London – Day 1 – July 10, 2019
After some sleepless hours in the night, we were awakened from a deep sleep at 9 am with that “Where am I and what’s going on?” feeling. Took some time getting ready and then headed down to the mall to have savory rolls and pasties from Gregg’s Bakery, a UK bakery chain, kind of like a McDonald’s for baked goods. Zane was very impressed. He called it Greasy Goodness and wants to eat there everyday – he had a cheese and bacon wrap.
We started on the Proposal Scavenger Hunt. A bit of backstory – Colin proposed to me via a scavenger hunt that he put together using some London landmarks, with the help of friends (Graeme was one of these helpful friends) meeting me at each stop to make sure I stayed on track. Becky was also involved as Colin’s plan was to take me back to my flat where Becky and my flatmates had filled my room with candles and flowers and got us a lovely Chinese takeaway to eat. We wanted the boys to experience the scavenger hunt so I printed off all the clues and we planned to use the morning to complete the hunt. St Paul’s Cathedral was first. It was as beautiful as ever and it was fun to see the boys on the steps and at the doors solving clues.
Then it was on to Bank. It was busy, but the boys solved the clues and we had a phone call from Graeme coordinating their arrival and where we would meet.
We headed to Monument and the boys worked on the clues there. We planned to go up the Monument which wasn’t on the original hunt, but it was a good time to do it. It’s 311 steps to the top! It was warm and challenging, but super cool to do and gave the boys their first view of the river and Tower Bridge.
We knew we wouldn’t have time to finish the hunt before we were due at the theatre so we met up with Graeme and Becky and headed to Leicester Square. Now I always say that we won’t go to McDonalds or Burger King when we are travelling, but I’ve got to say that if you’re looking for a cold drink, some air conditioning and toilets, they’re a bit of a lifesaver. So we had a drink and a catch up with Graeme and Becky (going forward referred to as G&B) in Burger King.
More backstory. Who are Graeme and Becky? I worked with Becky in YWAM (Youth With a Mission) when I lived in London many years ago. We were also flatmates. We taught and helped at a community project that worked with the long-term unemployed, homeless and mentally ill. She is one of my dearest friends and a true English Rose. Graeme was a friend of Colin’s from New Zealand who came over to live while Colin lived in London. Becky and I started a drop-in center for recovering alcoholics, a place where people could go for fun, friendship, food, games and help. It was called the Cavern. We received some wise counsel that we should gather some help as the crowd we were working with could get a bit rough sometimes. We asked Colin and Graeme if they would help us out. They said yes. We’re quite glad they did! G&B are now based in New Zealand, but come to the UK regularly and we’ve been wanting to organise a time when we could all be there together. We’ve visited them in NZ and they’ve visited us in Oregon, but it really was amazing to share time together in London.
After our drink and chat, we headed to the Queen’s Theatre to see Les Miserables. Now there are many amazing musicals and shows happening in London, and we’ve seen quite a few and would love to see more. They’re not super cheap though and we knew we had to pick one. I’ve probably seen Les Mis 10 times. It’s my favourite. It’s full of meaning and amazing music and an incredible set. The plot is all about grace and mercy and is so rich. So that’s why we chose Les Mis – I wanted the boys to experience that. It did not disappoint. It was amazing and I needed many, many tissues. Pro Tip – we watched the musical/movie with the boys before we came so that they would have a good grasp of the plot. Also, see a musical early on in your time here and it will be the soundtrack for the remainder of the trip. We all talked about our sleepless moments at night being filled with Les Mis songs. We also used the tunes of the songs and added many of our own lyrics. We often caught each other singing, humming and whistling the songs.
Afterwards we headed to Chinatown and had an amazing dinner at Mr Wu’s buffet. Yummo!
After dinner, we resumed the Proposal Scavenger Hunt at Monument. Over London Bridge, along the South Bank and past the HMS Belfast solving clues along the way. We popped in to Hay’s Galleria which has a cool Steampunk ship in it and got a photo in red London phone box that didn’t have poop in it – that’s another story.
Tower Bridge was next and we were close to the end which was outside the Tower of London and the spot where Colin proposed. It was fun to stand with the boys in the spot where Colin proposed to me. The family of rats we saw was a nice touch! Ah, London.
Back to the hotel and to bed having done 17,770 steps!