a few weeks before we moved to germany, my dear friend courtney reached out with an email, introducing me to one of her friends who had recently taken the expat plunge and moved w her husband and children to london. courtney is the most thoughtful connector, and in her email said, “y’all don’t really have to be friends – but thought it would be fun to have something in common – 2 wonderful gals who know what’s important in life. pack em up and say YES!!!! to adventures of a lifetime. go girls!!!”
how great is that?
in the midst of packing and moving, i sort of forgot about the email, and didn’t have the time or energy to reply. but i tucked it away in the back of my mind, knowing i would at some point want to reach out and say “hello from germany!” to my potential new friend, amber.
that hello came sooner than i had imagined. our very first night in germany, i was in the midst of a full-fledged anxiety / panic attack, and felt compelled to reach out to amber with a cry of help! i’m so scared! what did we just do? and within a matter of hours, i received the most amazing note of affirmation back. it was a lifeline of support that i SO desperately needed, and a great reminder that we HAD, in fact, done the right thing. she was so thoughtful and full of practical advice, as well as warm words of encouragement. i read and re-read that email about a million times those first weeks.
since then, we’ve become pen pals of sorts – checking in every once in a while with a how’s it going? or your recent trip to ____ looked amazing! amber and her husband sam are similar to wen & me, in that they’re trying to soak up and absorb as much of this adventure as possible. case in point: a few months ago, amber reached out and proposed a “house swap” – the blossoms would come to germany, and the maxeys would travel to the UK. how perfect is that?
which is what led to us showing up on their beautiful doorstep in fulham, fresh from our voyage through the euro tunnel (and still a bit wobbly from our first attempt at driving on the other side of the road – OY!).
the blossoms welcomed us warmly into their gorgeous home, and i was immediately SO thankful we had done this, but SO bummed that they were leaving for germany the next day. if only we had planned our swaps to overlap a bit more than just one evening! but regardless, we had a fun night of getting to know one another, and quickly exchanging tips & insights into each others’ homes and neighborhoods. and in around 12 hours from our arrival, the blossoms were off on an adventure in bavaria, and we were officially starting our journey through london.
the blossoms live in the beautiful, quaint, darling fulham neighborhood, which is just outside the heart of london. just a couple of tube stops away from buckingham palace, and full of sweet little shops and cafes. the PERFECT place for us to pretend we were a little british family for a week.
oh, how i love london. i had a million ideas of things i wanted us to see and do – but once we arrived i realized just the energy of the city itself was enough. we consciously decided to not be overly ambitious on the trip (as we had been in paris), and simply just BE in london. and as we happened to be there during the queen’s jubilee celebration – 60 years on the throne! – the mood and spirit of the city were quite contagious. my mild interest w the monarchy has now developed into full-fledged obsession! LONG LIVE THE QUEEN!
by a stroke of coincidence and luck, our dear friends gary and jason (from portland) were in london the same time as us, so we were able to meet for brunch on our first morning. they of course chose the “posh” wolseley cafe, which was just so perfect. they were off to paris that afternoon, but we tried to convince them to stay another day in london with us! no luck, the macaroons and hermes store were calling their names (understandably!), but it was SO lovely to catch up for a few hours.
after an amazing brunch, we set off to officially kick off our london adventures. a few highlights!
SEEING THE SITES:
we first made our way to “the mall” which is the long road leading towards buckingham palace. with my newfound monarchy obsession, i of course was thinking back to the images of princess kate (sorry, the duchess of cambridge) in that gorgeous sarah burton wedding gown. we made our way to buckingham palace, where piper loved seeing the flag flying, indicating that her majesty was at home. you mean she’s in there now, mom? she lives there? will she come out and say hello? this is the biggest house i’ve ever seen! indeed!
a visit to big ben rounded off our walk, and we ended the afternoon with some frozen yogurt and our first (of many) rides on the london underground (the “tube”). day one: perfection. not a meltdown in sight.
while we were in london we certainly had to have a traditional english breakfast. fluffy eggs on a thick piece of buttery toast piled high with english bacon. GOOD LORD. yes, please.
it was SO fun and festive to see the union jack flags flying everywhere for the jubilee celebration. we didn’t end up attending any of the actual jubilee events (ie: the boats on the river thames, etc), but it was enough to just soak up the energy of the city. there was a true sense of pride and patriotism which was so amazing to experience.
TOWER OF LONDON:
we wandered over to the tower of london one evening, and i was overwhelmed with the sense of history and the magnitude of all that had taken place there. wen & i had done a tour of the tower when we were in london a few years ago, so we didn’t venture inside this time. but simply standing on the banks of the thames, looking at the tower and imagining anne boleyn arriving on that fateful day is just so incredible. it’s so strange and funny to see a number of office buildings and such surrounding the tower grounds, and i wondered if the people who work there are now numb to the incredible moments in history that occurred there, or if it still struck them from time to time.
we spent a morning at kensington palace, which is one of my favorite sites in london. it’s so very beautiful, and i love imagining queen victoria spending her childhood there (not to mention william & harry running around diana’s apartments!).
one of my very favorite moments of the trip was an afternoon that piper & i spent in covent garden. i love this part of london to a point of obsession – wen & bitty were with us for the first part of the afternoon, and wen lost track of the amount of times i said, look at that store! look at that street! wait, i need a picture of this! seriously obsessed. the heart of covent garden is called “seven dials,” which is a little junction where seven of the CUTEST, MOST FREAKING ADORABLE AND AMAZING streets intersect. piper & i made our way up & down each of those seven streets, and stopped only for afternoon tea at the covent garden hotel. it was so sweet how my sassy girl transformed into a “proper british young lady” while we were at tea – at one point she said, this is a very lovely scone and i smiled and agreed. yes, it was perfectly lovely.
hands down, best part of the trip was seeing the lion king with piper. not only did i love the show myself, but watching piper’s face throughout the performance was just priceless. i grew up with broadway, and i love that piper has inherited this love of the theater. i love seeing her expressions and her joy and excitement. i love that after every song she would turn to me and say, “there’s more, right?” and light up when i said, “yep!” it was truly one of those perfect, perfect, inexplicable moments where i just felt so beyond happy to be exactly right there, in that place and with that amazing young girl sitting by my side.
MY PERFECT LONDON AFTERNOON:
on our last full day in london, i took advantage of the time that wen & the girls were napping and i jumped on the tube and took to the streets to wander and window shop. i hit the london shopping trifecta of selfridges, harvey nics and harrods, and threw in a stop at liberty for good measure. these stores are like the london equivalent of new york’s barneys, bergdorfs and bendels. just complete and total eye-candy. i literally could have spent DAYS at selfridges and liberty. in every little corner there is something beautiful or clever or covetable. i didn’t spend a dime but walked away completely fulfilled and inspired. my absolutely favorite section was the ‘yellow shop’ at selfridges. any of my close friends know that i have a love affair with yellow, so this was truly a little slice of perfection for me. i wanted EVERYTHING, but was truly content to just wander and take a million pictures and soak it all in.
after 6 days in london, it was time to pack it all up and head home. i was heartbroken to leave. i know i say this about a lot of the cities we visit, but i could truly see us living in london one day. wen loves is just as much as me, so you never know … the maxey gypsies will go wherever god and the wind blow us, so perhaps one day those breezes will float us right across the pond. but in the meantime, we’ll enjoy these little slices of london when we can get them.
we packed up the car, turned the key in the lock of that gorgeous townhouse one last time, waved goodbye to london and started our journey back home.