LONDON ADVENTURES: A Crash Course in British History

Hello! I’ve been missing for a few weeks because once again, procrastination and what I assume to be the opposite of “Uptown Funk,” had overcome me. I wanted to update you on my recent vacation to London! (#Fantastic) My long time friend (who had visited me previously –see here) is attending graduate school there and I finally saved up enough to visit her!

The time leading up to the trip was full of anxiety. I was traveling by myself to a foreign country. I did not handle it well (I’m sorry for the people I yelled at). I ended up making an hour by hour plan for the day of my evening flight because I was overwhelmed with the thought of not knowing what to do. When I arrived at the airport feeling pretty confident about my situation, my Uber driver called and said I left my house keys in the car and wouldn’t be able to return them until I got back from my trip. Off to a great start, right? 

I chalked it up to a thing I couldn’t control.

I’m going to skip ahead to when I arrived in London. I took Iceland air and there was a 1.5hr layover in Reykjavik, Iceland. The country, from what I saw at the airport and tourist ads is absolutely breathtaking and I have a very strong desire to go back.

Day 1

Awake 24 hours and looking rough! But I had to commemorate the occasion with a selfie. On a later walking tour, we learned that the Parliament Building and Big Ben are sinking, which is causing the tower to tilt slightly, as seen here.
Awake 24 hours and looking rough! But I had to commemorate the occasion with a selfie. On a later walking tour, we learned that the Parliament Building and Big Ben are sinking, which is causing the tower to tilt slightly, as seen here.

In London, Alyssa picks me up from the airport and we go to her flat to drop off my luggage. Then we’re off again, walking across the Themes to Parliament, Big Ben, Wesminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace. By this time I’d been awake for 24 hours and I was exhausted. I couldn’t even muster excitement at seeing the royal palace. So we walked back to her flat and took a nap. That evening we went for a walk along the South Bank, she trying to familiarize me with my surroundings, including naming off all the bridges that cross the Themes, and me trying to keep them all in my head (which did not work).

The first day was great and when it was time for bed, I passed out immediately.

This is a good place to note that I was so happy to see a familiar face from my hometown. I have missed her the past few months she’s been abroad and it was such a relief to see my friend that when I arrived all of my anxiety went away.

Day 2

This day was devoted to museums. We woke up early to get to the opening of the British Museum and spent a few hours in there. I learned a lot about British History and St. George. He’s my favorite Saint. (The origin story for a knight slaying a dragon to save a princess!) British Museum also had the Rosetta Stone tablet, which was amazing. Tried to get a good picture and another tourist kept moving in the way. Then we went to National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. After the gallery we stopped into a Waterstones Bookstore and I bought a lot of books (surprise, surprise)… We spent more time at the gallery than we thought and ended the day at her apartment making dinner and trying to read out loud the short story we bought, Olalla by Robert Louis Stephenson.

Obligatory tourist telephone booth photo
Obligatory tourist telephone booth photo

Day 3

This was the best day. We went to STONEHENGE!! One of the 7 Wonders of the World. So old people can only guess at what it’s about. I loveeee itttttt. We were also at the neighboring town of Salisbury for the day and visited their Cathedral.  Commence Stonehenge slideshow! I also took the time to try some Fish ‘n Chips and I have to say, I was a little underwhemed. But at least I tried! :/

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Day 4

We took a day to sleep in. Because we missed our chance to go to Victoria and Albert Museum on Monday, we went today. It’s such a random collection of things. I bought a print of this Yokai (spirit). It’s creepy, but awesome.

IMG_0929

That night we went to a secret 1940’s themed cocktail bar called Cahoots, which is located in an abandoned subway station. When we arrived, the bouncer said, “You made a reservation for the tube station?” trying to bait us. It was great, we dressed up in 1940’s style clothing, my friends swing danced, and we had crazy cocktails like “district and circle line wine.”

Day 5

The day started off at the Buckingham Palace where we crowded around the fence to watch the changing of the Guard. Then we hiked it out to Speedy’s for lunch, the diner that’s next to Sherlock and Watson’s apartment (as appears on tv). The food was great and it was nice to see all sorts of fans of Sherlock come by and take pictures of a door, which sounds strange to see in real life. Next we went to the British Library, and walked through an exhibit of British writers, musicians, politicians, and other prominent figures. They had an original Gutenberg Bible, but we were not allowed to take pictures. Next we went to Kings Cross Station, the famous one from Harry Potter. It must have been significantly updated since Jo Rowling was writing the books because there is not a wall between platforms 9 and 10, but there is a set-up to take pictures with a trolley going through a wall! Look at us!

We're dorks. (I bought prints of the photos, so that's why it looks grainy.)
We’re dorks. (I bought prints of the photos, so that’s why it looks grainy.)

The day was not over, after Kings Cross, we went back to Alyssa’s apartment to get ready for Swing Dancing! I have had unsuccessful lessons in the past and this also proved to be the case, but we had an excellent and absolutely dreamy instructor named Simon and he made it worth it. 🙂

Day 6

This was the longest day of the trip, I believe. We went on two walking tours, one on the secrets of London, and then the second on Fire, Pestilence, and Plauge. Inbetween the two tours we had lunch at Ol’ Cheshire Cheese, one of the oldest restaurants in London, on Fleet Street. We met an interesting woman who was traveling with her husband on business. she had been around the world and was now traveling where ever they were needed. She is from the US and had lived in the NYC area so we were able to talk about our familiar locations. She was so cool. When I asked about what is the most universal thing that she’s seen in all the places she’s been, she said “Burger King!” haha

Both tours had the same guide who was enthusiastic about everything and each place we walked. This is where I learned the most about English/London history, it’s absolutely fascinating how the city has constantly rebuilt itself. That evening we had the pleasure of watching a performance of Merchant of Venice at the newly rebuilt Globe Theater, which is located almost exactly where it had once stood. It was, in fact, circular and did not have a roof. Remember how I said we did two walking tours that day? Well, in an effort to save money we bough peasant tickets, or standing tickets. We stood for the entire 3 hour performance. Luckily it was captivating enough that I almost didn’t notice my feet burning a hole in my sneakers.

Day 7 – The last day. 

Since we didn’t have time to do Globe Theater Tour the previous day, we caught a tour in the morning. We were able to see a couple actors, including Jonathan Pryce (Elizabeth Swan’s father in Pirates of the Caribbean and The High Sparrow in Season 5 of Game of Thrones) do a photoshoot in costume with some photographers. The tour was pretty quick, but what I could understand, the architects and construction persons tried to make it as authentic to the original as they possibly could. Next we went on a Ghost Tour, walking buy famous sites of some gruesome murders, Sherlock’s St. Bartholomew’s hospital. (My feet still hurt from yesterday, by the way…).

Our day continued with St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of the most gorgeous Cathedrals I’ve ever seen. It’s truly a symbol of the city. We did an audio tour and I have all this useless knowledge of it. Of course we went up to the top (or as far as we were allowed to go). London is a beautiful city.

London skyline from St. Paul's Cathedral.
London skyline from St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The last stop of the day was at the Haagen Dazs Cafe! And so ends the whirlwind week that was London!

My journey home was uneventful. I did coordinate to get my house keys back and was able to go to sleep completely exhausted. Turns out that I love traveling and I really enjoyed the journey as well as the destination. Will have to visit again because apparently I missed a lot of things (O_O).

Until next time!

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