Mittwoch, 25. Dezember 2013

London before Christmas (Part 1) / London vor Weihnachten (Teil 1)

Dieses Mal fange ich ausnahmsweise mit einem längeren englischen Text an, die Bilder und der Deutsche sind dahinter.

Dear international readers, usually I point to Google translator for an automatic translation of my blog posts. Since this post is about my visit in London, I decided to have an English description as well - the pictures are around the German text, so you will have to scroll down for the pictures after reading. Please also check out the subsequent blog posts for more pictures.

My son turned 18 last Friday, and we decided to have a short trip to London, as a kind of birthday present. I had been in the UK a few times, and I was curious about all the new architecture and new styles in London. While the architecture was as fascinating as expected, I was surprised about the food, and the weather had a nasty surprise for us too.

Back to London: We stayed in a hotel close to Westminster Bridge, and had a good view of the old and new sights there, i.e. Big Ben and the London Eye. We even saw Big Ben (with rain, sunshine and lot of winds) from our hotel room. Getting from Heathrow to London took us longer than expected, so we postponed the birthday beer round and went straight to bed. On Monday, we went over to the Houses of Parliament, and caught a bus to Piccadilly Circus, when the rain got too heavy. The good thing was that the temperatures were around 10-12 degrees C, so surprisingly warm for Central Europeans.
At Piccadilly, we hopped into the tube and headed for Harrods, which was fascinating, but too crowded to take pictures. We had a good meal in a Lebanese restaurant, and went to Hyde park to see the Winter Wonderland - with very international but also British (or English?) attractions - Churros next to Steak&Kidney Pies. Next, we tried to navigate Oxford Street, but neither by bus nor on foot we could make much progress, so we to London bridge to see the Shard (from the outside). Then, went back to the hotel to rest, before going back to Green Park, and catching a ride on the Night Tour bus. We were very lucky there - imagine, December 21st, and we sit in an open-top double-decker bus, outside, with still about 10 degrees C, and no rain. OK, it got a little chilly during the 1 1/2 hour ride, but it gave us a great, unobstructed view of the city and all it lights. Again, we postponed the beer round.
Sunday morning, we had sunshine! We decided to do our London Eye tour during the good weather. Next, we went to Camden Market, were my son went shopping for some Metal/Gothic-style T-shirts and bags. I took some pictures. We discovered a very multi-national Christmas market with food stands from all over the world, but refrained, as we wanted to go to the first Hard Rock Cafe in the world, close to the Wellington arch. BTW, navigating London's public transportation was pretty easy with the travelcards - we used the tube, the busses, and the overground (i.e. trains). From there, we went by bus and on foot over to Piccadilly Circus, a bit surprised that shopping was also going full-steam on a Sunday. We happened to find the tourist office, because at that time I was hunting to buy some scones. I remembered them from my visits 20+ years ago, and wanted to see if that English traditional food still existed. The guy in the tourist office pointed us to the Café in the National Library, and there we had English Cream Tea, i.e. tea with scones (yummy), clotted cream (the highlight! very delicious!), jam and tee (also very delicious). Did I mention I had orange marmalade on toast every morning? I love the bitter-sweet taste. I was also fascinated that a lot of shops, and at least one chain, had hand-made, organic food (but unfortunately no scones). After walking home over the Christmas market at the London Eye (German Bratwurst among other specialties), we finally made our way into an English pub. Although I noticed that temperatures were noted in Celsius rather than Fahrenheit, and water bottles are 750 cl or 1 liter , beers in pubs still come in pints. And besides all the international big breweries, there are still some English breweries that create some fine bitters. I had to re-learn the basics (you order at the counter, you pay in advance, you carry your beer yourself, but food is served at the table), but enjoyed it - my family probably needs a few more visits to get used to it.
Monday morning, we split up: My son and wife wanted to visit Madame Tussaud's, and I wanted to visit the South Bank. I started at London Bridge and worked my way back to Westminster Bridge. First, I discovered a nice grocery market, then an medieval ship that contrasted heavily with the modern City architecture, and finally the Millenium Bridge and Tate Modern. After that, the rain got too heavy again.
After meeting again at the hotel, we caught the coach at Victoria Coach Station to Heathrow, and learned that our flight got canceled because of the wind. We got an extra night at a Hotel in the airport area (with surprisingly good international food), and got up at 4:30 am to catch a plane at 6:40 to Munich, which was delayed until 10:30. Finally, we landed in Munich at 1:30 pm on the 24th. You may know that in Germany Christmas celebrations begin in late afternoon of Christmas Eve, so we just made it home on time. The good thing was that this year we had decided to stay on our own, so we did not miss any appointment and had a quiet, private Christmas Eve.

Hier geht's in Deutsch weiter:

Zum 18. Geburtstag unseres Sohnes wollten wir mit ihm in London auf sein Wohl anstoßen. Deshalb - und weil wir neugierig waren, wie London vor Weihnachten aussieht - haben wir ihm und uns einen Kurztrip geschenkt. Die Londoner Architektur war faszinierend wie erwartet, das Essen und das Wetter war eine Überraschung.

Unser Hotel war in der Nähe der Westminster Bridge, und so hatten wir vom Hotelzimmer, und noch besser vor dem Hotel, einen schönen Blick - hier gleich mehrere Wetter-Stimmungen:

Samstag Morgen, regnerisch

Samstag Abend, regnerisch
Sonntag Morgen, Sonnenschein!

Los ging's mit eher trüben Wetter. Big Ben & Co habe ich trotzdem abgelichtet:

Als der Regen stärker wurde, haben wir uns in den Bus zurückgezogen:

Am Piccadilly Circus:

Vom Piccadilly aus haben wir uns Harrods angeschaut (Nachtbilder kommen später noch). Da der Regen nicht nachließ, sind wir in der Nähe (hervorragend) libanesisch essen gegangen, und haben nach einem fast trockenen Abstecher über das Winter Wonderland (Weihnachtsmarkt mit Rummelplatz im Hyde Park, internationale und englische Spezialitäten wie Churro und Steak&Kidney pies) versucht, auf der Oxford Street voranzukommen - das ging weder im Bus noch zu Fuß. Also sind wir weiter zur London Bridge, und haben uns das Shard (das höchste Haus in Westeuropa) von außen angeschaut, und über die Brücke auf der Suche nach der nächsten U-Bahn zurück gefahren.

Der Weg über die Westminster Bridge ist nicht einfach - überall stehen Touristen, die Big Ben und London Eye fotografieren - warum nur ;)

Das war der erste Teil, im zweiten folgen Eindrücke von der Nachtrundfahrt.