Wednesday, March 17, 2010

London, the Land of Sun :)

Well! I've been back for about a week ... more than a week! How very sad :( Luckily I still have all my memory cells in place so can finally divulge the tales of my travels here, so let us begin... (just realized this truly is easier when you just get back, I'll remember that next time haha)

SO! First of all maybe you want a little idea of what happened the night before we left? It's pretty amusing really; Marcella and I went to some party quite far away in the city really, with the end result of a missed train, a cab, being vomited on in the Metro (the Metro people were just getting on too to the disgusting area we were still in as we were getting off and I was so worried March would get a ticket), walking home in the freezing cold in a dress and thankfully my kind neighbors coat and carrying my putrid smelling coat in a ball in front of me, convincing March she should shower, and then staying up forever doing my nasty washing :):) Haha, always an adventure though :)

Somehow we managed to wake up again for our early EasyJet flight, once again amazing flight, especially when we got the emergency exit row seats (is that what you call it? why do I feel like there is another term for those seats)...I will say this, EasyJet would not be good super-long distance because it's pretty cramped, my knees touch the normal-place seats so it was good to have a little more room this time. And what does one think when surrounded by people with British accents asking you if you want a drink or a pen for random papers we had to fill out? One thinks of Harry Potter I reckon...I thought about Harry Potter WAY TOO MUCH, especially when someone tells me what platform I need to take to get a train to London from Gatwick (we flew to Gatwick, cheaper that way)...

Sorry to get on a tangent here but this just stuck me as an important/sad memory - Recently (maybe this summer) on a flight in the US there was an elderly lady with white hair sitting in the emergency exit row and the flight attend lady was sooo rude to her, trying to convince her she couldn't lift open the door and she should move the the lady wanted to stay there and said she could do it, and the whole plane was really quiet and awkward feeling as this woman was being hassled, and eventually they made her move even and she was really sad about it. Granted she was super frail and timid looking, so just a very awkward situation really, because maybe the flight attendant had to do that but it just seemed...ahh, it seems like a memory better repressed. Yet now I have to share the awkwardness...

On another note I have a hole in the top of my sock and I feel poor :(

SO BACK TO LONDON. Well, the getting there part, the quick Gatwick express which took us promptly to London within 30 minutes...good train that one, and got to see London and the outskirts waking up, such pretty quaint houses in Europe, I really love imaging living in almost every building I pass in general so it's ultimate fun overseas...Not as many colored doors that Ireland boasted however.

OH - We also purchased and Oyster card on the plane, and I think it was a bit over 20 pounds, we had to pay a bit for the card itself (which is rechargeable and never expires), and 20 pounds of transit money on it (which is given at a discounted rate when you use a card and not buy individual tickets) SO, I recommend that to everyone. I think I still have maybe two rides left too next time I'm caught up in the bustle of London.

Anyways, get to Victoria station and walk out to try to figure out where we're at and it was just very pretty, just exactly what I would think London should look like except it was cleaner, you know how you compare (well I do) everything to how it looks in the movies? And London is always cramped and slightly dusty (ok...OLD London movies by I have a really bad concept of time), anyways, I was amazed with out clean everything was and just...nice! So we went straight to the closest British pub with our bags to get some chips (french fries) and I tried this strange British thing called...Ploughman's something, it was good, just cheese and pickle-relish and some other veggies. Interesting though. Then we went back to the station to try out the Underground system and GOODNESS what STEEP escalators they have there! I swear if you fell...everyone would die! And you would die the most! Very freaky but really awesome, often when leaving the CPH undergound metro you take two escalators to get to the top, I wis
h they'd just get one huge steep one so I can add a little more fright to my life everyday haha...The underground here went really fast, UNUSUALLY fast I think, and was really timely and it's also really hot down there. ALSO I forgot the next Olympics will be in London in 2012 (I guess they are not planning on the world ending in 2012), but basically this means that lots of lines were sometimes down for repairs since London's doing a lot of sprucing up apparently for the world to see later :) fair enough, I liked taking the red double-decker buses anyways and ALWAYS sitting on top.

When we got to wherever we were going we were RIGHT OUTSIDE THE LONDON TOWER! Which I thought was going to be just a tower, but no, its this almost 1000 year old castle type thing I think with all sorts of towers in it, but normal castle towers and not like...THE WILLIS TOWER. Heh heh, what a great name for a tower, I'm STILL celebrating that in my mind. So we looked at that and then went off to walk to our doing this we WALKED ACROSS THE LONDON BRIDGE!! Oh and from the London Tower viewing platform we could see London's 'Gherkin' building looming beautiful in the distance. Really lovely how everything is just so close though I think :)

Let me say a little something about the London Bridge...we all sing about it falling over as kids and I don't really know why, and generally when I think about a bridge I picture the Golden Gate Bridge (regardless of the fact that I have never even seen that other than from an airplane), and so I pictured red metal. However, the London Bridge is more like some tacky castle...the concrete etc. of the bridge is beautiful yes, and appropriate for London's monarchical history I think, but the metal girders or whatever one would call them were the tackiest things we'd really ever seen....Painted bright blue and white and the metal railings also all blue and white...with such an ancient pretty stone background....I don't know. Maybe if I had seen pictures before of it I would've just accepted it but Marcella and I both had never really thought about what it would look like before and were equally shocked. Was more interesting this way of course! And we had a beautiful walk across it in the SUNSHINE, because it never rained or was even OVERCAST on us while we were in London (Yeah yeah we are just lucky, or maybe everyone's just too much of a downer about London's amazing weather, that'd be a much more interesting truth). I'd like to say that the London Bridge grew on me as well but in fact it didn't, though I like it for its strangeness. :)

Our hostel was alright once we found it, and definitely every in London seems super friendly as we had to ask a bunch of locals and even a bartender how to find it exactly, since when I was printed off our booking confirmation which I saw from the email had the address on it, my printer managed to ONLY leave off the address part which had been right in the middle of all the information too....Anyways we got a bus and the nice people (EAVESDROPPERS! Totally fine though I'm one too by accident), anyways the nice ladies on the bus told us when to get off because they heard us say where we were going when we were at the front of the bus! So we checked in through the overly complicated gate system, got our room which was very hard to open (sometimes we had to go get a different key, I still don't understand what was up with that door), and then got on our merry little way around London :)

I feel like I wrote so much about Berlin that I should break this trip up differently...and just put the things I saw more and not the nonsense ramblings that come so naturally about food and conversations and let's see if I can manage that. But first a word for the wise - (is that a phrase? do you need to tell the wise more words?) - anyways the YHA Youth Hostel is alright but it is no St. Christopher's (which didn't have room for us). Lots of kids stay at a YHA and they charge you an extra 10 pound fee just to join their society for you to even stay there, which is sort of a rip. However the breakfast is AMAZING. Hot and English and just GOOD. Which maybe explains why we saw more large people in London than well, in CPH for example haha..

Anyways, a list of things we saw and did, sort of in order :)

~Ate at amazing Asian restaurant in Camden (though we didn't realize we were there until a day later haha, it was an accidental wandering when we had meant to go there before we began our journey anyways)

~I managed to lose my Oyster card within about 4 hours of first using it, then after digging through my pockets again and again and looking around, I backtracked and there it was! No one had even picked it up! And it looked so fresh and new and full of pounds...lucky me!

~Get directions from the nicest man working at the hostel who outlined good stops to get off at and how to get to a bus stop we were looking for (And extra point here - black people having British accents are somehow my favorite. I suddenly also feel like watching a Guy Ritchie film...he likes British accents too..)

~Have a nice walk along Canada Water and picture myself living in London because all the houses are just so quaint! Marcella also pointed out that if she was a bird, she would be the retarded bird we watched for a bit struggle to get into the water and walk and just do anything. She says some very amusing things my crazy flatmate...

~Walk and shop down Oxford Street. Sometimes it is just nice to indulge in the girl's fascination with shopping and clothes and new things and deals...very refreshing and affordable too, yay TopShop!

~Make our way to the Maple Arch (to be honest I have no idea why this arch was there so we, being tourists, got a photo with it haha) where we entered Hyde Park where there is 'Speakers Corner' and we wanted to see the people giving free speeches there on Sunday mornings, and SADLY it was a stupid angry black American standing on an American flag and just ... full of crap, calling the Europeans second class Americans and then saying how he studied law in all these fancy places and worked with London Parliament, and here is is drinking at 10 am and being a general ass (pardon my profanity but sometimes you just have to use the correct word you know? hehe)

~Went to the CAMDEN MARKETS, maybe one of my favorite parts of the trips, where we saw sooooooo many awesome things and shops and had so many food samples, finally settling on some type of French food that was very different and well, French I guess, who knows really I haven't ever tried their cuisine other than the occasional crepe...I could spend sooooo much time at the Camden Markets and I recommend going to anyone who goes to London, just a lovely time and so many crazy and interesting people! They also sell a TON of the most intensely gothic clothes yet I didn't see people dressed like that often, maybe I smartly and accidentally avoided all the right areas! :)

~Realized that London is really into Lions and statues of them, they sort of have them everywhere, and then later realizing that a Lion is one of the animals on the crest. And by the way does anyone else have trouble with always thinking of the cowardly lion when they see statues of lions? I don't think this happens to me when I see a real lion, because when I see one of those I am always in a zoo (so far), and I always am just wanting it to move or walk towards me or roar, however statues make me think of wizard of oz...oh what has the media done to me!

~Did ultimate bargain shopping in a 99 pence shop :) Also realized that I don't think the UK uses shillings anymore...just pence. I always quite liked the idea of a shilling, so maybe I'm just wrong and I didn't understand the pence thing :)

~Walk to Buckingham Palace...SOOO amazingly huge. Those poor guards out front too, walking all funky whenever they even get the chance to move around. This Palace was actually really beautiful and so was the gate and fountain and park around it...very fancy for the Queen! Haha I still find it sort of amusing that...monarchies in these ultimately civilized countries still just seems so...I don't know...unnecessary? I can understand it's tradition and maybe they need someone's face for their currency...haha...Just amuses me to imagine the US with a king because I CAN'T! Guess you just have to grow up with it to even ... imagine it's normal. It just seems so fairytale-esque to me. ALSO, I am very confused as to why everywhere surrounding the large area leading right up to the palace and around the big fountain was surrounded with flags alternating between South Africa and the UK. Is it really just for the World Cup as my friend Mahmoud suggested? I cannot think of a reason...

~All the London taxis are really sweet looking and everyone should know this. Also there are far too many red phone booths with no one using them and they are all so close together. Very weird London, very weird. I do enjoy different thing though :)

~Walked to the Big Ben WHICH IS SO MUCH MORE BEAUTIFUL AND IMPRESSIVE THAN I HAD THOUGHT IT WOULD BE, and then also my friend Ben let me know that Big Ben is the name of the bell inside and not the tower surrounding it, but oh well, I'm calling it that just so people know I'm not talking about a bell I can't see :) Big Ben seemed very connected to the Houses of Parliament, and this is by far one of my favorite buildings in the WORLD. On a sunny day it is just...just breathtaking. The type of building you can just stare at, and would love walking past everyday.

~Found a random stern faced guard to stand creepishly close to in order to get a creepish photo, I definitely wish I could just break all rules all the time and tickle the guards. But then they might...shoot me :(

~Walked to Westminster Abbey which was not just one giant building like I thought but quiet a few. However I could not break through the giant doors apparently and enter, and no one else seemed to know how, I think they lock them on Sundays, and as it was cold we moved on across the Thames...

~To the London Eye! What a giant ferris wheel thing! We didn't go up in it, though they don't seem to rock like normal ferris wheels and ohhhh I just remember going up in them with Kirk and Kyle who'd just rock and rock and I wanted to cry ahhh so frightening, haha I was SUCH a little wimp :) But this thing looks just crazy, and apparently Brisbane in OZ has a Brisbane Eye too :) Haha, I love when cities blatantly copy each other :)

~Tried to see Alice in Wonderland at the Imax there since we knew it was very close to the London Eye and well I am a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland and not only has Marcelle never seen it, she's never seen a 3-D movie, so while trying to figure out how to enter this mysterious building by walking along it around this tiny unfriendly-for-humans sidewalk, we realized the entrance must be from underground...only to get there and find out it was sold out for the next two weeks haha...

~Ran into the London film festival then as we were looking for a place to eat so went there and saw a Georgia film, which was, hands down, the WEIRDEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN. I have now managed to see the weird side of the film festival deal, I think I had slight nightmares about it (and day-mares about it). It was crazy because everyone else was like 'wow WHAT IN THE WORLD', and no one even clapped when it was over, we just felt relieved, it was was called 'The Color of Pomegranates' in case anyone is interested in googling one of the scariest things in the world.

~Had more amazing Thai food at this fancy fancy place with this little boy womanizer waiter who was pretty worthless but the food was so good it did not matter :) Plus we were NOT in Georgia so once again, everything was good :)

~Walked all the way to the Tower of London from our hostel on another nice sunny morning and saw a guy buffering the wooden banister...(is that what you call the thing you put your hand on? I feel like I don't know what a banister is anymore!!! Ahh! Is my brain melting!?) Anyways...he was buffering this wooden..thing you normally put your hands on on the London Bridge. And I wondered, if they keep doing that how long before nothing is left and then they have to get new ...things... and how old is this? From the beginning? So then I touched it just in case they were super old and precious :)

~Took a semi-guided tour of the Tower of London...saw where people had their heads chopped of. It was overpriced but it was educational and very cool to be in it :) Also seeing the crown jewels was RIDICULOUSLY AMAZING. High security too. Seeing torture devices and where the block and ax for the head chopping was not so amazing, more like, my stomach twisted and then I felt guilty for being so intrigued...ALSO, there used to be a moat around this tower of London (naturally), but apparently it ended up being the largest outdoors toilet soooo it is now just grass :)

~Mazed my way through the city trying to find the Gherkin (which I kept calling the Egg because come on, a pickle is all bumpy...why is a pickle all bumpy???), which was more difficult then one would imagine because other buildings block the view, and therefore ended up seeing business London around lunch, which was so brisk, crisp, professional, and they don't wear coats over their suits whats up with that! But when BOOM there it was, and I was a happy person :)

~Pretended I would be grown up and go into a coffee shop while we tried to figure out where the St. Patrick's Cathedral was from where we were at, and ended up with the most amazing hot chocolate and lemon cheesecake...oh wouldn't that be nice right now!

~Saw the beautiful and HUGE St. Patrick's Cathedral, you seriously cannot even fit that thing in a photo...and it had been on fire during the great fire of London too1

~Sort of accidentally wondered into the Museum of London which is still wasn't that impressive, especially since what we wanted to see most was about the Black Plague and the great fire and that part was the smallest of all! But still good, thankfully they had recommended donations and so we donated...the smallest coins :) Hey we are poor students!

~Went into the Portrait Gallery of London which is free and AMAZING, and right on Trafalgar Square which is so pretty, you can see Big Ben in the background, and anyways seeing all of these famous portraits is actually...really really awesome. And getting to read more about them too. King Henry VIII was SUCH a player, and ironically in his portraits his crotchal region was always super emphasized...tsk tsk. I also took photos in there and after a LONG TIME was attacked because apparently it wasn't allowed...but I still have them. My life of crime continues!

~Had a great wander around, got an amazing little notebook that I now use to write down my greatest wish or desire every day on one line (as you can tell I RAMBLE too much to make a daily diary type thing feasible, I've tried and fail and one line is I think my only option), and got some fish and chips and...PEAS? whats up with that London...

~Went to see Alice and Wonderland 3D! :):):) It was amaaaazing, Tim Burton is so delightfully weird. And then we went home because we had to leave early the next morning, and so kindly our Hostel gave us breakfast to go on our walk and train ride back home :)

So that is London in a sunny nutshell and now I will upload photos. Sorry it took me so long to update this but I thought maybe I wouldn't ramble so much if I waited a few day, however this does not prove to be the case at all. So now, I give up :) My next trip will be updated much more promptly...

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