I read this poem this morning and thought it was worth sharing:
“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.” ― poem by Mary Jean Irion
Source: A Cup of Jo
This day was a lot of fun, especially because Jake had completely surprised me with a 3 hour guided chocolate tour. The only downfall was that I had booked our Buckingham Palace tickets for this day and failed to add it to our itinerary and the chocolate tour got booked at the exact same time. When we called them to switch our Palace tickets, they refused to give us a refund or let us enter at a different time or day. It was really frustrating, but I got over it, because the chocolate tour was SO worth it.
We started off the tour by meeting our group of 8 and our guide outside of a random building that you never would have known held a fancy dining area. We then entered this Michelin starred restaurant (there were actually 3 restaurants, a different themed room on every level) and it had the most interesting themes. In the restaurant pictured below, not a single thing in the room matched, including every piece of silverware. It was awesome!
At one of the restaurants, crazy furniture was coming out of the walls and we were greeted by a woman with a shaved head--
Very "Zenon girl of the 21st century"esque.
When we sat down, we were served the most amazing apple streudal known to man. It had more flaky, buttery layers of pastry than I ever thought possible.
And this was liquid heaven.
It was the richest, creamiest,
most delicious dark hot chocolate there ever was.
As we sat and enjoyed our first healthy dose of chocolate, we learned all kinds of things about the history of chocolate.
Like, did you know that white chocolate is actually just the fat that has been squeezed from the cocoa bean?
Or, how about the fact that Mr. Nestle himself used to make and sell baby foods before hopping on the chocolate train?
And if you didn't know it already, I've got to break the news to you that the chocolate in America has wax in it and does not even begin to compare to the chocolate that they have in the UK.
If you need a comparison, stop on by... we've still got about one hundred candy bars sitting in our fridge...
After finishing up our chocolate drinks, our guide let us venture into the award winning bathrooms that were housed at these restaurants.
It was like we'd just entered a 21st century space station.
To use the toilets, you just pick a pod, any pod, and do your thing.
As you're sitting there, however, it gets crazy when you hear sounds of astronauts talking back and forth and ET kind of music playing in the background.
Quite the experience!
The rest of the tour was filled with walking around to different high end chocolatiers throughout London.
We tried everything, from white chocolate covered dried strawberries,
to chocolate covered cocoa beans and cinnamon flavored chocolate, to a cucumber, mint and strawberry flavored truffle!
At this place, we also could have tried chocolates in the following flavors:
Goat cheese, Rosemary and Lemon
Sichuan Pepper and Lemongrass
Blackberry and Elderflower
Cigar Leaf Caramel
Bloody Mary Truffle
Mango and Lime Caramel
and my personal (least) favorite
Ginger Pig Black Pudding, Sourdough and Rye Whiskey
They had so many unique flavors and were well known for the fresh ingredients that they used. Their chocolates only had a shelf life of about one week, because they didn't use any preservatives and baked everything in the basement of their store!
These brownie bites were the most amazing thing we tried while we were here. I wish we could have bought hundreds of them!
The next place we went had lots of chocolates
But also candied fruits
and candied flowers!
(Which were surprisingly good...)
Another cute chocolatier
with amazing truffles
And to finish up the tour, we ended at Burlington Arcade, which is an entire strip of shops built for a Queen (sorry, can't remember which one) by her husband, because she was tired of shopping with the "common folk." To this day, it is still guarded on both ends.
We entered a shop that has received the royal approval of the current Queen and houses her favorite chocolates:
Lavendar and Rose infused truffles
The entire thing was so much fun and such a cool "off the beaten path" experience in London, but we ate so much dang chocolate that this seriously may well have been me by the end of the tour..
I can officially relate to Augustus Gloop.
The next few days were filled with miles of walking, sore feet, mediocre food, and really iconic buildings...
here comes the picture overload:
(I should explain that before we left for our trip, we bought a thing called "The London Pass" and we paid upfront for entry into all of the major attractions in London, plus we got access onto any form of transportation for the 3 days our pass was good. It was the best thing for convenience, because everything was already paid for and all you had to do was show them your pass and you'd get to cut (almost) every long line.)
At the very top of St. Paul's Cathedral
The Tower of London, which houses the Crown Jewels
The London Bridge
Jake offered to carry the girly bag the entire day. What a saint.
And why we didn't opt to use the backpack we'd brought for things like this is the biggest mystery of the entire trip.
One time when we were on the underground,
Jake learned a really important lesson
We were trying to get on at a really crowded stop and Jake squished his way onto the train, but I was having a harder time getting through.. he noticed the train was about to leave, so reached out his head to call me in and the door rammed right into his big noggin and shut with me yelling out, "I"ll meet you at the next station!"
It was epic. Especially when the doors re-opened midway through my sentence and I was yelling, "...THE NEXT STATION!" into the train at a crowd of onlookers. Ha ha embarrassing much??
The London Eye
(my pictures definitely don't do it justice)
There were so many other things we saw, but forgot to take pictures or they are on Jake's phone and my computer isn't letting me load them. Grr.
If you're not completely overloaded by pictures yet, the last day of our trip was spent at the Harry Potter Studio Tour.
I haven't posted it yet, because it's going to take a long time to construct, but I will have it up soon!
Here we are, 7:30 in the morning when we arrived at the bus station in London without a map, wearing the same clothes as yesterday and completely sleep deprived.
We were feeling a little lost.
Lucky for us, London is packed to the gills with maps at every street corner. Thank you to the founders of London for thinking of people like us who thought they could just "wing it"....
We found our way to Hyde Park and had to take a
short breather. Our bags were SO DANG HEAVY!
(we decided it would be a good idea to spend $60.00 on sweets back in Edinburgh right before we took our car back and had to drag our luggage around everywhere. Really good idea on our part...)
We were kind of at a loss at this point.
We were dead tired, it was only 7:45 am and we couldn't check into our hotel until noon.
Plus we had no idea where we were going and could hardly muster the brain energy to find a bench.
Ha ha we must have been quite the sight to see!
I think people felt bad for us, because every time we stopped to look at the maps, a local would offer to help us find where we were going. I will say, I was surprised by how kind the people of London were. So many strangers offered to help us find our way!
As we were walking through the park
(which is SO GINORMOUS, by the way)
trying to get to our hotel, we stumbled across a cute little cafe and decided to take our time eating a proper English breakfast.
Notice the baked beans and toast...
We ate this at every single breakfast we had in England.
And I don't know if you can tell from this picture, but if you look closely at Jake's plate, you'll see a black looking thing in the middle of it. Not the mushroom... the other black looking thing.
It's called blood pudding, and is exactly as the name says.
I had already thrown mine on Jake's plate,
because I wasn't even going to smell that thing, let alone taste it!
Haggis was enough of an adventure for me.
After we ate our breakfast very, very slowly (we still had like 4 hours to burn...) We strolled through the park on what was the most BEAUTIFUL day in London!
The skies were so clear and blue and in hindsight, we were extremely lucky that this was the day we walked 2 miles to get to our hotel and not the other 3 days when it was pouring rain.
FINALLY rounding on the corner to our hotel
We made it!
After we dropped off our bags, we decided to go out and explore the Portobello Road market
It was probably a mile long and filled with vintage/antique booths and stores... so fun! (And I didn't even notice the NO PHOTOS sign until I was just posting this... oops.)
The rest of the night was pretty uneventful, as we were just too tired to do anything... but the next day was my one of my favorite parts of the trip! Since there's lots of pics,
I'm going to give it its very own post.
Follow us on to the next post to read about