Friday, December 20, 2013

london calling: day one.

this song has been playing over & over in my head these last few days, so it feels fitting to also include it in this post about london.

hello from london! so far, our trip has been blissful, & this is due in no small part to the fact that i just get to be with ben. just to be in the same time zone, finally. this is also due in no small part to the fact that we've kind of, sort of, adjusted to the time difference. it's not even really that different than new york - only a five hour difference - but my first night here, i slept only a few hours & woke up at five am & couldn't get back to sleep, then ben woke up about an hour after that, & we both laid there for a while until we were like, "yeah...we're not falling back asleep. let's just get up & get ready & go." & if you know me, you know i value my sleep almost too much & something like this COULD MAKE ME VERY GRUMPY. no, i mean, we held up well most of the day, but by about six i was so tired we were waiting for the bill after dinner & i straight fell into a deep sleep right there in the restaurant. i was pretty embarrassed/proud of this, but ben assured me that few people noticed & it was ultimately "a very tasteful nap." so...whatever that means?

let's get on with day one of our trip! this post will be a bit more random & scattered (assuming that other posts i make aren't random & scattered, but actually they sometimes are) because the photos didn't quite load in the correct order of what we actually did hour-by-hour or whatever. hope you lot are all right with that (say that with a british accent & we can officially get started).

to kick things off, yes, there are tons of double decker buses everywhere, which seem like such an efficient use of vertical space. these buses aren't all cutesy things you'll see on a mug though. ben & i both feel like they are driven especially fast for something so tall & seemingly, you know, something that can become maybe dangerous & wobbly when driven too fast, & they also always seem to hug the curb really closely, like, you feel like you'll get run over by one at any second & the buses drive so close by the wind whooshes your hair as they go. but still! efficient use of space!

we saw lots of ivy, just crawling everywhere - three photos should be enough to prove that within the context of this blog post, don't you think? :)



this pose seemed like a good idea at the time...


..& oh, gosh, even the second time around. ben officially kind of hated my guts for a second before, during, & after taking this photo (& don't even get me started on the fact that we had to ask a stranger to take it for us). legitimately i am very sorry ben:


so, the first red telephone booths we saw i was like, "i hear these are dying out & you don't see a lot of the iconic telephone booths anymore in the city! let's take a picture now!" fast forward a few days later now & yeah, that's definitely not true. we see several telephone booths every day. the ones in the picture below that i took to document/prove the point of their continuing near-ubiquitousness in the city are black, but rest assured - we see red ones all the time.


i kinda started taking pictures of taverns because taverns feel especially british & so very "good king wenceslaus," don't they? i mean, don't you want to just burst on into a tavern after riding your horse through a blizzard, & sit down in front of a warm fire with a glass of meade & a hunk of meat? 



it doesn't get much better than "the hung drawn and quartered," which was right outside the entrance to the tower of london, where people actually were hung drawn & quartered. that's not exactly the lightest subject matter, but tee hee, saucy brits:


b in front of a d:


beautiful buildings: like many other european cities, there is no shortage of simply gorgeous facades lining essentially every street. 







st. paul's cathedral peeking through:


tidbits from day one:

[the taxis are different/much cuter in london]:


[coat-of-arms & other royal- & family-crest type imagery everywhere]:




[i actually quite enjoy the whole aesthetic of london's tube/underground system. the minimalist-y red circle with blue slash through it on a white background looks pretty good. one of those sorts of designs you wish you had thought up, you know?] 


[making our way through the subway. i mean tube! do londoners actually refer to it as "the tube" instead of "the subway"? it sounds correct, but it also sounds maybe like me just being a silly yank totally buying into the stereotypes silly yanks have of british people? the word "yank" also falling into this category, of course :/ ]


we paid a few pounds to climb the 311 steps to the top of the monument to the great fire of london, or what everyone simply calls "the monument." in 1666 a small fire started in a bakery, i believe it was, on pudding lane. it spread rapidly due to wind & close proximity of the homes & stores, eventually turning into this huge firestorm. the fire ended up burning for 3 days, destroying over 13,000 homes & buildings & leaving thousands of people without places to stay or work. interestingly, only six deaths are recorded, but this is somewhat controversial seeing as the lower class deaths might not have been recognized or recorded.

anyway, this monument was built by sir christopher wren, who was this big-deal architect, mathmatician, and scientist in the 17th century (he designed st. paul's cathedral as well, which is considered his masterpiece), & robert hooke. it's this column that shoots up into the sky & it's somewhat claustrophobia-inducing at times climbing the seemingly neverending spiral of stairs. but we made it to the top!



a view of st. paul's from a teeny window slit during the climb:



there is a 360 degree view of london at the top that made the whole climb worth it (it was great exercise, too :)



one of many little ledges we passed on the stairs. the monument was originally intended to be used as a scientific instrument, as well. wren & hooke wanted to do all these experiments with it. kind of cool, can read more on the monument's wikipedia page.


they give everyone who makes it to the top a certificate of completion once they come back down. which, i mean, we are KEEPING FOREVER:


we also crossed the london bridge, which, while well-known because of the popular little kids song, provides a nice view of the tower bridge up the river a little bit, which is much more recognizable.



so, verdict is that london bridge is good, not great. more shots from the bridge:



london is pretty cold. make that really cold. it's bearable during the day (except for when the wind picks up & temps instantly feel like they drop 20 degrees!) but at night when you're trying to go do stuff, & you can see your breath in little clouds & even a down puffer coat doesn't feel warm enough...so cold.  we've been stopping in for hot chocolate every once in a while to get some warm feeling back in our bones:


christmas in london (also known as, "we saw all this in the daytime but imagine how magical things would be at night all lit up"):




"an artistic shot":


we walked through leadenhall market, which was completely decked out with trees & lights covering every little storefront. there was also a brass quintet playing in the little center of the market & man, if you've got a brass quintet playing christmas songs, you've won my heart.



after getting back to our hotel that night i definitely popped up a brass quintet christmas playlist on the youtubes & had it playing for hours. well...not that long. we were pretty tired that night after getting home so we went to bed pretty quickly, BUT in the time that we were awake i had the brass quintet playing away.



our trusty guidebook that we tried to use discreetly & hide so people wouldn't immediately recognize/judge us as tourists, until ben was finally like, "you know what? we are tourists, though." so then we just accepted it, used the book out in the open & stopped worrying (can you tell every "we" used in this sentence should be replaced by "me," as in, "i, shayla frandsen"? :)


we participated in a eucharist at saint paul's cathedral to really soak it all in, & it was lovely, made even better by the gorgeous surroundings. oh, st. paul's. i desperately wish we had ben allowed to take pictures.......................just kidding! you know me. i totally snuck sneaked a few pictures, "sneaked" being the operative word because it was all done very discreetly & respectfully. the quality of the photos is pretty abysmal, but that's what one gets when one is a rebel.






& some pictures of the pretty outside:



the photo a very nice gentleman took of us. we were on the steps of st. paul's, & there was this really pretty street behind us with a row of lovely buildings that i wanted to get a picture of. the guy was very confused as to why we didn't want st. paul's in the background. & then i didn't clarify that i wanted this certain part in the background of the frame, & whatever, so here is what we got. haha: 



later on that evening we did what has become a total highlight of the trip & one of our favorite things we've done here - which is funny because it was so last minute! that morning, before heading out the door, we decided we wanted to try grabbing tickets to some sort of christmas show - "the nutcracker," a carol singalong, christmas-themed evensong at some sort of church...& we came across some reasonably priced tickets to hear the king's college choir with an orchestra at royal albert hall! 

we ended up being in a bit of a rush to get there on time (royal albert hall was farther away from the tube stop than we thought) & our tickets were for wayyy up in the balcony where people stood or sat on the ground, but anything & everything was so, so worth to have this amazing opportunity. the men & women's choir & a boys' choir sang. these pictures were taken after the concert was over & the stage had been mostly cleared, but you can see some of the choir members in their seats & the seats where the orchestra was in front of them.



the ceiling of royal albert hall:


like i said, the concert was one of my favorite parts of the trip. at the end, they let the audience stand & join in on several christmas songs. it was thrilling. i wish we could have gotten a recording or something to let you hear just how magical it all was, but alas. i have a feeling we were pushing our luck, rule-breaking wise, with just these pictures. but i'm thinking it's a pretty safe bet to include this video & say that's what the boys choir sounded like. (ALSO: these days when i hear a boys choir or a boy sing high-pitched or something [which, to be honest, isn't often] i'm always like, "that's a lovely, lovely voice!" said, of course, in total bane-from-the dark knight rises style because i still think it's so funny that bane paused from his whole, baddie lifestyle & grand & complex evil plot to comment on that boy singing the national anthem).

& that, my friends, is most of our day one! on day one we also visited the tower of london, which was awesome & i'll devote an entire post to it. see you soon.

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