The last weekend of June, I finally traveled to London! This is the first place I have longed to see since childhood- since “The Parent Trap” came out in elementary school, to be exact. Once again, it was wonderful visiting a place that spoke English!
It was a long first night attempting to meet up with the rest of our party and frantically searching for “Journeys Arsenal Hostel.” Meredith and I walked up and down the street several times looking for our hostel… come to find out, it was directly across the street from where we came out of the station. It was stressful, frustrating and tiring then upsetting to find out we had passed it 3 times! Luckily, I brought my laptop to look up where exactly on the map we were- like I said, 3 times!
Our hostel: This was the first time I stayed with complete strangers; 7 other strangers to be exact. It was located above a bar and we apparently were the hostels first stayers! The shower was ridiculous: coldest and most inconvenient shower I’ve ever taken. There was only a piece of wood separating the stairway from the bathroom and the toilet was connected to the 2 showers… all of this for over 30 people? Not rational. You know those sinks that you push the lever over and over for enough water to come out for you to wash your hands? That’s how our shower worked; constantly have to push the button for more freezing water to come out. Miserable! It’s all a part of the experience though, right? Haha!
The next morning began our adventures in England. We woke up that morning and headed straight for shopping! Oxford Street had amazing shopping (London, in general has great shopping!) but pretty expensive, unfortunately. After buying a pair of shoes, we headed for the Camden Market. Basically, it’s a cheap market full of cute clothes that are seen in other stores around the city. It was here that I bought my crème dress (it will definitely be worn at some point during this trip).
After we spent WAY too much money, we decided to take part in a few things that wouldn’t require us to spend any pounds. (side note: never have I gained and lost so many pounds in one weekend.. J) We stopped by “The Beatles Store” which is right next door to Sherlock Holmes museum. This is where Blake finally met up with us after having a terrible previous 24 hours- he missed his first flight to London, need I say more? Before returning to our hostel to get ready for The Lion King (!!!! Yayyy!!) we stopped by Abbey Road to take THE picture crossing the road, of course, I was the barefoot one.
We headed back to the hostel early to get ready for The Lion King! Covent Gardens/West End area was by far my favorite section of London. The West End (I’m pretty sure that’s what it was considered) was filled with lights, people, and lots of action- it reminded me a lot of Broadway, only with English accents. When we got off the train, I was handed a flier. While I usually would throw it away, this was a Mexican food restaurant with a buy one get one free coupon!! Of course we found this underground eatery and left completely satisfied with stomachs full of half price Mexican food and margaritas.
The Lion King was awesome! Definitely one of the best musicals I’ve seen. The colors and costumes were amazing! So intricate and creative. At the beginning during “Circle of Life,” the performers walked down the aisles in their animal costumes. Towards the height of the song, an elephant came from behind me! By far my favorite part of the whole musical! The dancers were so talented- trying to dance, sing, and operate horns or a backset of legs must be so difficult. I loved it!
I have become confused about which way to look before crossing the street. I went for a run after returning to the Maas and I noticed myself looking both ways multiple times making sure I could cross. Since UKer’s drive on the left/wrong side of the road, it’s very helpful that they write “Look Right” or “Look Left” at the edge of each street.
Saturday was the busiest day we had. Meredith, Traci, Blake and I took a double-decker bus tour through the city. We got to see everything; Hyde Park, Harrod’s, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Tower of London, Tower Bridge (much more exciting than London Bridge), Shakespeare’s Globe, Sherlock Holmes Pub, Westminster Abbey, and more! It was worth it to take a bus around the city to see more sights rather than staying underground and in the subway. Along with our bus tour, we were given a free boat ride. We went under London Bridge (and prayed it wouldn’t fall down!), and many other places we had passed on the road- it was nice to see everything from a different angle… I think everything is prettier from the water anyways.
After sticking our feet in Trafalgar Square’s fountain, we met up with the rest of the group at Texas Embassy. This restaurant used to be the Texas Embassy for London and is where survivors of Titanic fled after the wreck to meet their loved ones. There was Texas memorabilia everywhere! Baylor flag, Baylor license plates, wooden frames, and queso! It was the perfect night to end up there since it was the USA vs. Ghana game. USA lost, but it was still exciting and different to be surrounded by lots of Americans.
That night, the group walked across the bridge to admire Big Ben and Parliament in the moonlight. It was much prettier at night and the city was a lot quieter… at least in this part of town. We asked each other questions like “if you were any structure, which would you be?” I couldn’t pick one particular structure I would want to be, instead I described what I would want: something that isn’t talked up to be much (not the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, etc.) but is beautiful when you stumble upon it; Some place that is relaxing and is easily enjoyed by others.
It has been such a blessing making so many new friends and getting to know all of them so well. It’s going to be weird going back to Waco and not seeing my ‘hall mates,’ travel buddies, or classmates everyday!
Sunday morning Leah, Traci, Meredith and I explored the parts of London we hadn’t seen yet. Our first stop was the Tower of London. Traci and I were the only ones that went in, but I’m so happy we did! Not only did we view the beautiful crown jewels, but also I got to shoot a catapult! There was a cheesy show going on in what used to be “the moat” of the tower that shot an old weapon from the time England and Scotland were at war and four girls were chosen to launch the catapult… of course, I was one of them! After our walk around the tower and my attempt at making an English guard laugh, we did as the English do and ate fish and chips at a small café outside the tower with Meredith and Leah.
In our search for the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, we stumbled upon the Kensington gardens and palace. I have to say I was pretty disappointed in London’s gardens. We heard a story while on our tour that an old Queen gave her King a flower from her garden and told him, “give this to the fairest lady in the land.” To her surprise and dismay, he gave it to their maid. As most women would do, she ordered all flowers to be dug up from the garden and the park remains an area of green grass and trees. What I didn’t realize is that this idea is spread across all gardens that we saw. Hardly any flowers… not what I expected in a “garden.”
The Princess Diana Memorial was fun! I had thought it to be a large, elaborate fountain with people quietly surrounding the memorial and reminiscing about her meaningful life. Basically, it’s the complete opposite. There are no spouts for water to shoot out of and the people are definitely not quiet. It was a small, lazy river made of granite with children and parents playing as if it’s a miniature water park. The four of us girls spent a lot of time there people watching and soaking our feet from the miles/kilometers (J) of walking and searching.
The four of us girls had to carry not only our own huge, heavy backpacks to the train station, on the bus to the airport, then the airport bus to our hotel, but also Jean, Bonnie, and Blake’s luggage to make it easier for them. It was worth it when we gave ourselves the treat of taking the bed and giving them the floor for the night.
While studying for our History midterm (going to school and traveling is pretty tough, by the way), the movie “Wimbledon” came on- perfect! It was so neat to see the London eye and other sites we’d seen throughout the weekend. We’ve started a long movie list (wasn’t started until standing in line at Versailles. Which by the way, I’m a little behind on my blogs, obviously) that includes all the movies we’ve watched waiting for the day we will actually have the chance to see these places in person! Plus, we figure we won’t have any money this coming semester and will have LOTS of movie nights!
London was a great break from the exhaustion of trying to read German or Dutch. This is the first place I know I will go back to one day (God willing) and the first thing on my list is another show at the West End and another night along the river across of Parliament.