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A European Engagement: London

The first stop on our European Engagement tour was a 3 day stop in London!

We stayed in London with my two best friends from my Hong Kong contract, Amy and Vicki, and they were the perfect hosts.

Let me start by saying our three days in London were recorded as some of their hottest days they have ever had in the last 40 years, and it sure felt like it too. Out first day in London, Amy took us on a very thorough walking tour of all the main attractions.

We fed the birds like Mary Poppins bird woman does at the cathedral of St. Paul's...

We had a wizard duel on the Millennium Bridge (the one the death eaters destroyed in the Harry Potter movie)...

One of my favorite stops in the tour was Shakespeare's Globe Theater where Romeo and Juliet was playing because I had learned so much about it while in college...

We also saw some other classics like London Bridge (no, it wasn't falling down), Big Ben, the House of Parliament,Borough Market, Tate Modern, the London Eye, Downing Street, some of the shows on the West End and many many (many!) others.

Tinkerbell and Peter Pan are off to Neverland!

Saint James park

After 30,000 steps, a picnic for lunch in Saint James' Park, and a whole lot of Harry Potter quotes later, we met up with another Hong Kong princess, Ariane at Buckingham Palace.

Terrified of the horse at the original Buckingham Palace entrance

I was very sad the flag was at half staff, meaning the Queen was not in, but we did get to see the guards out front doing their rounds. After, we caught up with Vicki where we had a snog (frozen yogurt) and one of my favorite moments of the day was putting our feet in the fountain at Trafalgar Square.

Day one also consisted of some shopping at Oxford Circus (essentially the Times Square of London) at Hamleys and the Disney store before a shopping trip to the grocery store for some dinner.

Amy and her new best friend in Hamleys

Cooling down in the Disney Store air conditioning and watching Amys favorite princess.
Day two started off nice and early with a traditional English breakfast, including black pudding (which was surprisingly tasty considering its pig intestine) and an English breakfast tea at a Whether Spoons.

Breakfast was brief because we had to begin the Harry Potter madness and take the tube to Kings Cross Station, where Amy read us rush hour crushes and we ate some Jaffa cakes.

Once we got to Kings Cross station, we found platform 9 3/4!

We then took the train that would take us to the Harry Potter studio tour (one of the things I was most excited for on this entire trip).

When we got to the WB lot, excitement was buzzing between all of us. They let you into the tour area in groups of about 100+, where you enter into a small seating area and watch some clips of the film hyping you up even more. After the film, the movie screen lifts up into the air and you find yourself facing two very large doors that lead into the Great Hall (the reveal literally made me feel like I was in Disney again). The Great Hall was definitely a highlight and so amazing (my heart was literally pounding the whole time). 

{Pro Tip: stick around in the Great Hall, or any tour location, longer to be the last people in the space and get a picture with no one else in it}.

Moving out of the Great Hall, you enter into more of a museum layout where exhibits of the set pieces, costumes, props, wigs, and so much very more I can barely even explain were arranged. I was in heaven the entire time and loved it all so much, especially the ability to interact with a few of the exhibits, like flying lessons and wand choreography.

Riding the Hogwarts Express

Wand choreography

Hagrid? Oh that's how you got so big!

Looking for Argog in the Forbidden Forest

Having some tea and rock cakes at Hagrids

Casually doing a little shopping in Diagon Alley

Bowing to buckbeak the Hippogriff

Invisibility cloak!

Of course we had to get some butterbeer too...

The very last room of the tour is the full scale model of Hogwarts Castle and it's absolutely breath taking. We could have stayed in this room all day (mostly because we didn't want to leave...).

I would absolutely recommend checking this lot out if you are a Harry Potter fan, because it is absolutely worth the cost (and more!).

The trip back to London was not quite as magical as the way there was because it was about 93 degrees, rush hour, and the tube does not have air condition. I have seriously never sweat so much in my life.

When we finally untangled ourselves from the mess of bodies, we were ready for some food. One of the places the Brits in Hong Kong would often talk about as a London classic is Nandos. This is a South African -Brazilian style of food and it was so worth the wait!

I had a lemon and herb chicken wrap with grilled halloumi and garlic peri peri sauce with their creamed mash (and my mouth is still watering).

After dinner was a little dessert I had been wanting to try (thanks to the Great British Bakeoff), Victoria Sponge Cake!

(Also in the back is where we were staying with the girls).

It had a much milder taste than I thought it would, but my American taste buds are used to things loaded with sugar and salt. It was absolutely delicious and I ate almost the whole thing by myself in one sitting.

The food in London was pretty good, but one of the best things about having our friends guiding us was knowing where to find the good cheap eats so we didn't break the bank on our first stop of the trip. Our lunch everyday was a Meal Deal from either Tesco or Boots (similar to a CVS or Rite Aid). The Meal Deal is great because you get an entree (sandwhich, pasta, sushi, etc), a side (crisps, fruit, yogurt, a veggie and humus combo, etc), and any sort of bottled drink all for about 3 pounds AND (as if it couldn't get any better already), it's all super portable and great for on the go eating. {pro tip: grab these lunches on your way for day trips like our Stonehenge tour to avoid paying attraction food costs}.

Day three was also an early start because we had signed up in advance for a tour with Golden Tours to Stonehenge. The bus ride was a smooth 2 hour journey (where we slept most of the way) and once we arrived we had two hours to enjoy the site. We were lucky enough to see Stonehenge the day after the summer solstice, and got to witness one of the religious groups partaking in a religious ceremony throughout the stones.

*cue Lost in the Wilderness from Children of Eden*

As I have said before, I am not a big fan of tour groups, but this one was perfect, since it was literally just a bus ride and entrance ticket, which we would have paid for anyways. If you are wanting to see Stonehenge from London, this is the way to go about it. Also, this was the one day I was dressed for the heat, and of course it was freezing and windy here instead, so pro tip to myself, check the weather every morning.

After the bus ride back to London, Mike and I took the tube to meet Amy and Vicki at a park near Westminster Park and Big Ben.

We decided to take a water taxi from Westminster Pier to Greenwich {pro tip: The water taxi takes the same route as the water tours, which cost much more, they just make a few more stops and you can just use your Oyster Card to pay}.

The water taxi allowed us to see all of the famous bridges (Westminster, London, Tower, and Millennium bridge to name a few) and pass some of Londons famous landmarks (London Eye, the Gherkin, the Cheese Grater, and the Tate Modern).

Tour guide Amy informed us if you wave to London Bridge on a boat and a woman on the bridge waves back it's seven years good luck.

When we arrived in Greenwich, we went to a chippy and got some fish and chips and a steak and kidney pie to picnic in Greenwich Park with. The fish was delicious, but I am pretty sure I will dream about that pie from now on because it was sooo good!

The night only got better as another Hong Kong princess joined us, Molly!

I haven't seen both Molly and Vicki in over a year (not counting FaceTime), so I was pretty excited to get to squeeze these faces again.

I mean quite literally squeeze...

Amy and Vicki also introduced us to some of their friends who live in Greenwich and are so lovely.

The final bit of tourism we wanted to do before we left was walk over Tower Bridge, and I am so glad we waited til evening to do this because it is so beautiful all lit up.

It was so amazing getting to hang out with my best friends in a city I have always wanted to see. London, you were wonderful, but now it's time to head to Greece!

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