Spring break in the UK


Kevin arrived on Sunday morning as I waited outside the gate for him. After dropping his luggage off, first thing we did was head straight for my favorite restaurant in Amsterdam, Wok to Walk. After we quickly finished our giant bowls of noodles, we decided to stroll around the city a bit. After seeing the usual sights like Dam Square and the palace and monument, we walked along the river to the NEMO science center, a giant blue/green building with a beautiful patio on the roof. Little did we know, the museum was filled with millions of kids running around, so we didn't get to play with much of the fun toys like the giant bubble wands. We wandered through NEMO for a while, but I got overwhelmed by the crowds of children so we left to see Het Scheepvaartmuseum Museum and a giant ship docked outside it. We found a cool exhibit about whales and then went to play on the ship for a while. It had been a long day for both of us, so we headed back to Utrecht to get some sleep so we could catch our flight bright and early the next day. Kevin fell asleep on the train back to Utrecht even.


We left for the airport first thing in the morning and jetted off to Liverpool. Everyone seems caught off guard when I say that's where I'm spending my spring break, but I am an avid Beatles fan and Kevin loves Liverpool F.C. It was quite comforting to land in a place where I didn't feel guilty for speaking English and the people we met in Liverpool were some of the friendliest I have come across so far. The airport is in quiet, isolated place outside of the city, so we caught a bus towards the city center to search for where we were staying. My first impression of Liverpool was a little strange. I couldn't quite get a feel for the city. It was a little tarnished and beat down, but it didn't feel unsafe or broken in any way. It felt comfortable. Like it wasn't trying to be something it wasn't.  We dropped our bags off at the Hampton Inn we were staying at and headed for Anfield, the soccer stadium. I was quite nervous when we got off at the bus stop for the stadium. Everything around it looked abandoned. Shops were closed, buildings were boarded up, and we saw maybe a total of 4 other people around. At the stadium, there was a little museum filled with memorabilia to look through before we took our tour of the place. We got a nice look at the locker rooms, the press room, and the field, and heard some really interesting stories about the history of the team. We took our own detour through the abandoned neighborhoods after the official tour (and after lots of souvenir shopping) to get a look at the Shankly gates.

After our day of Anfield, we found a place to eat in a shopping center. The place was called Wagamama's and it was quite good. It was a bit of a shock when there was huge chunks of chicken in my "vegetarian" ramen, but they were so sweet and gave us free dessert to make up for it. After our dinner and walking a bit around the city, we headed back to our hotel and went to sleep. We had a great view of Albert Dock and the river from our room.


We started off our Tuesday with the hotel's breakfast buffet and headed off for our daily adventures. We made our way down to Alert Dock and got ourselves tickets for the Magical Mystery Bus Tour that takes you to all the historical Beatles sights in the city. The tour wasn't until a little later, so we explored the dock a little more and found some beautiful free museums, some weird statues called lambananas that ended up being all over the city, and a gift shop or two.

I couldn't have been more excited for the bus tour, so we went back to grab seats on the psychedelic bus. We started off at Ringo's childhood homes and from there went to Penny Lane, George's old house, the cemetery where Eleanor Rigby's grave is, Strawberry Fields, John's old house, their manager's old house, and finally Paul's old house. Paul is by far my favorite Beatle. The bus dropped us off at The Cavern Club in the middle of the city. From there, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at a bakery. Kevin was really excited to try meat pies in the UK and we found them at Gregg's.

We had a little time left, so we went back to the free museums and browsed for a bit. There were some really interesting slavery and Titanic exhibits. We chose Pizza Express for dinner that night. I know it sounds mediocre, but they had cheesy garlic bread that I could not stop thinking about after. We also went to find the second tallest China Town arch in the world. It was quite large and extravagant.


This was our last day in Liverpool at we had yet to see the biggest building in the city. It loomed in the background of most of our photos, but we hadn't seen it up close yet. It is called the Liverpool Cathedral. We were there too early to be able to climb it, but we were able to look around the inside with some tips from our friendly little tour guide (an elderly gentleman kept popping up places and telling us fun facts about the church). Interestingly enough, the man who designed the cathedral also designed the stereotypical England phone booth, so there was one inside the church. After spending a long time admiring the stained glass and sheer size of the cathedral, we left to catch our train to London.

The train went through beautiful areas of open land. We came into King's Cross Station, so I naturally had to get a little souvenir at platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter. After Kevin and I found my friend Susanna in the station, we got slightly lost trying to find our hotel and spent what felt like forever walking there. If Susanna wouldn't have been there, I don't know if we would have ever found it. When we did actually find the hotel, it was lovely. It was a very modern interior, but the walls were brick and rustic looking. I believe it was a remodeled canary. We thought the location was pretty inconvenient until we learned that the hotel had its own ferry to take us across the river into Canary Wharf, the banking area.

Now that we had transportation figured out, we took the ferry and the tube towards some of the things we wanted to see. We ended up walking through a strange market and along the river a bit until we reached Shakespeare's Globe Theater. From there, it wasn't too much of a walk to the bridge that collapses in one of the last Harry Potter movies, Big Ben, and the London Eye. Since we had wasted Susanna's whole day looking for our hotel, she didn't get to see much with us. We walked her to the train station and headed back to Canary Wharf. There was a homey looking pizza place called Zizzi's right next to our ferry dock so we had dinner there and hopped back across the river to our hotel and went to sleep.


We woke up to a delicious buffet at the Hilton. Free breakfast is always a great way to start the day. We spent a large chunk of our day on Thursday going out to Stonehenge. To get there, we took a train and then our first double decker bus! Kevin was very excited about it and we got to sit in the front row on the top. It was pouring rain, so it was hard to see too far out the window and the driver was going impressively fast on small windy roads out to Stonehenge. I find Stonehenge fascinating and felt so lucky to be able to see it. I must admit that it was much smaller than I thought, it was pouring rain, and the bus only came every hour though. Luckily they had a souvenir shop for shelter and a little cafe where I finally got some hot spiced apple juice. I've been craving it for weeks and it made the weather bearable. We took the bus so far outside the city of Salisbury to get to Stonehenge and we stopped by a castle thing on the way back even though it was still pouring. It was basically built into a hill and all the walls had collapsed, so really it was just some scraps of stone, but it was still cool to look at. We arrived back in Salisbury and walked back towards the train station, finding plenty of cool things along the way.

When we got back into London, we started off in Buckingham Palace. We took a few photos there and spied on the fluffy-hatted guards before walking through the park back towards Big Ben. There were so many different types of birds in the park and some very friendly squirrels. We spent some time seeing Westminster Abby and Big Ben. From there, we hopped on the tube to Abby Road where it was quite funny watching people try to recreate the Beatles iconic photo. After walking on it myself, we went back to the pier where the London Eye was and walked along the river back towards our hotel. We had dinner at Wagamamas and cheesy bread/dessert at Pizza Express just down the road. We hurried back to the hotel so we could eat the cheesy bread while it was still warm.


While we were in London, we must have walked past the London Eye at least 8 times and talked about doing it every time, but Friday morning we actually committed to doing it. After a short line, we waddled into the glass capsule with a few other groups and got comfortable. I don't think Kevin was a big fan of the heights, but there were beautiful views at the top even with the gloomy weather.

We quickly walked to the Tower Bridge and to the Tower of London just after. It was a beautiful old castle town thing which houses the crown jewels and a few other really cool exhibits. Seeing the crown jewels was amazing. They were so beautiful. There was so much wealth in such a small space, it was a little overwhelming. This was our last London stop before we had to leave for the airport back to Amsterdam and from there the train to Utrecht.


I wanted to give Kevin a typical Dutch experience, so we biked a scenic route to a pancake house in the woods. After our massive pancakes and some debating about plans for the day, we decided to try to find the castle just outside of Utrecht. We had some interesting transportation experiences that day. We took a train to some city that I can't even remember and then waited for a bus to pick us up. Turns out the "bus" was actually a creepy looking van, but the driver turned out to be really nice. We walked to the castle from the bus stop, spent an hour walking the grounds/gardens, and took a tour. Our tour caused us to miss the bus by a few minutes, so we wandered the little town nearby for an hour before finally catching a van back to the deserted bus stop/train station. We finally made it home and finished the trip off with all you can eat sushi at the Utrecht soccer stadium. Kevin gave up being vegetarian and I came extremely close to quitting too. Luckily, the all you can eat dessert filled me up before I could get my hands on some fish. We had a really nice night and hopped on a train in the morning to head to the airport one last time. We picked my sister up at arrivals and walked Kevin to his departure gate. I'm so lucky to have gotten that week with him here.


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