So, I’ve not been very good at updating…which is honestly not surprising. Not at all considering that I’ve got an enormous amount of schoolwork to do this semester, a show that is taking up all of my free time and a part-time job. Yeah. Not surprising to anyone that I haven’t been good about updating or talking about my plans.
Well, in case you haven’t already gathered, Geoff, Esther and I went to the U.K. to visit Chelsea. It’s a trip that we started planning back in August when Chelsea left for school. It finally came and so, here I am updating about my trip. Sorry this is super long.
Here we go!
She Who Was Mad and Was Sent to England: Day 1- March 7/8, 2012
The morning of the trip came around much quicker than expected. I had been running myself pretty much non-stop until the moment that we boarded the plane. I had to finish my coding assignment for the my web class, write my analysis of U.K. Communication Policy, write my blog entry for Sutradhar’s Market, finish my internship application, comment on the discussion board for my class and finish all of the videos for Hamlet. It was a really long week.
Soon though, the morning of the trip arrived. I managed to pack most of my things the night before (once I finished with everything else I was doing), but there were some things that I needed to do before I left. I went to work that morning overly tired and not entirely sure if taking this holiday was the best idea. But, the trip had already been paid for, so not going was not an option. Plus, I had been looking forward to this for a very long time.
I left work, picked up the last things needed for my internship application, dropped off the Hamlet videos and picked up Esther from her apartment. I threw the last few things into my bag and popped my internship application into the mail before we headed to the airport. The excitement was building.
The three of us arrived at the airport, checked in and made it through security in a matter of 20 minutes. I always get worried that it will take so long to get through, but I was very wrong.
With the extra two hours that we then had, we got lunch at a very nice restaurant called Harry’s Tap Room. I did quite love their roasted red pepper, tomato and crab soup, though the salad and Cuban sandwich were only ok. During lunch my mother call and so I chatted with her briefly before heading over to wait by the gate (where I would proceed to make comments on the discussion board for my class…something I didn’t get to do before I left).
It may have been an hour or so that we sat there but it didn’t feel that long at all and wasn’t long before we boarded the plane.
Ok. This was the first time that any of us had flown Virgin Atlantic and I have to say that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Geoff, Esther and I sat next to each other with one other American. It was a bit cramped sitting in the seats and while we had the opportunity to move around to another seat, some of them cost more to move to…so none of us moved. I will say that the food was rather good though and I absolutely loved the packaging. I loved it so much in fact that I felt the need to have Esther take pictures of them.
After dinner, I managed to drift in and out of sleep until Geoff woke me up for breakfast. It wasn’t long after that we landed in Heathrow and went through customs (which took 15 minutes…most of which was spent standing in line).
Once we had collected our things, Esther charged her U.K. phone, texted Chelsea that we had landed (30 minutes early, I should add) and then caught the tube to head to King’s Cross Station (yes, the train station from Harry Potter).
We arrived at King’s Cross Station and began our trek to our hostel…with only a really minor bout of getting lost in the process. We couldn’t check in once we got to the hostel, but we were able to drop our luggage. We then went back to King’s Cross to meet Chelsea…only to find out that she had gone to Heathrow to pick us up and then to the hostel as we were heading back to the train station. It was a day of slightly missing each other, but we eventually managed to find her. The four of us finally reunited, we went to lunch at Pret.
The rest of our afternoon was spent wandering around the city until we could check into the hostel. We started off with Chelsea taking us to get tea to go…which happened to be from none other than Speedy’s. I have to say the tea from there was amazing. I will definitely be returning for more tea as well as to take pictures…seeing as I didn’t take any due to me being sleepy and afraid that they wouldn’t be any good. I was promised we would go back later anyway. We then saw the rest of the typical London sites: Trafalgar Square, Big Ben and Parliament, the London Eye, and others.
Around 2:30pm we headed back to the hostel, as we were able to check in. I took a brief nap before we went out for dinner and some surprise that Esther and Chelsea had planned for us.
Dinner was from a rather lovely sushi restaurant where you pick the sushi up off of the conveyor belt as it comes around. I had quite a few different things and they were rather delicious.
Then we were off toward the surprise Chelsea and Esther had in store. What was it, you ask? Well, if you must know we arrived just outside of the Tower…that was where we then had the opportunity to chase a serial killer (oh it’s Christmas!). Jack the Ripper to be exact. Oddly enough I had joked that we were going to chase serial killers earlier…but I was asking more to make sure I was wearing the proper shoes and whatnot.
This tour was absolutely amazing. The tour guide was really engaging and full of detailed and graphic information. Plus, the atmosphere for the tour (cool crisp night air, full moon) added to the eeriness of the event. I should also probably mention that we walked through a BBC film shoot on the tour and I would’ve gone back to talk except that they looked as though they were starting the shoot and not setting up and breaking down. I didn’t want to disturb them. Otherwise, I would have chatted no questions asked.
Once we finished the tour, we wandered to find a pub and eventually settled on the Lord John Russell, which wasn’t far from Chelsea’s dorm. We had some beer and chips for a bit and then retired to our hostel around midnight. For only being in London one day, we covered a lot.
I should probably also note that the reason this long post, which was probably actually two days, is labeled as Day 1 is because there was hardly any sleeping…and thus is considered one day in my mind.
The Hogwarts Express: Day 2—March 9, 2012
We awoke relatively early (as we didn’t know how many people were staying on our floor of the hostel) to shower and get ready for the day that was ahead. I have to tell you that it was probably the most amusing place I have ever stayed. It was a bit crowded and to keep the water on when in the shower, you had to press the button that activated the water to start out continuously.
I did get breakfast from the hostel for free and then Geoff and I waited for Chelsea to take the things we wouldn’t take on the train to Edinburgh to her dorm. Meanwhile, Esther made a trip to go get minutes for her U.K. phone. We all reconvened at King’s Cross Station where we gathered snacks, water, the paper (because my bottle of water was free if I bought The Telegraph) and lunch before boarding the train.
While on the train, I didn’t do much. I wrote the start to this blog entry, wrote more to The Eye, played the crossword with everyone and enjoyed the view of the countryside as it went by. I was really excited to see Edinburgh and could only imagine what we were going to get into once we arrived.
We arrived and climbed the hill (and when I say hill, I mean HILL) to our hostel, Castle Rock. It was, as one would expect located just at the foot of the castle, which excited me quite a bit. We checked in and were assigned to the Lord of the Rings room, where we dropped our things before heading out to do a little sight-seeing and grabbing dinner.
We started off by wandering down the street from our hostel to see some of the main sights. Our first stop was the writer’s museum gift shop, as Esther wanted to buy some things that she didn’t get some things the last time she was here. While I was here I also bought a book on the ghost stories and murders of Edinburgh. It’s sort of a thing that I do when I go traveling.
Some wandering about the city to admire the amazing architecture and the wonderful sights followed this brief stop. Esther gave us some of the history while we wandered. We then wandered to Calton Hill, where we saw some amazing views. There we also encountered the half-finished Parthenon, which is considered the biggest failure of Edinburgh. Apparently, they began to build the Parthenon because Edinburgh was considered the Athens of the North…and then ran out of money midway through construction. It was never finished…and even after the city of Glasgow told Edinburgh they would pay for the completion of the project, Edinburgh said no.
As it got and began to drizzle, we began our search for The World’s End; the pub that we were told had amazing fish and chips. I can in fact confirm that. Of all the fish and chips I’ve ever had, this pub definitely had the best. I also got to try a bit of the haggis that Geoff ordered. Surprisingly it’s nowhere near as bad as one might think. Tasted a bit like sausage to be honest.
Once we finished dinner, we soon found ourselves at the Elephant House Café, which was where J.K.Rowling wrote the first two Harry Potter books, for desert. I had a hot chocolate with crème de menthe and a piece of lemon, white chocolate cheesecake, while Esther and Chelsea had banoffee pie with their hot chocolates and Geoff had a toffee bar with his Irish coffee. I had a taste of the banoffee pie and it was absolutely amazing. I really do hope I find more on this trip as that small taste was nowhere near enough.
After desert and with the four of us not really able to move fully from all of the food, we headed back to the hostel and spent some time checking our e-mail (the only time I did this trip) before shipping off to bed.
To a Haunted City: Day 3—March 10, 2012
We had an early start this morning. I got up and showered in a shower that was so much nicer than the hostel we stayed in while in London. I then wandered downstairs and joined Esther for breakfast (cereal, toast and juice) in the lounge. Chelsea and Geoff soon joined us and then we were off on our morning tour.
Three hours of walking around Edinburgh sounds like it could be quite tedious. But, I assure you it was totally worth my time. It was amazing. I got to hear about some of the best stories and learned the history of the buildings. I would love to recount them here, but they will literally take pages upon pages to write…and I have more to talk about in the adventure. If you want to know some of the stories, just ask and I’ll tell you though. Instead, you can just enjoy the awesome photos I took.
Our tour guides name was Steve and he actually wasn’t from Edinburgh at all. He was from Sydney, Australia and literally made fun of every single person on the tour…that of course meant that Chelsea and I had no problem really interacting back. We saw some amazing things on the tour, like the place in the grass market where people were hung and the place where the people of Scotland show their discontent with paying taxes.
After our tour, Geoff and I went to find his Scottish friends who neither of us had ever met before while Esther and Chelsea went to go buy our tickets for the ghost tour that evening. We did find Geoff’s friends, Kim and Chris, and then met back up with Esther and Chelsea.
The six of us then made our way to see Edinburgh Castlewhere I got to see the crown jewels of Scotland and the stone of destiny, which wasn’t returned to Scotland until the 90s as the English had taken it. All except for the one year it returned in 1950 due to a student named Ian Hamilton who stole it on Christmas Day. We also saw the royal apartments and the military museum.
Following our castle visit, we hunted down a pub called Tron and had dinner while watching the six nations rugby game between Scotland and Ireland (you can read more about my experience with the media coverage of the game here). It was a really good game and I had quite a good time even though Scotland lost. We stayed in the pub for a really long time after the game as we were trying to kill time before our ghost tour.
Around 9:00pm, we found our way to the start of the ghost tour, which was right outside of a Starbucks. Steve was once again our guide and overall it was a decent tour. I think I wanted more ghost, supernatural and superstition stories and less about the area. Granted climbing some of the places I had been during the day at night was rather eerie, but I just wanted something a little more.
We finished the tour around 11pm and waited around for Kim to be picked up before heading back to the hostel for sleep. Tomorrow was going to be an early morning.
And I Would Walk 500 Miles: Day 4—March 11, 2012
This morning started way earlier than anyone ever wants a morning to start. I got up at 6:30am to shower and dress along with the others before heading out to our bus tour through the highlands. We grabbed breakfast at a nearby shop (a sausage roll and mango juice) and then boarded the bus.
It was a cloudy and misty morning once we got out of Edinburgh, but it made for some amazing views of the highlands. We stopped every so often in places where we could get out and take photos of the mountains, like in Glencoe which had some spectacular mountains and is apparently very complex for climbing.
Our first main stop on the trip though was in Callandar, where I grabbed a second breakfast of macaroni pie and tea in Moar Bread (which means Great Bread) and then wandered about the town for a bit before getting back in the bus.
Beyond the several stops we made before lunch, our next big stop was to Loch Ness. I should also probably mention that I was in and out of sleep for a good bit of the trip before Loch Ness as car/bus rides make me sleepy.
When we arrived to Loch Ness, I literally jumped off of the bus. I was so excited. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but Loch Ness didn’t disappoint. We bought tickets for the cruise down the Loch, wandered into a shop for a few souvenirs and then grabbed lunch (fish and chips for me) at a nearby restaurant that had takeaway available. We boarded the boat and ate (which didn’t take long at all) as we began our cruise down the Loch.
Once we had finished eating, we moved our way
up to the upper deck so we had a better view of the Loch. In case you didn’t know, the water of Loch Ness is in fact black due to some things in the water. But, the water is gorgeous just the same. It is also big enough that you could fit the entire population of the world in it ten times. Sadly though we did not see Nessie on our journey, which was probably the biggest disappointment to seeing Loch Ness.
We boarded the bus again after lunch and had a few more stops throughout the highlands on the way back to Edinburgh. We also stopped in a few places where I picked up some more souvenirs and then once more for our last stop in Pitlochry for dinner before arriving back in Edinburgh by 8pm.
Back in Edinburgh, Chelsea, Esther, Geoff and I first tried to grab some banoffee pie at the Elephant House. Sadly though, they did not have any on this Sunday, so instead Geoff went back to the hostel and the rest of us managed to find our way to The Captain’s Bar for some beer and to listen to the live music. This pub was truly a local pub as the musicians were literally people who wandered into the bar with instruments to play and sing. It was grand time. We left around 11pm and went back to the hostel to get ready for bed.
Overall, this day was pretty spectacular. Neal (our tour guide in the highlands) did a really great job of giving us the story behind the highlands and interspersing his lecture with music that supplemented the trip and his recommendation for bar was also great. I would highly recommend that anyone who wants to see the highlands should do so in this fashion. It was brilliant.
Took a 10am Train Going Anywhere: Day 5—March 12, 2012
The morning started with a shower as always. I dressed, finished packing my things and then joined Esther and Chelsea on a last jaunt throughout Edinburgh.
We were mainly looking for the last few souvenirs that we weren’t able to grab earlier in this trip. Sadly though, none of the shops were open before 9am. Or so we thought. Just as we had given up hope, we came across a shop that was open…and they pretty much had everything we were looking for. I bought a few souvenirs for friends back home during this outing…but I won’t mention them here for fear of giving them away.
After our quick shopping trip, we walked back to the hostel and packed the last of our things before heading to the train station where we boarded our train back to London. I was able to get a chicken and vegetable pasty on for the train ride back. In case you don’t know what that is, it would be sort of like a portable chicken potpie. It was delicious.
Once we arrived back in London, we checked into our hotel, the St. Athans. It was definitely the nicest of all of the places that we stayed. The room was spacious and I didn’t have to climb down from the top bunk of beds every morning.
There wasn’t much planned for this day in London as we didn’t arrived back until around 2pm, but we did have something to do. We first grabbed lunch from the Pret down the street of our hotel and we found ourselves eating it in Russell Square. For those Sherlock fans who read my blog that would be where John meets Mike Stamford in A Study in Pink. With lunch finished, we made our way to Harrod’s.
Harrod’s is much bigger than I thought it was going to be. I spent a bit of time looking for a purple raven that my mother had mentioned wanting, but with no luck found. I had a great time looking for things nonetheless, even if I didn’t buy anything this time.
Once we finished shopping, we made our way to Kensington to try to get Polish food. But, upon finding that the restaurant we were going to was way to expensive, we didn’t stay and instead opted for Indian food, which was closer to home. The place that we got food was called Punjab and it was fantastic. I highly recommend it should you ever find yourself in London.
Once dinner was through, we wandered back to the hotel where we proceeded to watch Whitechapel. It’s a BBC series about historical murders in London’s East End. I do like this show quite a lot. We called it a night after two episodes as we had an early morning.
And Honey You Should See Me in a Crown: Day 6—March 13, 2012
Tuesday. Bloody Tuesday morning. It was cold. Very cold. And I found myself sitting outside the Donmar Warehouse with Chelsea and Geoff starting at 7am for day of tickets to “The Recruiting Officer”, while Esther went to deal with something for her sister. Anyway, I knew very little about this show, beyond that it was a period piece and Mark Gatiss was in it, but I knew that I wanted to see it and we missed the opportunity to buy the tickets online. So that pretty much left us with this option.
3.5 hours later, Geoff and I found ourselves with four tickets for the 7:30pm show. I know what you must be thinking, “I thought Chelsea was there too”. Well, you would be right, she was. But she had class at 10am, so she had to leave us to take care of the tickets.
Once we acquired the tickets, Geoff and I made our way to The British Museum where we found Esther not long after we arrived.
The British Museum is in fact ridiculously large. It’s probably about as big as The Egyptian Museum, but it contains artifacts from several other regions of the world, not just Egypt. I was probably the most excited to see the actual Rosetta Stone. It was pretty cool, but then again there were so many people gathered around the thing that it became difficult to see.
We made our through the rest of the Egyptian exhibit and then wandered through the Greek, Assyrian, and modern British exhibits. We didn’t linger too long in one room, as museums can be a bit overwhelming for all of us.
Chelsea called around 12pm and we met her outside the museum before heading to The Tower for a tour.
The Tower of London tour was brilliant. It was lead by one of the beefeaters and he was definitely very sassy. It was great. He gave us the highlights about the Bloody Tower, the White Tower, the Chapel and many other areas. But, he didn’t lead us through every single part of the tower. After he explained to us the Chapel, we were left to our own devices about where to go.
The first thing we did after the tour was to see the crowned jewels. They were rather magnificent, but not like I expected them. You see them by standing on a conveyor belt that moves very slowly. Some of the other pieces could be seen by walking up to them, but the main jewels were done by the conveyor. I also was not allowed to take any photos…not that I thought I could, but it would’ve been nice.
Following this, we decided that lunch was a grand idea and ate in the tower café. It was a bit pricey, but well worth it. I had a Welsh stew, which was amazing as was the Victoria sponge cake.
Our next site in the tower was the White Tower where we saw the exhibit on armory followed by a visit to the tower where several people including the Lady Jane Grey were held before their execution. There were some pretty cool things in this tower like the carvings on the wall that people had made.
We also made our way to the Bloody Tower, which is where Richard, Duke of Gloucester, supposedly murdered two young princes who were the heirs to the throne. But, there are also other suspects for this murder. The point is that two princes who would have been king went missing and their bones were found in a chest much later.
To climb the tower, there are these really narrow spiral staircases that I thought I was going to fall on when walking up. Once in the tower, they have plaques that present all of the evidence of the case and then they let you vote on what you think happened. Was it Richard III? Was it Henry VII? Or did they just disappear? I don’t actually know, but I was most compelled to think that perhaps it was Henry VII.
After our adventures in the Bloody tower we looked for the menagerie, but when we couldn’t find it was took a few more photos and called it a day at the Tower. We boarded the nearest bus and raced back to the hotel to get ready for the show.
Getting ready sounds a bit easier than it was. As I hadn’t exactly planned on seeing a show, I didn’t really bring anything appropriate to wear to the theater. I ended up borrowing a skirt from Chelsea, which was fine, but the shaving beforehand (I forget that morning) put me close on time.
We made it though. We even had time to grab a quick dinner at Itsu, which is sort of like takeaway Japanese. The vegetable dumpling udon was rather lovely and it was fast enough that we made it to the theater by 7:10pm.
Upon entering the theater, I found it to be small, cozy and full of spirit. There was a band on the stage that was jamming away with their fiddle, guitar, drum, flute and bass. They truly set the mood for the play, which was just incredible.
The story was sort of Shakespearean and there are several storylines. One: A naval captain (Captain Plume) is in love with a woman (Sylvia), but he’s a bit of a lady’s man and can’t keep his hands to himself. She also loves him back, but doesn’t trust that the captain will be faithful. When the woman finds that her brother is dead, she travels out to the country and disguises herself as her brother to spy on the captain. Two: Sylvia’s cousin (Melinda) is in love with a man named Mr. Worthy, but she is also being pursued by another naval captain (Captain Brazen). She is also jealous of her cousin. Melinda and Mr. Worthy are pretty much playing hard to get with one another throughout the whole show. Three: The reason that the officers are in town is that they are trying to recruit men from the town to be soldiers.
The production itself was absolutely brilliant. I loved every moment. The actors were lively and very much into their roles. The directing was also amazing, particularly in a play of a lot of words and not very much action. The cast also did a marvelous job of working the space and the crowd to elicit reactions.
I was also very surprised with the amount of people I actually knew in the show beyond Mark Gatiss. Mackenzie Crook, who was from Pirates of the Caribbean, was in the show too, as well as a few others that I can’t name off of the top of my head. Mark Gatiss was spectacular in his role, as was everyone. It was truly an ensemble show.
After the show, I decided that I wanted to wait around to see Mark Gatiss as I knew I would probably not have another chance. Geoff waited with me. I must say, I was a bit star struck. I’m usually really good at talking with people I don’t know or don’t recognize, but when I had an investment in meeting someone apparently I get super nervous? I don’t know. Anyway, I did get him to sign my program and he took a picture with me. He was super nice even though I know he was super tired from the show. I hope to actually one day properly chat with him.
Following my acquisition of the photo and autograph, we headed back to the hotel where we finished Whitechapel before heading off to bed. A rather great day.
Aye: Day 7—March 14, 2012
Today was Sherlock Day. If you don’t know what I mean, I feel like I should explain briefly. Esther, Chelsea and I love BBC’s Sherlock as well as the classic Sherlock Holmes. As such, we dedicated today (or a chunk of today) to finding the Sherlock sites from the show and doing other Sherlock related things.
We started the morning at 10:30am, which was later than we intended. I should also probably mention that the three of us were dressed to match in our “I believe in Sherlock Holmes” shirts. Geoff was lucky enough to have to find jeans and thus miss a good chunk of our adventure.
Anyway, Chelsea, Esther and I started our morning by wandering over to North Gower Street for breakfast (or for me a caramel square) and some tea. Speedy’s still makes the best tea I’ve had all trip.
Upon getting breakfast and taking a few photos, we took our breakfast to Russell Square to eat and drink our tea. We then made our way to the British Museum again where we made our way to the China exhibits to look for some teapots.
By this point in the trip, Geoff had obtained a new pair of jeans and met us at the museum. We then made our way to Chinatown for Dim Sum in one of the many Chinese restaurants. Lunch was fabulous, but a bit pricey.
Chelsea ran off to class after lunch and Esther, Geoff and I made our way to see Leicester Square, which was under construction, and then Piccadilly Circus. We were supposed to continue on our Sherlock journey, but the three of us found ourselves a little sidetracked by a show that was playing in Piccadilly, “The 39 Steps”. We happened to be there an hour before the show and so after a bit of debate, we bought the discounted tickets and saw the show.
It was absolutely amazing as well. It was funny and as a cast of four playing several characters, it required an immense amount of talent. All I could think of when watching this show was “with such a simple set, all of the lights, sound, acting and props needed to be spot on for the show to work”. You literally understood that it was windy outside by the actors moving their closes when they opened doors. It also didn’t take itself too seriously, made Hitchcock references, and lead to many inside jokes between Geoff, Esther and I.
After the show, we made our way to Charring Cross to meet Chelsea and have dinner in The Sherlock Holmes Pub. I had a very lovely chicken wrapped in bacon dish with mashed potatoes and spinach. I also had quite a lot of fun watching and “deducing” the boy and lady who came in and were sitting next to us. Sadly, though the food was rather good, the service was slow…so that was a let down.
Following dinner, we made our way to the London Eye where Geoff and I got to ride the Eye, while Chelsea and Esther waited on the ground. I must say the view from the Eye was brilliant. I was able to take some amazing pictures of the city all lit up, plus the Eye had some informational touch screens in the cars that allowed me to identify some of the buildings I saw while in the air. The only downside to the Eye was the 4D experience that you had to see beforehand. The message of said movie as perceived by Geoff was that to be a good parent, you should take your child on the London Eye.
We headed back to Chelsea’s room not long after we finished our ride, but not before finding some “I Believe in Sherlock Holmes” signs in the skate park near the Eye. We took photos and then actually got back to Chels’ room where we proceeded to start the second season of Whitechapel and do laundry so that we could have clothes for the rest of the trip. Once midnight hit, we headed back home and sleep overcame us quickly.
I Believe in Sherlock Holmes: Day 8—March 15, 2012
This morning was a rather late morning…not intentionally, but it was only because I managed to cut myself shaving in the shower and it was just bad. I won’t get into it. Anyway, once that ordeal was over I joined Esther and Geoff downstairs in the coffee shop for a full English breakfast (one egg, one piece of toast, one piece of bacon, one piece of sausage, on grilled tomato, and baked beans). It was rather delicious. All except for the tomato… that I don’t like tomatoes on a good day, so it doesn’t really count (I did try it though).
Chelsea met us after breakfast and we began our adventure by heading to Regent’s Park. Sadly, many of the flowers were not in bloom just yet as the weather has been off and on in terms of whether spring is here yet. I did get some beautiful pictures of the birds and ducks that inhabited the park though.
We then made our way to the park and then to Baker Street, though we didn’t go into the Baker Street Museum. Instead we went into the gift shop to play around with the hats and to actually buy things. I also managed to get a photo with the bobby outside of 221B Baker Street, but I’m pretty sure that it didn’t turn out because it was only taken on my camera. Oh well. We also made a quick stop to the Baker Street Tube station as it is decorated in Sherlock Holmes things…though we didn’t go all the way down into the Tube station to see the decorations on the wall. Made me a bit sad.
Lunch was the next stop. It was a good 20-minute walk from Baker Street and we had Scandinavian, which meant a butternut squash soup with potato salad, a chocolate bar and a coke. It was rather good, though I the soup had a bit too much coriander in it for me.
After lunch we wandered over to the Spitalfields Market where I nearly bought a shirtdress…but sadly it was way more money than I was willing to spend on it. In other parts of the market, it was sort of like an antique flea market (which apparently only happens on Thursdays). There were a number of cool pieces at some of the stands, but nothing that said “you need to take me home Becky”…at least nothing that I could actually take home with me, so I didn’t buy anything. It was awesome to browse though.
As 4pm drew near, Chelsea had class so she left Esther, Geoff and me to our own devices until she was out of class at 6. The three of us took this time to go and sit in Trafalgar Square for a few minutes, try to climb up on the lion statues and then head toward Buckingham Palace…but before we reached the palace we stopped for a flake at the top of the mall and to take pictures of what we think is the Diogenes Club in Sherlock.
Ok. So, Buckingham Palace was lovely even though I didn’t see the changing of the guard…but I’m not so concerned about that. After we had thoroughly taken photos of the palace, the three of us walked along the lake in St. James’ Park before heading back to Charring Cross to meet Chelsea.
Once Chelsea was out of class, she met us and we hopped on the Tube to grab dinner in Elephant and Castle. The area apparently isn’t too nice and I could tell. Things felt a little more unkempt, but having others with me made it bearable. We wandered into the Elephant and Castle Shopping Center, which was where the restaurant was, and only had a little trouble finding it. But, once we did the meal was delicious. I should probably say that we finally got the Polish food that we had been looking for since Monday. I had goulash and chicken spinach perogis, all of which was delicious.
After dinner, we hopped back on the Tube and made our way towards Soho for dessert, which was from a yogurt shop called Snog. (Apparently their motto when they opened was “snogging is good for you”, which is super adorable). I had an orange snog with white chocolate stars. The combination tasted like an orange cream sickle.
With desert in hand, we wandered Soho and Chelsea explained some of the things that we were seeing. Once we had finished, even though it was early, we made our way back to our hotel to drop things off and then to Chelsea’s room to finish series 2 of Whitechapel and start series 3.
It was a long day, but one that was full of adventures.
To See What I See: Day 9—March 16, 2012
We actually managed to get started today on time…mostly. Around 9am Geoff, Esther and I made our way downstairs for breakfast after we had all showered and then we waited for Chelsea to meet us…as per usual we ended up getting a late start on things. Not because Chelsea was late, but because we were waiting for her text us and she didn’t so Esther and I took our grand time with teeth brushing and make-up.
After we finally had our act together, we headed out on our journey, which started with a trip to St. Bart’s hospital. No, we weren’t sick. This was actually a stop leftover from our Sherlock Holmes tour.
We snapped a few photos and made our way to Saint Paul’s Cathedral. It was rather gorgeous, but sadly as we could go all the way to the top and it was cloudy the decision to not actually go inside the Cathedral was made for us. I’ve been reliably told that it is worth the £13 to go inside for the decorations, but at that moment in time I was not exactly willing…so we moved on.
The Globe, however, I did find to be worth my £11. We started off with a tour of the theater that explained the history of the original Globe, the history of the current Globe and gave us some interesting facts about the modern theater. For example, oak building and thatch roofs are illegal in London. The Globe, however, is an exception. The Globe also is made to nearly replicate what the original Globe would have looked like with only a few changes like a concrete floor instead of one made of mud and whatnot. I must say it was incredibly gorgeous.
After the tour, we wandered about through the exhibit that is under the actual theater and then we watched an authentic costume dressing…where the dressers actually picked Chelsea out of the audience to dress.
Once we had finished with watching Chelsea embarrass herself, we played around a bit more in the Globe with their “be apart of a Shakespearean scene” recorders (which you can only imagine how that went for people who actually perform Shakespeare) and then we met Chelsea’s friend Karen for lunch and a bit of food shopping in Borough Market. Here I had a Guinness stew for lunch with a blueberry crumble and we purchased three lovely jams to bring back with us.
Upon finishing lunch, we wandered over to Tower Hill so I could make a quick stop in the gift shop and then we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the St. Patrick’s Day party at the American Embassy.
I wore my green polka dotted dress and we readied ourselves to go. (Even though at the time, it seemed that none of us really wanted to be there.) This all changed once we got through security and found ourselves at the “Regal Eagle” (yes, that is what it is called). There was a bit of Irish folk dancing to start the night and then the night slowly turned into any night in a standard American bar. It’s strange because even though I knew I was still in London, being at the American Embassy for this party was wonderful. I felt like I was home if only for a brief moment.
We left the party after it ended at 11pm and actually headed out to Baker Street with some of Chelsea’s colleagues for a bit of an after party. This was rather fun. I was exhausted, however, and thus spent my time as is rather common of me. I dosed, only coming back into consciousness when a question was asked of me. Meanwhile, Chelsea chatted with the other interns in the kitchen and Geoff and Esther talked with some of the kids that were interning for the Danish Embassy about what America was actually like. Public Diplomacy in action right there.
After the party had drawn to a close at 2am, we headed back to our hotel where everyone allowed sleep to overtake them. This was, of course, after a brief excursion to find chips…that ended up unsuccessful.
Cake or Death?: Day 10—March 17, 2012
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! After our celebrations the night before, we were all not too keen on partying it up tonight. We set off on a relatively low-key day, which started with me hunting for the last little bits of souvenirs that I hadn’t picked up.
Sadly we didn’t make it too far before tragedy struck. As Geoff went to pull money out of an ATM, it decided it was going out of order. Meaning it charged his account and didn’t give him cash. So Geoff returned to the hotel to send some e-mails, while Esther, Chelsea and I soldiered on to the British Museum (we really love this place) and the shops across the street for shopping.
I got a good chunk of what I needed and Geoff finally met us at the museum. We spent the next bit of time in a limbo of me looking at shops all the while searching for another branch of the bank that would be open for Geoff to explain what had happened. There was no luck to be found for either of us.
At 3pm in the afternoon on a Saturday with us striking out on our goals, we decided there was only one thing to do. Get afternoon tea.
We wandered over to Bea’s of Bloomsbury Street and had a lovely afternoon tea for the four of us. We once again ordered a huge amount of food and proceeded to devour it all.
Once tea had finished, the others decided that they were ready to go home and pack for the trip home. I, however, still had some shopping to get done.
With map in hand and mobile phone should anything go amiss, I headed out on my own and I ended up at none other than Baker Street. I quite obviously just love this place. I did some additional shopping at the Sherlock Holmes Museum and the little souvenir shop across the street and in about 2 hours had wrapped up the last of my shopping. I hopped the Metropolitan line from Baker Street and took it to King’s Cross where I found myself outside taking photos in the gorgeous London rain before deciding that I should head back and begin packing.
When I returned to the hotel, I found Chelsea and Esther watching Slings and Arrows while I packed most of my things. I then joined them on watching the episodes.
Geoff returned the room not long after that and we grabbed a cab (the only one I took in London) and had dinner at this wonderful Thai place. The red duck curry I had was absolutely brilliant as was the Tom Yum Kha soup. And as per our custom, dinner was followed by gelato from Scoops.
We returned to our hotel to watch more Whitechapel (which I fell asleep on…not surprising). This was a fabulous last day in London. I finally got to see the weather in action and I love it to no end.
A Fond Farewell: Day 11- March 18, 2012
A bittersweet morning is really the only way I can describe this morning. While I know I needed to come back to the States, I was not exactly thrilled about the prospect. I didn’t sleep well before the flight either. Mainly because I was kept awake by the thought that I had forgotten to buy something, that people wouldn’t like their gifts or that my luggage would be too heavy to take home.
Finally, the alarm went off and I showered. I felt slightly better and even better as I packed everything away. Chelsea met us and then we caught the tube out to Heathrow.
Once at the airport it was pretty standard procedure as to how airports work. We checked in and received our boarding passes and then checked our bags. My only problem here was the lady at the counter for bag check who didn’t seem to understand that the two bags I was carrying on with me couldn’t be checked. She pretty much scared Esther, Geoff and I about possibly having to check it at the gate, which would be £40. Luckily we didn’t.
We said good-bye to Chelsea and then went through security, which was a little weird, as I didn’t have to take off my shoes. We grabbed lunch from Pret beyond security and shortly after we had our gate and were boarding the plane.
Unlike the way over, I didn’t sleep on the way back. Instead I watched movies (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Ides of March, and the end of Tin Tin and TTSS twice. Lunch on the plane was rather decent and about an hour before we landed they served us afternoon tea with scones. Quite lovely.
We arrived back in DC to beautiful spring weather, which was a very drastic change from the cold and wet of London. (Honestly, I like the London weather better.) We passed through customs easily, caught a Super Shuttle home, began unpacking, ordered dinner and eventually passed out from exhaustion. Threats of the real world returning on Monday were very real and no longer in the distant future.
So there you have it! Eleven days in the U.K. as seen by Becky. I had an absolute fabulous time and I can’t wait to go back. There were still things that I wanted to do that I didn’t get to do…like a tour of the BBC.
Chelsea was in fact a fabulous tour guide and overall, the four of us were pretty great travel companions. We only hit a few snags, but that is to be expected when traveling with people in general. And that’s a wrap!