Monday, July 30, 2012

Mind the Gap

Well, It’s been over a month since I was in London. And I STILL haven’t blogged about it. In my defense, it’s been a crazy month, trying to finish up all of my schoolwork. But I am happy to say that I am completely DONE with ALL of my classes and am set to graduate in just two weeks! I am now enjoying my free time by watching the Olympics. The Olympics are the BEST. Can I get an Amen? But I’m sitting here in my dorm room right now, watching the gymnastic competition take place in London, and I thought, “I just love London.” And then I felt the need to tell you all why.

Soooo, let me tell you.

I went to London in in June with Chelsea, Matt, and Merritt. They were all so fun to travel with and wanted to see/do as much as we could, so that made the trip much more enjoyable. 

On Thursday night we arrived at the London Stansted airport, where we immediately had to withdraw pounds. Changing currency is always initially really exciting, but then you realize the exchange rate… Yeah. Not so cool.

The London Stansted airport is about a two-hour bus ride from the London city center. So we caught the first bus to our hostel, which was located right on the edge of Hyde Park. I didn’t read or do anything productive during the long bus ride because I was just busy staring out the front windshield. WE WERE DRIVING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD. Well, I mean, it was the right side. Err, left side. It was just really weird to be on the other side of the road.

(This is why when you're crossing the road in the UK, you have to remember to look RIGHT. I'm glad they have reminders, because I kept forgetting and almost got hit by a double-decker bus....oops)

We arrived at our hostel pretty late so we went straight to bed.
Sidenote: there were three other people in our room, and old Irish man and two girls who went to Auburn and knew some Baylor girls that we also knew. It really is a small world after all.

The next morning it was raining. Normal. So decided to do all the indoor sights that day. After stopping for hot chocolate and coffee...

...we took the Tube (and, yes, we had to “mind the gap”) to the British Museum. We got to see the Rosetta Stone (the actual rock, not the computer software)!

Then we went over to the British Library. I would HIGHLY recommend the British Library to anyone who ever goes to London. I got to see some incredible artifacts there, including the Magna Carta, a Guttenburg Bible, original Jane Austen manuscripts, handwritten Beatle’s lyrics, and pages from DaVinci’s notebooks! It was so humbling to be in the presence of some incredible pieces of history.

After our time at the library, Merritt and I wandered over toward the poet John Keat’s house, which was in THE most adorable part of town. Quaint little houses with roses in their garden. Adorable. Oh, and it was raining while the sun was still shining. Sooo that was incredible.

Keat’s house.

After that, we headed toward Queen’s Theatre where we got to see (drum roll, please….) LES MISERABLES. Yes, it was a dream come true for me. Les Mis is my all-time favorite musical, and to see it London just made it even better. It was Merritt’s first time to see that musical and so I tried not to sing too loudly, but sometimes I just couldn’t restrain myself.

Waiting for the performance to begin. Eeeeee!!!!

The next morning, we woke and grabbed a quick breakfast at the hostel (you guessed it, Nutella and bread) and took the Tube to Buckingham Palace, where we got to watch the changing o the guard. There were a LOT of people there, but we were able to get a good view underneath the Victoria Memorial.

We then went over to Portabella Road, which is in Nodding Hill. I did not see any portabella mushrooms OR Hugh Grant, which was a little upsetting. But there was some excellent shopping to be done there, so that made it a little better.

We then headed over to Westminster Abbey for Evensong. We got there early enough that we were able to get a good seat right by boys’ choir. Walking in to the Abbey was incredible. We had to file in silently and upon entering, you immediately pass the tombs of Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin (who I was surprised to see buried there). It was pretty incredible. Evensong only lasted about an hour but I really enjoyed it. The choir sounded beautiful. And the minister’s message was encouraging. And we were even led in a prayer for the royal family and the Queen.
This summer I’ve probably toured over a dozen churches and cathedrals but it was so good to finally be in a church that was actually doing what the Church is meant to do.

Then we got to meet Ben. He really is big.

Afterwards, we got a traditional meal of Fish n’ Chips at this adorable little restaurant that had couches for chairs.

Then Merritt and I took the Tube over to the river Thames, walked across Waterloo Bridge and along the river. That area of town is POPPIN’! It it was SO fun! We saw tightrope walkers, carnivals, Christmas lights, oversized couches, and trees that had been wrapped in yarn.

(photo cred: Merritt Denman)

Our third and final day in London, we were all exhausted but we used every ounce of energy to see everything that we still wanted to see.  Merritt unfortunately had to leave early that morning because she had class Monday morning, but Chelsea and I didn’t have class until Monday night, so we were able to stay.

So on Sunday morning we we walked through Hyde Park.... Hillsong Church, which was actually located in the Dominion Theater (where the show “We Will Rock You” is performed at night).  We were kindly greeted by the people there (which I’m pretty sure was the first time a European had introduced themselves to us. So that just felt good).
It was SOOOO refreshing to be at a church. This was the first time Chelsea and I had been to an actual church service in over two months. I’m pretty sure both of us cried within the first ten minutes. We both had just really missed worshipping with other Christians; there’s just something special about the Church. I’ve definitely gained a new appreciation for the Church now, having been away from it for three months now. It really is the hope of the world.

Afterwards, we ate our packed lunches along the river. Not a bad view, eh?

We passed by Shakespeare's Globe Theater…

….and then walked across the Tower Bridge.

This London Bridge is NOT falling down, don't worry.

Look familiar....?

We then arrived at the Tower of London. This summer I had been doing an independent study of women in British royalty, and had to write a report on my experiences in London and at the Tower. So I was actually really excited to tour through Tower (which is actually made up of several different towers and buildings). However, we had arrived at the Tower much later than we expected and so I had less than an hour to get through it all. So I bought my student ticket and practically ran through the gates to the tower.

Once inside, I got to see things that I had been reading about all summer! It was like I didn’t even need a tour guide because I knew what I was looking at. I think that was the smartest I felt the entire summer.

The Tower is also home to the Crown Jewels, which are spectacular. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures (or try them on), so you’re just gonna have to go there and see them yourselves!

Our final stop of the day was at Abbey Road. Like pretty much everyone else in the world, I love the Beatles. And so this was definitely a highlight of my trip. Abbey Road is really just a road. Cars drive on it, people live on it. There’s nothing that special about it otherwise. So I can’t imagine how annoying it would be to live there and have to deal with all the annoying tourists who stop in the middle of the road for a photo-op. And, yes, we got to be those annoying tourists for a day. Love iiiiit.

All in all, London was SO much fun! It was the longest weekend trip I’d taken yet, and so I probably enjoyed it so much because we were able to do a lot more. But there really is so much to see because there is so much history there. And the fact that we were finally in a country that spoke the same language as us didn’t hurt either.  

It’s been fun to watch the Olympics in London now, having been there. So I hope you all get to go there sometime! London that is, not the Olympics…. But, hey, if you get to go the Olympics, that’s cool too. Congratulations.

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