How to Travel London Like a Pro {Guest Post}

Today’s post is brought to you by my sister-in-law Mara, who visited us in London for a few months. I’m making it a tradition that if you visit, you have to write up a blog post about your time here. Sadly, she just left us for the greener pastures of Oregon. . . where things are a lot less hectic. 

Looming skyscrapers, double-decker buses roaring down the wrong side of the road, seas of rushing people, zooming trains—it’s all a bit much for Alaska-born, small-town-raised, me. Well, it was at first. Now, I am as much a Londoner as anyone from here, or at least I like to pretend I am. I’ve figured out the meanings of knackered (think exhausted), squiggle (“squiggle up the queue”), squidge (squishy!), and dodgy (Brits’ favorite word meaning sketchy) and I know what bin lorries are (just plain old garbage trucks). I know how to get anywhere, and often find myself giving lost people directions.

Visiting Sherlock

. . .like how to get to Sherlock’s house!

The trick to getting anywhere, even if you can’t pronounce where you are going and you aren’t sure where you came from, is to look confident. If the signal on your phone fails, or your trusty Piccadilly train line workers go on strike for the third time this month, just flash a British guy a smile and ask how you get to x (I don’t recommend this advice for guys). “Sure love, you just . . . ” is the usual response. These British men know how to be gentlemen (not referring here to the ones that say f*** every other word).

Speaking of striking, it’s a favorite pastime for train workers and everyone else. Six months paid leave for having a baby (which you just had at the hospital for no cost to you), paternity and adoption leave, paid public holidays, plus six weeks paid vacation for everyone, workable healthcare that doesn’t cost so much that you have to live in your car. . . the conditions are so abominable that if I lived here I’d be striking every other week too.

Apparently, some places in the world still celebrate Good Friday–it’s a national holiday here, which means trains and buses have different schedules, or sometimes don’t even run. I found this out the hard way when I was left waiting an hour for a bus at the train station 4.5 miles from my appointment and a taxi driver was kind enough to tell me that the buses were not running that day. Unfortunately, he just wanted to drain my bank account. I walked. I did contemplate hitchhiking, but I didn’t want my mother getting wind of it and having a heart attack.

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Or you can just climb a twisty old oak.

If you really want to give your mum a heart attack, just take a trip to Rome. End up dreadfully sick, realize you better go to the hospital (before the housekeeper discovers you dead on the bed), find the hospital where no one speaks English, nearly stop breathing, get pumped full of oxygen and meds and spend the next week barely able to get out of bed with bronchitis, coughing, throwing up, and cooking with a fever. [Ed.: it takes a real fever to be able to cook with it!] If that doesn’t scare your mummy, I don’t know what will.

If you prefer to not have such enervating adventures, I found the circus back in London was a much more relaxing option. The lion tamer, I mean house cat tamer, and his ferocious beast put on quite a show. Never mind that the lion’s roar sounded more like “meow.” I considered getting my Exceptional Talent visa to be the circus unicyclist as they didn’t have one. But after watching the knife thrower tie up the poor circus girl and nearly take off her head, I decided I didn’t want to get roped into any such ridiculousness. I’m kind of attached to my head too.
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Museums are also a great way to spend your free time. If you really want to become one of those obnoxious museum snobs, just spend the day looking at all the dinosaur bones in the Natural History Museum. After making great friends with the T-Rex, go over to the British Museum where you can chill out with the freakishly real-looking wood/wax Huns, then nip over to the Victoria and Albert to examine all the fine dishes, dresses, and couches while getting overwhelmed with gold things. Still want more? That’s okay, there are about a billion museums left to see.

My Hun Friend

My Hun friend at the British Museum

And if you get tired of dusty museum history, you can always go over to Hyde Park or Greenwich Park, where you might still find history but in a more natural setting. But be careful–if you’re bad, you might get tied up to Queen Elizabeth’s Oak overnight as a punishment.

Now that my senior thesis on the History of British War and Police Dogs is finally all researched and written, it’s time for me to attend graduation, get a job, pay off loans, and do all the general responsible adult-ish things. So now, I’m headed back to the skyscraper-less grass fields of home, where a traffic jam means six cars behind a tractor. But a piece of my heart will be left behind in beautiful, diverse, adventure-filled London, in the church-turned-flat, with Brother and Annikins and Baby Bear.

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A Lovely Spring Boat Ride

We decided to switch things up a little the other day and catch the Thames Clipper, since we live so close. It was a lovely spring day, though a little chilly on board ship, and JQ decided to break his nap strike and actually sleep a little while he was on board (of course only while in his carrier).

Pro tip–to get the best looking pictures, try balancing the camera on top of your baby’s head while you try to get the best shots. He’ll wiggle and possibly even squeak at you, leading to the best crooked pictures you’ve ever taken. (I’m well on my way to teaching a photography course!)

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I did end up getting few good pictures without millions of heads and the backside of the boat in them, however. This one of Tower Bridge, for example.

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And the battleship whose name I feel I should know but can’t remember. DSC_0428

There were also some people out enjoying the river

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And we saw a lovely view of the dome of St. Paul’s looking rather incongruous next to some newer apartment buildings. But at least they’re not Soviet style architecture.
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Oh, and London Bridge too. I think most Americans assume that London Bridge must be some fabulous looking bridge that’s the most amazing thing they’ve ever seen. Well, it’s not.

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Just kidding; that’s not actually London Bridge. It’s Waterloo Bridge. But the principle is the same.

And just in case you’re wondering what the backside of a boat looks like, here you go. You can thank me later.

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Apartment Tour (or should I say, Flat Tour?)

This post will probably be rather boring, since all my energy seems to be dedicated at the moment to stocking up our apartment with the basic necessities like pots and pans (and chocolate), lugging said necessities home, and thinking of tasty things to cook since I started getting tired of the old faithful hamburger (around here they call it beef mince) and random veggies mixture.

Anyhow, on to the apartment. In this apartment, we have a bed:

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Exhibit A

It’s nice to have a bed, because before we were just sleeping on an air mattress on the floor. You try heaving your very pregnant self off a 4 inch high air mattress and tell me it’s easy.

We also have lovely wide windows that Jared has discovered the perfect use for.

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The scholar at work.

They’re kind of like a cross between a window seat and a treehouse, or so I imagine.

Coming out of the bedroom, there’s a hallway to the door, a bathroom on the right, and the living room (reception room in UK parlance) and kitchen on the left.

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The hallway. Fascinating, eh?

Our bathroom feels palatial compared to the last few places we’ve lived. It’s so nice to have a pretty bathroom that rewards you for keeping it clean. And the bathtub certainly doesn’t hurt things either!

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Jared attempts to emulate Sir Winston Churchill now.

For the kitchen/living room, you’ll have to see them filled with people as you would if you were actually visiting. Jared’s friends from school came over and celebrated the imminent arrival of JQ with us this weekend. They brought presents and we gave them food and everyone had a lovely time.

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And helped assemble them (and isn’t it cute?!)
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Opening presents while everyone looks on.
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The steps to the kitchen make for perfect extra seating.

One of the gifts we were given was a cake that was apparently the favorite dessert of the Congress of Vienna (no, it didn’t survive from the 19th century–it’s just the same recipe).

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It was quite tasty when we opened it later. Basically a walnut praline pie or something like that.

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Jared loved it.

Combine a tasty pastry with the peace settlement that resulted in the most peaceful century in modern European history, and you have the recipe for greatness. Maybe it’s why the Congress of Vienna was so successful.

Anyways, we love our little flat, and it’s a great space for entertaining as well. Come by and see us sometime!