My roommate and I decided to take a weekend trip to London where we planned all sorts of excursions based upon the recommendations of none other than our Rick. I feel like Katie might have said, "none other than our Rickity Rick," as she is becoming increasingly more notorious for her "expressions." Sometimes she says something I have heard before, in the depths of my memory I can recall traces of these idioms...But sometimes, this is far from the case. I will come home with a whole new vocabulary and pronounce "open" as "ompen."
I digress. Let's start with the night before we left. I headed to Marie's apartment to watch Alissa, whereupon I quickly ate my dinner (which was delicious and full of vegetables that I have never heard of), and gave Alissa a Valentine's Day treat. Five minutes later, in the middle of my intensely descriptive rendition of Valentine's tradition in the U.S., Marie returned only to inform me that her practice had been cancelled. Great, I had spent 25 minutes walking there in the rain, and now, I get to turn right around and go back. At least I got a free dinner (I wasn't mad or upset, just distraught). My roommate and I packed and prepared, telephoned home, organized our plans for London, and finally went to bed. About an hour later, we were both laying in our beds staring up at the ceiling and wondering why in God's name we couldn't sleep. One thirty? You're kidding...Two thiry...I'm not shitting you, I just wanted to fall asleep (we were both exhausted). Not happening...so, how about some Sex and the City to spice up a dull, sleepless night? Good idea Katie! Four (or so) episodes later we dressed and headed to the Metro at 5:30 so we could catch our 7am Eurostar train.
I got to sit with a very attractive couple who had just about the most adorable baby I've ever seen. Ever. I rode the train in silence, listening to my iPod and reading an amazing book (thank you Beth), The Dress Lodger. After arriving, I decided that I love London right away. Just after exiting the terminal we had (EXTREMELY) attractive men in black tie walk up, get down on a knee, and offer us free (free.99 remember...) white roses. They get 100 points (if I had a logical point system, I'd explain it here. Seeing as I don't, just consider 100 a very high reward). Then we got free Pink Lady apples, a good snickity snack to wake us up. You know, an apple will wake you up more than a cup of coffee. Although I know this fact, I highly deny it due to my continuing passion and love of caffeine-rich coffee.
We got to our hostel and decided that we were not actually in London, though we were literally in Zone 2. It was called Journeys and was in the most remote area of London called Kennington on the Northline. We arrived (shared a room with some French girls who were living in London and working as waitresses and the lady who cleaned the building, who had her own bed in the corner). We doubted that she actually worked there though as the building was quite dirty (not like cockroaches and mold, just...the carpets could use a shampoo...that's all I'm saying). She also went to bed at 6pm (sounds fun).
Right away we headed to the London School of Economics so I could tour the campus and get information, as the offices are closed on the weekends. I very much enjoyed this park of our trip, as I am considering this school as an option for graduate work. I also enjoyed the Economist's Bookstore, where I bought three books for the price of two (Kelly, you would just love this store). We then proceeded towards the center of London, to a small market called Covent Garden. Let me say, this is like an addiction for those who are weak-willed. Bustling with friendly people and decadent smells, we were lured into Benjamin's Cookies where we indulged in the most delicious of treats: chocolate cookies. We sat at a small picnic table in the patio watching a man on a unicycle entertain a crowd of passerby tourists. I mistakenly put my cookie down to take some photos and pigeons hoarded our table trying to steal my precious treat. NO way that was happening, I would punch them all in the face before I let them steal it. We moved on to the market shopping, where I was again stupidly enthralled to the point that I spent 75 pounds on a bracelet. In my defense, it has a silver, Victorian Irish pendant on vintage sage-green leather. I love it.
We then worked our way to the British Museum and then back down towards Covent Garden to go to Belgo Centrale for dinner. In case if you are reading this and taking notes (not that I believe any of you are nerd enough to do that), please understand that I loved each and every restaurant we went to. None were too expensive and all were authentic. We then went to Black Friars on the Thames for a night out at a small pub (in a sidestreet) called the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. There we engaged in conversation with two British guys and had several pints (they could hardly believe a girl could stomach a pint), but I just thought that was ridiculous. Guy and Mike were nice enough and pretty harmless (I am pretty sure I could have beaten either of them up, if I had had a reason).
The next day we woke up at 7 (which was an accident I will explain in a minute) and headed off to Westminster Abbey. We beat the entire crowd as we got there SO early. At the end of our tour, Katie walked up to me and said, "I forgot that my phone didn't change with the time difference...so instead of getting up at 8, we got up at 7." It was actually good that we had though as we were extraordinarily efficient on Saturday. After strolling by the Houses of Parliament and through the Abbey, we went through St. James park up to Buckingham Palace. We were walking down Parliament Road when the guards came down the street on stallions for the changing of the guards. I was almost run over by a stallion and I have yet to understand how I did not see it coming straight at me. Nevertheless, we walked up to Trafalgar Square and eventually to a small "hole-in-the-wall" restaurant for our first 'fish 'n chips' meal. I had cod as my fish and it was quite nice, and I am not usually prone to eating anything from the water.
We walked along the south side of the Thames past the Tate Museum, the Globe Theatre, and several markets set up for Valentine's Day. Quite adorable!
Later, we saw The Taming of the Shrew after a dinner at the Wellington (near LSE). The play was delightful and I even had wine delivered to my seat during intermission. We enjoyed the British humor and seeing a play written by Shakespeare in its country of origin. After the play we went to a few bars, a pint each, to experiment. Finally we ended up at a club in Leicester Square called The Inferno. This is where we ran into our friend, the Usher wannabe. What a treat. I did however get some free drinks, which does not often happen in Paris, so it was a nice change of pace. I got one drink for attesting that I voted for Obama. That was easy enough. Katie and I were sitting, enjoying the Latin music and chatting over her cider (she LOVES her cider these days) and my Long Island, and all of a sudden two men approached us. The one with the top hat and overly tight button-up shirt targeted me, and his friend Katie. He told me he had been watching me (which is why we had temporarily left our little nook) and I wanted to just ask, "Just how creepy are you trying to be?" but I held back. He also told me he lived nearby, and I said, "I'm sure you do." Time to go. We said we had to go to the bathroom, we got our coats, and escaped. On the way home we walked again through Trafalgar Square to find a bus and en route, I had the most delicious Subway sandwich. I think I might have told Katie about 8 times just how delicious I thought it was. We were in bed by 4 and up again by 9.
We left so that we could get to the Tower of London (my favorite tourist event of the trip). The history that took place here is some of my favorite and I was beyond excited to see firsthand some of the Tudor dynasty's history. Kelly--we will go here one day and they were selling The Tudors, which I highly considered buying. I was so proud to take my photo where Anne Boleyn had been beheaded (by a sword, which was rare for the time)...lame, but I loved it. We also loved the Bloody Tower where you can read about the history of torture. After several hours of sharing an audio tour and walking through every little nook and cranny, we walked across the street to Wagamama for lunch. I loved this little noodle shop, which had unlimited free green tea with any meal! Free.99, again.
We then proceeded to the British Library across the river. There we went to the Reading Room to see original copies of Jane Austens' works, Mozart, Handel, Shubert, the Guttenburg Bible, the Magna Carta, and many other documents that are simply unreal. Dinner was at the Coal Hole, which only had two other tables. Quite lonesome on a Sunday night, but friendly staff nonetheless. Another classic (and award winning) English pub.
Quite exhausted after a weekend of early mornings, late nights, and lots of walking. My feet are still swollen, but I loved each and every minute of London and I know I will go back. For now, I am back in Paris for two weeks before heading up to North France.