London, UK: The British Museum, Gordon Ramsay, and a Little Cruise on the Thames

The next day, we popped over to Trafalgar Square before checking out the British Museum. Luckily for us, the British Museum was free! We only had approximately and hour and a half before our lunch reservations, so we explored the globe by checking out Chinese ceramics, the Japan and South Korea Gallery, the Americas, and the Ancient Greece and Rome exhibits. I also got to see the famous Rosetta Stone, after fighting through a large group crowding the glass display. I couldn’t help doing some light reading afterward on British Museum treasures – heaps of praise online of how well-displayed and cared for artifacts are in the British Museum (and other Western museums); however, I definitely overheard commentary that the British Museum treasures should be returned to their respective countries (in more colorful language, of course).

For one of the trip highlights, we enjoyed lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze; it was not a disappointment! I realize Ramsay might be a controversial figure, but one thing is certain- that man knows food. The restaurant menu consists of numerous sharing-sized plates; we ended up ordering the burrata, sushi, potatoes and spice aubergine, and button mushroom risotto for lunch from the vegetarian menu. For me, the highlight was the risotto and its perfect, creamy consistency. Seriously, the best risotto of my life. For dessert, we had yuzu curd and whey (with miso shortbread, basil, and pear). Seriously, if you get the opportunity – go! The restaurant was a lot more laid back and casual than I had imagined and the service was more attentive than any other place I’ve ever been. I love Gordon Ramsay even more now!

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After enjoying our time at Maze, we headed back toward the London Eye to take a boat cruise (because I’m obsessed with boat cruises!). It was the perfect way to see more of London on such a drizzly day. We took the 3:45pm tour, and while we didn’t get to see the sunset (I’m not sure if one normally could see it, but with the thick overcast my hopes were dashed early in the day), we did get to slowly watch the sky darken and the city start to light up. Our tour guide, Joshua, was hilarious, telling stories of various buildings and bridges along the river banks, while continuously keeping us on our toes with his humor. He also tested us on our knowledge of London Bridge, joked about stolen British treasures, showed us the “invisible” bridge that just wouldn’t be destroyed, and relayed to us that the only bridge completed on time and under budget was done with the first all-woman construction team. 🙂 He also humored me at the end of the trip by saying “boxer shorts!” in his dreamy English accent.

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Tower Bridge and the HMS Belfast

 

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London, UK: The BBMak Inspired Eye

While I’ve wanted to visit England for a long time, it has never been at the very tip-top of my list. Rightly (or wrongly), I have wanted to spend my vacation time traveling to countries much more culturally different from my own. UK culture, with its music, television shows,  movies, stores, and traditions (and celebrity chefs!), are very similar or the same as the U.S. But hey, there are some things I cannot complain about, like the fact that Gordon Ramsay can infiltrate my television any day of the week!

Regardless of my greater love for the other half of Europe, I could not pass up an opportunity to check out London. 🙂 We arrived in the late afternoon, quickly checking into our Hyde Park hotel and immediately heading over to the London Eye. The London Eye has been on my “must see” list for London since I can remember; I’m not sure what exactly sparked my interest. Was it hearing rave reviews from friends who had visited? Seeing photos of the famous Eye in skyline shots of London? Early 2000s era BBMak music videos? (Don’t judge!)

The Eye was pretty cool and much like most things in London, very expensive. We didn’t book online, but the ticket lines moved quickly enough that I didn’t mind the wait. We opted to get the package with the Eye and the river cruise (which we took the next day). The capsules were comfortable and clean, and luckily they didn’t cram us all into them like sardines, which is always a fear with popular tourist sights anywhere.

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The London Eye capsule ahead

We were fairly lucky while on the Eye, because it had to temporarily stop, allowing us to spend an extra 15 minutes checking out the views over the Thames River. We visited on a foggy, drizzly day, but luckily the night sky gave us a lot to admire.

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The view of the River Thames from the London Eye

While heading back to the metro station, by happenstance we ran into an amazing night food market. Fresh burgers, piping hot waffles topped with ice cream, Indian curry puffed rice, and fresh squeezed juices! There were dozens of stalls serving international fare. We opted to get some freshly-made Portuguese pastel de nata (custard tarts) and dessert waffles.

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Not a bad welcome, London!