London part two – or when I didn’t actually make it to Oxford

In a post-Harry daze, I wandered around Watford a little bit, and decided to have some Polish food for lunch. My pierogis were, unfortunately, mediocre (or maybe I just don’t like Polish food? So much for trying to find my roots). By the time I got back, it was still only about 3:00, so I decided to go to the British Library. The library is, in fact, a library, but they also have an exhibition with their “treasures” – and they were incredible! I saw so many amazing things, including the Magna Carta, a Gutenberg bible, original Beatles lyrics (including one written on the back of a birthday card, notebook paper, etc), original Sylvia Plath, Mozart, Handel, Bach, Beethoven, Galileo, da Vinci… something about seeing the original work of these geniuses was an incredible fulfilling experience.

After, I headed to the British museum, famous for the Rosetta stone and their mummies, among other things, but I was tired and it was crowded so I didn’t really stay more than an hour. Plus, I had already seen mummies in Rome. Rough life, right? I decided to walk home, and indulged in some retail therapy on Oxford Street on the way. That night in the hostel, I had an interesting talk with one of my roommates (really the only one I talked to, it was a pretty antisocial hostel). He is Lithuanian, but has been working in London for years now, although he is actually living in the hostel right now because flat prices are so crazy, although he is searching. But anyway, we had a nice talk about the bullshit of prices in London and Capitalism in general. He grew up when Lithuania was in the USSR and he actually pointed out some positives to the system. But, as we both agreed, we haven’t seen any system that actually works. I can’t even imagine having a hostel as a home – even when I am traveling, knowing I have somewhere to come back to, whether it be Sevilla, DC, or Florida, is always comforting. (Although perhaps I have two many homes, and it tears my heart up sometimes).

Saturday morning, I headed to Buckingham palace to watch the famous changing of the guards. I actually think I saw the horse guard training the day before in Hyde Park! The event was cool, I guess, but honestly a bit boring. Very little action and a lot of waiting around. I think it must just be something people do to say they have done it. Well, I did it! After a delicious suchi lunch by the Thames, I walked down Strand street and stopped in the Twinings shop. I bought a mixed box of tea, which was obviously overpriced, but they had really cool flavors and I wanted to try everything! I’ll let you know how salted caramel green tea tastes after I try it. They also have a small museum and tea tasting in the back. I walked a bit more, crossed the Thames and walked to the other side to the Borough market, which is apparently one of the oldest markets in history. It was definitely a feast for the eyes and the stomach. I had a good old American-style brownie (does not exist in Spain) and bought some crumbly English fudge. So yummy. I then went to the Tate modern. Thank goodness it was free, because I felt how i do about all modern art museums – I love about half of all modern art, and the other half just perplexes me. After, I walked a few more hours before taking the bus back. I tried to use public transportation as little as possible, but when I had the time, the red double-deckers were way more fun than the tube, and with way better views!

So the video isn’t the best, and it is just of the band playing, but at least it’s mine!

Sunday morning I woke up with a lack of energy or desire to do anything. My roommate gave me a nasty cough before I left and I had it all throughout my trip, maybe that explains it? I walked to Regents park and plopped down to enjoy the sun and read for a bit.  I then walked through Camden town and the Camden markets. They were so cool! If I had more money and room in my backpack (although lets get real here the only thing stopping me from going on a shopping spree was the fact that easyjet physically would not let me take it all back to Spain) I would have bought so many things! They also had a bunch of great looking food stalls, though I eventually decided on Thai food because that, tied with Indian food, has got to be the type of food I miss the most. I then went on a lengthy walk to Piccadilly to meet Sheridan and Clodagh for high tea. They are two of my friends, one from elementary school and one from high school, that both go to UF but met on their study abroad program to London and are now friends. They had finals the following week so couldn’t spend more time than just an afternoon, but I am so happy I got to see them! It was like no time had passed and we talked for a few hours while enjoying high tea at The Wolseley. It was so fancy, I felt bad I was there in my worn-out travel clothes. Also, on the way there, I saw several people who had just run the London Marathon earlier that day. They all looked so tired, but fulfilled and incredibly happy. It was super inspiring, and I resolved that one day I’m going to run it too! We’ll see how that goes…I have to run a marathon first before I try to run one in another country. Good thing there’s the Rock n Roll marathon in DC next March! But okay wayy off track.

Up until now, I had been doing mostly free stuff, but bought the London Pass for one day so I could do some of the more typical London attractions that also happen to be super expensive. So Monday morning, I woke up early to queue up at Westminster Abbey. On one hand, it was just another church, and I have seen many, but it was impressive because it contains so much history. There are so many kings buried there, but also famous poets, such as Lewis Carroll and even famous scientists such as Charles Darwin (am I the only one who finds it ironic that Darwin is buried amongst several people who probably think his theories are bullocks?) So the history made it interesting, and the fact that it is still used today for important events such as coronations. Next, I used my pass for a short river cruise along the Thames, which was great because of the great weather, to arrive at the Tower of London. The Tower of London also has a lot of really interesting history. Take your pick – my favorite was learning about its famous prisoners (Anne Boleyn for one). It was also a fortress and a residence for kings. And of course today, it is famous mostly for being the place to see the Crown Jewels. They were incredible! There were precious gems so big they almost looked fake, I had to keep reminding myself that yes, that was a real diamond! Crazy. Next, I went to a monument to the Great Fire of London, where I got a decent view of the city, then meandered over to get a tour of the Globe Theatre, which was probably my favorite thing of the day.

The reconstruction of the Globe theatre is not built exactly on the same site as the old one, but rather, a few blocks away. I think this is because there is already a building on the site of the old Globe. Anyway, the tour was most interesting in that we learned how the Globe was constructed to be as accurate as possible and as true to the original. The only difference they have today is to conform to modern day fire laws (the proper number of exits, emergency sprinklers, etc). Other than that, the Globe is completely built in oak and with wood pegs, like the old one. The brick they use for the base is even true to the original- although it was much more expensive, they special ordered bricks that were the same size as the ones used 500+ years ago. The structure is also the same – even today, there are groundlings that pay 5 pounds to stand right up on the stage. Although today, thankfully, people shower and the odor isn’t quite as offensive as it must have been back then. The most interesting thing, though, was the guide’s insight that this theatre changes actors. Normally, in a theatre, the actors cannot see the audience. But as it was in the Globe centuries ago and now in the reconstruction, the actor is forced to interact with the audience. The Globe uses daylight, so the actor can see the audience, and the groundling’s faces are pressed right up to the stage. The layout forces actors to change their acting because the audience essentially becomes part of the play, as it was in the time of Shakespeare. This is why Shakespeare’s plays often have lines directed at the groundings/audience, because in effect the majority of his plays were written explicitly for the Globe theatre. It was so interesting! I wish I had more time in the museum there, but my tour was one of the last ones so unfortunately I couldn’t go back after. After that, I used the rest of my pass to see Hotel Budapest at the movie theatre. The London Pass cost around 47 pounds, and I got around 87 pounds worth of value from it. Some of the things I did I wanted to do anyway, but other things, like the river cruise and the movie, I would not have paid for separately. So, overall, was it worth it? I probably could have gotten by without it, but I am glad I did it at least for that one day. Plus, the movie was super good and ACTUALLY in English! It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie at a movie theatre in English, so that was a perfect ending to a busy day.

Tuesday…well… I screwed up. I was supposed to go to Oxford, and had already bought a cheap bus ticket which I happily presented to the driver and was about to happily step onto the bus when he said “You’ve got a problem.” “Uh oh, what problem?” “This ticket is for April 14” “Yeah, and today is…oh…today is the 15th.” I had thought the ticket was for Tuesday, and it was actually for Monday. So I could have bought new tickets for around 14 pounds each way. I was running out of money and didn’t want to go to the ATM again, so I decided not to, but in the end I still had to get money from the ATM so I probably should have just gone to Oxford! I spent the day wandering mostly through Chelsea and South Kensington, and it was nice to see some less touristy, super-posh neighborhoods, but I did end up getting kind of bored. I went to the science museum but left because it was full of screaming children. I ended up seeing another movie to pass some time, and then headed to the bus station that night to get a ride to the airport. Since my flight started boarding around 5 in the morning, it didn’t make sense to spend another night at the hostel, so I spent a very uncomfortable night in the airport instead. Still way better than trying to get from the hostel to the airport in the middle of the night. Overall, London was incredible, and I definitely want to return to the UK again to explore more!

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2 thoughts on “London part two – or when I didn’t actually make it to Oxford

  1. Good to read that it worked out getting the London Pass. I agree that the Globe Theater really is an interesting place. Maybe someday you’ll get to Stratford on Avon and interesting sites of Shakespeare’s history and a play, too. I agree that the boat ride on the Thames is enjoyable with beautiful weather. One time, with the London Pass, we visited Churchill’s War Rooms, a place we wouldn’t have seen if not for having the pass.London is definitely a city worth many visits.

  2. I loved the recording of the band at the Changing of the Guard. I know its cheesy, but I love hearing live music. That is one reason I loved Seville so much. It seems every time we turned a corner there was another extremely talented street musician!

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