12 July 2008

The London Experience!

On Sunday morning I arrived in London at 0640, which personally is way too early, though it gave me ample time to explore the city that day. After dropping off my backpack, I walked to the London Bridge, where it started pouring down rain. So, instead of going up in the bridge, I enjoyed a bit of hot tea. After the weather cleared a little, I took the London Bridge tour, then meandered over to the Tower of London and spent hours attempting to take it all in. At the Tower of London they have the crown jewels on display, which was overwhelmingly beautiful! It's not every day that you see a 530 carat diamond! Once I finished at the tower I made my way back to my hostel and checked in, showered, and got ready to meet up with my high school friend, Alysia. She took me out to a great pub where I tried the steriotypical British meal, fish and chips! After dinner we walked the city, quite literally! We explored Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, the Mall, James Palace, Buckingham Palace, St. Jame's Park, the Horse Guards, Whitehall and the gov't buildings, Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Bridge, the Globe Theatre, Jubilee Gardens, Millenium Bridge, the City of London, and St. Paul's Cathedral. What a beautiful, historical, royal city!

Monday was a rather rainy day for the most part. Since Sunday had been such a long day I enjoyed a bit of sleep and made it out to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guards. I did not realize that it was to last so long, as I had arrived the recommended 30 minutes early and stayed till noon! It was worth it though, to see the pomp and prestige! From there I was famished and needed some water, so I walked Constitution Hill to Hyde Park Corner, saw the Apsley House and Wellington Arch where I found a street vendor! All I cared about at that point was water. I hadn't eaten/drank anything so far, and I needed to at least hydrate. It was at this corner of the city that I realized just how much the Britian's honor their heros, their soldiers, those that have fought for country and king, for freedom and for honor. Well, after meandering for half the day, I decided that it was too rainy and miserable to walk the parks, and figured Harrod's has to have food... so why not?! It's supposed to be an incredible shopping experience, right? I must say, I was impressed! First of all, I'm not usually the one walking through sections of Gucci clothing, much less children's sections of Gucci clothing! Their toy section for children was incredible!! Oh and their prams, IMPRESSIVE! Though, 5,000 GBP ($10,000!)... that's insane! But at least their pretty, right? ;) Anyways, I was definitely impressed with the store! Even more so by their restaurants. You actually order everything to-go, but it's fresh pasta, salads, sandwiches, sushi, anything you can imagine! I actually ordered a few things that I'd never had before (in the Oriental section) and took it across the street to Starbucks for a hot chocolate and lunch! :) Then my day got interesting... I got lost! :) I tried to get from Harrod's to the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is supposed to be on the same street, right? Yeah, well, I followed the signs instead of instinct and went on a 2 hour detour... though I did manage to find a few embassies along the way! It was quite the enchanting walk! I did, eventually, find the V&A which had a few things of interest. At this point in my European tour I'm officially overdone with sculptures and paintings, and just wanted to get my ADD fix and see pretty, shiny objects,... so I found the jewelry section! :) Imagine, a 2 story room filled with beautiful jewels! There were quite a few impressive pieces throughout. Also, they had on display the history of fashion. That was quite the interesting venue; between Princess Diane's dress, to the 1700s style clothing, all the way to present day. After getting that fix, I met up with my friend, Alysia, and toured the iron works section, the stain glass and church history area, and then went to see the Raphael's. Eight paintings that left one huge impression. Even though they were originally done as guides for a tapestry, the artwork, the detail, they are worth seeing. Now, time of the the nightlife of sorts... for dinner, Alysia took me to Brick Lane. This street is known for it's Indian food, but it comes with a little adventure. The workers stand in the doorway of each restaurant and try to grab your attention with deals; you barter for the best price for your dinner. We ended up with free sodas and 20% off our dinner! I would have gone down there just for the experience, but the food was actually really good too!! Since it was still rainy, we took a double decker buss and rode around the city. It was a wonderful, and cheap, way to enjoy the city! A great way to end day two!

Now Tuesday; Tuesday was an experience! We got up early in the morning and caught the train out to Windsor Castle outside the city. Of course the tour is only a small section of the castle, but it's still where the queen stays when she's in town. My favorite part of the castle is the church. St. George's Chapel is architecturally a gorgeous chapel, but the history that it contains outweighs anything I've seen to date. http://www.stgeorges-windsor.org/welcome.asp After enjoying the town, and finding some amazing chocolate (thanks Alysia!), we headed back to the city where we went our own ways for a few hours. I took that time to St. Paul's Cathedral where I was again, blown away by the architecture. The ceiling was absolutely gorgeous! I did go to the top and see the city; though it was quite windy. The view was wonderful!! After my St. Paul's experience I met up with Alysia again and her flatmate, who happens to work at Parliament. So he took us to work! :) We actually got to go in Parliament, but not just in where tourist go, but into the House of Commons to watch Parliament in SESSION! Where they quoted our Constitution! This is where "Hitherto" comes in... a guy who looked asleep suddenly became quite animated come time to debate the bill and actually used about 5-6 old English terms in a perfectly comprehendable sentence! We were just in amazement that he used the word "hitherto"!! Who says that? I guess they do! :)

Okay, since it's taking me so long to write this and I've got another adventure to add... I'm going to make this short and sweet! :)

For the rest of Tuesday, I went to Knotting Hill, Kensington Palace Gardens, and walked the road (which has all the embassies!). I enjoyed Hyde Park; the Round Pond, Serpentine Lake, the Flower Walk, Rotten Row. At that point I headed back to the main sites... Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square, and Leichester Square and just enjoyed people watching!

Let's see... then on Wednesday it rained ALL day long! So, I went in Westminster Abbey, which is an ADD persons nightmare! It's overwhelming and there is no order to it! Still absolutely incredible though! I found the Cabinet War Rooms... didn't go in because I was running out of $$ and it was another $25 to get in! :) So, I'm happy to just say, I've been to the site. Instead, I went to the Imperial War Museum and got to experience bunkers and trenches through the museum! I could have spent all day in there... there is so much history jam packed in! For a lighter note I went to the British Museum (oh, all the museums are free,... churchs cost $25!). Then to top off my trip I headed over to Covent Gardens and enjoyed the street entertainment, and had dinner with my friend!

London was absolutely brilliant!! Thanks for an amazing time Alysia!!!

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