As soon as we landed in London we heard the classic Ryanair recording that starts with some startling (if you’re still sleeping that is, or slightly out of it) trumpets followed by “You’ve arrived in yet another on time Ryanair flight! La da da.” As we exited the plane I was surprised at how cold it seemed outside and inside the airport, although it likely wasn’t that cold in reality compared to many places. I slept pretty much the whole plane ride but was still tired after not getting a full night’s sleep the night before. From Stansted airport we took a bus to Liverpool station – the ride was over an hour, so again, we all pretty much passed out for the ride. As soon as we got off the bus we stumbled upon a free yogurt stand which was a very pleasant surprise! We each got a free blueberry and strawberry yogurt so it was a good way to start off in London. My mood went from very positive to somewhat crushed when I almost lost an earring (I have a strange sadness when I lose things). My dad will remember this as the same earring I almost lost at home and texted him about (which he found!). A few hours later, after being situated, the earring appeared again on the apartment floor… it must have been caught in a tangle in my scarf or something because I really don’t know how I got it back! Our apartment was located in the White Chapel area of London and was very nice with two bedrooms (with large, comfy beds), a living room that also had a dining area, a kitchen, and a bathroom. Our landlord for the weekend provided us with some helpful information and maps, which was very nice of her. After putting our stuff down and settling in a bit, we ventured out for the day!
The weather was chilly and damp, but it was still exciting to be in London. We took a lot of trains while in London (specifically the underground) and were easily able to navigate. I was surprised at how fast paced people are in London when compared to Italy. Usually I am a pretty fast walker, but I felt slow when compared to the locals! We saw a few big name sites on Monday including Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly Circus but there were smaller sites I enjoyed as well. Something very simple was just seeing the red double-decker buses that are a constant reminder you’re in London. Also, it was interesting to go grocery shopping and see the foods offered in London that I wouldn’t normally see like digestives. While there, I bought some cheddar cheese since they don’t have it in Italy and I certainly missed it!
It’s always nice to return to a comfortable place after a long day of walking and being underground (on trains, of course). We settled in, made delicious pizza, and relaxed for the night. Unfortunately the only thing remotely interesting on TV was Bitchin’ Kitchen (really, Food Network?) which was amusing albeit bizarre. By 11 PM we were almost delusional from lack of sleep, so we went to bed early!
Here are some pictures from Monday:
In the morning I almost made the mistake of waking up an hour early (there’s a 1 hour time difference between London and Perugia) but luckily I realized it and went back to sleep. One of my roommates wasn’t so lucky! It was a misty morning weather-wise but it certainly cleared up in the afternoon. We first went to the National Gallery area where (right in front of the gallery) there is Trafalgar Square! I was way too excited to see this place, but it was in one of my Tony Hawk games from way back when so it felt like I had been there before! We went inside the National Gallery (which is free) to see some paintings – I was most interested in the impressionist works. Afterward, we went to King’s Cross Station to take pictures with the famous Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter and eat lunch. For the rest of the afternoon we went to the National History Museum (also free!). I really liked this museum because it had a lot of different but interesting exhibits. It had dinosaur exhibits (my favorite part) along with several other interesting rooms like one focusing on homo sapiens vs. neanderthals and their interactions. Around 5:30 PM we headed back to our apartment for a quick snack and to change because at 7:30 PM we went to a broadway show at the Prince Edward Theatre in London! Ironically we saw Jersey Boys, but it was a great show and a lot of fun. The woman in front of us was having an especially fun time, dancing in her seat to most of the songs – it was great.
Of course there’s always some awkward moments on these trips and London was no different. There was a couple sitting a few rows down from us and we had about 15 minutes before the show started. The man of the couple, perhaps in his 50s or 60s, turned around and stared at us – actually stared at us – for about 30 seconds with disdain. Yes we were talking, but it was well before the start of the show and we were not being especially loud or anything, alas it was a very awkward moment!
We headed back to the apartment after the show to make dinner at 11 PM (I guess we were still on Spanish time!). On the train we attempted to solve some crossword puzzles, but apparently our knowledge of British slang is minimal so we were quite unsuccessful in our efforts. Once we arrived back at our apartment we got in with relative ease (relative is a loose term here). The first night we struggled hardcore getting in (there were 4 locks: 2 outside door, 2 inside door), but there was a definite learning curve.
Here are some pictures from Tuesday:
Each place that we go we like to have a “local” (to the best that we can) food or specialty – something that the people eat there. So in the morning on Wednesday we went to a diner called Poppie’s Diner and ate a full English breakfast. This consisted of (at least the one I got) an egg, sausage, bacon, beans, tomato (cooked), toast, and coffee – although I realize to be more English I should have gotten tea. It was delicious! We needed a good breakfast because today would be pretty much all walking (whereas the previous two days we took the train a lot, buying the 1 day zone 1 and 2 travel day pass). So we walked down to the Thames river and proceeded to see sight after sight with a lot of walking in between. It was cloudy but as the day went on it got sunny – although still chilly. We each brought a bagged lunch (mine was a sandwich, chips, and an apple) which we ate on the side of the river facing the London Eye (we found a spot in the sun!).
What would the day be without a strange event – so here goes. We were in a park and I noted the signs saying not to feed the birds/animals etc. (not that I really would anyway). About 10 feet away, of course, a mother and what I assume was her daughter were feeding the animals. Okay, you might say, that happens a fair amount probably. Well, those animals must have been hungry because pigeons were flocking ONTO the girl’s arm where the food was and a squirrel casually walked onto her mom’s arm! It’s not everyday you see that, luckily I was armed with a camera.
Our walk concluded at none other than my favorite place, Trafalgar Square, where we again went into the National History museum. This time though, we didn’t look at any art but instead went to the bottom floor where there are bathrooms, a gift shop, and best of all… couches! We actually stayed there for quite sometime, maybe 2 hours or so. While we weren’t being the perfect tourists, we didn’t seem to be bothering anyone – we were just so exhausted! Around 6 PM, we finally got up and started our walking journey back towards White Chapel. Earlier in the day we had found a promising pub where we would not pay a ridiculous amount for fish & chips so we made our way over there for dinner (12.75 euros for a fish & chips and a beer). We each ordered the fish & chips – 2 of my roommates got a side salad, and 2 of us got the “mushy peas.” While I really didn’t enjoy the minty taste of the mushy peas, I figured I had to try them! One of my roommates loves spicy things so she asked for some sort of hot sauce, which she got, and I made the mistake of trying. She warned me at its spiciness and dipped the end (very minimal dipping) of a french fry for me to try. I temporarily turned into a fire breathing dragon, so needless to say I won’t be trying that “hottest sauce in the world” again! They really did claim that title on the bottle.
After our yummy meal, we walked back along the Thames. Seeing London at night was beautiful! The bridges light up with lovely colors and seeing the buildings at night was also beautiful. Our last stop, at the recommendation of our landlord, was The George Tavern. This pub apparently marks a spot where Amy Winehouse made her debut and Justin Timberlake shot a music video. The place had a nice atmosphere with candles (in old alcohol bottles – which was pretty cool) and music. A band was setting up, but being that it was a (not so) hopping Wednesday night, they weren’t the, how I should I say it, Grade A band. Once they started playing it was honestly more of an art performance than music. The had a slideshow projected onto the wall and were essentially playing interpretive music to the abstract images shown. At one point I thought the Mothman from Mothman Prophecies would show his ugly self – really, some of the instrument sounds resembled creepy satanic whispers. So while we weren’t necessarily the best crowd to be in that bar, at least on that night, it was certainly an experience. At the end of the night, we headed back to our apartment (no Bitchin’ Kitchen tonight) and packed for our morning flight to Dublin!
Here are some pictures from Wednesday: