Happy 2013! I hope everyone's New Year is off to a good start. After a long hiatus, I'm back on the blog and looking forward to sharing our travel adventures! 

Mark and I spent our Christmas week in London with friends who were visiting from San Diego. As we couldn't make it back to the States for the holidays this year, it was nice to have a part of home on our side of the pond!

Mark, Steph, Brent and I rented a great flat in the Earl's Court neighborhood. With a kitchen and a nice living room, it was really fun to have the space to make a meal and spend time together.

The four of us arrived in London the Saturday before Christmas and checked into our flat. After investigating our home for the next week, the four of us met up for drinks with our friend Brad who Mark and I know from Lausanne. Sunday morning, Mark and I headed out to explore while Steph and Brent attempted to get over their jet-lag! We took the tube to South Kensington station and then walked from there through Kensington Gardens, stopping to see Princess Diana's memorial fountain and then onto Knightsbridge, one of the famous shopping districts in London. We enjoyed a delicious sushi lunch in the Harrod's food hall. I love Harrod's food hall and drag Mark to it every visit we make to London! It has an amazing array of foods and decadent desserts on display and every room you walk through is a sensory overload of beautiful, colorful foods from cupcakes to cavier!

Brent and Steph met us at Harrods after we finished our lunch and from there we walked to Hyde Park to check out the Winter Wonderland festivities. Finally, we ended our sightseeing day by walking down Oxford Street, another famous shopping area to view the Christmas lights.
On Christmas Eve, we headed out to try and catch some sights that were open that day, as many attractions closed from the 24-26th. We started at Buckingham Palace where the Changing of the Guards was taking place. This time-honored tradition is the exchange of the new guard with the old guard previously on duty.  We got there shortly before the ceremony started so we there were are already lots of crowds in front of us.. TIP: Get there very early to have a chance at standing at the palace gate--the best observation spot! We did manage to see the new guard marching down the street toward the palace.  From there we walked to Westminster to see Big Ben and the Parliament building and Westminster Abbey. To rest our feet, we stopped for lunch at a pub, the first of many during our week in London!

After lunch, we continued with our sight-seeing day, stopping to peep through the gates onto Downing Street where the British Prime Minster lives. From there we passed the home of the Royal Horseguards and then onto to Trafalgar Square to see the "official" Christmas tree, given to England by Norway every year.

Our group split off so that Mark and I could do some shopping while Steph and Brent went on a photo safari! After more hours of walking, our tired legs made their way back to the apartment where our housemates were, still recovering from jet-lag. Steph made a great Mac 'n Cheese dinner for our Christmas Eve meal and we sat down to enjoy a delicious meal and hang out for the evening.
Christmas Day was a very relaxed one for us. As everything in London closes on Christmas, including all public transportation, we had fun staying in with National Lampoon's Christmas vacation and preparing our Christmas feast! Steph and I-thanks to Pinterest!-made a traditional British meal of roast beef, veggies, yorkshire pudding and gravy! Everything turned out well and we enjoyed our meal with traditional British Christmas crackers! Christmas crackers are paper rolls that you pull to make a "cracking" sound--hence the name! Once unwrapped, they unveil little goodies, including a paper crown to be worn during dinner! Bon Appetite!
Stay tuned for Part Two of our Christmas week in London!

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