Exploring England with Tracy

Even with the ridiculously hot weather and all of the delayed trains, Tracy’s week here in England was still a success. It was so much fun having her here, and I wish she hadn’t had to leave. But alas, all good things must come to an end, and now we’re once again 4,000 miles apart.

Still, while she was only here for a week, we got a lot of exploring done! Well, Tracy and I did. Poor Greg had to stay home and work.

Let’s see, how should I organize Tracy’s week in England? I think I’ll just write a little something about every day she was here. Sound good? Well, even if it doesn’t, too bad. I’m writing this, you’re just stuck reading it 🙂

Saturday
Tracy arrived!! Greg and I met her at Heathrow because she traveled here all by herself. Plus, it was a Saturday, and we had nothing else going on. And I guess I was also excited to see my sister, who I hadn’t seen in about 10 months. So, there were a lot of reasons.

Anyway, that took just about the whole day. We got back to Southampton around 5pm. After getting Tracy settled in, we popped over to Stable to introduce her to the deliciousness that is meat pie. She left England sad she’d never get another decent meat pie in her life, so I’d say the meat pie experience was a success. That night, we spent gabbing on the balcony and drinking as many G&Ts and ciders as we could. We had a lot to catch up on.

Sunday
Beach day! Which was perfect timing because Sunday was the first day of the outrageous heat wave England underwent while Tracy was here. The three of us lathered up with sunscreen, bought beach towels, and then hopped on the train to Bournemouth to lounge the day away on England’s only sandy beach.

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Tracy and I at Bournemouth beach

Turns out everyone else in the area had the same plan. The beach was packed! We were able to find a relatively clear patch of sand further down the beach, though, and set up camp there. We lounged on the beach, splashed about in the cold, but refreshing, water of the English channel, and sipped our lukewarm, Tesco brand ciders that were the only ones left in the empty fridge section.

Around 6, we headed back to the train station. When we got there, no one else was there. The train to take us back to Southampton didn’t arrive for about a half hour, so we sat and waited. And as we did, the station began to fill. And fill. And fill until there were so many people on our platform, we could hardly move. I guess everyone else decided to leave Bournemouth at the same time we did. The train we had been waiting on came and went (we had been unable to get on, it was too full), so we waited for the next one, hoping the crowd would die down. It didn’t, though, and more and more people kept on turning up at the station. The second train finally arrived (with only 4 coaches, the madness), and we shoved our way on. The three of us found seats, but the train was so crowded, people were smashed up against each other in the aisles surrounding us. And of course the AC wasn’t working. It was a rough trip back to Southampton, but we made it, and then got ice cream to celebrate. That night, we ordered Papa John’s for dinner because, believe it of not, Tracy can’t get Papa Johns delivered to where she lives in MN! It’s THAT rural of a place. She had to come all the way to England to get some of her beloved PJs. Go figure.

Monday
We said goodbye to Greg and hopped on a train to London! Our train out of Southampton was delayed on the way (due to a faulty computer system), so we switched trains at the next available station. Which was then also delayed due to some issues with the doors. So, we ended up getting to London about an hour later than we had originally planned.

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London!

Once we got settled into our Airbnb, we caught the underground into Central London and hit up all the general touristy sights. We crossed the Westminster Bridge to get a good view of the London Eye and Big Ben (although the guy who we asked to take our photo was more interested in us than in the clock tower, as it barely appeared in the pictures he took), strolled over to Buckingham Palace and then grabbed dinner at The Clarence Whitehall. After dinner, we popped over to Oxford Street to do a little shopping and then made our way back to the Airbnb for the night.

Tuesday (Tracy’s birthday)
After not enough sleep (due to it being 90 degrees and there being no AC in our Airbnb), Tracy and I headed back into Central London for the day. We started our day at the Tower of London, got lunch at the most beautiful restaurant right on the Thames (complete with gorgeous vines and lavender growing all over the patio), and made our way along the river to the Millennium Bridge (which we crossed because we’re Millennials, said Tracy). Once on the south bank, we gave ourselves our own little Love Actually tour and walked along the river (in the shade and through a nice breeze) towards the London Eye. We contemplated going for a ride, but ultimately decided not to. So, we crossed back over the Westminster Bridge and made our way toward Trafalgar Square, where I knew a bunch of shops were located.

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Reenacting an emotional scene from Love Actually

Unfortunately, there was no shade on the bridge, and no breeze at all on the way to the Square, so we just about died from the heat. Not really, but almost. So we decided to make a pit stop for some cool drinks in an air conditioned pub.

Once refreshed, we shopped around for a little bit and then made our way back to the Airbnb to get ready for Tracy’s birthday dinner. We met up with Greg for dinner at The Fable. It was a pretty good spot, and Tracy was able to try Bangers and Mash for the first time. After dinner, we stopped at a wine bar, and then said goodbye to Greg and headed back to our Airbnb for the night.

Wednesday
Day trip to the White Cliffs of Dover! We got a decently early start out of our Airbnb, but then surprise, surprise, our train to Dover was delayed (but only by 9 minutes. Some other trains had been delayed hours, or canceled all together. And It was due to a person being hit by a train, so I suppose I can’t really complain).

Anyway, two hours later, we arrived in Dover! We thought we’d stop in a restaurant on the water for lunch before trekking up the cliffs, but never actually found one. So we ended up on the trail to the cliffs, climbing a ridiculous hill in blistering heat with no water and no food in our bellies, and wondering why we’ve done this to ourselves. We talked about turning around, but managed to make it up the hill to find an information center complete with snacks and ice cold (actually frozen) water bottles for sale. Score.

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The White Cliffs of Dover

The Cliffs were amazing! We were rewarded for our effort with breathtaking views of the English Channel (on a clear day, you can apparently see France from the Cliffs), and of Dover’s busy port. We lounged around the Cliffs for a while, taking pictures and relaxing, before heading back down into the city. We grabbed dinner at a cool pizza place and then boarded a train back to London.

Thursday
We said our goodbyes to London and began our journey back to Southampton. Surprisingly, our train was right on time!

We laid low the rest of the day. Did some shopping and then got dinner with Greg at a tasty BBQ joint (and one of me and Greg’s favorite restaurants in Southampton) called Chalk Valley. The server was very friendly and our meals were delicious.

Friday
Tracy and I boarded another train. This time to Salisbury to go check out Stonehenge (third time for me). We managed to nab a spot right at the front of the double-decker bus which takes you to Stonehenge from the Salisbury train station, and watched as our driver just barely missed hitting a pedestrian. Good fun.

Stonehenge was cool as it always is! We were able to walk all the way around the sight to get some good pictures, unlike when I went with Megan earlier this year. After checking out the stones, we perused the gift shop a bit, and then explored Salisbury. We stopped into a cool pub I didn’t manage to get the name of, and while we were sipping on our ciders, Where You Lead by Carole King started playing. This, as you may know, is the theme song to Gilmore Girls, and (as you probably don’t know) a song that reminds us both of our dear friend, Renua, who we lost a little over a year ago. It was a bittersweet moment, and I’m pretty sure it meant he was watching down on us on Tracy’s trip.

That night, we got dinner at Dancing Man Brewery (located in an old prison) with Greg, and then spent the rest of the night chatting on our balcony.

Saturday
We spent Tracy’s last day in England with a picnic in a park just over the Itchen Bridge from our apartment (Greg was able to join us for this!). We feasted on bread, meats and cheeses, watched a rowing race that was going on, and lost our ability to form words when gigantic, fang-ridden spiders invaded out picnic blanket. The day was a little chilly (English weather for you), so we made our way back to our apartment after not too long.

After a little bit of packing, Tracy and I headed to a restaurant across the parking lot from out apartment building for a cheese platter. We hit the restaurant at the perfect time, as it was doing two-for-ones on all cocktails. So we set up camp at a table inside (out of the cold), sipped on our drinks and snacked on cheeses. Living the good life. Then, we met Greg for dinner at another restaurant near our apartment. That night, Tracy and I had a regular old sleepover in the living room and fell asleep to Love Actually. The perfect end to a perfect trip.

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At the marina on Tracy’s last nigt

Tracy made her way back to the US bright and early Sunday morning. No amount of time I spend with her is ever enough, but I’m so glad she was able to make the trip out here! And I’ll be seeing her again in just a few short months when Greg and I move back to MN. How did that come up so fast, by the way?!

Tracy was our very last visitor! That’s actually a little crazy to think about. We’re still planning on checking out a few more countries, though, while we’re here. We’re planning on Copenhagen next. If time could stop moving so quickly, that’d be great.

 

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