Apparently, the train was pretty full and only first class tickets to London were available. I was willing to pay the extra to get there...
Of course, it isn't that easy.
Amsterdam's train station doesn't accept American credit cards.
In Europe, there is a chip and pin system for fraud protection. It requires a pin for transactions. At most places, they are aware of the issue and can slide my card without a problem. NOT AT THE AMSTERDAM TRAIN STATION!
So... I had these three people looking at me... wondering what we were going to do...
Amazing Race Time!
We get a cab and head to the airport. First time I have every arrived at an airport without a ticket. An hour later, and a wonderful travel agent. We had tickets to London!!!
|Oh! The humanity! (waiting at the airport)|
|Italian food in Amsterdam Airport. It was... interesting...|
End of this story: We arrived in London a half hour earlier than if we had taken the train. We were disappointed to miss crossing over in the Chunnel, but circumstances, circumstances...
We stayed at the Tara Copthorne Hotel in Kensington, London. At first glance, the hotel seemed nice, but in the end, we will not ever stay there again. The customer service was...cold. The beds, while comfortable at first, began easing apart (twin beds pushed together). The available food was...meh
Location of the hotel was great though! It was right next to a tube station (subway) and near lots of shopping and food.
We arrived the day before Easter, so we knew we were going to have a little trouble finding something to do. Thankfully, I had read an article by Time Out about activities on Easter. I pre-booked tickets to Kensington Palace for their Easter Scavenger Hunt.
Kensington Palace is the place that Kate and Wills live with Baby George. If you don't know who that is, click here... It was also home to Queen Victoria, Princess Diana, and Princess Margaret.
If you don't know me well, you probably don't know that I am an extreme Anglophile. I love English history and monarchy. I had just finished a book on Edward VII, the son of Queen Victoria, before getting to London. I also had recently read a book on Queen Victoria. Being inside this home was... mind blowing to me! It was also extremely family friendly! There were tons of things to touch in the museum and even a craft room for kid activities.
We spent the day there and the kids participated in the scavenger hunt, even though it was raining. Luckily, the kids found most of the clues and were able to turn in their cards for chocolate eggs!
|Dancing shadow on the wall!|
|We must PREPARE for the scavenger hunt!|
That evening, Chris and I headed out of town to meet up with our friend Michael. He has lived near London for 7 years now, and he was hosting Karaoke in his little town of Bishop's Stortford. We sand and drank for a few hours and hopped the train back to London.
The next morning, Michael met us in Trafalgar Square for the required double-decker bus tour! Woot woot! We spun around the city, looking at the sights, eventually ditching the tired Isabel and Chris, so that Sierra, Michael, and I could do a little shopping in Convent Garden.
The antiques at a flea market are entirely different than the ones we have in America. It was no big deal to pick up a ring that was 150+ years old and only about $100!!! There were also strange objects, such hair lockets, aboriginal clubs for killing people, and this strange bunny/bird claw thing that I HAD TO BUY!
|bird/bunny claw thing|
|Had to buy this nutcracker for my brother!|
Later in the week we made it to other sites, such as the Tower of London, The Globe Theater (Couldn't go in, the line was too long on Shakespeare's birthday!), and the river Thames.
|Changing of the guard|
|Shopping at Harrod's|
We also decided to go out and visit our friend, Michael, with the girls for some spa time at Eden Hair Group! I opted for a lovely massage and facial, while the girls got their hair done. Sierra was dying for some bangs, and Isabel finally got some purple hair (purple!!!)
We definitely did not have enough time in London, and I wasn't able to get to Windsor, Hampton Court, or Kew Palace (sad!). I definitely could spend more time enjoying London and think I will definitely need to return again! I think it is only 6-7 hours of flying to get there...
We then caught a flight to Dublin.
Since it was the last stop on our trip, I splurged and booked ourselves at The Marker Hotel. Now... this place was FANCY! I felt super special the whole time I was there! If you ever get to go to Dublin, I highly recommend you save up and splurge on this hotel. The price wasn't ridiculous, but the service was!
|(Property of Totally Dublin)|
This was the rooftop bar at our hotel! It was awesome!
We didn't do a ton in Dublin. Some shopping. We visited the Guinness Factory. Drank beer in the main areas. Ate some Dublin fare.
|"THE" Guinness Harp|
The highlight of our stay was visiting with our friends Ciaran, Kelly, Tadhg, and Gaia. These are friends that I have known for over ten years, and have been living in the Kilkenny area for several years.
We jumped on the train and were picked up by Ciaran. After a short drive we were at their house!!! We spent the day, enjoying a rare sunny day, and playing with the babies!
To top it all off, we were fed!!! Kelly and Ciaran decided to cook up some young Irish lamb for us, and it was delicious! I was absolutely looking for a taste of lamb in Ireland, and my friends helped me out!!! It was a wonderfully relaxing day before we headed home.
|Kelly and Gaia|
|I sent the kids into the yard to weave some flowers, and THEY DID!!!|
|Putting the "baby" in the sling|
|Cooking for us!|
|Sierra and Gaia|
|Dinner is served!|
On our way home, we had also decided to make things as easy as possible. FIRST CLASS FLIGHTS!!! We have been dying to have the seats, that recline into beds, this whole year, but unfortunately, it wasn't in the budget. Aer Lingus was able to accommodate us with somewhat reasonable rates. I don't know how I will ever fly again!!! The flight attendants kept bringing food every 15 minutes! The beds DID lay down. The blankets... The movies... the wine... Ahhhhhh!
Well, we had to go home. This was the way to do it!
Our next trip is in July, to Asheville, NC. I will be posting in the meantime, but it may center on food creations that I am working on!