Saturday, December 31, 2011

Catch Up - October, November & December

Since I am finally finished with our Europe Trip I am just going to post some pictures of the other fun events of the last few months.

We went on a Ghost Tour in Anoka.


We hosted the 4th Annual Meat Fest. Maran and Adam announced they were having a baby and Kate and Jeff announced they were getting married.


We went to La Crosse to see our friends Steve & Sandra's new house. Here is their little guy David.


Patrick, Rickard, Melissa & I saw Jerry Seinfeld downtown at the Orpheum.


We celebrated Thanksgiving at my Aunt Carolyn's house. Here is Ben showing us his piano skills. The rest of the Thanksgiving photos are here.


We celebrated Thanksmas with our friends at Kasie's place. Patrick won the contest for the most creative shirt. Jeff won an award for ugliest shirt.


We did a cookie baking day again. This year we made some good stuff, but Patrick wants more chocolate next year. He has a point, there can never be too much chocolate.


We are celebrating Christmas with my family this weekend, so I will be back next week with an update on our Christmases.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Europe Day 11 & 12 - London (October 2nd & 3rd)

This morning we actually slept in. Our British friends were still at the hotel and they offered to give us a ride to the tube station. That was a lifesaver. I am not sure if we had a plan to get back to the tube station, luckily we didn't need one.

We got back on the tube and the plan was to put our bags in locker storage at the Liverpool Station. We were staying at a hotel near the airport tonight so we didn't really want to have to go all the way out there and then come back to do some more stuff in the city.

I am so glad that a majority of our trip to London wasn't on a weekend. Because of the Olympics they are doing a lot of construction on the tube stations so getting around was a huge pain. We ended up walking outside because it was becoming impossible to get to the Westminster stop. On our way to Westminster Abbey we went by Buckingham Palace and through St. James Park.

Buckingham Palace

St. James Park London

Big Ben & London Phone Booths

Our afternoon plan was to go to the Evensong at Westminster Abbey. It is expensive to actually go into the Abbey as a tourist, so we did the Evensong and I would really recommend it. You don't get to look around as much, but it was pretty neat to hear the all male choir sing.

This is the inside of the smaller church near Westminster Abbey. You weren't supposed to take photos, but I took this before I read that sign.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

After the church service we did another Rick Steve's walk. This was the Westminster Walk and it was much shorter than the City of London one we did. Here was our route.

Westminster Walk Map

First up was the London Eye. We didn't actually go on the eye since it is kind of expensive and we have both done it before.

London Eye

Here is Downing Street. This is the street the Prime Minister lives on. You see the black building behind the fence, that is the Prime Minister residence.

Prime Minister House



We ate dinner at a place called Long Acre near Trafalgar Square. It was pretty good.

Dinner at Long Acre

After dinner we headed back to Liverpool to go to the airport to take a shuttle to the hotel. Here is the method we used for carrying our backpacks after day one.

Sara and Patrick with backpacks

Getting to the airport was pretty uneventful, but finding the shuttle bus and buying a ticket was another hassle. We finally got our tickets and after three people told us different things, we found where the shuttle bus left from. We arrived at the hotel, showered, packed our bags up for the airline and went to bed.

Our flight left at 7:30am, so we were at the airport early. We spent the rest of our pounds on chocolate in the airport gift store. We got to our gate and unfortunately did not go to the bathroom before we went through the gate security. After we got back from the bathroom both of us had to be patted down.

The 8 hour flight from London to Chicago went much quicker than the one from Chicago to Rome. We had at least five seats in the middle sections all to ourselves. And on this flight we had our own in flight entertainment. We each watched at least three movies and a ton of tv episodes. I guess if you are going to sit on airplane that long, movies are the way to go.

We arrived in Chicago and had a very short window to go through customs, re-check our bags and make it to our gate. We arrived at our gate with only a few minutes before our flight home left. We arrived at MSP and Ty picked us up and brought us to Patrick's office where our car was. We were both very happy to be home after a good, but exhausting trip.

Here are our favorite memories of the trip.

Patrick's Euro Adventure Favorites:
1. When I knew we were done with Italian train rides
2. Getting back to Regent's Park after 8 years
3. Checking out the English countryside

Sara's Euro Adventure Favorites:
1. My spaghetti lunch in Florence.
2. The Evensong at Westminster Abbey.
3. Being a part of Alex & Paula's wedding in London.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Europe Day 10 - Alex & Paula's Wedding (October 1st)

This morning we had yet another awesome breakfast at the Wynchgate B&B. Today was Alex & Paula's wedding so we had quite the journey before we arrived at our destination. When Patrick studied abroad in the Fall of 2003 he met Alex in a marketing class. They have kept in touch since then, so when Alex invited us to his wedding we knew it was the perfect excuse to go on a European Adventure.

We loaded up our backpacks after breakfast and got on the tube station at Southgate. We rode the tube back into Central London to take another line out to Epping. The tube ride went pretty smoothly for having to switch lines. We arrived in Epping and we knew we needed to take the bus to the Travelodge Hotel. We waited for the bus for quite a long time. Once the bus finally arrived we learned they didn't take the Oyster card which we had been using for our tube rides. So, we had to dig through our pockets to find enough change to pay for the ride. We asked the driver if it was the right bus, but not about the hotel. Patrick had put the route to the hotel on his phone before we left the B&B. The route stays on the phone and your location keeps moving even without service, so we were relying on that. We got off the bus at the point we thought we would only have to walk a few minutes. Boy were we wrong. We ended up having to walk over 2 miles in the noon sun to get to the hotel. Part of our walk even included walking on the grass shoulder of a two lane highway. We were both glad to have backpacks and not to be dragging suitcases on this journey.

We finally arrived at the hotel around 1:00pm, the wedding was at 2pm and on the invitation it said arrive by 1:30pm. We weren't sure what the protocol was on arriving late to a wedding in the UK. We decided we would try to make it to the wedding. We showered, steamed a suit and got ready in record time. Once we went back out to the reception area and a nice British lady called us a taxi. At this point we were pretty indecisive about whether we should go to the wedding or not, since we were going to be late for sure. We had the taxi driver drive us to the reception, but then we arrived there and they told us we should go to the wedding. We ended up at the wedding 10 minutes late, not too bad considering our journey.

The wedding was beautiful. I didn't really have any expectations of how a London wedding would be, but it was really awesome. The wedding was held at a small country side English church. Even though we were late to the wedding, we still were able to hear most of the ceremony. The structure was really similar to a wedding in the states, but the pastor was much less formal. At one point he said something about how he was happy Alex and Paula decided to get married in a church instead of jumping out of airplane or something stupid like that.

This was the one time I didn't bring my good camera with. I just didn't want to have to carry it around. It ended up being really nice not to have to a huge weight in my purse. Here are some pictures of the ceremony.

Wedding Ceremony


Wedding Ceremony

Wedding Ceremony

After the ceremony the bride and groom took family and friend pictures outside the church. There were only about 70 people invited to the wedding, so everyone was invited to be in at least one picture. This took awhile, so we were really glad we came to the ceremony.

After Church


After Church

After Church

We were lucky enough to meet some of Alex's friends after the wedding and they offered to give us a ride to the wedding reception. Good thing because otherwise that would be a long walk.

The reception spot was just as cute as the little chapel. It was an old barn that was renovated for events. It even had this awesome outdoor area for cocktail hour. We lucked out and had a sunny 80 degree day in October, so it was great to be outside. The cocktail hour included some English favorites Pimms and bangers.

Wedding Reception

Pimms and Cocktail Hour

Sara, Paula, Alex & Patrick

Throwing Petals

Wedding Bouquet

No one expected it to be such a warm day so our meal was planned around a cool fall night. The menu consisted of tomato soup, turkey, roasted potatoes, broccoli, carrots and Yorkshire pudding. Dessert was homemade blackberry or apple crumble. It was all really delicious.

Wedding Decor

The wedding dinner had speeches and gifts. The wedding dance included many American favorites including Maroon Five's Moves Like Jagger.

Wedding Dance

Wedding Dance

It was an awesome time. The wedding was really small, so we actually got to talk to Alex and Paula for a little while. They told us about their upcoming honeymoon to Malaysia for three weeks. Oh how I dream of having the vacation time of a European.

This was the first time all vacation we really slowed down and enjoyed ourselves. It was so nice to experience the culture, talk to people and really just enjoy the event. I am so glad it worked out that we were able to celebrate with Alex and Paula.

One of the couples we met at the wedding were also staying at the Travelodge, so we hitched a ride back to hotel with them. Today we only walked 5,943 steps or 2.97 miles. Patrick took the pedometer off for the wedding, so most of those steps were with our backpacks on walking to the hotel.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Europe Day 9 - London (September 30th)

This morning we had another awesome breakfast at the B&B. I got the french toast and it was delicious.

French Toast at Wynchgate

The 2012 Summer Olympic Games are being held in London and we read in the Rick Steve's book you could take a tour of the grounds. It took quite a few switches on the tube to get the Olympic grounds, but finally we ended up at the Pudding Mill Lane stop. They are constructing a bullet train that will transport people from one side of the city to the other in 7 minutes. And there will be no public parking at the Olympic Games, all spectators will arrive via public transportation. I guess I couldn't see it any other way in London.

Docklands Light Rail Pudding Mill Stop

We missed the tour, but another group of people were getting at tour so we heard part of their tour. They also had a nice map, pointing out what all the facilities were.

Here is the Olympic Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held along with other Olympic events.

Olympic Stadium 2012

Here is where the Olympic Torch will live during the games.

Olympic Torch & Housing

2012 London Sign

Here are a good majority of the building on the Olympic grounds. This area of London is very run down, so bringing the Olympics here is really revitalizing the area. All the facilities are going to be converted into permanent facilities. The hotels into homes, there is large shopping mall being built in the area that will continue to attract people and the stadium will be used for future sporting events.

Olympic Places

Olympic Village

Sara at Olympic Village

Patrick at Olympic Village

We thought about eating lunch at the little cafe near the observation area, but we decided to head back to the city to find lunch. Our plan for the afternoon was to explore Regent's Park. We found a Pizza Express right after we got off the tube, so we stopped there for lunch. It ended up taking a long time to get our bill, so our quick lunch turned into an hour event. Apparently in London in order to get the check you have to ask for it, otherwise they will let you sit there all day.

Pizza Express London

Next our mission was to find Regent's Park. It's not a big tourist attraction, so we didn't see many signs directing us. We were using our Rick Steve's map, which wasn't complete so it became quite frustrating to find the place. After a couple wrong turns we finally found it. And I am glad we did. It was a very relaxing way to spend the afternoon. It was a gorgeous day so the park was packed, but since it is such a big place it wasn't annoying.

Regent's Park London

Regent's Park

Regent's Park London

Regent's Park

Ice Cream at Regent's Park

Regent's Park

Regent's Park

Regent's Park

After we walked around the park for a couple hours we decided we would try to go back to Harrod's to look around. It is one crazy big department store. I swear you can get just about anything there. I was into taking pictures in the deli area. Here are some of the good looking food they had there. They have everything from clothes to apples to Christmas ornaments to one of kind pieces of art.

Harrod's Food

We rode the tube back to Southgate and found a pub called Weather Spoon. For only 10 pounds we had 2 burgers, chips and 2 beers. The best deal of the trip by far.

Pub Food

Today we walked 25,181 steps or 12.59 miles for the day.