We’ve arrived!

Hello everyone! Although today was mostly full of travel, it was a good one. Our plane left LAX a half hour late which wasn’t too bad. (Thanks Dad/Steve for dropping us off at the airport!) Andrew surprised me with an upgrade to extra legroom seats which turns out was totally worth it. We had at least 4 inches more legroom than the other seats in economy and they leaned back further too. We ate dinner on the airplane at around 10 p.m. LA time and then settled in to watch movies. I started The King’s Speech which was great, but fell asleep half-way through and stayed that way pretty much the rest of the flight. Andrew watched Due Date which was apparently pretty funny because I saw him many times out of the corner of my eye having quiet fits of laughter.

In London we got through customs no problem and arrived to Mickey’s around 6 p.m. We ate dinner at a very nice gastro pub near their place called The Fellow. Andrew had perfectly cooked Venison with haggis and “neeps and tatties” which are mashed turnips and potatoes. I had some amazing fish and chips with smushed peas. Wow, everything was really good.

Next we were off to the train station to take the last train to Newcastle which is in Northern England. We took off from track 8 at King’s Cross station which as you Harry Potter fans know is really close to platform nine and three quarters (the gateway to Hogwart’s Express) Andrew even pretended to run into the wall where the made-up platform was supposed to be like Harry does in the book, but didn’t get through. Muggle! Ok enough Harry Potter references. I’m reading the books right now so I just couldn’t resist. We arrived a little after midnight and decided to walk to our hotel a few blocks away. We all assumed that since it was so late, it would be a pretty deserted trek. We couldn’t have been more wrong. As soon as we exited the train station, we were assaulted by the sights and sounds of thousands of young people partying the night away. They were everywhere…in the street, inside noisy pubs, stumbling around the sidewalks. A good many of them were way too intoxicated for their own good. With a little luck we finally got to our hotel and checked in for the night. Sorry we don’t have pictures to go with this post as Andrew didn’t have time to take any with all the travelling going on. Tomorrow we are headed to Maker’s Faire, a fun hands-on science festival here in Newcastle and I’m sure we will get plenty of pictures of that. Thanks for all the well wishes. We wish you could all be here with us. Cheers, Chelsie and Andrew

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Our last days in London, Shopping, Ethiopian Food

Yesterday we took two trains back to London and spent some time in the train station in Brussels. Don’t worry everyone…even though we didn’t stay in Brussels, we made sure to pick up some chocolate from there before returning to London. We arrived at St. Pancras train station around 1:30 in the afternoon and checked our luggage into the left luggage counter so we wouldn’t have to lug it around the city. What a great service. Only a few bucks and you can leave your baggage behind. Haha. Sorry my sense of humor is a little shot because of the cold I am coming down with.

We headed onto the Tube to do some shopping. Andrew missed the Hard Rock Cafe which he collects shirts from the first time we hit up London so we had to go back there. Plus there was some other shopping stops we wanted to make as well. After a few hours of shopping we went back to the train station to sit and watch people as well as collect our luggage. In the evening, we met Mickey at his new place so we could drop our luggage off. The new place is really nice (the old one was great too), but this one has a really open floor plan and a great view. Coco the cat seems to like it too as she is currently glued to the window intensely watching the birds fly by. She’s so cute.

After having a quick drink of water, we headed over to an Ethopian restaurant that Mickey has been wanting to try. We have never tried Ethiopian food so we were pretty excited. When the food comes they bring you a large round tray of this spongy thin pancake-like bread. They also give you additional pieces. The idea is for them to dump all the food into the middle of the tray and you pull off small pieces of the bread and scoop up the food with it. It’s very family-style dining. We had a lamb and a chicken dish as well as some delicious spinach. It’s like nothing we have ever tried before, but it was great. At the end of the dinner we ordered the coffee service where they bring out a small strongly-brewed pitcher of coffee and you drink it out of very small cups while eating popcorn. It was very strong, but a great traditional experience.

After dinner we walked around the area and saw some of the London canals. We were here for almost a week and we never even knew London had any canals. They were beautiful and quiet at night. Really peaceful. Then we headed back to get some rest.

This morning we are just taking our time packing up so we can head to the airport a little later. We did in fact need another luggage because of all the souvenirs we bought. Oh well, we tried. Mickey and Cheryl were nice enough to let us borrow one of theirs that they aren’t using so we were really lucky there. We will be home in no time and I will do one final blog post when we arrive. We miss you all and can’t wait for the sunny California weather as it’s been a little cold and rainy here. For the final time from Eurpoe…Au revior, Chelsie and Andrew

P.S. We have seen all the Facebook complaining about the heat in LA, but we still can’t wait. There’s nothing like Autumn in California eh?

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Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, and Cleo

Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, and Cleo

So remember when we told most of you how excited we were to be visiting so many places without having rent a car and drive in a foreign land? Well forget about all that. Today we rented a car and drove to Stonehenge and Windsor Castle. It was quite the adventure. We started the morning around 8:30 am with of course TomTom coffee, orange juice and Poilâne croissants (our favorite). I had a brief issue with the order when they got two coffees and one orange juice instead of one coffee and two orange juices and then forgot to give me change for my 20, but that was resolved pretty quickly. Then we picked up our Renault Clio from the local Eurocar rental place. Once we climbed the million stairs to the parking garage and found our car we discovered…bum bum bum, it was a manual transmission. Not a big deal because Andrew loves to drive a stickshift, but since the driver sits on the right-hand side of the car, the stickshift was on the left and this complicated things a bit. Not to mention the driving on the other side of the road thing, the suicidal pedestrian thing, and the different traffic rules in general thing. At least the clutch was still on the right side. Andrew thought he would practice driving in the parking structure and it was one time around and then we were off…well, off after the brief misplacement of the ticket that would get us out of the parking structure that is. The GPS that we got with the car was a lifesaver, but it was still a quiet and very tense drive out of town. Once we got on the highway it was much better. We sill felt like we were on the wrong side of the road, but we got used to it quickly. Once we became comfortable enough to start having a conversation again we named our car Cleo because it’s a Renault Clio. At the time we were heading West out of town.

We decided to do Stonehenge first which is about a two-hour drive. The guidebooks warn you that it is right off the highway, but I only half believed them. When we rounded the final turn, we peaked over a small hill and there it was. You could probably throw a rock from the highway and hit it so the guidebooks really weren’t kidding. We parked Cleo and crossed the parking lot to the entrance. As part of your entrance fee they give you an audio tour on a headset which was just wonderful. It gave us the history of the site and why it is so special. Andrew got some fabulous pictures as the sun slipped in and out of the clouds for a very dramatic effect. We spent about an hour and a half enjoying the site before grabbing some lunch and gift shop items and heading back toward Windsor Castle.

About 40 minute from London we reached Windsor Castle which we had to drive by a few times until we figured out where to park. (Hey, it’s hard to navigate those weird streets.) We arrived at just the right time, they weren’t closed yet, but most of the tourists had already left for the day. In case you have never seen it, Windsor Castle looks just as you imagine a castle would. Large imposing gray walls made of stone, towers, moats, etc. It was pretty breathtaking. We saw Queen Mary’s amazing dollhouse with working plumbing, St. George’s chapel, and the state rooms where the kings and queens of distant past entertained guests. St. George’s Chapel is the place where many of the actual Kings and Queens of England’s past are interred. The roof and choir are amazingly detailed. It was a shame they didn’t allow photographs, but we understood why. The whole place was so beautiful. We made sure to leave early enough so we didn’t need to drive in the city at night as daytime driving is hard enough. When we finally returned the car we were so relieved that we didn’t kill anyone. We celebrated by eating delicious Italian with Mickey and visiting this really cool wine bar that is half in an underground cellar. We also spent some time walking around taking “night shots” which I thought was some exotic alcoholic beverage, but was actually just Andrew just walking around again at night taking photos. Tomorrow we have to get up really early to leave for France. Au revior, Chelsie and Andrew

Chelsie and majestic Stonehenge

Stonehenge 2

Stonehenge 3...does Stonehenge even really need a caption?

In the car

Andrew and Cleo


St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle

Andrew at Windsor Castle

Andrew and the Sentry Guard

Chelsie and the Setry Guard (I apologized to him while taking this photo. He must get tired of crazy tourists harrassing him all day)

Chelsie and Mickey at an Italian resturant close to his home

"Night Shots"

"Night Shots"

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Soho, Hyde Park, Indian Food, The Thames at Night

Soho, Hyde Park, Indian Food, The Thames at Night

Today we did much less walking than we have the previous couple of days. We woke up early and had breakfast, orange juice and coffee at TomTom, but this time it wasn’t croissants. We had eggs benedict which was wonderful. We sat for a while at the little communal table before going back to Mickey and Cheryl’s flat where Andrew helped get some things ready for the move. Did I mention they are moving to a new place very soon? We have been trying to be as helpful as possible as we know it can’t be easy to have houseguests while you are trying to pack up. After that we took a cab to a tapas restaurant where Cheryl was meeting up with a few friends from San Francisco. They were very nice and lunch was excellent. I had sweet corn and blueberry fritters with chorizo and a salad of baby greens and Andrew had a specialty egg dish that was basically a poached egg sitting on top of some yogurt, drizzled with chili oil. We both enjoyed it very much. After lunch we headed off to do some shopping at John Lewis, a department store much like Macy’s in the States because Cheryl thought they might have some unique British branded items that weren’t too touristy. She was right. What a great selection. We ended up getting a few things there and then splitting with Mickey and Cheryl so we could do some more shopping. They pointed us to the Soho neighborhood with lots of ecclectic shops and fun stuff. If you have ever heard of Liberty of London, this is where they have their main store. It was great although we tried to go over one street where the mainstream shopping is (Banana Republic, Armani, Gucci, etc.) and the amount of people trying to navigate the sidewalks was insane. They were everywhere and we could hardly move. After that we decided we needed a little wide open space so we walked to the Barclay’s bikes and hopped on for a ride through Hyde Park. We saw the Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park where people can go to protest and speak their mind to anyone who will listen. After riding through the park and along the large lake that runs through the center called The Serpentine, we returned the bikes and got on the Tube as our dinner reservations were looming. Mickey booked us a reservation at a modern Indian restaurant with small plates called Imli. We showed up 20 minutes early and were seated right away. We took one look at the menu and immediately knew that we wanted a taste of everything so we ordered the tasting menu which consisted of six small courses plus dessert. The food was out of this world. It was the best meal here we have had so far and we both stuffed our faces like nobody’s business. We couldn’t even decide which courses we liked best as they were all phenomenal. And the fig and ginger ice cream that came as dessert was to die for. Just amazing. After we were nice and stuffed we hopped the Tube again to Big Ben and the Houses or Parliament because Andrew had been wanting to take some night shots. They came out wonderful as you can see below. Well, we’re once again pretty tired and calling it a night. Au revior, Chelsie and Andrew

Soho Shopping

Riding the bike in Hyde Park

Just hanging around in the park

The Barclay's bikes all lined up in a row

Andrew BEFORE eating Indian Food

Our 6 course menu

Chelsie AFTER the Indian Food (Andrew pretty much looked the same) :)

Big Ben at night

The London Eye at night

Houses of Parliament at night

Big Ben and Houses of Parliament at night

Cool shot of the Tube pulling away from the station

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