Whales, Oxford, and London

Rusty here–Friday morning We picked up our breakfast bags and were off to the airport pretty early like 7AM.. It was about an hour. We pulled up to the curb and hugged the kids and said we will see you in America in a week! Crazy. The kids were troopers and I think were a bit excited to try their own adventure. Tara and I returned the rental car and then we took the shuttle back to the terminal to wait for the kids. Once they were boarding we grabbed a taxi and took it to Dublin Botanical gardens. They were nice enough to watch our stuff while we had a walk around. We had a great talk. A little nap under a pagoda of vines. A walk and talk through the cemetary talking about kids and hopes and dreams. It was nice and I remember feeling just close and loving with tara and excited to get to spend a week with just me and her. We walked to a middle eastern restaraunt which was quite amazing and then uber’d to the ferry terminal where after a little delay we boarded our ferry. 

We found some seats and sat next to two very different families. One was just the sweetest mum and dad of four kids. And the other was a woman by herself who kept threatening her child to lock him in the car! When she went away they started spitting at each other and sure enough a big thing of spit came flying over the seat. Sigh. We rocked and rolled across the ocean for about 2 hours and landed in Hollyhead Wales. We picked up our car (we were the only one, the hertz lady waited just for us which was nice of her) and she said “by the way it’s electric”. Which was super cool but also a tiny bit inconvienent still, but cool that they will just rent them like it’s the norm because hopefully it is the norm. It was a polestar sedan which was a big step up from the compact car we had ordered. After figuring out how the car worked we were off to Menai bridge which was just about 30 minutes away and was really nothing but a place where we could stop and I found a cute hotel in a chateau the chateau renai or something like that. It was a tight road and turn in but we were staying in an amazing chateau right on the river / ocean inlet in a super cute room with kind of an ocean view through a tiny window. 

We walked to dinner, it was english small plates, probably the best dinner yet. Walked home and we watched a movie.

Breakfast was in a turret, so that was fun. And I’m glad that we ate a goodbreakfastt. We went hiking inSnowdonian National Park – to Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach. It started out as the most amazing hike around a lake with like 5 waterfalls pouring into it. Then we climbed up Hell’s chimney, up a waterfall and into the clouds and that’s when the pelting rain and fog hit us. At the top of the waterfall was like 40 mph winds but we kept going up the scree switchbacks. On top was a long sketchy scramble through boulders where we couldn’t see where we were going and pulling my phone out in the rain was the only way to keep the trail. At this point I turned around one time and Tara was gone and my heart was racing. Luckily she stepped out of the clouds and was right there. We kept scramble traversing for like another hour and I was starting to get worried if we were ever going to get off this thing. So cold. We were trying to keep our sweatshirts dry so we didn’t put them on. Probably a mistake. We were near the other end of the travers and met this nice group who offered to escort us the other way but then we would have to do the traverse again! It looked like we were so close to the descent on the other side. So we said no thanks and kept moving forward. This was the hardest part. I was genuinely scared. Finally we found the scree field down and about half way got our first glimpse of holes in the clouds. It was like seeing heaven. It felt and looked amazing. Like we were going to get off this mountain. We got down past the fot and the rain and win stopped and then it was just steep and we were 4 horus in at this point and our legs were just tired. But we just went slowly and eventually made it down. I felt so bad. So sorry tara! That was way more than we bargained for and were prepared for. I should have done more research. Turns out there are yellow/red flag days of which this was definitely one. That’s why there was nobody on the mountain. 

After we dropped out of the fog it was like the most beautiful place in the world. Maybe that’s just because I was happy to be alive but it was amazing. The valley was covered in purple wildflowers. Blue lakes. Streams and waterfalls. It was like an entire mountainside garden. Just stunning. Certainly one of the most beautiful hikes I had done. I wish I could have seen what the top was like. 

We got to the bottom and I was hoping the snack shop was open. They were out of meat pies but we got cokes and mars and then were off to Burmingham for dinner. It was like a two hour drive. We listened to a good podcast or something that made it better. We drove into Birmingham and parked the car at a car charger and walked to dinner. Luckily tara had made a reservation on the way at botonist because it was packed. The entire street was packed! Bumingham was a happening cool city. Turns out its the youngest population in Europe and you can definitely tell. Young hip cool people everywhere. Also, we must have seen 20+ Hen Parties. We ate hanging kabobs and chicken and an entire wheel of melted cheese inside a warm sourdough roll. It was exactly the comfort food we needed after the day we had. We explored Birmingham a bit and were sad that we couldn’t spend more time there. But we were tired and still had a drive to the cotswalds 🙁 I think I would skip the cotswolds next time. Although when we finally got to our hotel like midnight it was the best hotel to sleep at in the world. I had to wake tara up at about 10 to grab some breakfast before it closed. It was dark and cool and comfortable. So it worked out in the end. We took no pics in Birmingham!

Sunday morning there wasn’t much to do in the Cotswalds. I tried driving us to Kent while we listened to the women’s world cup. USA lost in a shootout. We were all stunned! Kent was just okay – there wasn’t much to do. Then on to Oxford. Oxford was super cool. Minus the parking garage situations. Stupid parking garages in england/ireland are the worst! I want to always avoid them. At Oxford we ate delicious lunch at the covered market and then started walking around the campus. We only had till 5 to visit all the free museums so we checked into a couple then walked down to Christ Church. Christs church was amazing of course. We walked around that are toured Magdalene college which was also cool and the great hall looks very much like harry potter. So much history at Oxford.

It was sunday. We couldn’t get a tour of christ church and We were debating attending the chorale evensong and I’m really glad we did. It was very cool even if it was a bit hard to stay awake because the choir would just sing the words in the program. We picked up a bite of food and then started the hour drive into oxford. We were tired. It had been a long trip. We drove into London and St Pancras. I’m really glad we drove in on a sunday night when traffic wasn’t too crazy. A parking garage to drop off the car after hours and I was glad to be done with driving for awhile. We walked from there to our hotel which was basically attached to St Pancras. I was excited to show Tara. The outside was immaculate, one of the coolest buildings in London. We found our room, for a minute I thought I had ordered a different room but I was wrong so it was fine. We settled in and crashed because I had to get up and go to work the next day 🙁 Sigh. 

Monday morning, up for work and explore the Google London office. Hit the weights. Office is so cool! Food is so good! And So much. There were 3 cafes in the one 11 floor office. A lot of food packed in a single building. The view from the 11th floor was incredible. The glass elevators – excellent. Work – ROUGH. So hard to catch up and get into it.

Tara decided that each day she would pick a neighborhood and go exploring. The first day was Soho. And then she made her way down to Westminster Abby and Big Ben

That evening we walked to Dishoom and then just walked to explore a neighborhood, Angel, and didn’t find anything interesting so came home and crashed. Well…that’s not quite true. We did see a fox. In the middle of London!

Tuesday was yoga in the morning which felt nice. I felt bad being there not with tara because I know she wanted to find a place. I texted her and told her so and she said just go. Work was still rough but maybe a little better. Had some good meetings with London people which were good reassurance because the day before I was asking myself “why am I here”.

Tara got tickets to tour the Parliament Building–something we’d never done before. She loved it! And she got to eat her beloved bubble waffle. 4 years dreaming of this day, and it didn’t disappoint.

Tuesday night we hit up the Battersea power station because it reminded of us of our last trip. They built a beautiful mall there. The goal was to find me some clothes that were nice and not so shleppy. We tried a few places but eventually hit gold at Zara and found a few paris of pants and shirts. But how am I going to fit them home? 

London is such a cool city. To me it seems friendly and clean and welcoming and just beauty aroudn ever corner. I love London. 

Then we hit up the Sky Garden for drinks. We snuggled on our little couch and drank our friuity mocktails and ate not very good bar food. But the atmosphere was fun and the  view was amazing, especially after the clouds and rain cleared out. If we went again, we both agreed we’d choose daytime hours where we could more fully enjoy the plants. It was too dark in there! We tried to be cute and pretend that I was picking her up at the bar. I’d say tara was much better at it than I was.

I just loved being with tara and just being close together. We were about to go home but we were like let’s go down to the water. We turn the corner and BOOM there is Tower bridge just lit up in all its glory. So beautiful.

Wednesday Tara was exploring Kensington, so I met her in Hyde Park for a little bike ride. She then went on the wander and find all the cute little Mews, as well as take herself to afternoon tea. She said it was delightful.

That night was tons of fun. I made reservations at Arabica and we met Luke and his partner Teresa (Terry) there for dinner. It was just tons of fun. They were super cute and super fun and there was lots to talk about. They are going on a trip with her parents who don’t speak english. How cool are they! Terry had a great laugh and it made for a nice night with all sorts of great things to talk about. I really loved this night, hanging out with two locals. I’m really happy I asked Luke, I was kind of nervous about it. 

Thursday was weights again in the morning. Tara was off to St. Paul’s and Borough Market. And the undiscovered gem The Garden at 120. It is a completely free, BEAUTIFUL rooftop garden with killer city views.

And then pasties for dinner and the theater in my new gray pants. We saw Mama Mia and it was cute. We were on the 3rd row. I thought that sophia looked like Tara. It was definitely a step down from what we’ve seen in terms of production value, but still worth it and entertaining and fun to sing and dance to. Not as clever as I remember… but oh well. Again just enjoyed being with tara. We walked home through covent garden and I ate charcoal cocunut soft serve and a biscoff cookie before taking a crowded to the max train (boo, should have walked home!). We walked to the theater and it was just a nice walk. 

Friday morning was a life changing run that I wrote about in a different post. My last day at work. We were supposed to stay the last night at the four seasons but luke scared me about blowing my google trip credits so I rescheduled us to The Standard across the street. I’m glad I did. I got us a Jr Suite with a Terrace that had an outdoor bathtub on the terrace and it was SUPER COOL!!

Tara spent the morning in Brick Lane/Whitechapel/Spitalfields. She had the best dark chocolate hot chocolate of her life, and finally got to try salted beef on a biegal with a ghirken and mustard. It was delicious!

And Tara finally came to Google for lunch! She loved the elevator and the rooftop views.

We had left our passports in the old hotel so it took awhile and then we finally got going and we had to ZOOM to the pier to hit our evening cruise. This cruise was great. What could be better than snuggling Tara as we watch the London skyline and our favorite buildings float by. It could have turned around a bit earlier but as we were going through the tower bridge the sun was setting and we had the back of the boat to ourselves. AWESOME!

We zoomed home and ate room service so we could get in our tub. I was worried teh tub thing was going to be ruined by our pot smoking neighbors but they went inside and we had a private tub experience that I thought was great. Tons of fun. The icing on top of a really fun vacation.

We got up and ready to go the next morning only to find out that our flight had been cancelled! (What’s with our flights always getting cancelled home from London??) Luckily we were able to rebook on a flight leaving 3 hours later. A walk to Borough Market was just what we needed. We also got to walk over Millennium Bridge. Then we ate the following:

  • Fresh Green juice 
  • Chocolate covered ENGLISH strawberries (not the hard dipped kind, fresh ones that are like held under a stream of milk chocolate in a cup) 
  • Cheese toastie 
  • Pistachio Donut 

Then a train ride back and we were on our way to the airport. It was opening day for all the Football teams in London and the train stations were PACKED. They weren’t even letting anyone in to Kings Cross, so we hoofed it to the next station. It was still super crowded and took us awhile to even get in. But we made it. Flight to NYC was easy. Then we were delayed FOREVER in NYC. Boy were we glad when we finally landed in Denver. London, till next time, We love you!

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