Note: If you don't really want to read through my rambling about the wonders of London (And I don't blame you), you can get straight to pictures at the bottom of this post. Woohoo! Pictures!
So, I just returned from London and I had the hardest time coming back not because I don't love Edinburgh and Dalkeith, because I do, but because I loved London just so much more. It was everything and more that I could have ever dreamed of.
The group of students that went to London took a nine hour bus ride over night from Edinburgh to London-- it was very long and very uncomfortable, but we arrived early Friday morning. We checked in to our hostel called "The Generator" -- which isn't like your typical hotel. First off, all the showers are communal, which isn't bad because I was always an early riser, so, no one else was taking a shower at six in the morning, and we also were four persons per room. The rooms were about the size of broom closets so with two bunk beds taking up the majority of the room and our luggage taking up the rest, you sort of hand to mince, leap, jump, crawl, wiggle, and shuffle to get around the room. But it served its purpose and no one spent much time in the room anyways, so, it wasn't a big deal. The rest of the hostel was absolutely amazing. It had neon lights, a bar, a lounge, a cafe, everything. The walls were all painted in neon colors like blue and green with fierce red walls. The most astonishing part was the blending of so many cultures. We had a Brazilian Samba party one night at the downstairs bars and I went down there to check it out and whatever and I met some people with one who spoke French, one who spoke Portuguese, and one who spoke Spanish. I was translating between the Portuguese and the Spanish speaker, the Spanish speaker was translating for the Portuguese speaker and myself for the French speaker and the French speaker just kept smiling and nodding enthusiastically-- it was quite amusing and very, very hard on the language storage department of my brain.
Anyways, yes, Friday... so, Patty and Amanda (our supervisors/advisers/adoptive mothers/bosses/head masters/presidents/Goddesses) gave us our Oyster Card, which is kind of like a bus pass but for the "Tube." The Tube, which is the nickname for the London Underground Subway System is the most fantastic, beautiful, wonderful, glorious part about London because it enables a student to travel from one side of London to the other in under ten minutes (remember, London is about four times the size of Chicago! (or so I was told)). The Tube, however, is not as easy to learn as one might think. First of all, you have to make sure you're on the right line-- if you're not, you have to turn around and "go upstream" against a wave of people who are not at all amused that you're going against traffic. Then, once you arrive at the right line, you have to make sure you're on the right platform. You may have to go south, or north, or west, or south-- so, instead of fighting traffic, you stand in the middle of it staring stupidly at the display boards trying to figure out which platform you need to get to as people are forced to then walk around you. Either way, once I mastered the Tube, it ended up being the greatest thing ever.
So, later Friday night, some of us ended up going to the musical Wicked, which was really good. I had never seen it before (please, no shoes thrown at me this time). Saturday was definitely my favorite day in London because I separated away from my group and did a lot of exploring on my own, which is definitely the best way to do it. I took the seven o'clock tube to London Bridge, walked across the London Bridge and all the way to the Tower Bridge, had some English Breakfast tea as I strolled across the Tower Bridge, almost getting hit by a taxi that jumped the curb in the process, continued my walk back around to the Globe Theater, which was Shakespeare's theater. It wasn't the original since the original, well, burned down, but it was still neat. I didn't get to go inside because it was about fourteen pounds to get in, which is a little outside my budget, so, I continued on to the Millennium Bridge (which was featured in a Harry Potter movie!) and skipped across that to the Tate Modern, where I spent several hours admiring art. Getting hungry, I had a sushi lunch at an authentic Japanese restaurant in God Knows Where (I was impossibly lost, the nice thing about being lost in London is every couple miles or so is an underground entrance, so, I could just hop on the Tube anytime and find my way back). Full and happy, with a new cup of tea (I think that was about my fourth cup of tea that day), I went wandering and found this sort of"passageway" that lead into what I believed to be an old station for the Tube or perhaps a train station or something. The passageway spilled out into this huge stone corridor that was the "Borough Market." In the market was everything you could imagine-- you could buy fish straight off the ice, ostrich eggs, buffalo meet, tea, trinkets. You could get your fortune read, you could get a spell cast on someone-- it was very mystical and very, very, very crowded. Anyways, I ended up buying some teas of various flavors and continued on (I ended up getting disgusted by one guy's stand who had dead pigeons hanging by fishing hooks off his tent's canopy). Deciding it was about time to go somewhere that was a bit more normal I took the tube to Regent's Park and walked through Regent's Park into the upper crust part of London. This is also where I found Baker's Street, the home of Sherlock Holmes.
The upper crust part of London was gorgeous with massive mansions with BMW's, Porsche's, and nice cars strewn about. I saw an Aston Martin just parked out on the side of the street like, you know, whatever. i continued walking towards the zoo and I saw some guy getting out of a bright red Ferrari. I was like:
"Hey! That's one sweet car you have there."
and he was like "Hey! Want to come sit in it?"
So, he started the engine and let me sit in the driver's seat with the heads-up display and the gauges and everything. It was so awesome. (: He was really nice. His name was Nate and we talked for a bit, he said he was twenty-five and lived right next to the zoo. I told him a little about where I was from and why I was here, then I continued on my way. It was getting late and I was getting tired so I headed back to the hostel, found some dinner, and went to bed.
Sunday, our last full day in London, Shane, a friend from the Dalkeith UW, and I hung out. We went to Piccadilly Circus, which is like London's version of Time's Square. Nearby, we strolled through China Town and bought some oriental candies, sweets, and other goodies. We also had lunch at a Chinese restaurant, where the waiter didn't speak much English, but we had fun anyways. The food their was absolutely amaaaazing. Just mind blowingly good. Anywho, we ate lunch, wandered around a bit more, and then went over to Hyde Park and strolled around yonder for a wee bit. Deciding we could use some alcohol and history, we took the tube over to London's Hard Rock Cafe which is the original Hard Rock. It also has "The Vault" which is Hard Rock's largest and most valuable collection of musical memorabilia with guitars from Gene Simmons, jackets from John Lennon, and sunglasses from Kurt Cobain. We got to tour the vault (I even saw Jim Morrison's jacket!!) and then headed over to the bar where I had a coffee with Bailey's Irish Cream. We also saw a Bugatti Veyron just hanging out, parked, infront of the Hard Rock. For those of you who aren't into cars, the Veyron is the fastest production car in the world with top speeds spitting out at 267 mph. The minimal cost in 1.7 million dollars, but can reach well over 2 million for super sport, customization, etc. It was cool getting to see that car in person.
Anyways, after Hard Rock, we took the tube over to the infamous London Eye, where we got to take a huge tour. The London Eye is a very slow moving "Ferris wheel" with large containers you get to stand in as it swings around slowly. One full rotation took us close to forty minutes. It was neat to see London at around 7:00 dusk from a bird's eye view. After that, Cat, Christi, and I walked around the city-- seeing Big Ben and the Abbey glowing, stopped for dinner at a small snack shop (Mmm, tea and Bueno chocolate for dinner!).
Yesterday, Monday, was our last day in London. We had the morning to do whatever we liked, so, I went to the local mall to look around. We had to be at the train station by 1:00 pm, so, I didn't have enough time to really take the tube anywhere to see things, but the mall was good. I bought some really warm socks and leggings (which is just the fashion rage over here). I also purchased some loose leaf tea to bring home with me. It was sad to pack up on to the train and leave because I fell so, so in love with London (that and I have classes today...) but the group is leaving for our next trip on Thursday right after classes, so, to the Highlands I go!
Sites/Things visited: Millennium Bridge, Borough Market, Picadilly Circus, Platform 9 3/4, Tower Bridge, Bridge of London, Tower of London, Buckingham Palace (gorgeous inside!), The Royal Gardens, The Mounties, Changing of the guards, Wicked, The London Eye, Big Ben, China Town, Double Decker Buses, Telephone Booths, Covent Garden, House of Parliament, Sherlock Holmes Pub, St. Paul's Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, Tate Modern, and so, so, so much more.
PS: Because I've recieved some emails from people who aren't my friend on facebook but still want pictures (You're all so demanding! [I'm kidding, love me!]), I finally got off my bum and put together an online image album here:
(For those of you who skipped all the London rambling (note that I'm judging you for that) click the link above for pictures! Woohoo pictures!)