M & K in San Diego

the west coast adventures of two east coast kids

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Epic UK Adventure: Day 8

Day 8 was our final day abroad. (Technically there was a Day 9, but it was spent packing, eating breakfast, and leaving for the airport - then freaking out about last minute ticket changes, finally getting things sorted out, and then flying from London to Los Angeles, watching lots of movies and reading some books and sleeping a little bit along the way. But I digress.)

Back in London, M & K and Michael wanted to run around the city doing things we hadn’t done before. K’s dad and Claudia decided to take a day trip to Oxford, and word has it they really enjoyed their visit - but that’s another story. Ours began with a quick ill-fated jaunt up to King’s Cross Station (subway closures forced us to figure out alternate routes and we were not altogether savvy in our methods) to visit Platform 9 3/4. Clearly we had to get the touristy Harry Potter photo op, no matter how long it took us to get there!

Having traveled a good distance in one direction for a five minute photo op, we then turned around and headed an entirely different one. We wanted to go tour around famous St Paul’s Cathedral, listed on the floor of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome as the second longest cathedral in the world, although this is apparently a matter of some contention (apparently the floor needs an update). And of course, by “we” I mean “K” wanted to tour it. M and Michael mostly wanted to hurry through the building and climb the enormous dome. They were troopers and allowed K to read some of the more interesting tidbits out of her guidebook, but the dome was definitely the highlight. After 530 steps to the very top, with a few stops along the way, we were rewarded with amazing panoramic views of London.

After climbing back down from the top of the dome, we left the cathedral behind, instead wandering down the street until we made it to London Bridge. Guidebook in hand, K shared that there has been a bridge over that exact point in the river for nearly 2000 years - quite a history! While crossing the bridge, K snapped a quick quintessential tourist-in-London picture: the red double-decker bus crossing the London Bridge with the Tower Bridge in the background!

We went to the London Eye with the intention of riding it, but the lines were too long and our time too precious. Instead, we turned our feet in the direction of Buckingham Palace, and on the way, stopped for food at St George’s Tavern. This was the best decision of the day, we later decided. We had a fabulous Polish waiter who regaled us with stories of London, himself, and pub antics, and who made all our food and drink decisions for us. We told him we wanted beer; he brought us a surprise sampler and made us taste them all before he would tell us what they were. Michael told him he wanted the chicken burger; he insisted that Michael actually wanted the sausage. (This turned out to be entirely correct.) He told us jokes and gave us pop quizzes (why do the beer mugs for the men have handles and why are they so heavy? because when men get into bar fights they can club each other with them OR break of the handles and have a handy little sharp weapon. awesome). We could have sat there in our little corner booth for hours just listening to him talk, but eventually, after taking some pictures with our new friend, we did head back out into the London afternoon.

Our timing actually turned out to be pretty good - we got to Buckingham Palace just in time to see the (miniature) changing of the guard - certainly not the level of the daily spectacle as all of the troops change shifts, but the minor changing of the guards at the front of the palace. Still pretty nifty to see.

That night, for our last night in town, we met up with some friends of K’s dad and Claudia and went out to a place near Covent Garden for dinner. We had a great time and the food was fantastic, and afterwards, K & M and Michael had once last adventure as we sought out the first ever Hard Rock Cafe. M has always liked to collect t-shirts from places he visits, and he quickly discovered that Hard Rock Cafe shirts last, while those from street vendors… well, don’t. So we try to visit a Hard Rock anytime we’re in a city that has one so we can get a souvenir we’ll actually be able to use later, and we were both excited to see the first ever Hard Rock Cafe. Little did we know what we were in for: there’s a whole rock and roll museum across the street, with memorabilia that they literally could not fit into the Cafe! We took the quick free tour they offered, and the boys especially were blown away by the musical history captured in the small space. We took lots of pictures, bought our souvenirs, and ended the day - and, essentially, the trip - with smiles and laughter and the feeling that, while we hadn’t seen it all, we’d definitely made our time in the UK count!

Filed under travel epic UK adventure family trip london Harry Potter king's cross station platform 9 3/4 st paul's cathedral london bridge st george's tavern buckingham palace hard rock cafe the end