torrie's travels


The Big Day October 2, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 9:08 pm

So Sunday was dedicated (mostly) to the Vikings game…the impetus of the entire trip.  But we still had a few things we wanted to do first.  So we decided to have a quick breakfast (which, I should have included in my post yesterday…on this trip I learned that I could eat a chocolate pastry every day of my life!) and then rented bikes at the cycle hire.  We had a brief malfunction, but then were on our way.  We rode the length of Hyde Park, without being able to stop much to enjoy the views.  I definitely wish I had had more time for the park.  We stopped and looked at Kensington Palace…soon-to-be-home of Kate and Wills!

After docking our bikes, we made our way to the London Eye for our 11am trip.  Jaime isn’t afraid of heights, but she gets weird on bridges and things with no sides.  She gets a bad case of vertigo.  Initially, she wasn’t even going to do the Eye, but subsequently changed her mind.  There is a bench in the middle of each pod, so she spent most of the time sitting on the bench and enjoying the views.  She occasionally got up to snap some photos, though.  It was a nice ride and it was fun to see London from the air.  (We saw it from the street, from the water, and from the air!)  I got some good shots of Big Ben and Parliament!

But we were slightly concerned with the time, as we had to switch hotels that day.  At first we didn’t think it was going to be a problem, until I looked at our Vikings ticket email and realized we had to pick up our tickets by 1pm.  So while we were on the Eye, we were keeping an eye on our watch!  Ba-dum-bum.  We hustled back to our main hotel, picked up our bags, got a cab, and got to the new hotel in time to get our tickets.  We were also able to check into the hotel and we were both very thankful we were only spending one night there.

We dropped our stuff off and went for lunch.  After lunch we got on the tube and went to Wembley.  Talk about a crazy scene!  It was mass chaos.  I immediately saw a merchandise stand, and the site map did not indicate any other merchandise stands, so I stood in the enormously long line.  For an hour.  (NOT an exaggeration.)  When I reached the counter, I learned that they were out of almost everything.  Let’s just say I was not a happy camper.  We walked the concourse and found our gate, which thankfully did not have a huge line.  Inside was another merchandise stand, but again, it was sold out of many things.  Jaime went to find our seats and I went to find another stand.  This one required about 30-40 minute wait in line, but I was able to finish up my shopping.

The game was awesome…see my other post.  I was shocked at how many Brits enjoy football.  But they were out in droves and it was a lot of fun.  Of course, it helps that the Vikes won (despite their best efforts to lose it again at the end).  After getting split up due to the massive crowd trying to get on the tube, Jaime and I were able to meet back at the hotel.  We had an early flight, so we just dropped into (our very uncomfortable) beds and hit the hay.  We had planned on having a cab take us to our old tube stop (the one by our previous hotel) because it was both a direct shot to Heathrow and had elevators, but the cabbie convinced us to let him take us all the way.  If it hadn’t been 6:45am and if we didn’t have the heaviest bags ever, I would’ve insisted on the tube.  As it is, it probably only cost us 10-11 pounds extra.  Which is a lot in US dollars, but it was a fair price for convenience.

We were both worried about the weight of our checked bags, so thankfully Heathrow had a scale that we could use before we went to check-in.  I haven’t seen one of these in the states, but maybe I just haven’t looked for it.  I came in at 22.9 kg (the limit is 23 kg) and Jaime was over.  So she rearranged some stuff into her carry-ons and we were golden.  Until we had to board the plane.  We were both carrying on way too much stuff, so we used a little trickery to get on the plane.  I was carrying two large (and quite heavy) carry-ons AND had my “purse.”  So I put my fleece over my purse in an attempt to make it look to the gate agents that I only had the two bags I was carrying.  For all I know they weren’t tricked at all and just didn’t care!

The flight was relatively painless, except for my attempts to sleep.  Talk about a crick in the neck.  When we got to Boston we had to clear customs (which was dumb, we should’ve done that in London) and pick up our bags.  This did not impress us.  Especially when we found out that we only had to take them and drop them about 50 feet.  What, exactly, was the point of that?!?!  Then we made our way to our next terminal, which couldn’t have been farther away if they tried, and went through security again.  This made us very unhappy.  And finally, our gate was almost as far away as possible.  Let’s just say we were extremely tired and sore from lugging all these damn bags all over God’s green earth.

It was a great trip.  It flew by, as I think we stuffed in as many sights as was humanly possible.  I am glad to be back, in my own house, and sleeping in my own bed.  And, of course, thinking about my next trip(s).  Nantucket this winter?  Some baseball location next summer?  Massive European trip next fall?  I can’t wait!


Things I Learned in London October 1, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 2:36 pm

So I should have kept a list written down somewhere, instead of just in my head.  I know I am missing some, but here are some things I learned in London (ok, and Paris…).

1) Their stoplights utilize the yellow light more than ours.  The lights go from green to yellow to red.  Ok, normal, right?  Then they go from red and yellow (at the same time) to green.  So weird.  But I guess it lets you know to get ready, green is coming.

2) Their streets, much like Dublin (and a serious life saver…literally), have painted on the ground which way to look.  “Look Left” and “Look Right” so that when you are attempting to cross the street, you look the correct way and avoid being run down by a double-decker bus!  Even after a week, I still needed those guides to remind me that traffic is coming from the opposite direction!

3) We learned many things on our tour with Alan, and this is where I really wish I had written down (or recorded) his little tidbits of information.  These next two are from him: in the English countryside, each town would have a church and each church would have a steeple.  The steeple was the tallest point in each town.  Every year there would be races from town to town and they would start from the church and end at the church.  The racers could see the steeples and know where to go.  Hence, the Steeple Chase.

4) When Christopher Wren was re-building St. Paul’s Cathedral after the great fire, he was not allocated enough money to renovate or build it as he wanted.  There was a decree or order that a St. Peter’s Church be built elsewhere in London instead.  Wren appropriated much of the funds to renovate St. Paul’s from the funds allocated to St. Peter’s, hence the term robbing Peter to pay Paul!

5) These people don’t eat turkey.  Seriously, I could not find a turkey sandwich to save my life.  There were a couple meals that we wanted to just get something quick and easy and there was nary a turkey sandwich in sight.  Jaime said she located turkey slices in a deli, but when compiled in sandwich form, no store creates a turkey sandwich!  (Along these same lines, and much like Ireland, they don’t serve grilled chicken, either.)

6) I like trying “local” fast food establishments, or at least the idea of it!  I remember in Ireland, Loren and I really wanted to eat at “Supermac’s”, but never got around to it.  In France, Jaime and I saw “Quick”, but we were only in Paris for 2 1/2 days, so we wanted to eat well.  Had I known that the only fast food restaurants I would find in London were McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, and KFC, I would have eaten something at Quick!

7) The people are WAY nicer than Parisians.  I suppose that’s not saying much, but everyone was just so kind and so nice.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re not Irish, but they were all very helpful!

8) I could live there.  London was an incredibly fast-paced city, especially coming from the laid-back city of Paris.  But that’s kind of my speed, literally, so I feel like I could fit right in!  The tube was very easy to use and navigate and it was a Godsend!  We had unlimited travel, so we used it more often than not.  Including many times where if we had been required to purchase each trip, we would’ve just walked.  And I always felt safe.  Even after the football game when Jaime and I got split up and my new friend Kyle got off at his stop.  It was late, I was alone, but never felt vulnerable or worried.

**UPDATE** 9) Apparently you are supposed to pronounce the letter Z as Zed, not Zee.  I thought he was yanking our chain, but wikipedia confirms.  It specifically says, “Americans pronounce it zee.”  Well, then.

I am sure there are more things, but that was what I could come up with without writing it down.  If I think of more, I will add it!  And there will be one more blog post about our last day in London, but I am working on unpacking, uploading and editing photos, organizing souvenirs, resting, laundry, and grocery shopping!