The River Thames
Posted in November 2015, but back-dated to July 10th, the day we actually left London.
My second visit to London might as well have been my first. I barely remembered anything from the first visit 10 years ago other than laughing with friends, watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, running in a park, and eating at Wagamamas for the first time. Otherwise, my memories were empty.
This time, Nik and I stayed in an apartment just north of Kingsland in an effort to find out what it would be like to live here, and the verdict was that we would like it. Partly because it would be easy, but mostly because the city is interesting and felt more diverse than every other city in the world. You could build a life here surrounded by places and people that you most identify with, and then take a 15 minute bus ride in any direction to a completely different world.
During our visit, we tried to see as many of those worlds as possible AND we were lucky enough to be joined by a couple friends. My most favorite moments were those spent in the museums. The Natural Science Museum was especially incredible. I could have stayed for hours just staring at the cabinet of humming birds, and then for more hours in the main gallery. I also loved the Tate Modern.
I was also pleasantly surprised Â when we stumbled into the Barbican. It is a massive brutalist utopian community designed in the 50s and opened in the 80s. The surprise wasÂ that it is actually a functional place for life, work, and culture. The apartments are full, the arts center is booming, and the courtyards are teaming with people on their lunch breaks. If I had toÂ live in a planned community, this would be at the top of my list.
Shopping at its best
Inside the Tate for the first time
Sipping coffee gazing towards St. Paul’s Cathedral
A building almost exactly 100 years older than I am
The epic main hall of the Natural History Museum
Cobwebs and soot
The Union Jack flying
Hidden chapel in Abney Park Cemetery
The Barbican Centre – surprisingly successful Brutalist architecture
From the balcony
Friends from afar
BrugesÂ is officially one of my favorite towns in Europe. It is small, old, clean, well maintained, has windmills and easy access to the sea, and is smack in the middle of a huge area of farm land. We were there for three nights, and I felt that was plenty. On our first full day we rented bicycles from the nearby hostel and rode northwest to Damme on small farm roads. We stopped for lunch on the back patio of a local restaurant, and then rode back into town through the tree tunnels.
On our second day, we walked around town, went on a brewery tour, had lunch in town, and then walked around some more. It was the perfect escape town, and if I lived in Brussels or Amsterdam or even Paris, I can imagine going there for a weekend getaway.
Our lunch spot
Trees & Canals
Tree Tunnel with grassy path
Tree Tunnel with Canal
Tree Tunnel with bike lane and Nik
Our B&B for the weekend
Cast Iron Pots?
A monastery with tree houses
The most ornate elevated train I have ever seen
We went to Antwerp without knowing much about the city, so everything was unexpectedly pleasant! The people were nice. The buildings were beautiful. The food was decent. Basically, it was exactly what I hoped a mid-sized European city would beÂ with the highlight ofÂ Art Deco additions toÂ many of the older stone houses.
Grand corner buildings
Brick & stone
The street of art deco
It seems like this should be more than a car park
Museum Ann de Stroom
Old shopping center
The tunnel at the end of the tram line
Antwerp Train Station