London is amazing. I am not sure what I expected it to be but it far surpassed anything that I had imagined. The buildings are gorgeous. Everywhere you turn there is a picturesque little street or a fabulous structure with architectural details that awe and delight! We’ve done a tremendous amount of walking averaging 6-10 miles a day, and Mike even more as he’s run a couple of early mornings through the streets of London. My verdict: London is a bucket-list-worthy destination without a doubt!
This week has truly been memorable. We started Monday by paying a visit to the Museum of Natural History. The structure alone is worth a visit. It is incredibly detailed in carvings which are unique from one another. The building very much represents the natural world which it was intended to showcase. It is a mind-blowing piece of architecture. Richard Owens, the naturalist who founded this museum campaigned for it as a “cathedral to nature,” which it truly is!
We spent several hours at the museum and then our next stop was the iconic Harrods. Harrods department store is huge, but my favorite part is nestled in the middle. There are little food shops for cheese, coffee, teas, chocolate, flowers and other specialties. The smells were amazing. These little shops were the busiest in the store.
After Harrods, we grabbed an Uber to Knotting Hill where we ducked into a pretty authentic neighborhood pub called The Elgin Pub and Dining Room. We split a burger and fries. The locals were loudly enjoying a soccer game (football here in the UK). I was observer rather than participant yet felt lucky to be a part of it all! This place has the distinction of being the only place we came across which showed the way to the bathroom with the word “Loos.” I had rather thought it would be more common to see it. We enjoyed taking a stroll through the streets of Notting Hill where the buildings were cute and colorful, full of character.
Tuesday morning we were up early, catching an Uber to make our bus connection for a tour to Stonehenge with pitstops in Bath for the Roman baths and the English county of Berkshire to see Windsor Castle. How extraordinary to see these baths sited on a geothermal spring, built 2 millennia ago. We toured the building and then on to Windsor Castle and Stonehenge.
Stonehenge was a bucket-list item and it lived up to my expectations. If you’ve visited Stonehenge in the past, the grounds surrounding it have been redone to include a visitor center, and parking has been re-located a bit away from the stones with a shuttle bus or a short walk to reach the site. We had plenty of time to walk around the whole site and really take in. It is speculated to have been built in the Neolithic age. The stones were thought to have been placed 2,000-3,000 BC and though many theories have been floated as to it’s method of construction and even it’s purpose, there is no certainty. The site felt mystical to me but it raises as many questions as it answers.
The following day we went on another excursion, this time by train. Up early, we had breakfast on the train and 2 hours later found ourselves in drizzly, chilly Liverpool. Another bucket-list destination. It couldn’t dampen the spirits of two Beatles geeks though. We started with a visit to the Beatles Museum. We enjoyed the exhibits and learning more about the group we both love. The Beatles, more than any other group, have truly been the soundtrack for our lives. We danced to “Here There and Everywhere” for our wedding dance. Our daughter Jenna danced to “In My Life” as her senior recital song and also for her Daddy-Daughter wedding dance. She had the string version of “Here, There and Everywhere” playing as I was seated at her wedding. So much love for the Beatles. After our Museum visit we met the bus for The Magical Mystery Tour where we visited Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields and we went past each of the Beatles childhood homes. Surprisingly “working-class hero” John Lennon, grew up in the nicest house of the four. But the climax of our day, and arguably our whole trip, was a visit to The Cavern Club, the place where the Beatles got their start. It was really quite a visceral experience. You make your way down more than one flight of winding stairs. There were a series of labyrinth like rooms and in the far back one, there was a young man singing “Blackbird” very much sounding like a young Paul Mccartney. It was just so cool to be there where it all began!
Our day had started at 6am and after a two hour train ride and dinner on the train, we arrived back at Euston station around 9pm. It really was the trip of dreams for the two of us.
The following day we went to St. Pauls cathedral and climbed up to the Golden Gallery, a staggering 528 steps, not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic. The staircase is very narrow and winding, and allows a one person width, at times it even requires you to duck a little. But once at the top you are rewarded with some of the most spectacular views of London! The cathedral was built by Sir Christopher Wren on the site of the previous church destroyed by The Great Fire of London starting in 1675 and completed in 1708. It’s an astounding architectural feat which has undergone some refurbishment to ensure it’s continued stability. It was the site of Winston Churchill’s funeral and if you’re as old as I am, you may recognize it as the venue for the wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles.
That evening we enjoyed cocktails and hors’doeurves in the Red Room of our hotel hosted by Invisalign for all of the attendees and their wives. The following day Mike was in classes all day and I spent the day shopping and sight seeing. That evening we enjoyed dinner with all of the American Delegates on the 28th floor of the Hilton overlooking Hyde park and watching the sunset. It was a memorable experience.
The last day, while Mike was still in class, I did a Hop-on/Hop-off bus tour solo. I chose the top level of a double decker open air bus as the day was sunny and warm. There were several options which offered walking tours or a river tour as well as the bus tour, but I decided just to do the bus so I would be free when Mike got out of class. I wandered over to Hatchards, which is not only the bookstore to the royals but is the oldest bookstore in London, dating back to 1797. They even have the table that Oscar Wilde used to sign his books on, and they use it for book signings even today. When Mike got out of class, we did a little shopping and strolled through Hyde Park. It was perfect summer day and the park was full of picnickers and people enjoying the day.
Each part of our trip was great. We explored London, which is my new favorite city. We met some wonderful orthodontists and a few wives from around the world. Mike attended an Invisalign symposium with the top 300 Invisalign orthodontists around the world coming from 37 different countries. We had conversations about the differences in the health care delivery system in the presence of England’s socialized medicine and what that means to the practitioner My assessment after these discussions: not good for the practitioner or the patient. But that’s a long and interesting conversation we’ll leave for another day. We learned about the public’s feelings on Brexit (it’s a polarizing subject) and were there on Friday, May 24th, the day the headlines announced Theresa May’s decision to step down on June 7th. England’s feeling about our president seems to be as polarized as our own country’s. In fact Trump was arriving in England on the heels of our departure and protests were being planned. We also met those strongly in favor of his presidency. Surprisingly for me, the question I was asked the most by individuals was why we don’t have gun control. A couple of people even expressed a reluctance to visit the states because they were worried about becoming the victim of gun crime. Sadly, the Virigina Beach mass shooting occurred towards the end of our stay, before we were even asked the question.
We made new friends and enjoyed learning about the wonderful history of London. Despite a valiant effort to find my new favorite wine, sampling vintages from Germany, France and Italy, I failed to do so. But I did managed to tick a few things of the bucket list on this visit: Abby Road, Buckingham Palace, Liverpool and Stonehenge!
The coming week will be back to reality. The next blog post will probably be much shorter as I’ll have no exciting destination to tell you about, but hopefully still a few more things to check off the list.
Thanks for sharing this journey with me.