Its been a while since I posted about my trip, so here is where I left of in London...
Waking at 6am on Wednesday morning, I walked before dawn through the rain and took the tube for an hour ride to Heathrow airport. I was so excited to meet Dan after over a month of being apart! I walked through Terminal 3 to find that his flight did not arrive there and that he was in Terminal 1. I was so sad that I missed him walking out of customs but it was still wonderful to be with him again. I met his mom's pen pal, Brenda, and her husband Stephen.
We were so lucky to stay with them and have them drive us all over for two days. They took us to their very neat, old house in Walkern, just an hour North of London. We got the guest room in the part of the house from the 1800's. I was really excited to stay in such an authentic place. We took a bus to the gorgeous university city of Cambridge where we took a walking tour with a tour guide that had a French accent. It rained quite a bit during the tour so I enjoyed walking in King's College Chapel.
After the tour we window shopped, snacked, and looked around a bit more. We got to see the Round Church, from the 11th century, right as it was closing and then headed back to dinner in a little restaurant. We all ordered Steak& Kidney pie. I learned that herby dice is the way they cut potatoes. Talking constantly as I always do, I barely had eaten any of my dinner. I didn't realize that it was really kidney! Silly me. I was thrilled to have a place to get some laundry done as well.
Thursday we piled into Brenda & Stephen's car and drove to Windsor Castle. Dan had been there in 2005 during the tube tragedy. Unfortunately they did not get far into the Castle before having to leave for security reasons. It was a beautiful day and the lighting was quite nice for photographs. I was really impressed with how well the royal family handles themselves in the public eye.We had a traditional English tea & lunch in the Drury House which was just filled with character (built in 1645). It looked like it would fall over in the smallest storm. We snacked on cucumber & cream cheese sandwiches, salad, scones with clotted cream and jam, and chocolate cake. Saw a crooked house and took a lovely walk down the Thames river. The views were incredible with all the leaves turning. After a fairy tale afternoon, we headed back to the house to make reservations for Paris and then enjoyed a delicious, home cooked meal of chicken soup. Brenda was an incredible hostess. Stephen asked me to name prime ministers and I could come up with only two. He named 30 US presidents. I asked him if he knew what the California flag was or how they came up with it. He could not so I felt a little better. I have learned that Americans are not as educated as many of the Europeans that I met on my trip. I hope to continue learning about other cultures now that I have returned.
Brenda & Stephen were so kind to wake at 5am and drive us to the local train station. We rode 30 minutes into King's Cross and then waited for our Eurostar train to Bruxelles (Brussels). I got my passport stamped and I was really excited (third stamp). Saw beautiful countryside in France & Belgium. It seemed to be a recurring theme that it was excellent weather on the days that I traveled to new destinations. Dan & I stored our backpacks at the Bruxelles train station and spent a good amount of time trying to figure out their public transportation since their Tourist Information office was closed for lunch. After getting help from a local, we took the underground to Grote Markt and walked around for a few hours. I was so excited to show Dan how incredible the Rathaus and Markt square were.While walking around the main square, we happened upon a beautiful glass covered mall. I love this picture of it. Then we went in search of the "perfect Belgian waffle." We found a waffle place and shared it in Grote Markt. Belgian waffles are so wonderful because they are eaten for lunch or dinner. They have nice sized, crunchy pieces of sugar in them and they can be covered in chocolate sauce, bananas, strawberries, whipped cream and more.
The train ride to Brugge was only an hour. We took the bus to Markt Square and walked to our nice hotel, just two blocks way. I had tried to get reservations for many different B&B's but they were all booked. Once we were settled in, Dan & I took a photo walk around the medieval town. It is an UNESCO World Heritage site and I happen to think its one of the most romantic places ever! Instead of having a regular meal, we decided to have a Belgian waffle for dinner in Markt Square. I liked this waffle better than the one in Bruxelles, this one was firm and had banana and chocolate drizzled all over it.
Saturday morning we ate a great breakfast that was included with the price of our room. First on our must see list was the bell tower. We got to climb the tower for free and the views were incredible. When we got back down, a huge line had formed. We had great timing. We took a canal boat tour of Brugge with a sweet older man that cracked jokes about losing his hair because he didn't duck his head for the lowest bridge on the canal.
Again, we had great timing. Huge lines had formed while we took the canal ride. Next we visited the Church of our Lady to see Michaelangelo's Madonna & Child. We happened upon an antique market and couldn't help but think of Rachel and all her cute finds.
We stopped in the Memling & Groeninge Museums as well. It turns out that we had the best timing because all of the sights were free that day! We walked through the tranquil Bejinghof, found the best Belgian waffle, and purchased some Belgian chocolates at Dumon's. Dan & I sat in the Markt Square and people watched while I savored a walnut shaped piece of chocolate. Mmmm! It got quite cold after the sun went down, so we went back to our hotel and took a nap. When we woke up it was over an hour later! I wrote some postcards, then we grabbed dinner in the Markt square. We had a very long day so we went back to the hotel and crashed.