Fun with Kyle and Michael!!!

My friends from Passau, Germany came for a visit last Wednesday, Jan 16.  I met Kyle back when I was living in Nebraska in 2004-2005.  A couple of years ago, he moved to Germany to be with Michael.  I saw Kyle and met Michael when I was traveling through Europe last October.  It was so much fun to spend time with them over the past few days and show them London!

They arrived at Heathrow at 2:00 on Wednesday.  It was a great day to fly!  The sun was out and the sky was blue!  We had to take advantage of the great weather.  So, after we got back to the apartment and dropped their luggage off, we walked to Kings Road and hopped on a double decker bus #11 for a ride through London.  Since it was dusk, the city lights were just starting to come on.  It was a great time to be riding around and seeing the buildings all lit up!

Bus 11 took us from Kings Road down around Sloane Square, pass Victoria train station, Westminster Abbey, Parliament and Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, along the street The Strand to St Paul’s Cathedral.  The route ends at Liverpool station but we got off at St Paul’s Cathedral and walked 10 minutes to London Bridge.  From this vantage point, we were able to see the Tower Bridge, the Shard – the tallest building in Western Europe and the London City Hall complex in front of the Shard.

The Shard and City Hall Complex

We walked pass the Monument for the Great Fire of 1666.  Right behind the monument, on Pudding Street,  I showed them the plaque that marks the spot that the bakery, where the fire started, was.  We returned to St Paul’s Cathedral, which is beautiful lit up at night.  We walked around the church and I pointed out the Temple Bar gate right next to the church.

Walking down Fleet Street, I showed them the location for Todd Sweeney’s and Bell Yard where Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop was.  We walked pass the Justice Building, another beautiful building lit up at night; and made our way to Covent Gardens.

After walking around there for awhile, we continued through the theater district and found a pub to have dinner.  Kyle had fish and chips, Michael had a “Big Ben” burger…it had everything on it…egg, ham, cheese, tomato, lettuce and onion!  It looked like it was a mouthful!  He said it was good.  I had a salad and some veggies.

We took Bus 11 back to Kings Rd and made our way back to the apartment.  It was a good first night for them in London.

Thursday was another beautiful day of sunshine and blue skies.  The temps were cool but we put on lots of layers!  We started this day walking.  We walked toward Buckingham Palace where they took some pictures in front of the palace.  We continued through St James Park where we saw white pelicans!  I haven’t seen white pelicans since we lived in New Ulm, MN in 1993!

From St James Park, we crossed over Horse Guards Road and saw the entrance to Churchill War Room museum in the Treasury Building.  We made our way over to Parliament Square where we saw Westminster Abbey and Big Ben in the daytime.  Walking down Whitehall Road toward Trafalgar, we passed 10 Downing Street and the Horse Guards.  At Trafalgar, we got a couple of pictures of Michael with the lion statues at the base of Lord Nelson’s column since his zodiac sign is Leo!

From Trafalgar, we walked over to Covent Gardens so Kyle could look for a gift for his sister’s birthday.  Then, it was back to the apartment to get ready for our night out!

We had dinner reservations at Orsini’s Italian Restaurant. It is where David, Perry and I had a great meal over Christmas.  It is a small family restaurant not far from the Victoria and Albert Museum and we weren’t disappointed with the food this time, either.  All of our meals were great.

After dinner, we made our way over to Queen Theater to see Les Miserables.  I saw the movie on Monday, which was excellent.  25 years ago, David and I saw Les Mis in Portland when we were dating.  I am glad that I saw the movie before seeing the play again. It refreshed my memory of the story. Plus, the play moved really quickly.  Had I not seen the movie, I think I would have found the play difficult to follow!!

The music in the play is great. The acting was wonderful. It was a nice evening out!  After the play, we walked to nearby Piccadilly Circus and clicked some pictures before heading back to the apartment.

Well, Friday our good weather ended with a bang!  We had snow and quite an ample amount. I believe I heard that 4″ fell over London.  What better thing to do than to go shopping at Harrods?
It was a dreary day but the snow made it pretty.  We walked to Harrods and shopped for an hour or so.

Next stop, was Hyde Park.  We ate lunch at the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen Cafe right on the Serpentine Lake.  It was cosy inside and pretty looking out over the water and park as the snow came down.

By this time, it was getting close to 4:00 and Kyle and I had decided that we wanted to attend the Evensong Service at Westminster Abbey at 5:00.  We decided that $25 for a ticket to go inside the abbey during the day was a ridiculous amount of money.  Kyle wanted to see the church, so I suggested the service. I had been meaning to attend one of the services there for awhile. I just hadn’t gotten around to it.  It was nice to have someone to do it with.

Westminster in the snow was lovely.  The service was a nice quiet time to reflect and pray.  There were a few songs sung by an all male choir.  After, Kyle and I both agreed it was a great way to experience Westminster rather than just paying for a ticket and walk around inside the church.

Dinner was at the Queen’s Head Pub in Chelsea near Kings Road.

Saturday was their last day here.  It was questionable if they would actually be able to leave as over 400 flights out of Heathrow were canceled Friday and already, on Saturday morning, another 100 had been canceled.  Part of the cancelations came from the snow and part was due to the visibility factor.

Kyle is a huge Harry Potter fan.  I had a walking tour of some of the buildings used in the movie or streets that inspired various alleys/streets on the movie set.  Kyle picked out some of the “must sees” and off we went on our modified Harry Potter tour!  First stop, of course, was Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station.  This is Kyle on his way to Hogwarts School!

Near Platform 9 3/4 there is a Harry Potter store that we went to. Kyle bought a few souvenirs.  We hopped the tube to Leicester Square to see the Odeon Theater where the London premiere for the Harry Potter movie was.

Nearby, just off Charing Cross Road, is Cecil Court which is believed to be the model for Diagon Alley.  At one of the local shop owners suggestion, we walked through the alley, crossed over St Martin’s Lane to Goodwin Court.  She said that it had a great “Dicken’s flavor” to it.  When Kyle saw it, he thought it looked like Knockturn Alley in the movie.  I’ll let you decide….

We walked towards Trafalgar Square and right past the National Portrait Gallery.  A couple of weeks ago, the first official portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate of “William and Kate” fame was unveiled to a mixed review. I had seen pictures of it in the media but had reserved an opinion until I saw it in person.  Well, I agree with the critics.  It is the most unflattering portrait. It is painted beautifully but it makes her look so much older.  It almost looks like she has jowls!  It really doesn’t do her justice.  
From the Portrait Gallery, we walked down Whitehall Road and took a left onto Great Scotland Yard Road and then a right onto Scotland Place Rd to see the spot for the entrance to the Ministry of Magic in The Order of the Phoenix.  They used the “visitor’s entrance” through one of the famous red phone booths.  The phone booth was placed there for the movie and later removed.  Also, on our way, we were fortunate to see two of the old style double decker bus that they used in Harry Potter.   
Next stop was the Australian House on the corner of The Strand and Aldwych Road.  This building was used for the Gringotts Bank!  We finished our tour by stopping by Covent Garden where Kyle bought a gift for his sister’s birthday.  Lunch was a delicious bean burrito at Chipotles on St Martins Street before catching the bus to go back to the apartment so they could finish packing.  
Their flight home was to leave at 8:00.  Due to the weather delays and the news reports, we decided to head out at 4:00 since the airport looked chaotic!!  It was a good thing that we did because we discovered that they were doing major work on a couple of the tube lines and we had to make several different stops and changes.  It normally takes about an hour to get to the airport and amazingly, it only took us ten minutes more!  Terminal 1 was very quiet and not chaotic like we expected.  That was a good thing!  
Kyle and Michael got their boarding passes and all to soon, they were heading through security. 
It was a wonderful, fun time with them.  They are very easy travelers and guests.  I hope they come visit at my next destination, which is Paris in May for 5 weeks!
Now, I am getting ready for my trip to Dubai where I will meet David and we will see our friends, Diane and Jose.  We met them on the project in the DR.  Jose has a project in Dubai for the next 2 1/2 years and they invited us for a visit.  It will be so nice to see them.  Also, while we are there, we are going to have an 8 day tour in Jordan!  Woooohoooo!!!  I am so ready to see sunshine and have warmth!

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