London Mini Break Part II: Day 1

We’re back in London! Sorry this post is a bit late, yesterday was amazing but exhausting! It’s so fun to be in London again and it’s even more fun to to taking our mother who has never been here before! 

SURPRISE! 

Beginning in January Nick and I began to plot what we could to make our mother’s birthday special. We decided to take her to New York. Then British Airways (which I stalk on a weekly basis) was having an amazing sale and I figured why not trade New York for London as it has been a dream of my mother’s to be in the British capital. We told her about four hours before we were leaving for the airport and she was genuinely shocked!

Judgement-free Boarding Process 

As you may remember I’ve had some issues with getting to the gate in time in the past. I was determined that this go-round we’d not have that issue. We got to the airport with plenty of time, checked our bags, then headed to the gate. I noticed that the gate was still full so I decided that we should go get some dinner…

…and the restaurant took forever! So while we weren’t exactly running to the gate, for once, we were still walking very quickly. I saw the British Airways woman who in 2015 said “are you Nicholas and Jessica Pinkston” and I’m pretty sure she recognized us.

The ride on the airbus 380 wasn’t bad until we hit the Atlantic Ocean and were overrun with turbulence. I managed to sleep through much of it but it was a very bumpy ride.

Welcome to London! 

We landed and went through UK Border Control with no attitude or issues. The border control agent was so nice and didn’t ask us too many questions because we’d told him that we were taking our Mom to London for the first time and still had some surprises in store.

We picked up our luggage and soon found ourselves on the Tube! The Tube has a certain smell, not necessarily a good smell but also not Paris, and whenever I smell it I know I’m back in London.

There was an issue on the Tube, however, about 15 minutes into our 45 minute ride we were offloaded. It reminded me so much of a morning going to work in Washington that I just to laugh. As a result we had to wait for a train that had enough space and then cram our way onto it for the remaining half an hour of the ride. Nothing like being smushed on the train to make you feel like you’re at home.

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Time to Explore! 

Our flat this time is in the West End of London, very close to Earl’s Court. The original flat that Nick and I stay at has closed but we were able to find one nearby. We’re staying in a new neighborhood which is exciting as I love exploring new cities on this level.

After dropping our bags and taking a quick nap, we were on the Tube to Green Park. We got off on Piccadilly and took Mom to Patisserie Valerie for a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and two rashers of crispy bacon. There was something so lovely about being back in London again at one of my favorite restaurants. And the tea was so delicious and restorative!

We then took her down New Bond Street for some window shopping and through Burlington Arcade. Next we went to Fortnum & Mason which is a department store in London that was founded in 1707. They have tea! I started my tea collection early and with the good stuff. I really had to restrain myself since it was the first place that we’d shopped and I didn’t want to over do it. Especially since next on the list was the Waterstone’s bookshop where I spent 40 minutes finding some new classics to bring home!

Next we walked through Chinatown to Covent Garden where we got to hear some live music and explore the shops. After that walked to Embankment so that Mom could get the full view of London on the river. We walked along the Thames to Westminster Bridge so that she could see Big Ben.

Dinner Time 

We then tubed to Earl’s Court and had dinner at Zizzi. While so delicious, I always manage to forget how terribly slow the service is there. We still had to stop by the grocery store before heading back to the flat.

It was a lovely day, and so nice to be back in London!

UP NEXT: We’re headed to East London for the markets! Then we’re having dinner a delicious and posh place for the official birthday celebration 

 

A Few Days in: London

I love London! If you’ve been on my blog for more than two minutes you may have already discovered this. Below are some of my favorite things to do. This will not necessarily include the classic tourist stops that people often make on trips to the city, I figure there are blogs aplenty for that. 

Markets 

In my opinion some of the best and most affordable shopping in the city can be found in the markets. Amazingly, I’ve never made it up to Camden Market because I keep getting distracted over in the City of London. There are several markets within walking distance of the Liverpool Street Tube Station. Old Spitalfields Market, Petticoat Lane Market, and on varying days of the week the Sunday Up Market, the Vintage Market, to name a few of my favorites.

I also love crossing the river and heading to the Greenwich Market. Greenwich itself it is a small piece of magic. You can visit the Cutty Sark which is an old British clipper that was built in 1869. There’s also the Old Royal Naval College including the Painted Hall which is quite lovely and where several movies and television shows have been filmed. I’m sure that anyone who’s visited London would tell you that you must also go to the Royal Observatory. Well, I’ve never been there so I can’t tell you about it. It looks like quite lovely from the bottom of the hill, and considering that it’s literally where time begins I can definitely see how it could be something that you wouldn’t want to pass up!

Book Stores

I love reading. Maybe that’s also the reason why I love writing so much. There are no shortage bookstores in London, something that I cannot say living in Washington, D.C. My favorite chain is Waterstones. For some reason Foyles just doesn’t do it for me. If you want to be sure that you’re going to find the book that you’re absolutely looking for, stop by the Waterstones in Piccadilly, but fair warning that it may at times be overrun with tourists. Otherwise, I really love the one on Kensington High Street. It’s a nice size, and it’s generally pretty quiet. I have yet to find a Waterstones that I didn’t want to spend hours in though.

If you don’t want a big commercial chain, I recommend Daunt Books. I love the ambiance of this store, and it looks a bit like something you’d see in a Harry Potter novel. In addition to books. I love the stationary that I’ve found in this store.

Museums

I’m not too much of a museum person when it comes to traveling overseas, but there are two museums that I really enjoy. The first is the Tate Modern which is overlooking the Thames, and I also love the Wallace Collection. I love the gift shops in both museums, and I love the Wallace Restaurant for a cup of tea. Having grown up in Washington, DC, I really struggle with going to museums where you have to pay, so I’m happy to see that both of these recommendations are free!

Bridges 

I love being near the water, even a river. Every time I go to London I don’t feel like I’m actually there until I’ve walked across one of the bridges, stood in the middle, and looked out on London. My favorites are Westminster Bridge (even with all of the tourists), or the London Bridge (not to be confused with the Tower Bridge). It’s a great place for photos and to just soak in the city.

I could write forever about things to do in London, and go forever and a day if we’re talking about day trips from London, but what I recommend above are some of the things that I love doing the most in London. I hope that you will enjoy them too!

A Few Days in Vienna

I find Vienna, Austria to be one of the most romantic cities in Europe. Even more romantic than Paris. There I said it. Between the romantic architecture, the cozy cafes, and the sprawling historic homes, whether you are alone, with your sweetie, or exploring with friends, here are my tips for what to see in city, especially while on a budget. 

Vienna Post | Schonbrunn

The Gloriette in the gardens of Schönbrunn

HISTORIC HOMES 

As you may know, one of my favorite things to see whenever I travel are historic homes. Due to the fact that Vienna used to be the seat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, there are several former imperial homes that are now open to the public. The largest and most grand  is Schönbrunn Palace, located about a fifteen minute ride outside of central Vienna on the U-bahn.

The house is lovely inside, and when you go on the tour you do get to get to see a good portion of its 1,441 rooms. However, I fell in love with the gardens. I’ve spent hours roaming through the gardens and still have not seen all of it. It’s free to move through the gardens, and due to its size you you can find a quiet space even when it’s overcrowded with a concert. The gardens include a zoo, maze, and lovely fountains. There are often concerts and other activities at the palace that only serve to enhance the experience.

If you’re looking for a few less tourists that I’d recommend Belvedere. This complex consists of two baroque buildings, Upper and Lower Belvedere with a beautiful garden in between. It’s now a museum which houses an extensive Gustav Klimt collection. If you want to see The Kiss, this is the place to go. The painting is even more overwhelming at full size.

If you don’t want to leave central Vienna, you can check out the city home of the Habsburg at Hofburg. I have a thing for extensive grounds so I didn’t find this quite as enjoyable when compared to Schoenbrunn, but the buildings around it are beautiful.

COFFEEHOUSES

Getting coffee in Vienna is quite the experience. Historic coffee shops are housed in elegant settings. In addition to delicious coffee they also serve pastries, and other classic Viennese options. Coffeehouses are elegant places to rest your feet after a long day of exploring. My favorites are Cafe Landmann for the view of the Rathaus and Cafe Mozart. In most of the coffeehouses unless there’s reserved sign on the table, feel free to go in and seat yourself. Service during dinner might differ a bit.

WALKS

Vienna is great city to just take a long walk. The Ringtrasse is a circular road that goes around many of the historic sights in the central part of the city. Grab a cup of tea and your camera and soak the three and a half mile walk in. Along the Ringtrasse you will see the Austrian Library, the Austrian Parliament Building, the incredibly beautiful Rathaus (Town Hall), the Vienna State Opera, the volksgarten, and the natural history museum, just to name a few! If you get tired half way through, there is a trolley that will take you back to where you started.

MUSIC 

You can’t talk Vienna without mentioning classical music. The City of Music is where the waltz came into popularity as well as where several operas came from. In or around the city you can visit Mozart and Beethoven’s graves, just to mention a few classic composers. You can take in a show at the State Opera, but you can also walk along the street at any point and hear the most beautiful classical musician playing. For me, it only adds to the romantic aspects of the city.

OTHER FAVORITES

If you like to stroll through bookstores I definitely recommend that you stop by the Shakespeare & Company bookshop in Vienna. It’s a tiny little place but I never seem to leave there without some kind of small treasure.

For food, when in Vienna you must try the wiener schnitzel which is thin, breaded pan fried veal. If veal is not your jam that also have pork, and sometimes chicken schnitzel. For other classy Viennese classics make sure to visit Plachutta. I do recommend that you make reservations. The portion sizes are perfect and the service is stellar.

Vienna tourism site is full of great information about visiting the city if you’re looking for additional information travel to the city. I did find the the tourist card the Wien Karte did end up saving money for the activities that we were participating in.

Have other questions about the city like where to stay? Feel free to email me at jessicapinkston@msn.com.

European Misadventure

Brandenburg Gate Front

This time last week I was in Germany running around the Tegel airport in Berlin in a frantic state. That’s not a good combination: frantic in a foreign country.

An event that I was working on in Germany meant that I got a chance to spend a few days overseas. My heart ached a little that I was so close to Scotland and not able to visit. After a redeye on Friday night, connecting through Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport I landed in Berlin exhausted. For some reason Germany doesn’t like my baggage. Myself and half of the plane had their luggage missing for about 45 minutes. I was trying not to sit down, thinking that as soon as I slowed down I’d go to sleep but eventually I gave up, dropped my backpack and sat down on my carry on luggage. I never take two suitcases because even though I’m famous for bring back so much loot from my European Adventures, I draw the line at more than one piece of luggage.

As soon as my luggage came I was so relieved. I had been feeling tired but as soon as I got in the cab I started to feel renewed. I was in Europe! After I did some work I’d be free to go wandering around in a new city for a few hours, one of my favorite things to do in the entire world. I got to the hotel and checked in and reached down to pick up my backpack….that wasn’t there.

In baggage claim I’d been so relieved to see my large luggage come with all of the event stuff in it that I’d just grabbed my luggage and purse and walked out right of the airport. My backpack had my laptop, iPad, iPod, and expensive camera in it. I was understandably distraught. In the car ride back to the airport God assured me that everything was going to be fine, the backpack was still in the airport.

Two hours later I walked out of the airport with my backpack, having spent a total of three hours in the airport. I had kept running into walls in the airport, and had to be really tenacious, but by God’s amazing grace I was able to get it back with everything in it. My Saturday evening was shot, so I grabbed some dinner and went directly to bed.

On Sunday evening I got to spend sometime walking around Berlin and was rewarded with some pretty awesome pictures. I also had a chance to go to an amazing church, where just like in London, the first thing I saw was a sign that said Welcome Home.

Through the experience I was overwhelmed with a sense of calm that everything was under God’s control and He was going to work out everything for my betterment, as He always does. What an awesome God I serve.

European Adventure Part V: The Wrap Up

At nine days this was the longest European Adventure that I’ve been on. For the first time I wasn’t extremely ready to get on the plane home when the time came. What I loved about the trip this year was that I felt comfortable the whole time. Yes, our luggage getting lost sucked, and it was scary at first to be driving around Scotland, but overall, by God’s amazing grace, this trip was actually pretty easy. I expanded on my decision last year not to run around Europe at a breakneck pace but instead actually took time to soak the cities and places that we were staying in. In the past I’ve always had this overwhelming fear that I was going to miss something, but not this year.

I’m grateful to God that He kept us safe as He always does. I’m so in awe of Him after driving around the Highlands and Turnberry, places that are so beautiful and places that are full of complete peace. I don’t know where He’ll take us next year or the lessons that He’ll teach us while we’re there, but I can promise that you will be able to read about them here.

Until next time…