Thanksgiving 2017

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American visitors! I will be spending today with family and delicious food. Hope you all have a wonderful day!
Not sure if this was a fail or not....I think I should have left out the turkey and just left the various fall leaves.

Honeymoon Tour - London: Day Three

Our third day in London proved to be an absolutely gorgeous day. Is it odd to you that I didn't notice it rain at all during our time in London?? Anyway, we spent day three doing some historic exploring and filling ourselves to the max on tea. We started at the Tower of London, which was a short walk from our hotel. By the way, The Tower of London is not just a tower. It's like a little community of buildings ranging from old, very old, and ruins.  
One of the first things we saw when we entered the tower was "Traitor's Gate," where the various prisoners would arrive. In case you didn't know, tower prisoners included Anne Boleyn, Sir Walter Raleigh, and even Elizabeth I.
I think it's safe to say that's not a gate I would want to come through! 
Next up was the White Tower, which to be honest was the first thing I noticed and is the most attention-demanding building inside.
The White Tower was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 (uhm, wow!). Fun fact, the staircase (you can see it in the photo above) was made of wood so that if the tower was ever under siege they could burn the stairs and there would be no way for people to get in. Good to know. Fortunately, we were assured that the stairs would not be burned while we were inside.
The White Tower has also served as an armoury, treasury, prison, menagerie, Royal Mint, public record office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of London (though now they are on their own about fifty feet away). It was also believed to be where the "two princes in the tower" were killed and it is also the site of executions and imprisonments of Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey, and Sir Walter Raleigh. Hence the nickname Bloody Tower. 

The Tower of London still houses the Crown Jewels (which you can't take photos inside UGH) but the jewels are not located in the White Tower anymore. The crown jewels were so neat and some were SO SO beautiful that I reallllly wanted to take photos of everything. I learned my lesson in Buckingham Palace though and I wasn't going to mess with the Beefeaters at the Tower of London. So I left my phone in my purse and just walked around the jewels. Turns out there is much more than just jewels and crowns inside. They have Maces and the items used to carry and distribute the oil for coronations. So cool!  Also, the State Sword of Ireland was out being used on the day we walked through. We were told that if an item was missing that it was out on official business. I have to ask though -- what official business required the Sword of Ireland?? Fascinating.

My sister told me to look for the ravens at the Tower of London. Legend has it that if the ravens ever to leave the Tower of London, the White Tower would crumble and a great tragedy would befall England. At first I was disappointed to see cages for the ravens, but then I realized the cages were open to the outside and the birds could move freely. I saw one proudly sitting at the top of the cage. 
On the other side of the community is a bunch of tudor style homes. In fact, these are the only remaining original tudor style homes in England because the rest burned in the Great Fire. One of the tudor homes is the "Queen's Residence." Your know, in case Her Majesty ever decided to have a sleepover or something. See the right most windows? That is where Anne Boleyn stayed before her coronation...and then a few years later before her execution.  Yikes.
The little red fleck you see by the tree in the photo is a guard. The Queen's Residence is guarded at all times, even when no royalty is present, which is pretty much always. We also learned about the Ceremony of the Keys, which occurs nightly.

After the Tower of London we walked over to Tower Bridge. You can see how close together they are!
Tower Bridge was really neat because you could walk across the upper part (you can see in the photo above) above the cars and water. Here's another photo of me hamming while Andrew is....doing something. 
I feel like Tower Bridge is one of the most recognizable spots in England. Everyone has seen this bridge before.
We went up into the top level where you could walk across and portions of the floor were see-through! They were made of a material that was strong enough to hold 6 elephants. I took a selfie and used the mirrored ceiling for a variety of photos.  It looks like we're floating.
We then stopped by the boiler room which housed all the old mechanics for raising the bridge. Now the bridge is raised by more modern means but Andrew wanted to see all the old stuff. The gears were HUGE but oddly enough I don't have any photos. Afterwards, we decided to act like Brits and go for some tea.

Let me just say, if you go to London be sure to book a tea tasting somewhere. You will not regret it. We booked ours at Fortnum & Mason's Tea Salon. How cute is this table?!
The menu had all the tea and tea sandwich choices. Andrew went with the sweet option and I went with the savory selection. Look how happy he as among his tea and tea sandwiches, scones, and desserts! See that three-tired tower of deliciousness? We EACH got one. We were in foodie heaven.  
And bonus points, everything was replenishable! So, I could have eaten 40 tea sandwiches and all would have been fine. Don't worry, I did not eat 40 tea sandwiches. But how cute is this ceasar salad in an egg cup with cheese straw? Adorable. And very delicious!

I think that's all we did on day three in London. We walked around a bit more after our tea extravaganza but we were really feeling tired (and full!) so we ended up just going back to the hotel, cracking open some of our French champagne, and calling it a night.  

See what we were up to on day four in London when I post next time! We're headed back to Kensington Palace!

Honeymoon Tour: London - Day Two

On our second full day in London we decided to visit Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, and end the day with a showing of the Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. We walked to Buckingham Palace because it was only 10 minutes or so from our hotel. Honestly, it was a very pleasant walk and the weather was really nice. We didn't see the changing of the guards because it was every other day (and not on the day we were there) but we did get tickets to tour the palace so...that was awesome. We spent most of the day going through the palace. 
And here we are in front of the gates surrounding Buckingham Palace.
Fun fact for you: You are 100% not allowed to take ANY photographs inside Buckingham Palace. No exceptions. If you are caught with a phone out you are told by employees of "the household" to put your phone away. If you have your camera out they make you put it away. It was insane. I'm a rebel though and figured this is the only time I will ever get to tour Buckingham Palace so I am taking a picture! So I snapped this photo of the interior courtyard. (It's essentially the interior of the wing seen in the photo above).
I was caught though and the woman just shook her head at me. Obviously, she's seen people sneak a photo or two. I never took another photo even though I desperately wanted to in the throne room. In case you don't know, the throne room is seen in Kate Middleton and Prince William's wedding photos. For example, here:
I STOOD RIGHT THERE! I LITERALLY STOOD WHERE THEY ARE POSED. Even though it happened weeks ago I am still over here hyperventilating about that. The throne room really does look like that. I had trouble containing my excitement. I also learned that they have a virtual tour of the palace which is really neat. I recommend using your phone for the virtual tour because it's interactive and you can spin your phone around and see the whole room.

Although we couldn't take photos of the palace interior we were allowed to take as many photos as we wanted outside. We saw where all of Her Majesty The Queen's garden parties are held. Can I pleeeeease get invited to one of those? Lol. 
I'll just be in the back yard. Lol.

Of course they had a gift shop and we had to walk around it and see all the goodies. I was even able to try on one of those fuzzy black hats! I'm ready to guard the Queen now!

After Buckingham Palace we went to Kensington Palace, which is about 15 minutes away by cab. We didn't have tickets to do a tour so we planned to return the following day. However, we could walk around the grounds and stuff so naturally I took some photos.
Not gonna lie, I was a little disappointed with the overall look of Kensington Palace. I guess I was expecting so much more after seeing Buckingham Palace but Kensington Palace looked like it was in disrepair (I'm sure it's not) and it did not look like a royal residence at all. Still, I'd move in any time... Haha. We even saw the Prince Diana Garden, which had been replanted with all white flowers to commemorate the 20th anniversary of her passing.
We walked around outside of the palace and stumbled upon Kensington Palace Gardens, which ended up being the coolest street ever. It was closed to public cars (but not pedestrians) and had security at both ends. We quickly learned the street was home to various embassies, uber-wealthy individuals, and even Saudi royalty. I later googled the street and found it referred to as the "Boulevard of Billionaires." I stood on the street for a little too long (no photographs allowed) and then we continued on our way back to the hotel. We walked down the most expensive street in London. Imagine that. Nice. Can I move in??

We later went to see theThe Lion King. The show was absolutely fantastic. Sure, we could see The Lion King on Broadway in New York but it was really cool to see it in another country. 

Such attractive photos, right? Lol.

Join me next time for Day Three of our honeymoon adventure in London! And in case you missed anything that came before it:

Honeymoon Tour: London - Day One

Au revoir Paris, 'ello London! We were switching countries today so we began our day with our typical French breakfast...
and continued with a delicious lunch on the Eurostar...
before arriving to Kings Cross (hello Harry Potter!). We tracked down one of the most adorable taxicabs ever! Turns out the English taxis are from one specific company and that's why they are so unique and recognizable. There had been an unfortunate incident on the Tube earlier in the morning while we were on our way into London so we decided not to take the tube anywhere while we were there. We arrived to our hotel, changed clothes, dropped off our luggage, and then set out for some sightseeing. It was a travel day so we didn't do too much as far as events go but I still think we fit a lot in.

We started off by walking to the London Eye, which was about 5 minutes across the river from our hotel. We even had a view of it from our window....
By the way, we stayed at the Royal Horseguards Hotel, which really gave us the honeymoon treatment. I highly recommend this hotel just because it was awesome!

The London Eye is the famous ferris wheel where you can oversee London. It takes about a half hour to go completely around and you're fully enclosed in a glass orb so you can really see a lot of the city. Let's begin. 

Of course you can see Parliament and Big Ben. 
Unfortunately we didn't get to hear Big Ben while we were in London because they are doing a renovation project. Luckily, the scaffolding was not up all the way so we still got to see Big Ben's beautiful face! We could also see Westminster Abbey standing proudly behind Big Ben:
Then you could also see Buckingham Palace (it's literally a palace in the middle of the city). I couldn't wait to see it up close!
What was neat about the London Eye was that it had various iPads that told you about the buildings you were looking at. I could pick out the big stuff but there were quite a few buildings I would never have recognized. This is when we were nearing the top! It's also a good photo to show you what the pod looks like.
We then walked to Trafalgar Squarea and found an amazing pub called The Admiralty.

At the Admiralty, I got fish and chips....because when in London! 

It was delicious. Mashed peas aren't a thing here in the States but I enjoyed them very much! Andrew got a burger, which was also tasty! But seriously, look how big this fish of mine was! I was disappointed it did not have the traditional round "chips" but it's was all good so I got over it. We enjoyed the food very very much.

Just a quick little vent about English service though. I was warned before going to Europe that European service is different than American service. In America we want to be waited on immediately, food ordered all at once, delivered quickly, and the bill brought to us without asking toward the end. However, I quickly learned that in Europe you have to actually ask for the bill. They do not walk up and ask you if you are finished. We spent SO much time in this pub just waiting for the waiter to walk up to give us our tab before realizing this crucial difference in countries. Good thing we were enjoying the food and drink! Also, this pub had the smallest and most narrow bathroom stalls ever....and they were one of those old types with the pull chain. I HAD to take a photo.

After dinner we walked around the to take in the sights. I saw Westminster Abbey -- which looked quite daunting against the black sky. See what I mean?
Bummer we didn't get married there! Lol. I stood there for a little too long thinking to myself Kate Middleton was right here! I am literally standing where she stood! Then we continued with our night time tour. We saw a glowing red London Eye.
Question: Does the London Eye always glow red? We weren't sure. It's owner or sponsor or whatever is Coca Cola so we were thinking it always glows red. Does anyone know?

Then I saw a red phone booth and a double decker bus! Selfie moments.
And then we returned to the hotel for the rest of the night.
I told you this hotel was awesome.
Join me next time to see what we were up to for Day Two in London!

And if you missed any previous days, check those posts out too!

Honeymoon Tour: Paris - Day Four

On our last full day in Paris we decided to join the over 4 million people who will visit the Chateau Versailles this year. In case you don't know what Versailles is, it's a royal chateau in Versailles, which is located in the Île-de-France region of the country, about 10 miles from Paris. It was built by Louis XIII in 1624 as a hunting lodge and was the official residence of the Kings of France between 1682 and 1790. It eventually became the behemoth guilded palace it is today. You probably are familiar with I'll stop there with the history lesson. Versailles is super simple to get to from Paris. We just hopped on the RER C line (regional train) and followed the crowd because literally everyone was doing the same thing. You walk up a street and then BAM there the chateau is in all it's glory. Speaking of all the glory, check out this photo I took:
Chateau Versailles, Versailles, A Tout Les Glories de la France
Yeah, that set the tone. As if this view didn't.
Chateau Versailles, Versailles
And of course the famous golden gate, or "Gate of Honour." Which was so difficult to get a selfie with people are always going up to it. The golden gate was replaced in 2008 (the original gate was destroyed by the "common people" during the French revolution). So, technically those gates are replicas BUT they still have over 100,000 gold leaves so...I think they're pretty spectacular.
Chateau Versailles, Versailles
We got the audio tour so we could walk from room to room and hear about all the history and stories. It was truly fascinating and I caught myself wishing that I could have lived there back in its heyday. 
Chateau Versailles, Versailles, Chapel of VersaillesThe chateau is obviously huge. It has 67,002 square meters of floorspace, including 700 rooms, more than 2,000 windows, 1250 chimneys, and 67 staircases! I mean, I guess you need a lot of room when you're housing the entire royal family and members of the French nobility. In it's heyday it had about 6,000 paintings and 5,000 pieces of furniture and objects in it! What I would do to go back in time and experience all that!!  Much of the furniture was sold after the revolution and slowly some have made their way back. Anyway, the chateau includes Le Galerie des Batailles, throne rooms, les grands appartments, l'appartment du roi (King's apartment), Salle du Sacre, Marble Court, Queen's Grand Apartment, chapels of Versailles, royal opera, and le Galerie des Glaces (aka "Hall of Mirrors"). This is a selfie of us the The Royal Chapel, which was completed in 1710. It's one of five chapels in Versailles--because having only one chapel is for amateurs. 
I was stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this room (lol at calling it a room..). It's the Hall of Mirrors, easily the most famous room in the chateau.
Chateau Versailles, Versailles, Hall of Mirrors
It was enchanting (henceI look like a crazy person in this photo). I learned that this room was especially spectacular because back in the day mirrors were obscenely expensive and to have so many mirrors was a very clear symbol of your wealth....

As if the chateau itself wasn't enough of an indication. This is a staircase. Quaint, isn't it?
Chateau Versailles, Versailles
And a hallway. That marble is ah-mazing! Put that in my someday house.
Chateau Versailles, Versailles
We saw the gardens briefly because it was raining on and off throughout the day. We would be in one room and look out the window to see a beautiful sunny day. We would be in the next room and it would pouring. Go figure. Luckily we got some photos during a sunny period. 
Chateau Versailles, Versailles
And this one of the actual gardens.
Chateau Versailles, Versailles
We didn't stay in the gardens long because Andrew's shoes had formed blisters on his feet and he was not a happy camper. See Exhibit A...
Chateau Versailles, Versailles
Poor kid. That photo was in one of the rooms after we went back inside. It was in the rooms that were used by Victoire and Adelaide, who were two French princesses and accomplished musicians. Note the musical instrument in the back. Also note the chandelier...because that shit is stunning and needs to be noted! By the way, I am totally naming my future children Victoire and Adelaide (pronounced Vee-Twahr and Adel-ay-eed), regardless of it they're girls or not. Lol.

After a couple hundred more photos we hopped on the train to return to Paris for dinner. On my sister's recommendation we found a raclette restaurant...which was DELICIOUS! 
So what the heck is raclette you might ask. It's sort of like fondu, but better! We went to Les Fondus de la Raclette, which looked like this inside:
We actually sat in the right most see right next to the wooden divider too. 
First you select you choice of accouterments, which can be meats, charcuterie, vegetables, cornichons, or just potatoes, and then you are brought a giant platter of whatever you chose. Here was my platter:
Raclette, Cheese
Then comes the cheese. Raclette is usually an alpine swiss cheese made from cow's milk. Depending on the restaurant, you will do one of three things: (1) the server scrapes gooey cheese directly off a cheese wheel onto your plate (they did this at Raclette NYC when I was with my sister after this trip), (2) the cheese can be clamped in a heater to drip onto your plate (my sister had this in Amsterdam), or (3) you can melt it yourself as you go, which is what we had. There was a grill in the table and we were given two mini pans and wooden scrapes. You place the pan on the grill, add a slice of cheese, and let it do its thing (takes all of 15 seconds). Here's a photo: 
Raclette, Cheese
Mmmm, letting it get all goey! Andrew ordered beef so he actually had to cook pieces of beef directly on the grill, too, but I ordered the charcuterie platter so all I did was melt the cheese and enjoy. After your cheese is melted to gooey perfection you take the little wooden scraper and sweep it onto your potatoes, meat, or both. I obviously did both! Here's a photo of Andrew mid-raclette:
Raclette, Cheese
Mmmmm, as I'm writing this I am remembering how delicious it was and it's making my stomach growl! After dinner we rolled ourselves down to the Latin Quarter for our final Parisian hoorah, Le Moulin Rouge!

Ready for a story? Because this is a good one. (1) I ordered tickets to the Moulin Rouge months in advance. (2) I made our itinerary before going so I wouldn't miss anything that we had booked beforehand. (3) I took French in high school and knew very well how to say the days of the week. None of this stopped me from somehow messing up. 
Moulin Rouge
We walk up to the entry and I excitedly show our tickets to get scanned. We had ordered VIP tickets because it came with champagne and macaroons (and as we learned that night...a goodie bag!). What showed up on the screen? A giant red X. 
Moulin Rouge
Turns out, we bought Mercredi tickets. Mercredi=Wednesday. But when did we saunter on up to the Moulin Rouge? Mmmhmm, Thursday. OH MY GOD. My heart sank. Luckily, we were dealing with the nicest gentleman ever and he quickly vanished to see what he could do. To be honest, he probably saw the newlywed-honeymooning-panic-on-the-verge-of-tears on my face and wanted to hide from me. In about 45 seconds he came back to us and said our table was ready. PHEW. We were in. 
Moulin Rouge
I don't know if they have extra tables for when this happens, or if we got this treatment only because we bought the VIP tickets, but I will be eternally grateful. I hated that we looked like stupid Americans but it was the most honest of mistakes.
Moulin Rouge
Sorry for the poor photos, the red light was strong (and yes I wore red to the Moulin Rouge). 
We got our champagne, our macaroons, and a WHOLE bag of gratis goodies, too! They gave all the VIPs a program, DVD of the show, keychain, and a few other things, all in a beautiful Moulin Rouge bag!
Moulin Rouge
Luckily, it all worked out. The show was fantastic too. Took me a while to realize the girls were We obviously couldn't take photos of that! The show began at 11 and then ended around 1:30. We headed back to the Eiffel Tower for our final goodbye since we were leaving the next day.
Shining bright in all her twinkling glory. I am so honored to have seen the Eiffel Tower glisten in person and I hope I am lucky enough to return to see it again some day. 

The honeymoon continues in England. Check in on my next post to see what we got ourselves into there!

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