Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Living in London

While I could, no doubt, go on for ages about my trip to London. I mean, I even managed to make a weekend in Salzburg go through two posts. I don't want to push it on and on forever, so I'll stick with little tidbits of our Spring Break Extravaganza.
To start off, in order to make the trip somewhat reasonably priced, Naomi and I took a bus to London. Now we had been told that our arrival time would be somewhere around 6 AM. Not the best time of day for a night person like myself, but doable. Unfortunately, they lied. We didn't get in at 6. Oh no. We arrived at 3 AM. And what do you do in a city you know nothing about and have no contacts in at 3 AM? Hmmm...neither did we. So after wandering randomly around the closed shops by the bus station we finally found a bench in a fairly decently lighted place, and rested our heavy heads on our backpacks.

Yes, that was the bench on which we "slept" and that is me in my disarray after a seriously long bus ride. Amazing how comfortable seats can quickly disintegrate into torture devices after long periods. I won't even take time to go into the stench on the bus, or the crying newborn, or the old man with the hacking cough who wouldn't let me put my seat back. GRRRR!!!
But when all was said and done, we were in London. How could I possibly argue with the end result. After spending 3 hours trying to somehow stay awake, we finally made it inside a building and were able to have breakfast McDonald's style. Good times for certain. We passed up Starbucks, seeing as how the prices that looked the same as those in the US were actually twice as expensive because they were in pounds instead of dollars. I must confess, the prices for pretty much everything were ridiculous! We did our best to live off the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we had brought from Czech for as long as we could stomach them. And we were more than happy to hit up McDonalds, Subway, KFC, Burger King, and the supermarket Tesco to keep our food budget from killing us all together.
Now it is said that London is one of the rainiest places on the planet. I was prepared, having lived in Duckville Oregon for a number of years, and was happily disappointed. Our weather was really very pleasant. It only dripped on us a couple of hours two of the days we were there, and the rest of the time it was really sunny, with crazy wind only one day.
We also did our best to take in as many of the free attractions as we possibly could. We walked through such amazing places as Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, St. James Park and Regents Park:

We walked along the Thames River and took in views of The Globe Theatre, Big Ben, St Pauls Cathedral, Tower Bridge and many other fabulous sights:

We really enjoyed all the museums as well. I was impressed by how many of them were free. We spent a lot of time at the Natural History Museum, and really enjoyed the Victoria and Albert Museum that has artifacts from around the world. We did pay for a few tours as well. It was great fun to go through Kensington Palace (where you naturally can't take any photos) The Tower of London, and Sherlock Holmes House (which I visited alone while Naomi sat through a session of Parliament.)

I know this is quite a whirlwind review, and I would love to tell you all about things in more detail, but I feel that the pictures say a lot for themselves. Especially that one of me in the massive hoop skirt. A spinster from way back or what!?!
We spent a lot of time in Trafalgar Square, and I was particularly fond of Big Ben. I've always been really drawn to Big Ben. I have a vision in my head from childhood where I saw something, either in a dream, or in some sleepy state that made me think it was Big Ben. The sun was setting and Canadian Geese were flying through the sky in a V...But now I've seen the real thing. I've drunk in the view and been amazed.
We were pretty lucky to get into Westminster Abbey and St Paul's for free to take part in services there. I really enjoyed being in these amazing buildings where people have worshiped God for centuries. We went to the changing of the guard which was pretty cool as well. I was very impressed by the bands they had that played.

Here are a few more sights from our walks through more parks, and finishing off with my wonderful meal of fish and chips (no I still don't like fish, but I just knew I had to have the most famous food in London) that we consumed in a restaurant that was once frequented by none other than Charles Dickens. Yeah, London is pretty much just that cool.

So there's a fast tour through the wild and crazy world of London. Our bus ride back wasn't nearly as uncomfortable or bad smelling as our trip there. However, once again we were dropped off at 3 AM, not the 5 AM we had been promised. Can't really say we were overly thrilled by the fact. Especially when we found ourselves in unfamiliar and very dark surroundings, the wind whipping wildly (I later learned it was a severe wind storm all over Czech that even took the roofs off people's houses), and people randomly shouting in the night. We were greatly relieved when the lights turned on and we were able to sit indoors until our bus toward home at 6. It was a great trip, and I'm so thankful to have been able to have this experience.

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