It's been one crazy post-vacation week, let me tell ya. If I had my druthers, I would've started blogging way back on Monday morning. But when you've been out of town for almost two weeks, well, you can imagine how crammed my Inbox was.
It was downright terrifying.
Now that I've wrapped up my writing deadlines for the week and answered all those e-mails, I can't wait to start telling you all about our trip.
Truth be told, I still can't believe our holiday—as the Europeans call it—has already come and gone since it's been more than a year in the making. But our time away was absolutely spectacular nonetheless. In fact, my only real complaint is that it just wasn't long enough. I could've spent another week in just Rome alone.
But before we venture to the Eternal City, let's rewind to our first stop, shall we? Good ol' Londontown. As I mentioned in my previous post, London has always had a special place in my heart, and nearly seven years after I last visited (!!!), it's still quite the charmer.
We ended up staying in a neighborhood that I hadn't visited before—Shepherd's Bush—a great change of pace from the tourist-packed Piccadilly Circus area that I've stayed in previously. The hotel we called home for three days, K West Hotel & Spa, was lovely and in walking distance to a slew of great coffee shops (Costa was our favorite) and a monstrosity of a mall known as The Westfield.
Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't even bother mentioning the mall again since we've got one in oh, every 10ish miles in DFW. But The Westfield, well, it's not exactly your standard-issue shopping with Macy's, Claire's and an Auntie Anne's pretzel shop. In fact, I'm thinking it's probably the oh-so-regal cousin of the shops clustered together in Caesar's Place in Vegas.
With its gleaming, marble-esque floors and great lighting that I'm sure Posh and David Beckham would approve of whenever they're in town, The Westfield is all about the high-end—Versace, Vuitton, Vivienne Westwood, basically anyone who advertises in Vogue. I did spot a lone Abercrombie & Fitch, but I'm guessing that its presence is more about the half-naked models in their ads than the totally awesome jeans they sell.
Needless to say, it was great fun to simply window shop since I'm not planning on strutting down a catwalk any time soon. If anything, my favorite stop on The Westfield excursion was the nearby Waitrose. It's no secret that I love a good grocery store (and since it's good enough for Kate Middleton, it's good enough for me, right?), so it was fun slowly strolling down the aisles and not recognizing much of anything.
The candy aisle alone was to-die-for. While I'm sure that Kate has the willpower to walk by without as much as a second thought (she is getting married in front of millions, after all), Will and I couldn't resist the pull of so much imported chocolate. So we chose a couple of Belgium bars that barely made it to the checkout line. In a word: bliss.
The rest of our London adventures were just as fun and low-key as we recovered from the long overnight flight across the pond. Since Will and I have both already seen the changing of the guards, Westminster Abbey and the like, we opted for a less by-the-book approach to exploring the city, namely the Will and Christa way.
First stop? Notting Hill. So off to the Tube we went (minding the gap, naturally)...
Funny enough, I forgot just how fast-paced life is inside those tube stations. Similar to when you're walking the streets of Manhattan, there's no time for dawdling when people are practically running to make it to the platforms on time. So I promptly put my sluggish self in another gear because I saw that if you don't kindly move out of the way, chances are, you'll get run over—even on the escalators.
And given my propensity toward extreme klutziness, I promptly got my cardio on because sprained ankles definitely aren't your friend on vacations. Thank goodness I was wearing my UGGs rather than impractical heels, right?
All that sprinting was totally worth it, though. Notting Hill was as enchanting as ever with its multi-colored flats, charming little parks and sunny, tree-lined streets (yes, there wasn't a cloud in sight, a rarity in London). And while the Portobello Market wasn't in full swing (it was a weekday), we stumbled upon the next best thing—a perfect little bookshop with an owner who couldn't have been sweeter.
Dimly lit and about the size of most people's attics, the store featured a small gathering of new and old literary treasures loosely organized into their respective categories. Fiction, non-fiction, travel, mystery, biography—all genres were represented, and I gotta say, the shop had one of best old book smells, too—something you can't experience when downloading novels to a Kindle.
As we perused the titles, the owner promptly asked us where we were from (I guess our accents didn't exactly scream "local"), what we planned to do in London, etc. And when we said we were searching for some great Thai food for lunch, she certainly delivered. Turns out, there was a pub close by that had incredible Thai cuisine along with the usual fish & chips, shepherd's pie, etc.
When ordering Thai food at a new place, I know that most people's go-to choice is Pad Thai. But I've always been more of a red curry girl myself. I love, love, love how all that spicy flavor is perfectly in balance with the rich coconut milk and all those veggies and chicken (yeah, I'm practically salivating as I'm writing), and the red curry at Churchill Arms definitely didn't disappoint. The red curry and spring rolls were absolutely mouthwatering, and I cleaned my plate in no time.
Later that evening, we ventured over to London's West End where we saw "Wicked," and I'm thrilled to report that Will survived all two and a half hours of Oz goodness without complaining once. :) I won't even say it's because he had a couple of beers along the way...ha ha. Ever since we started dating (and even once we said "I do"), Will's always been great about tolerating my girly choices in entertainment, rom-coms (as long as it's not Legally Blonde), endless seasons of "Gilmore Girls" and more, so I wasn't surprised that he was a good sport about "Wicked," too.
I'd been wanting to see "Wicked" forever and somehow, I seemed to miss it every time it rolled into town, so I'm glad we got to see it somewhere wonderful like London—made for a very fun night on the town. Plus, the songs were catchy, but not annoyingly so—always a winning quality in my book.
For the rest of our short time in fair London, we wandered around Covent Garden (where we noshed on the highly recommended a fish & chips at Rock & Sole Plaice), Oxford Circus and the Tottenham Court Road area. We sipped coffee, read, daydreamed and enjoyed the people watching, which pretty much made for the perfect beginning to our adventure abroad.
Lastly, for the record, no, we didn't buy any of the Will & Kate wedding memorabilia that was everywhere in London, although some of it (like the Will & Kate cookie sheets) were quite comical indeed.