Tuesday, January 20, 2009


After one week of classes, lots of reading and a major time adjustment it is time for a weekend in London!  I know this sounds quick but here at Harlaxton there really isn't much time to waste in terms of travel at least.  The school held a trip briefing in which I learned all the tourist spots to hit and received a great little plan that we could follow.  London was sounding easy enough.  I was going to hit all the hot spots with time to spare for the all important shopping adventures.  Since this was a Harlaxton trip (we paid Harlaxton to do all the travel arrangements) all I had to do was show up with my backpack ready and board the coach.  After the 3 hour coach ride to central London we were forced to take a "coach tour," otherwise known as "lets drive around in the London traffic while the leaders check the group in."  Ahh the joy of traveling in a group of 150 people.  Finally the boring coach tour came to an end and we took our things to our room.  After one week of trekking myself up and down the stairs to the fifth corridor at Harlaxton, I was extremely happy to find that my room was on the first floor!  Excited for the prospect of a new adventure, Laurel and I hastily assembled our maps and trusty plan from Gordon (our principal) began to conquer London.  Out the front doors of our 1600 room hotel we go and the conversation begins:
"Which way do we go?" said Laurel
"I don't really know.  We just need to get to the British Museum because that it is the first thing on the plan," I reply
"Well where is that?" 
"I am not sure.  Gordon said something about a square and then seeing the British Museum
.  Do you see a square?"
"No," answer Laurel
"Well I lets go right.  That has to be right because it is in the right direction," I conclude.

This is how the first few hours 
of London go.  We obviously have not totally got a hold on the street system and it doesn't help that the street signs are on the buildings periodically instead of clearly marked.  The fact that we have tickets for the London Eye at 4 pm doesn't help things either.  We are running a circle around our hotel and don't really know how to get much of anywhere except this underground stop we seem to keep running into.  By now the time is getting late and we really need to get to the Eye to take our "flight." The walking thing has obviously failed and we must move on to another plan.  Remember that underground?  The Tube to the rescue!!  Laurel and descend to the underground station and quickly figure out a whole new world.  We buy what we think is the right ticket, ask the operator the route to take, and hop on the next train.  Strangely enough, this worked!  We emerged from the tube station to see that the Eye was right there.  We board the wheel and take a "flight."  All of London is visible from so high in the sky and we are amused by the Russians who make up the rest of the people in our pod.  Finally it hits me-I am in London.  This city is teeming with energy and buzz.  I have a day to take
 advantage of it.  This flight revealed the multinational flair that is London.  There were no other Americans within this glass pod, yet we all enjoyed the ride and all were bubbling over with excitement to em
bark on the places we saw from behind the glass of the pod.  

As the sun set over Big Ben, my flight c
ame to a stop.  Here we were again.  Where to go?  What to eat?  How to get there? 

With less time pressures, Laurel and I walked across the bridge and saw Big Ben up close and personal for the first time.  Of course it was dark, but the city was just waking up to the excitement that night brings.  We eventually found a pub with an open table. We sat down figured out the way things work.  I never tasted food so good!  (this may be an exaggeration as I hadn't eaten since 11 am!).  The atmosphere was unmistakably British.  More walking followed that dinner and eventually we found our way back to the hotel.  A little planning for the next day was necessary and we quickly fell asleep to the sound hum of the city.  Sometimes the hum grew to a complete shout or siren, remember that we were on the first floor of the hotel!  

Day two was as full as a day can get.  Every hour, every minute was all about soaking in London.  First matter of business was to buy an all day pass on the Tube.  The single we purchased the day before was 4 pounds while the all day pass was only 5.60 pound.  If any of you are going to London soon you should buy a Tube pass.  Through the trains that ran underground we saw all of London.  The locals use them at all hours and they often provide much needed entertainment as local thoughts and exchanges are overheard.  

Laurel and I did it all (at least it seemed like we did!).  I won't bore you with the play by play of every nook and cranny of London we discovered. Here are some highlights:

1. Visiting Buckingham Palace before the crowds descended on the area.  We walked through a green space that was lovely and it just reminded me the grandeur that is all around.  
We saw the palace and large fountains, but I was just as impressed by the sun pouring through the trees on the way to the palace. There is a picture of the trees below.
2. Piccadilly Circus was fantastic.  I felt like I was in New York City.  The big electronic billboards surrounded by a few thousand ways to spend lots of money.  Like I said, it felt like home.
3. Visiting Paperchase.  A three-story store of just stationary!  My dream come true.  It was a cool place.  This leads me to my next thing...
4. Eating at Nando's.  You all need to eat at this place.  It is Portuguese and it is so good.  The
 chicken was amazing!!  I also had corn on the cob and spicy rice.  Very reasonably priced too!  That was recommendation from the man working at Paperchase (another reason they are so fabulous: good restaurant  recommendations!)
5. Hoping on a tour at the Globe Theatre.  We were confused and accidentally ended up on a non-free tour, but we didn't pay!  Ooops!  Oh well.  We honestly didn't know!  
6. Know that we could get around London!  It is a great feeling to know that you are never really lost and understand that everything around you is interesting.  

On Sunday we went to Hampton Court Palace. This is outside of London and has house several different monarchs and their families. The most famous is of course Henry VIII.  The house is a mix of styles because so many people lived there at different times and had different tastes.  The most impressive part to me were the gardens. The whole ground is full of gardens that are kept in pristine condition.  It was a cold day, but overall it was interesting and a nice change from the bustle of central London.  

That is about all I have for this trip. Keep check back for more posts and more stuff!  Check your mail too :)

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