Brides & Wedding Traditions From Around the World

#letthemeatcake

June is  wedding season, so…

Catherdral of Toledo-8227

I’ve been married for 16 years, but the romantic in me still gets excited when I see a bride, and for some reason even more so when I’m traveling! Maybe because someone once told me it’s good luck to see a bride? Or because I still remember how happy I was on my wedding day and I’m reminded of those feelings? Or maybe because I know what’s coming… ha ha!

#stlouiscathedral

Wedding traditions vary from country to country, but apparently the lure of the white dress is universal, as I’ve seen them everywhere from New Orleans, Louisiana to Tokyo, Japan!

#sunsettoledospain

I always try to snap a photo when I see brides, and the following photos are collected from the past few years of travel. Please do keep in mind that these photos are usually taken from a distance, a moving car, or a hotel window, as I wasn’t actually invited to any of these weddings. Along with the photos I’ve included some fun facts and wedding traditions from around the globe. Of course I’m including my own wedding photo… Let’s hope all these lovely couples are still as happily married as I am!

Toledo, Spain

This photo was taken in 2015 at Ayuntamiento Plaza just outside the Catherdral of Toledo, one of the more beautiful cathedrals I’ve ever visited. Toledo is known as the City of Three Cultures, which includes Muslims, Christians and Jews.

#toldeobride

Popular in many parts of the world Spanish brides also throw their boquets with the idea that the one to catch it will be the next to marry.  A Spanish variation on the same theme is to pin an upsidedown corsage on unmarried female guests. If the corsage is lost during the festivities that lucky lady will be the next to marry!

Tokyo, Japan

This photo was taken in 2014 during breakfast in lobby of the Tokyo Penninsula Hotel. It was quite early in the morning, so I was somewhat surprised to hear wedding music and then see a bride appear, but I got this picture just as she was almost out of sight!

#penninsulahoteltokyo

Quick Change

In Japan the bride will often wear multiple outfits during the ceremony and reception, as many as four, sometimes ending with a western style party gown, which signifies her return to everyday life. Guests at a Japanese wedding will give gifts of money to the bride and groom in small paper packets called mizuhiki.

London, England

I took this photo in 2013 during one of our many visits to London. We had just finished the Tower Bridge Experience, which by the way is a fascinating attraction! This seems like a lovely, although crowded, place for wedding photos.

#towerbridgebride

Royal Icing

Many of today’s most popular white wedding traditions can be attributed to Queen Victoria. It was Queen Victoria’s wedding cake, that first used the icing known today as “royal” icing. Hence the name royal… I love that!

Paris, France

This shot was taken in 2016 outside Notre Dame de Paris just after we climbed to the top!

Paris France

After our 2016 visit to La Madeleine, a beautiful church commissioned by Napoleon, I decided to take a quick lap around the building, and came upon this lovely bridal couple!

#lamadeleine

Wedding Cake

A croquembouche is a tower of delicious cream filled pastries held together with delicate strings of caramel. These delicious towers are often served at a French wedding. I read that the idea originates from guests bringing small cakes and other treats to wedding celebrations and piling them high on the table.

Amsterdam, Holland, The Netherlands

Having only just arrived in Amsterdam during our 2016 Europe trip, we were on our way to the hotel when I looked out and saw this bridal party! Our taxi was speeding past and I stuck my camera out the window!

#amsterdambride

Bridal Showers

A popular tradition in the United States, the bridal shower originated in Holland. When a Dutch bride’s family was too poor to provide a dowry, or if the father did not approve of the match her friends would “shower” her with gifts that were often included in the dowry.

#dutchweddingclogs
Traditional Dutch Wedding Clogs

Belfast, Northern Ireland

This photo was taken during our 2016 visit to Belfast, from inside the Titanic Belfast Museum, which is apparently a popular wedding venue. We loved our visit to this museum, and what an amazing backdrop!

Belfast Northern Ireland

A traditional Irish wedding toast:

“Friends and relatives, so fond and dear, ’tis our greatest pleasure to have you here. When many years this day has passed, fondest memories will always last. So we drink a cup of Irish mead and ask God’s blessing in your hour of need.”

The guests respond: “On this special day, our wish to you, the goodness of the old, the best of the new. God bless you both who drink this mead, may it always fill your every need.“

New Orleans, Lousiana

This photo of a Second Line Parade was taken from my hotel window in 2016 at the Omni Royal Hotel on Royal Street in the French Quarter!

#nolabride

Weddings in New Orleans have a special added flare, especially weddings in the French Quarter! The Bride and groom might arrive at their reception via horse drawn carriage, or by leading a second line parade preceded by a jazz band! Now that’s making an entrance!

Second Line Parade

Staying the French Quarter is always interesting, and no matter night or day, you never know what you might see when you look out your window!

#secondlineparadenola

While second line parades stem from African American jazz funerals they have evolved to become part of many celebrations in New Orleans. The second line parade at a wedding signifies the befinning of the new life between the bride and groom. Don’t be surprised if you see one these cheerful wedding parades leading the entire wedding, guests and all, from the church to the reception.

This photo was taken during our 2015 visit from my hotel window at the Hyatt French Quarter in 2015.

#nolawedding

Ribbon Pulling

While I haven’t seen the ribbon pulling tradition in action, I find the idea fascinating. Similar in tradition to the bride tossing her boquet the cake’s frosting has “meaningful” charms hidden within, each one attached to a ribbon. Female guests pull the ribbons to find out their future fate. You might pull out the heart signifying true love, but then again you may get the button, symbolic for old maid…

Costa Mesa, California

This photo was taken just the other day while the boys and I were running errands and enjoying treats from Susie Cakes at the South Coast Plaza Mall. While I don’t think I would chose this location for my wedding photos, I always enjoy seeing a happy wedding party!

#southcoastplazamall

Did you know?

Los Angeles is the most popular city in California to get married? Popular wedding trends in the Golden State include eco-friendly ideas, rustic chic, farm fresh to table fare, and free form flower boquets.

Speaking of flowers… fellow blogger, Katy from Untold Morsels, had her wedding flowers wrapped up and gifted to her guests at the end of the reception! That’s a wedding favor I’d like to have, and eco-friendly too!

Seattle

This is a picture of my wedding photo because apparently I didn’t see the future of digital, and I turned down a cd with my wedding photos on it… hindsight is truly 20/20.

#seattlebride

If I had to do it over again, I’m only talking about the wedding folks, I might like to have a destination wedding! Maybe in one of these amazing places, or maybe I’d do everything exactly the same… Anyway… if you’re wondering, our wedding and reception took place in Downtown Seattle in the atrium of one of Tim’s favorite buildings, what can I say he’s an architect. Some of the traditions we included: Something old, new, borrowed and blue, a first dance, and cutting and eating the cake together.

#seattlebride


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#weddingtraditions

Highlights… & Hindsights Making The Case for Repeat Destinations

I’m currently, ok always, considering my next vacation destination, and with so many amazing places in the world it’s hard to decide. Should we commit those precious vacation days to repeat destinations, digging deeper into what a city has to offer? If we do, what about all those wonderful new places just waiting to be discovered?

#jardindestuileries
Sailing ships! A highlight of our Paris visit!

When traveling, I’m torn between wanting to wing it and not wanting to miss anything, which definitely helps makes the case for repeat visits to certain destinations. For example, our recent trips to Paris, London, and Edinburgh were all repeat visits, we’d already checked off many of the main attractions, which enabled us to explore more freely. One point for repeat visits!

#bigben
Our tour of the Houses of Parliament was a definite highlight!

That said, one of my favorite things about traveling is the discovery of the new. The surprise and delight you feel when discovering something wonderful in a new place simply can’t be beat! These moments are one of the reasons I love to travel, the highlights of our adventures! One point for new destinations!

#arthursseat
We missed out on Arthur’s Seat during our first visit to Edinburgh.

However, being new to a place can at times be a hindrance. No matter how much research I’ve done, there are times when things don’t go quite as planned. Whether it’s accommodations, location, food, or timing, these are what I like to refer to as the hindsights of our adventure. These are things one can only know after time spent and often it’s too late… Another point for repeat destinations.

#brugge
This view from our hotel window in Bruges was a highlight!

Of course not everywhere has a hindsight and some places are just plain full of surprise and delight. I love surprise and delight! Looks like another point for new destinations!

Northern Ireland Antrim Coast
Flying to Glasgow from Belfast we were treated to this fabulous view!

So, it looks like a tie between old and new, which means I’m no closer to working out where in the world, we’ll go next, but in the meantime, here are some of the highlights and hindsights from our summer 2016 adventures in Europe!

Highlights & Hindsights

Dublin, Ireland

Highlight: Guinness Factory Tour

There were many wonderful moments during our visit to Dublin, however it was our visit to the Guinness Storehouse that came out as number one! Which speaks volumes, since I don’t even drink beer. All four of us absolutely loved this experience and if you should find yourself in Dublin I highly recommend you go.

#guinnessstorehouse

Hindsight: Popular attractions require advance planning

Our planned a visit to the  Kilmainham Gaol Museum went awry when we couldn’t print our tickets and unfortunately we missed out. We ended up visiting Malahide Castle instead, which was delightful, but lesson learned.

Cork, Ireland

Highlight:  The Blarney Stone

For more than 200 years people have been kissing the Blarney Stone and after some debate (it is the world’s germiest attraction) Simon and I decided to join the club!

Cork Blarney Castle
The Blarney Stone

Hindsight: Touristy doesn’t always equal bad

If only we’d known how much we were going to enjoy exploring Blarney Castle, we would have given ourselves more time.

Killarney, Ireland

Highlight: Killarney National Park

We spent three nights in Killarney, the gateway to the Ring of Kerry and the perfect little Irish town! Quaint, friendly and picturesque, it was exactly what I had pictured an Irish town to look like!

Killarney Ireland
Ross Castle is located inside Killarney National Park

Hindsights: Whoops, attention to detail is key!

Putting the wrong fuel in our rental car meant a drastic change in our plans. Instead of a visit to the Dingle Peninsula and Skellig Michal we spent a lovely day wandering in  Killarney National Park. If I ever find my way back to the west of Ireland a trip to the Skellig Islands will be my first order of business!

Limerick, Ireland

Highlight: King John’s Castle

We weren’t sure what to expect at King Johns’ Castle, but I do love a good castle and we had to stop for lunch anyway so why not just eat lunch at the castle?

#kingjohnscastle
King John’s Castle

Hindsight: There was none!

This was a bonus stop on our way to Galway, and we were delighted with the way this midday stop turned out!

Galway, Ireland

Highlight: The Cliffs of Moher

The spectacular Cliffs of Moher are a definite must-see if you’re visiting the West Coast of the Emerald Isle.

ireland cliffs of moher
The Cliffs of Moher

Hindsight: Allow time for unexpected adventures

There is a walk along the cliff tops , but we were running out of daylight and weren’t really dressed for a hike, so we satisfied ourselves with a good long look over the edge.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Highlight: Everything about the entire visit

Our visit to the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland was by far the best day of our 12 day tour of the Emerald Isle, if not our entire summer abroad!

#dark Hedges

Hindsight: We should have stayed longer.

Having no idea how much we would enjoy our visit we only booked three nights, but easily could have spent twice that many exploring Belfast as well as the amazing natural beauty along the Northern Coast.

Glasgow, Scotland

Highlight: Mural Trail

A very happy accident, we discovered Glasgow’s Mural trail on our way to another destination!

#hiphopmarionettes

Hindsight: Glasgow deserves more time!

Two days just wasn’t enough in this walk friendly city brimming with architecture, art, music, and shopping!

Inverness, Scotland

Highlight: Urquhart Castle on the Shores of Loch Ness

Having missed out on a visit to Loch Ness on our previous trip to the Highlands, we decided to make it a priority. A highlight was exploring the ancient ruins of Urquhart Castle, located on the shores of the lake.

#urquhartcastle

Hindsight: So much more than a monster!

Our visit here was wonderful and exceeded our expectations in every way.

The Highlands of Scotland

Highlight: Eileen Donan Castle

A last minute decision to see Eileen Donan Castle did not disappoint. It’s no wonder that Eilean Donan is the most photographed castle in Scotland, it’s setting in the middle of three lochs is stunning!

#eileandonanbagpiper

Hindsight: The Isle of Skye

There is never enough time in this magical country. We got a small taste of what the Isle of Skye has to offer and I’m definitely going back for more!

Edinburgh, Scotland

Highlight: Everything

Have you ever visited a place that felt so right, so special that it was almost painful to leave? Love at first sight? That’s exactly how I felt about Edinburgh from the very first moment.

#edinburgh

Hindsight: I’ve realized my Edinburgh list will never be completed

Although we didn’t have time to go inside the Writers Museum, we did spend time in the courtyard reading the tiles, which are inscribed with lovely quotes written by some of the city’s most famous writers. All of them about Edinburgh of course!

Hadrian’s Wall

Highlight: A dream come true

I know that for some, what basically amounts to a crumbling brick wall in the middle of nowhere England might not be interesting, but for me, a history loving anglophile, this was an absolute dream come true!

#hadrianswall

Hindsight: Walk the Wall Hike

It’s quite popular to “walk” the Wall and I would have liked to, at least for a little while, but serious rain was threatening and after a few minutes the boys abandoned me for the shelter of the Housestead’s Museum.

York, England

Highlight: York Minster

It made sense that the center piece of York, York Minster, the largest medieval Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, would be our first stop. We were not disappointed!

#yorkminster

Hindsight: There wasn’t one!

The rain fell hard and steadily during our visit, but thankfully we still managed to enjoyed this lovely city.

Nottingham, England

Highlight: THE Nottingham!

Yes, that Nottingham, home of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men!

#robinhoodnottingham

Hindsight: Sometimes the weather wins

Sadly, extremely heavy rain put us off from a visit to Sherwood Forest.

London, England

Highlight: Camden Market

My highlight is also a hindsight!  I can’t believe the Camden Market wasn’t already on my radar, It’s right up my alley and reminds me a lot of Venice Beach, California. Fun & quirky!

#camdenlock

Hindsight: Top of the Shard

With my love of photography, I regret that I didn’t take the time to visit the observation deck at the Shard. Greenwich is also high on my list for next time…

Brugge, Belgium

Highlight: Beautiful Medieval Town

I was delighted by the incredible beauty of Brugge, a quaint little medieval town. I immediately fell in love and spent the better part of my three days there taking endless photos.

Bruges Canal

Hindsight: Why didn’t we eat more chocolate?

The question is: With endless chocolate shops around every corner, why didn’t we visit more of them? I’m afraid that’s a question, I’ll never know the answer to.

Ghent, Belgium

Highlight: Graffiti Street

Wanting to see something a bit off the beaten path and big fans of street art, we were excited to learn that Ghent has a dedicated graffiti street called Werregaren straat. We really enjoyed this and loved the idea of a dedicated place where anyone can express themselves freely.

#wergeranstraat

Hindsight: Maybe next time…

Elliot really wished we’d had a can of spray paint or two, so he could contribute.

Amsterdam, Holland The Netherlands

Highlight: Everything about our visit!

A lovely and walkable city with no shortage of interesting sights and streets to wander we made the most of every minute of our visit in Amsterdam.

#nightcanal

Hindsight: We visited Amsterdam and didn’t ride a boat or a bike, what?!

We made the most of every moment while visiting this fabulous city, but still ran out of time before ever stepping onto a boat, or peddling a bike. We did see some windmills though! If I had to do it over again I would stay on a houseboat!

Zaans Schans, Holland

Highlight: Windmills

I felt I couldn’t visit Holland without seeing at least one windmill up close and personal! I know, I know, that’s a very touristy thing to do, but hey, sometimes I’m a tourist!

#zaanseschans

Hindsight: Why didn’t we rent bikes here?

If we ever find our way back to this wonderful place we will be sure to rent bikes. The wide pathways and lovely scenery would make for a perfect bike ride!

Paris, France

Highlight: Sainte Chapelle

As I emerged from the doorway into the main part of the chapel my mouth literally fell open. I was completely surrounded by jaw dropping beauty. How did I not know about this amazing place?

#saintechapelle

Hindsight: Accommodations

While there wasn’t really anything wrong with our hotel, I’ve yet to really hit the nail on the head as far as Paris lodgings go… hopefully next time!

Versailles, France

Highlight: Marie Antoinette’s Gardens

My favorite part of the day was our visit to the Petit Trianon, the home away from home of Marie Antoinette, who apparently wasn’t so enamored with the main Palace and preferred to spend her time elsewhere.

#petittrianon

Hindsight: An evening visit might have been better

We should have considered going later in the afternoon for the musical fountains show and evening fireworks. We might have been able to beat the crowds, and the heat.

London, England

Highlight: Hyde Park

London’s parks are the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon just like the locals do! They are beautiful, vast and filled with activities for every interest.

#serpentinepavilion2016

Hindsight: Do we really have to go home?

Even after six weeks of travel, I wasn’t ready to go home.

Nothing makes me happier than discovering new places with my family and sharing them with all of you!


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London: An Afternoon in Kensington

#kensingtonhilarystyle

#southkensingtonAfter Six weeks of travel our amazing adventures through Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, were coming to an end, and it was time to head home, but not before one last hurrah! What better way to end the trip of a lifetime, than strolling around in my number one favorite city: London!

#kensingtonhilarystyle

Wanting to explore somewhere new, we chose Kensington, not only was it a neighborhood I hadn’t spent much time in, but we had an early flight back to the States and its proximity to Heathrow was a big plus. Our hotel, The Kensington, was walking distance to Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, the Museum of Natural History, High Street, and many other interesting sights and restaurants!

#herefordarms

Speaking of restaurants, arriving, from Paris, just in time for lunch we discovered the Hereford Arms, a friendly  pub and restaurant with excellent service and even better food. I had the best tarter sauce I’ve ever had there, and after weeks traveling throughout the UK, thats saying a lot! Seriously!

After lunch we walked up and down High Street enjoying the beautiful flower arrangements, poking in and out of the various shops and galleries and stopping to take photos. Our little one had recently discovered he actually enjoys reading, so we picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone for the flight home.

Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens

#princealbertmemorialWanting to make the most of our very last day, Simon and I decided to explore Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, which were walking distance from our hotel and are conveniently connected to one another.  London’s parks are the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon just like the locals do! They are beautiful, vast and filled with activities for every interest.

#royalalberthall

We wandered through the parks taking photos, hunting Pokemon, and stopping along the way to admire The Albert Memorial, Royal Albert Hall and the interactive Peter Pan Statue.

#princealbertmemorial

One of my favorite things to see is the Serpentine Gallery, but in past visits my boys have enjoyed both the Princess Diana Memorial Playground and Diana Memorial Fountain.

The fountain was an especially big hit as the day we visited it was quite a warm afternoon, however the playground’s Peter Pan theme is really charming. Who wouldn’t want to take the helm of a giant pirate ship, hang out in a tee pee , or play sentry on the walls of a fort!

The Serpentine Gallery

#serpentinepavilion2016As I mentioned I really enjoy, the Serpentine Gallery and our  first stop within the Park was the Gallery’s Summer Pavilion installation. If you haven’t had a chance to see this, I highly recommend it! The exhibition is different each year, and showcases the designs of up and coming architects via the building of unique and temporary structures located within the Park. This was my second visit to see this exhibition and if given the opportunity I would go every year! Depending on the year’s design, visitors can go and in and out, enjoy drinks and snacks, and even climb onto the structure. While most years the exhibition features only one structure, this year’s featured some smaller buildings as well.

#serpentinepavilion2016

Highlights and Tips:

  • The many activities within the park differ depending on the time of year, so consider repeat visits.
  • Admission to The Serpentine Gallery is free.
  • The Pavilion Exhibition is a summer installation and changes every year. Check the website for the most current information.
  • Kids 12 and under can enjoy the Peter Pan themed Diana Memorial Playground with adult supervision.
  • Go ahead and dip your feet into the Diana Memorial Fountain. Its permitted!
  • The Peter Pan statue is interactive, so consider bringing a smart device.
  • Did you know you can take a guided tour of the Albert Memorial?
  • Kensington is a great place to stay if you have an early morning flight out of Heathrow.
#
Until next time, London…

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Would you like directions to all these fabulous places? Why not take me with you! you can download this and other fun hilarystyle articles using the GPSmyCity app!

#gpsmycityhilarystyle

 

Three Days in London Family Style

around-london-4655

No matter how many days we allow for London, it’s never enough, and our most recent visit was no different. I’m not sure what I was thinking when planning our itinerary, but somehow we ended up with only three full days*. I did however manage to plan the visit over my birthday, and what better way to celebrate than time in my favorite city! As always, I was on a mission to see as many new things as we could while still fitting in some old favorites, and I think we did a pretty good job of making the most of our time.

#londonstreetart
Street art in London’s Chinatown

Arriving in the late afternoon after a long drive from York, and having had nothing to eat other than a light lunch during our stop in Nottingham, we were ready for an early dinner! Not in the mood for our usual wander, we decided on a repeat for dinner, Plum Valley in Chinatown. We’ve been here three times now and it never disappoints. Afterwards we walked around the neighborhood while eating our dessert, Tayaki, which are little fish shaped cakes filled with cream. Yum!

Day One

The Victoria & Albert Museum

#v&amuseum

Happy Birthday to me! Choosing our itinerary for the entire day with no objections from the peanut gallery was my birthday gift. I chose a museum and shopping! The Victoria & Albert Museum, or the V&A, was our first stop. I won’t lie and say the boys enjoyed the Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear exhibit, but as a lover of fashion I sure did! There are many things to see and do at the world’s leading museum of art and design and there was no way we would see it all in one visit, but we spent most of the morning trying.

#v&Amuseum

Carnaby Street

#carnabystreet

If like me, you’re a shopper, you’ll love Carnaby Street! Located in the West End, Carnaby Street is part of a larger collection of 13 streets lined with shops, restaurants and bars. The iconic Union Jack hanging high above and the fun vibe of the area make this a favorite shopping destination. I love wandering in and out of all the shops, many of which are one of a kind. Like many places in a city as old as London, Carnaby Street has a long history dating back to 1682! The place to be in the 60s, 80s and still to this day!

Covent Garden

#coventgarden

Another great London destination is Covent Garden located on the edge of the West End. We usually find ourselves here at least once every visit and with beautiful architecture, street performers, entertainment, theater, shopping, museums and more you can’t go wrong. There is always something to see or do!

Corinithia Hotel Cocoa

#corinthiacocoaWhile we don’t always stay at The Corinthia, we never pass up a chance for Corinthia cocoa in the lobby! A nice alternative to traditional tea, though they have that too, we’ve taken to sitting down in the Corinthia’s lovely lobby for a relaxing cup of cocoa at least once every visit and sometimes more…

Day Two

Crosstown Donuts

We stumbled across this yummy place, and loved it so much we found ourselves back the very next day. The cinnamon rolls were my favorite! Alas there are no photos, as we ate them up too quickly for pictures!

The Changing of the Guard

#changingoftheguard

In what turned out to be a very happy accident we got off at the wrong Underground stop just in time to see the Queen’s soldiers marching down the street on their way back from the Changing of the Guard! Super neat! Not one for standing around trying to see over the very tall person that always stands in front of me, we’d never even bothered to try and see the guard ceremony before. I highly recommend seeing it via happy accident!

The Royal Mews

#goldstatecoach

The Royal Mews is responsible for the transport of the Queen and other members of the royal family via horse drawn carriage and motor car. Unfortunately we just missed the guided tour, but found the 45 minute audio guide to be quite adequate and enjoyed moving along at our own pace. During the visit you’ll be able to view many of the carriages including the Scottish and Irish State coaches, the Diamond Jubilee Coach, and the Gold State Coach,  as well as motor cars, and even some of the Queens horses.

Camden Town

#camdenlock

Camden Town a popular North London neighborhood reminds me a lot of Venice Beach, California. Fun & quirky! Shops filled with everything imaginable line the streets, from mainstream brands to vintage treasures. Camden Market is a maze of wonderful stalls and shops filled to the brim with tasty treats, funky art, clothing, toys, housewares and so much more! Somehow this popular neighborhood has managed to keep it’s “off the beaten path” feel, while at the same time making itself completely accessible to everyone!

Leicester Square

As is often the case in London, it was quite a rainy day, and in the late afternoon when the rains came back with a vengeance we decided a movie in Leicester Square would be the perfect thing! Leicester Square is the heart of British Cinema, much like Hollywood in California, and many European movie premiers take place here. We’ve been to movies here before and we love the reserved seating, which has only recently come to America.

Dozo Sushi

#dozosushi

The perfect way to end our day, we had a delicious dinner at Dozo Sushi, in Soho, where both the food and service were excellent. The restaurant was packed and without a reservation we felt lucky to get a table.

#dozosushi

Day Three

The Houses of Parliament Tour

#westminsterpalace

Waking up on the last day of our visit to London, we had big plans! A tour of Westminster Palace and the Houses of Parliament was first on the list! I was pretty excited about finally getting a peek inside this historic and important place. While on the 90 minute tour you’ll be treated to 1000 years of history, modern politics, and amazing art and architecture. I absolutely loved this experience, our guide was so knowledgeable and funny and the interior spaces were so beautiful I was in awe of my surroundings the entire time.

The Borough Market

#marketporter

The sun was shinning bright, so after our amazing tour of Parliament  we set off for a walk along the River Thames and ended up at The Borough Market in Southwark. After exploring the stalls and vendors we grabbed lunch at the Market Porter, a famous Public House with an upstairs restaurant which overlooks the Market. We all enjoyed our food very much. For more information and even more photos of this awesome neighborhood check out 24 Hours In London!

London Bridge

#towerbridge

Taking advantage of the continued sunshine we decided to keeping walking along the river crossing the famous London Bridge where we stopped to take photos of Tower Bridge!

#londonbridge

The Tower of London

#toweroflondon

If you follow my blog, then you know that The Tower of London is probably one of my favorite places on earth and I can’t imagine a visit to London without stopping there! It’s absolutely on my must not miss list! A very family friendly place with ever changing exhibits I love that each time we go there is something new to see. This time we enjoyed the Crowns of the Past exhibit and the room replicas of the Medieval Palace dating back to the times of Edward I and Henry III.

Imli Street

#imlistreet

Just as we were exiting the Tower the sky opened up and we made a mad dash for a taxi back to our hotel. It was time to pack for our next destination, (Bruges!) but we did find time for a lovely, but spicy, Indian dinner at Imli Street in Soho.

Nadler Soho

#nadlersoho

During our visit we stated at the Nadler Soho, which was conveniently located and walking distance to many places.

*We did get one extra day just before our return trip to the United States, but more on that later…

London: Houses of Parliament Tour

#westminsterpalace

#westminsterpalaceWaking up on the last day of our most recent visit to London, we had big plans! A tour of Westminster Palace and the Houses of Parliament! We’d walked by and photographed this iconic and historic building on many occasions, but we’d never been inside.

#parliamenttour
View of the London Eye and Big Ben from the security line

Embracing the idea that guided tours are a good thing and always up for visiting another palace I signed us up! I was pretty excited about finally getting a peek inside. In fact our visit to this historic and important place was a highlight of our entire six week adventure!

Houses of Parliament London

Guided tours of the Houses of Parliament are available on most Saturdays and on weekdays when Parliament is in recess. The tours are timed and I highly suggest arriving slightly before your scheduled time, as the check-in and security lines can be long. If you find yourselves with some time to spare before your tour you can enjoy a coffee in the onsite cafe and have a look around the gift shop.

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While on the 90 minute tour you’ll be treated to 1000 years of history, modern politics, and amazing art and architecture. Highlights include visiting both the Lord’s and Common’s Chambers, the Queen’s Robing Room and the Royal Gallery.

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You’ll meet your guide in Westminster Hall, one of the few places photos are allowed, and proceed to walk quickly through the entire building, catching only glimpses of all the amazing art and ornate decor, before finally stopping at the other end where the tour will officially start. Don’t worry, you’ll be walking back at a much slower pace and will be able to enjoy the amazing artwork of kings, queens and politicians of past and present while you listen to your guide tell you their history.

#bigben

I absolutely loved this experience, our guide was so knowledgeable and funny and the interior spaces were so beautiful I was in awe of my surroundings the entire visit.  Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one who loved this activity, all three of my boys loved it too!

Photo opportunities were very limited, but I managed to get in a few snaps!

Westminster Hall

St. Stephen’s Hall & New Dawn Stained Glass

The Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben

London: Camden Town

London is by far my favorite city and though I’ve visited many wonderful cities and my wish list of yet to see places is long, I do believe I’d throw any of them over for a chance to go back to London. Just say when!

#camdenlockEven with multiple visits under my belt there is no shortage of interesting new places to see and explore. One such place was Camden Town a popular North London neighborhood I learned about while reading Dannii Jane’s blog, A Beautiful Thing. In hindsight I can’t believe this place wasn’t already on my radar! It’s right up my alley and reminds me a lot of Venice Beach, California. Fun & quirky!

#camdentown

The moment you get out of the Tube Station it’s clear this is a neighborhood unlike any other. Shops filled with everything imaginable line the streets, from mainstream brands to vintage treasures. Many of them have unique store fronts and are offering deep discounts and bargain prices.

#camdenmarket

Keep walking and you’ll come to Camden Market a maze of wonderful stalls and shops filled to the brim with tasty treats, funky art, clothing, toys, housewares and so much more! Somehow this popular neighborhood has managed to keep it’s “off the beaten path” feel, while at the same time making itself completely accessible to everyone!

Wandering the stalls we found many treasures, but with limited space in our carry on suitcases and three weeks of travel ahead of us we restricted ourselves to window shopping and picking up books at a lovely little used book shop, which would be perfect for our upcoming train travel to Belgium.

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Our suitcases may have been full, but our bellies were empty and there’s always room for food! With many food options in the Market and communal seating in the center area, each of us was able to get the meal we wanted.

#poppies

Simon and I went for Poppies award winning fish and chips, while Elliot chose Chinese food and Tim got an Honest Burger. The item we were most excited about, after seeing photos on Dannii Jane’s blog, was the cocoa from Chin Chin Labs. The giant marshmallow did not disappoint and of course we had to try the nitro ice cream too!

#chinchinlabs

I absolutely loved our day out in Camden Town and it is definitely going on my London repeat list along with some of my other favorite places: The Tower of London, Southwark, and cocoa at the Corinthia Hotel!

London: The Royal Mews

#diamondjubileecoach

#royalmewsLooking for a family friendly activity on a rainy London day? You might consider the Royal Mews located just next to Buckingham Palace! Having visited London a number of times over the years we’d already checked off many of the city’s main tourist attractions, and found ourselves unable to agree on an activity. I settled on the Royal Mews as we’d never been before, in fact, not exactly sure what a mews was, it hadn’t really ever been a contender.

#royalmews

#royalmews

I have to admit even with my love of all things royal, I still wasn’t sure I was all that interested in what seemed to be a stable of some sort, but Elliot loves animals, its part of Buckingham Palace and it would be something new. I’m so glad we went!

As I mentioned it was raining, so after ducking into Crosstown Doughnuts in SoHo for a quick bite we set off for the Royal Mews via the underground. In what turned out to be a very happy accident we got off at the wrong stop just in time to see the Queen’s soldiers marching down the street on their way back from the Changing of the Guard! Super neat!

#changingoftheguardNot one for parades or standing around trying to see over the very tall person that always stands in front of me in large crowds, we’d never even bothered to try and see the guard ceremony before, so another first! I highly recommend seeing it via happy accident!

#changingoftheguard

The Royal Mews is responsible for the transport of the Queen and other members of the royal family via horse drawn carriage and motor car. Unfortunately we just missed the guided tour, but found the 45 minute audio guide to be quite adequate and enjoyed moving along at our own pace. During the visit you’ll be able to view many of the carriages including the Scottish and Irish State coaches, the Diamond Jubilee Coach, and the Gold State Coach,  as well as motor cars, and even some of the Queens horses.

The Scottish State Coach

Built in 1830 the Scottish State Coach and is used only periodically. The Queen used it to carry her to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

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The Irish State Coach

The Irish State Coach’s main use is to carry the monarch to the State Opening of Parliament.

London England

The Diamond Jubilee Coach

The Diamond Jubilee Coach was first used in 2014 to celebrate’s the Queen’s Diamond jubilee celebration. Not only is this a beautiful coach, but I was fascinated to learn that the coach is made from over 100 donated items from Britain’s historic sites, including 10 Downing Street, The Mary Rose (Henry VIII’s flagship), and a British lead musket ball from the Battle of Waterloo.

#diamond Jubilee Coach

The Gold State Coach

The Gold State Coach was commissioned in 1762 and has been used in every coronation since George IV. Due to its size and weight it requires 8 horses to pull it.

#royalmews

 

Royal Motor Cars

All of the state and semi-state cars are painted claret and black.

About halfway along the tour you’ll find a lovely little children’s room where we stopped to do a craft and play a children’s game. During our visit we learned that the Queen names all the horses herself and that the employees both live and work at the Mews. Making it not just a place of work, but a community as well.

I highly recommend a visit to the Royal Mews we all really enjoyed ourselves, and of course seeing all those horse drawn carriages really appealed to me, I won’t lie I was digging the whole fairly tale thing…

Practical Information

#royalmewsgiftshop

The visit takes place both indoors and out, so jackets are a good idea, but is entirely sheltered from the weather making it a great option for a rainy day. Keep in mind there is airport style security, (it is part of Buckingham Palace after all) so the less stuff you bring with you the quicker you’ll get through security. There isn’t any food or drink allowed, or for sale, but there is a lovely gift shop at the end which I enjoyed quite a bit!

Along The Way… Nottingham

#robinhoodstatueUnfamiliar with the Midlands of England and looking for a place to stop along the way between York and London we went with the one city name on the map that stood out from all the rest, Nottingham. Yes, that Nottingham, home of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men!

Nottingham, England

ALONG THE WAY FROM York to London

138 KM FROM York

#robinhoodnottinghamI was delighted to discover that there truly is a Sherwood Forest, A Nottingham Castle and even a Sherif of Nottingham! Sadly, heavy rain put us off from a visit to Sherwood Forest, but wanting to learn more we decided on a visit to the Castle where we also grabbed a bite to eat and picked up books about Robin Hood in the Castle gift shop. 

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Though whether or not Robin Hood was a real person is up for debate, there is no doubt that the city of Nottingham and the surrounding areas have proudly taken this character to heart with many roads as well as other places bearing his name and that of other popular names related to his legend. We got a real kick out of seeing Maid Marian Way and Friar Lane on the GPS!

#nottinghamgps

Too rainy for anything more, we set out, and besides, London was calling!

24 hours in York

#york

#yorkWhen deciding which cities to visit while in England this summer, York, an ancient walled city, seemed like a perfect choice. Though not a big city, with 2000 years of history behind it, there’s plenty to see. Although the rain was heavier than normal during our visit we still managed fit in quite a bit and really enjoyed our visit.

The York Minster

#yorkminsterHaving learned my lesson about the unpredictability of opening hours (see Seville and Toledo) when visiting houses of worship, it made sense that the center piece of York, York Minster, the largest medieval Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, would be our first stop. The current Minster is 800 years old, but the site itself dates back a few millennia! The Minster dominates the city skyline and is viewable from just about everywhere in the city.

Upon arrival we found that the Minster was open (phew!), however there was a special event taking place during our visit. The Mystery Plays, which tell the story of creation and good vs. evil are a York tradition dating back 700 years, but have only been performed in the York minster twice! The knave (the longest in England) was transformed into a giant 1,000 seat auditorium. I loved learning about the Minster’s impressive stained glass and the exhibit’s interactive exhibits were fascinating.

Another favorite was the Undercroft, a museum in the basement of the Minster, which explained not just the history of the Minster, but York as well. The ancient Roman Emperor, Constantine, was crowned while visiting York and you can see the very spot where it took place. Since we had recently visited Hadrian’s Wall It was fun to see it mentioned on the Museum’s timeline of history. There were many interactive exhibits, films and artifacts to look at and all four of us found something of interest.

York EnglandI highly recommend climbing the Central Tower, which provides amazing views of the city and Minster in every direction. Keep in mind there is a separate charge for the Central Tower and the visit is timed. Younger children are free, but still need a ticket.

Walking the Walls of York

york-england-4389A visit to York wouldn’t be complete without a walk along the city’s walls, which surround the original medieval city and provide lovely views of the Minster and city. To walk completely around the walls takes around two hours, but there are many places along the way where one can enter and exit the path.

The medieval walls are standing upon the remains of earlier walls which date back to the Roman times. We appreciated that their were safety fences in place and as we walked along we imagined what it might have been like for the soldiers up there without them…

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The Shambles

#theshamblesThe Shambles, a charming medieval street, dates back to the time of William the Conqueror and is considered to be one the best preserved medieval streets in the world. We wandered up and down this street multiple times, popping in and out of the various shops. I came back multiple times throughout the day hoping for that perfect shot, but unfortunately the weather was not on my side!

Clifford’s Tower

#cliffordtowerBy late afternoon the rain was coming down in buckets and when I mentioned walking over to Clifford’s Tower the boys were having no part of it. No matter, after 20+ days in the car together I could use a little “me” time, even in the pouring rain! Unfortunately I arrived just after it had closed for the day, but spent some time wandering around the area and snapping a few photos. Clifford’s Tower is all that’s left of York Castle which was at one time the North’s center of government. Its history is quite dark as it was the site of a mass suicide and massacre and was also at one time a prison.

The Hotel Indigo York

#hotelindigoyorkWith cozy rooms, excellent service and a great location we really enjoyed our stay at the Hotel Indigo. Decorated in a very homey style the rooms were a welcome place to relax and wait out the heaviest rain of the day. The boys really enjoyed the complimentary treats, which included cocoa, and candy bars!


Take me with you!

Would you like directions to all these fabulous places? Why not take me with you! you can download this and other fun hilarystyle articles using the GPSmyCity app!

#gpsmycityhilarystyle