Yesterday was our only full day in London so we woke up and decided to seize the day. We have been so excited all trip to visit the Churchill War Rooms, which I had never been to. So we woke up, got ready, had a some coffee and tea with our lovely host, and headed out to explore. We hopped on the tube in quiet St. John's Wood, and came out in the heart of London, right next to Westminster Abbey. It was bustling! It always takes such a second to get used to the traffic in the UK, and I almost died about five times looking the wrong way. Woopsies! We made our way past the houses of Parliament and Westminster, and around the corner to the Churchill War Rooms.
To those of you who don't know, the War Rooms were a secret bunker in the basement of downtown London where Churchill and his cabinet met to discuss their moves and tactics during the Battle of Britain, also known as the Blitz, in relative safety and secrecy. When the allies won the war everyone got up and left the bunker, exactly as it had been during the war. Because of this it has been remarkably well preserved, or recreated in certain places from photographs, down to one officers hidden sugar ration. Now you can go down and walk through, and listen to accounts and information on what went down their, as well as Churchill's doings and daily routine. Attached to the bunkers is also an amazing museum dedicated to Winston Churchill, which documents his personal life, his relationship with his wife, with FDR, his election, his great loss, his reelection, etc.
We loved the museum, although it is a bit pricey. However, it did come with a free audiophone! Well worth it though, as the community that lived in the war rooms and worked their was quite extraordinary. One account was given by a woman who worked as a typist and shared that when she had to spend the night in the bunker because of bombing she would have to walk upstairs to the loo in her nightgown, and always happened to walk by some of the highest ranking officers and officials. She was mortified! What a life..
After the war rooms we headed to grab some lunch across the river on the South Bank. We crossed the Thames and walked down the bank, people watching and taking in all the restaurants. There were some cool art installations and a sweet book market. We grabbed lunch at Giraffe, walked a bit more, and then stopped on a sunny bench next to the river. Johnboy promptly napped and I read, and then 30 minutes and a very pink Johnboy later we headed to the Blackfriars bridge, where we crossed over again and hit the tube to Buckingham.
We popped out and walked to the Palace, stopped for a quick look, were told the Queen was so sorry to miss us but had to go to dinner w the PM but would we please come in and make ourselves at home? Gosh, her corgis and dorgis are just too cute...wedding present anyone? I like a little more corgi than dorgi, but any sweet pup will be cuddled for life.
Jokes. Anywho, after that we walked all through Hyde Park and into Kensington Park which was just, honestly, gorgeous. All blooming and green and sunny as all get out. We seriously lucked out with weather here. I am so blown away by the green spaces in London, all the grassy knolls, meadows, rose gardens, ponds, and lawns. Kensington especially is beautifully planted with flower beds and then groves of big old trees that must have been there for hundreds of years. We had fun at the big pond seeing all the ducks and beautiful swans. Also, everyone in the park seemed to have the most adorable dogs. And they were all allowed off leash! So nice. This is a city I could live in, write in, raise kids in, and enjoy. One can dream...
We couldn't go to Kensington without checking out Will and Kate's digs, Kensington Palace, so we walked around the back and up the street behind, which is also where a lot of the embassies are. It was SO quiet! Only authorized vehicles are allowed, and no photography, so it seems like a lot of people are deterred from hanging around there. It is a beautiful street, and Kensington is sooo pretty. Compared to Buckingham it seems positively cozy.
From there we walked into Notting Hill where we got on the tube, and headed home to throw some laundry in and relax for a little while, because we had dinner plans with our great friend Will Stokes!
Will is a wonderful friend from FOCUS who is English but has spent a ton of time in the States interning for Boston FOCUS and volunteeting on the Vineyard. He also happens to be a super talented musician, you should all check out his band, Stokes,William. Available on iTunes.
We met will at the Embankment tube stop and he took us to the coolest rooftop bar right next to St. Paul's Cathedral. It was incredible--from our vantage point I felt like we were viewing the Cathedral in a way that at the time it was designed was probably pretty inconceivable, but which really showcased the intentionality of the architecture. From this angle we could clearly see, as Will pointed out to us, how the disciples are placed at all corners, and they look as though they are gesturing and praying over all of London. So neat.
After catching up for a bit and admiring the view we headed back to the South Bank to this great pub, which I unfortunately cannot remember the name of, for dinner. It is always so special meeting up with dear friends in foreign countries, and we had the best time catching up and sharing all about our adventures in the past view years and hearing about his. He had encouraging things to say about Bath, naming it one of his favorite places in the UK, which made me even more excited to arrive.
After dinner we headed home, and tiptoed into the house and passed out.
Today we woke up, folded laundry, had some breakfast packed, said adieu to our hosts and London, and hopped on a train to Bath. It was a beautiful journey through the country, and we arrived mid afternoon.
Bath truly is incredibly. Its in a beautiful valley of big green hills, and the city itself is very hilly, but all beautiful white stone buildings and narrow, cobblestone streets. We immediately jumped on the open bus tour (hear that, Dad?!) and toured around half the city. So fun. We then met my friend Ali, who is doing the program here with me and who also arrived early, for drinks overlooking the River Avon and the hills beyond. In the distance we could see a small castle on the hill, and the sun was still high in the sky at 5:30 pm. Overall, it was a nice way to spend our first evening here, and mine the first of many!
Unfortunately though, my handsome fiancé Johnboy is not feeling very well so we headed back to the hotel for early dinner and a nap for him. Hoping that he will feel better tomorrow, as we are hoping to head out to Stonehenge!! Pray..
Love to all.
Emily and John