Sunday, September 14, 2014

Girls-Only Downton Abbey Trip!

Eric and I never do things separately.  You can roll your eyes if you want to, if you think that's mushy and dumb (Isabelle does it all the time), I don't mind.... but it's true, we don't do things unless we are together.  I mean, you should see our text messages when one of us tries to go grocery shopping alone.  And just a few weeks ago Eric picked me up after work so that I could go with him to buy golf balls, even though I could have gone during the day so that he could just come home and relax in his recliner after work, but he said that he'd rather go with me than relax in his recliner- that's just how we are, even when it comes to golf balls and grocery shopping, we do it together. 

But sometimes a line has to be drawn at TV shows.  Eric's philosophy on good TV is "the dumber, the better" which drives me crazy!  And if I like it, he probably won't.  He downright refuses to watch 'The Walking Dead' with me, he didn't get my obsession with 'ER', he thinks 'Real Housewives of' anywhere is a joke, and I can't get him to even try 'Downton Abbey.'  Have you seen Downton Abbey?!  It. Is. So. Good!  I became completely obsessed with it last summer when we didn't have actual TV.  I spent two entire days watching all three seasons on Hulu on my computer and couldn't get enough!  I even got my mom the box set for Mother's Day!  
About six months ago, when the fourth season was on, a few ladies that I worked with and I were talking about how awesome Downton Abbey is, and how obsessed we are, and almost immediately a girls-only weekend to the Highclere Castle was in the books! 

Obviously, girls-only means no husbands, and that made me sad.  Not sad enough that I would turn down an opportunity to see Highclere Castle, let's be realistic here... But sad that I was going to see a little of London without my travel buddy, my partner, my guy, my best friend.... it made him sad too.  Here I was going on a trip without him, and I was going to the number one city he so badly wants to see!  He'd gladly go to Highclere Castle just to be able to go to London with me, even though he has absolutely no interest in Downton Abbey, so I felt guilty about leaving him behind.  But off I went with some great friends anyway...and missed my guy like crazy the entire time.

Our 4-gal group was split in half for parts of our trip so that we could each see what we wanted.  My really great friend Melissa and I spent our entire trip together and shared a hotel room, and most of our meals.  We wanted to see the same things and went at the same pace, plus we have a blast when we're together!  If I couldn't have my husband and kiddo with me, I'd want no one else but Melissa!  We made the perfect traveling pair! 
Our first day in the UK was a long one that started with a very early morning flight, we decided that our game plan was to stay as busy as possible so we wouldn't notice how exhausted we were.  After a long bus ride into London, then navigating the super simple Underground, Melissa and I headed to the Tower of London where the Crown Jewels are and where ceramic poppies are placed in remembrance of the men who died in World War I.

Obviously, no photography allowed of the Crown Jewels, which is such a bummer for y'all that have never seen them because they were breathtaking!  Holy cow were they breathtaking!  Diamonds has big as my hand, spoons so shiny they were hard to look at!  Incredible!  The picture of the outside of the building is all I've got of the Crown Jewels.

And from here we continued to walk around the Tower of London which was a compound of sorts- it served as a castle in wartime, a king's residence in peacetime, and a prison and execution site of rebel's.

I think I'd guard the Queen's things just as good as the other guy, right?  I mean giggling is allowed, right?  Maybe I could be her Dental Hygienist?

Ok, enough of the Tower of London, because when we were done drooling over the Crown Jewels our eyes caught sight of the Tower Bridge (London Bridge) and it called to me in the same way a bug does to a zapper light thingy (but I'm not completely sure because I'm not a bug and I can't watch those zapper light thingy's because I think they're a little brutal, but then I really hate bugs so I kinda want one.  Anywho....).  I ooo'd and ahhh'd and didn't peel my camera off my face for the next hour. 

The two Melissa's!

We had plans to see 'Wicked' on Broadway (or whatever it's called in London) so we headed in that direction to purchase our tickets, get a bearing of where we needed to be for when the show started, and then to see Buckingham Palace.

Since I didn't have my husband and kiddo with me I didn't want to tour a lot of the places we were visiting- I wanted to wait to experience it with them.  Melissa was so amazing about respecting my mushiness and sad heart (go ahead and roll your eyes again) and letting me save most of London for when I go back with Eric and Isabelle in the spring.  We saw lots but didn't go inside anywhere.
So next we made our way back to the theater.  Eric and I took Isabelle to Mary Poppins at the Orpheum Theater in Omaha for her 8th birthday a few years ago and LOVED the entire theater experience!  I have wanted to see Wicked for a long while now but have never had the opportunity, I could not wait to see Wicked!!  

We laughed, we cried, we danced, we sang!  Wicked was so great!  But, we were exhausted... wait, that doesn't even describe how insanely tired I was.  Ok I'm thinking..... wait, what word would describe how tired I was.... ummm.....gosh, I was so flippin' exhausted that I am still tired!  And I have no idea if a word really exists for how insanely tired I was after Wicked.  I was so tired I couldn't see straight!  By the time we got back to the hotel we had been awake for 20 hours, and it had been longer than that since I had last showered which is embarrassing but y'all know how it is when you travel, right?  And for those of you that don't know me, I. Need. Sleep.  I could go days without food, but not sleep!  So while Melissa, Vicki, and Jennifer went to get some late night snacks, I went to the hotel and took the bestest shower I've ever taken and then passed out.  Besides, I needed my rest because just a few hours later we were leaving for Highclere Castle!!!!

Us gals had booked a private tour of Highclere Castle and Bampton where Downton Abbey is filmed, so our tour guide picked us up at 9 a.m and then whisked us off for the day that we had waited for for 6 months!  The entire reason why we came to London was finally here and we were giddy!!
But first, here's the trailer for season 1 of Downton Abbey- if you haven't seen it yet maybe this will suck you in like it did me.  And if not, I don't know what to tell you except that you are seriously missing out and it sucks to be you.

There it is!!  There's Highclere Castle!!  **SQUEAL!**   

So Highclere Castle isn't technically a castle, but it was so grand and so beautiful that someone (I have no idea who) felt it needed a grand name, so they attached "castle" to its name. 

 Here we are sitting on a bench in the secret garden at the Highclere Castle.

Our tour guide was hilarious!  It felt like she was just one of the girls!  Her name was Siddy and was a child star from Iceland and now lives in London.  She had a proper English accent but could do any accent from anywhere...when she did a "California girl" accent we could barely breath we were laughing so hard!  Siddy is an actress between jobs right now so she does different tours around London.  She said that she is recently engaged to a theoretical physicist.... and now that I'm thinking about it, it sounds an awful lot like 'The Big Bang Theory'....hmmmm....either that's just a funny coincidence, or she was using her acting skills on us.  But when I Googled her I came across her blog and sure enough she truly is an actress, but still, her story sounded a lot like Penny & Leonard from 'The Big Bang Theory.'  {Google her here, if you want}  Oh well, it wouldn't have mattered anyway, we loved her!  She took us to lunch at an incredible English restaurant that's famous for their quiches and I had my first ever scone with clotted cream (don't let the word "clotted" fool you, it was absolutely amazing!  I almost let it get in my way of trying it and I'm glad I changed my mind.  I know, I know...there is just something tummy-turning about the word "clotted," but I swear it was delicious!).  

Next, we headed to Bampton where the town scenes are filmed.  My old laptop took a crap on me and now I'm having to use Isabelle's laptop with Windows 8 which is the stupidest thing ever!  I can not figure out how to put pictures side by side for comparison so I'm just going to upload them like normal and you'll have to scroll up and down to compare.  
Obviously, we live in 2014, Downton Abbey is set in the 1920's, so the actual village is much more modern than what you see in the show.

These are my pictures.  There is the very modern electrical lines, metal downspout, and doggy poop box thing on a modern metal pole.

Here is a picture I took off of Google of the same exact building that now has shrubs to hide the electrical stuff, a more 1920's downspout, and plastic, but very real looking, post office box covering the dog poop box thing.

 This is my picture of Mrs. Crawley's house.

This is one I found on Google.

Here is my picture of the church that Lady Mary was married in and Lady Edith was left at the alter in.  I'm not in the best position but it's all I've got.

This is not my picture!  I found it on Google.

This is my picture of the inside of the church where Lady Mary was married in- behind the curtain at the end of the aisle is a door where the brides walked in.

This is a picture I found on Google.

Super cool, huh?!  We had SO much fun!  Our tour took all day and we had seen what we had been planning for 6 entire months- this was a giant bucket-list accomplishment for us gals!  Siddy was great, and the day had been a blast!
We got back to the hotel early enough to do a little more sightseeing, so Melissa and I decided to head to King's Cross station to see the famous platform 9 & 3/4's from Harry Potter.  We both knew that this was something that Eric could not care less about, and since Isabelle hasn't read the books I knew she wouldn't care about missing it either.  We waited in a long line to get a picture taken, but, I don't like any of the pictures I got from the platform.... my butt looked big every stinkin' picture!  Don't you just hate when that happens?!  You go to platform 9 & 3/4's and your butt looks big in every darn picture!  know my butt doesn't look like that in real life....ugh! I'm not going to make you look at my big butt.  
After that, we went back to the hotel and were sleeping by 10:00- after the long day we had the day before, going to bed at 10 was heaven!

For our last day in London we had to make the best of a partial day before heading to the airport.  Our group split up again and Melissa and I decided to see the London Eye.

Before going up the Eye we did a 4D movie experience of it... and this is the only way to model 4D glasses....with pizzaz!

I'm not the biggest fan of heights but I always forget until I'm up on whatever it is that seemed like a cool idea when I was safely on the ground, but in this picture I'm just kidding around like I want off- the London Eye was slow and smooth and beautiful!  Me and Melissa were just goofing off!

Big Ben and Parliament were across from the London Eye- you can see it in a couple of my pictures- so we headed that way to see Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.

A London Mailbox.

It was by this time that I had completely and totally fallen head over heals, crazy, madly, deeply, never wanted to leave, in LOVE with London!  I want everyone to go to London!  It is my most favorite city I have ever been!  London, to me, is better than Boston and better than Paris!  Yes, I said it... better than PARIS!
Since Melissa and I did not want to leave, but knew that we had to, we decided that for our last hour or so in the best city on the planet, we would eat fish & chips for lunch!  And thanks to a nice lady that happened to be crossing the street at the same time as us, we were directed to this adorable restaurant!

I'm not very good at taking pictures of my food because my tummy runs the show, and when there is food in front of me I snarf it down before even thinking about taking a picture because my tummy said so.  I ordered this delicious plate of three mini pot pies with three mini Ales, and Melissa ordered the traditional fish and chips, and then we shared.

After lunch we raced back to the hotel to meet Jennifer, Vicki, and our taxi driver so that we could get back to the airport to go home to Germany.  We did not want to leave!!!  Even though I missed my husband so so much, I did not want to leave!  I wanted Eric and Isabelle to fly to London with all of our things and stay there forever!

But we had to, I didn't ask Eric, but I figured the Army wouldn't let him just move to England.  So Melissa and I pouted our way down the stairs to the Underground and off we went to the airport.
We didn't account for the gazillions of people flying out of London on a Friday evening so we had to "amazing race it" (as Melissa called it) to our gate after getting through security.  We burned a good one million calories running with our very over the allowed weight carry-on bags to the gate!  But hey, we made it!  Even though if we hadn't, I secretly would've been ecstatic!

I didn't let my sad heart from missing my husband get in the way (too much anyway) of what was an amazing couple of days with a very dear friend!  But I did miss Eric and Isabelle like crazy.  And even though I had a blast, I don't plan on going on many other trips without them.  We just don't do things or go places without each other- when we aren't together it feels like something is missing and we don't like that feeling.
But if I couldn't have my husband with me on a girls-only trip, I would want Melissa to be his replacement!  She is one of those rare people you meet and instantly have a connection with!  She accepts my little neurotic parts and is one of the least judgmental people I have ever met!

Downton Abbey and our girls-only trip to London is going down in the history books for one of my most favorite trips of all time!

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