, but it was good.  Joe had a chocolate twist, which looks like a chocolate croissant.

London is currently hosting a James Bond exhibition, Bond in Motion, the largest showcase of James Bond cars in the world.  Joe is a big James Bond fan, so we went to check it out.  Movie clips showcasing the cars were all projected on the walls near the displays which really added to the experience.  Some movie memorabilia and storyboards were mixed in amongst the cars as well. Movie making is certainly an interesting looking process.

James Bond Exhibit London

Next up, we hit up the British Museum.  This venue is thought to have the most encompassing synapsis of human civilization on record.  It showcases artifacts like the Rosetta Stone, mummies, and the remains of many ancients civilizations including the Aztecs, Mesopotamians, and the American Indians. Some of the exhibits cataloged the development of a specific topic like timepieces and medicine.  One of my favorite displays showed  the health of two humans, one male and one female, as demonstrated by every pill  that they ever took. The display held thousands of pills from birth to death, along with photos from the individuals’ lives — vacations, injuries they sustained, weddings, graduations, babies being born, and finally, their funerals  The whole thing reminded me of what people say about the moment before death — being able to see your life flash before your eyes.  The milestones mixed in with the inconsequential — the pills you swallow.  Fascinating and unexpected from this particular museum.

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We ate lunch late — around 2:30 in St. James’ square, a park with a small Italian restaurant.  The food was fresh and delicious.

St James London Italian

Next, we hopped back on the Tube to head over the British Library.  The library is a regular operating library where people go to study and borrow materials. However, they also have a special collection that is displayed in a museum on the first floor.  There were several amazing pieces — pages of Beethoven, Mozart, and Handel’s composition, parts of Leonardo and Michangelo’s notebooks, the Gutenberg Bible, handwritten samples from Charles Dickens and Sylvia Plath, letters from Galileo and Winston Churchill.  My favorite piece was a scrap of Beatle’s memorabilia — the lyrics to “A Hard Day’s Night” written on the back of a one-year-old child’s birthday card.

After the library tour, we headed back over to Covent Garden where we had a picnic and observed a few so-so street performers. We shopped a little and then started walking back to the hotel.  On the walk home, we stopped on the River Thame ‘beach’ (sand hauled in by the city every summer) and enjoyed a snack from a Mexican food truck.

Convent garden shopping

We’re headed out early tomorrow morning so we packed up our stuff as best we could and phoned our hotel in France to confirm our reservation.  I was pleased that the person who answered spoke some English at my request.  Apparently, we have to pick up our room key at a cafe since the hotel desk does not open until 1 pm and we’ll be arriving around 11 am.  We’ll see how this goes.

London – Day 2

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Well hello everyone! It was a great day in London! Last night, we turned in around 7:30 PM. Both of us woke up around midnight thinking it was morning. We’re staying in the basement of a hotel, so between the lack of windows and the jetlag, it’s understandable how one might get a little confused. We went back to sleep and I woke up again around 8:30 am — ready for a our first full day in the city.

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We started out by hopping back on the bus tour we started yesterday. The Original Tour offers a 24 hour hop-on hop-off ticket on a red double decker bus. This once-over, lightly tour allows you to see a lot and learn a little. It also comes with a free boat cruise and a few free walking tours. We took advantage of the city cruise on the river Thames around lunch time. After that, we went back to the hotel to change. The Missourian in me did not trust that it would be as cold as the weather forecast predicted here. Yesterday, it was in the high 50’s and today, it warmed up enough around noon to put a dress on — yay!

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Next, we went on the tour of Westminster Abbey. This ancient church, initially build in the 11th century offered an amazing amount of ornate architecture. It also houses of the graves of many famous folk including British royals (Bloody Mary!), famous scientists (Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton), many famous literary folks (Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens) and last but not least, a great composer, Handel — (you know him from the Hallelujah chorus). It amazed me how unprotected the building is from the public and yet I observed hardly and vandalism.

Around 3:30, we were pretty hungry. We went to The Feathers pub, located a few blocks from the Abbey. You can order food at most of London’s pubs by walking up to the bar. I ordered a Brie fondue appetizer to start, followed by my favorite meal in all the world — macaroni and cheese. I ate all of my food AND part of Joe’s food too– he got a chesseburger and chips with coleslaw. I’m not normally a big fan of coleslaw — but this version was made with basil AND dill — yum!

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Next, Joe convinced me that we should go to check out Buckingham Palace. For whatever reason, this wasn’t on my list of things I hoped to see, but after seeing it, I’m not sure why. Viewing the front of the palace, I was reminded of a trip to the White House in 8th grade. Unlike DC, there weren’t any protesters or otherwise crazy folk parked out in front of the palace — just a happy crowd who were apt to cheer on command. We saw a bride a groom walk out in front of the palace and the crowd hooted and hollered in celebration. Along with the guards who were marching back and forth, the palace was certain a site to be seen.

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After the palace, our energy was running low. Given that shopping isn’t a very strenuous task, we decided to hit up Herrod’s, London’s luxury department store. While I didn’t get a picture since it was starting to rain, the exterior of the building is quite impressive with a small cathedral dome to boot. Inside, there are many luxury items — I looked at a purse that was on clearance for 900 pounds, marked down from 1,875 pounds. In the basement of the store, there’s a somewhat creepy shrine to the late Princess Diana and her lover. It houses a dirty wine glass that she drank out of the night before she died as well as her engagement ring. Aside from pictures of the couple, there is a bronze statue of them touching a flying bird. I believe the store’s owner at the time of Dianna’s death was her lover’s father.

On the way home, we hit up a grocery store. For whatever reason, I’ve been really fascinated by all the grocery areas we’ve been in over the last two days. There are so many products that look good enough to try.

Tune hotel London grocery store supper

We’re back home in the hotel now and getting ready to turn in for the night. We’re staying at Tune Hotel Westminster. Pretty sure this room is tinier than every room we’ve ever had on a cruise ship! Two people can hardly stand up in here! But it’s a great location, just a few blocks from the London Eye and Big Ben. And it looks pretty new, so nothing too dirty-looking. No window in here though — not so sure about London’s fire codes? I also don’t have much confidence in the ambulances — they are motorcycles– I”m really uncertain of how or why this is okay! But anywho — the world is a wonder to me, and I am loving the opportunity to see this special bit of it!

Travel Day

Hello from Philly! We landed here for a 2 hour layover, which I don’t mind because… people watching!!

We did not get a chance to see the liberty bell, but luckily they have a Lego version on the airport.

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We board our next flight in about 15 minutes. We’re both tired and ready for a nap. Here’s a couple more photos from travel day…

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How to pack for Europe

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We’re leaving for the airport in less than two hours and I am so excited — it’s like my birthday and Christmas all at once! Joe is in productivity mode, getting everything set so that we can leave the house for two weeks — washing the cat food dishes and whatnot. In the interest of killing time before we leave — here is my guide to how to pack for Europe! I’ve never been there and I’m not the most practical person in the world, so please take my advice with a salt shaker in hand.

We’re not exactly backpacking, but we did buy some backpacks on clearance at Target along with these water inserts. I’ll check this on the plane and will also bring small carry-on suitcase and a day pack.

Here’s what’s in my carry-on:
Sweater
Travel books — Rick Steves –kind of a dorky old guy, but he knows his stuff
Vitamins and meds
Pass ports
Travel documents
Eye mask
Ear plugs ( I’ve never used these or the eye mask in my life, but I got them free at a hotel in Wisconsin and decided to bring them)
Chargers
Compression socks I stole from Joe who wears size nine so they fit great (only not)
More socks
Sunglasses
Gum
Phone

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Joe got an adapter that apparently plugs into the airplane chair’s secret charging station — who knew…

Finding things to wear for 12 days of walking was a good fashion challenge. When you’re trying to pack light, it’s a good idea to start with the shoes. I am bringing 5 pairs (sadly, no heels — my security blanket!)
-2 Sketchers Sweet Pea ballet flats (black and white)
-Gold sandals
-Black sandals
-Running shoes

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For clothes, I brought 6 dresses.

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3 T-shirts

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Several tanks and camis for layering

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Some more shirts:

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6 skirts

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2 pairs of shorts

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One pair of jeans, a raincoat, and a swimsuit

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Here’s a few accessories:

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I made a few special purchases for this specific trip too:
Power Converters
Travel curling iron
Travel blow dryer
eBags
Tide (for washing laundry in the sink)

I can’t recommend the eBags enough — while I was concerned they would just take up space in my luggage, they actually keep things contained and organized in a way that creates more space.

That’s all I’m going to share for now — time to grab some lunch and hit the road!

Cat Cam

We might be crazy cat people, but I don’t think we are.  I might have more pictures of our cats on Facebook than pictures of myself, but I’m not to the point where I have clothes with cats on them yet or started knitting with cat hair.  I do buy a lot of toys for them like an automatic cat laser or a Cat Sitter DVD.  One of the coolest gadgets I purchased was our wireless camera.

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After an incident when one of our cats was locked in a room for a few days without food and water and destroyed the carpet when we were gone, we decided that a security camera would be a good choice to help have a daily headcount to avoid this from happening again. The camera is a D-Link DCS-5010L.  I found a great deal online for it and got it for almost half-price.  It has night vision and when motion is detected, I get a text message and a set of pictures sent to an email account during a certain daily schedule.  I can pan the camera with my phone and hear what is going on.  Basic setup was easy, but the motion sensor and notifications took some advanced configuration but wasn’t too bad.

All it needs to work is a wireless connection and a plugin.  We have moved this all over the house.  It took some time to find a good spot and it was interesting to find that the cats typically stay together throughout the day.  They also have a predictable schedule too.  I highly enjoy this toy.

The Dinner Boat Tour

 Lake of the Ozarks Dinner Cruise review

For our 5-year anniversary, Katie purchased a dinner boat cruise up at the Lake of the Ozarks on Groupon.  Our Groupon luck has been slightly rough lately.  The last Groupon we used was for our local Pizza Inn.  The deal was really good, but the staff there knew nothing about it.  None of them knew even what Groupon was.  In the end, I think we actually lost money on this one.IMG_34546104392420

The savings for the boat tour was significant.  I feel we definitely got a great value.  Service was great.  The food was better than expected.  The tour was really cool.  It was another adventure that the two of us have taken where we are the youngest ones doing it, but I think we’re slowly getting used to this.  What made the cruise very cool was the entertainment of the passengers on board.

The fun started on the dock before we boarded.  There was an older lady in line in front of us flipping out thinking that she was going to be claustrophobic on the boat.  She was making a bit of a scene.  She stepped out of line and waited to get onto the boat before we left.  Her husband and their friends remained in line.  When we checked in at the bar, her husband said something about calming her down with a few drinks and asked for any drink with some gin in it to do the trick.

Once we sat down at our table, there was another interesting group of friends.  They looked to be two couples doing this together.  Because the meal was several courses, we got to be across from them for the majority of the cruise.  A couple at this table created a bulk of the entertainment.  They were definitely not a quiet couple.  He knew everything about Missouri and US boating regulations and she knew everything else.  No one at the table could see anything so that added to the fun.  I guess the one wife had issues knowing how the bathroom toilet worked on the boat, but she gave a nice rundown on how to use it properly.  Pretty sure they weren’t using a Groupon because computers might be too scary.

All-in-all, the trip was fun.  I recommend going because it was better than I could have expected.

New Birds

A bird decided to make a nest in our fern hanging next to our door. The eggs finally hatched.

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Update 6/19/2014

The birds have left the nest.  When I went to water the fern, they flew away and I almost had a heart-attack.  I did find another nest in the backyard when mowing the lawn and they are about ready to move-on as well.

Hotdish

Minnesota girls looove hotdish.  When I was little My favorite was “Katie’s Hotdish”.  A hotdish, named in honor of my strong affinity… A concoction of elbow mac, cream of mushroom soup, hamburger, and canned corn.  Yum.  I have not had it in years.  I had dissimilar feelings towards “Red Hotdish”- elbow mac, condenced tomatoe soup and hambuger.  I would cry when my parents started making this entree. 

Nowadays, my husband is not open to the idea of hotdish.  I guess I can’t blame the guy, I can certainly attest to the love-hate nature of hotdish.  Despite my husband’s disinterest, I loooove to make the following hotdish- a modification of the recipe found on the back of the Stove Top stuffing box.

1 cup chopped chicken (I use the froze chicken breast pieces from Schwann’s)
1 cups frozen vegetables (I use brocolii)
1/2 a can cream of mushroom soup
1/3 cup light sour cream
1 box Stove Top stuffing mix
1/2  cup mild shredded chedder cheese
Directions:

1.Make stuffing according to the instructions on the box.
2.Combine remaining ingredients and place in an 8X8 baking dish.
3. Top with prepared stuffing
4. Sprinkle with Cheese
Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes

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