I’m sorry that I suck and am just now getting this blog post written. The last week was a little busy and I was also a little lazy, but better late than never, right?
I should probably also say that this post is about my trip to London during the weekend of November 15! Yay!
Ok, so how about I twist my time turner and we go back and relive the trip? Let’s go!
**twists time turner** WOOSH
Friday, November 15 at 8:00pm
This is where my journey starts! I went to London with my friends Emily, Bruni, and Seth, with the intention to meet our friend, Skyler, who is currently studying abroad there. Our flight to London was late Friday night, so we met at the bus stop, left for the airport, and before we knew it, we were on the plane to England! We landed in London shortly after 11pm local time, and after exchanging some money to get our pounds (remind me again just why the UK has to have its own money?) we hopped on the Stansted Express to Liverpool Street Station. We arrived at the station about an hour later, searched the tube maps for the best way to get to our hostel, and bought our ticket. Now here is where the first adventure begins!
By the time we got to the station and bought our tickets, it was around 12:30am, and when we finally caught the tube, it was 12:45. Here’s the problem: the tube stops running at 1am and we were on the wrong train.
Yep, that’s right. We are in the middle of London with not even so much as a map to help us, only our smart phones which don’t work in another country and the ability to actually speak the language. So once we figured out we were on the wrong bus, we got off at the next stop assuming we could switch sides and head back toward Liverpool Station and get on the correct tube line. Haha WRONG. No, instead we were stranded in whatever little podunk stop we got off at because it was now 1:00 and the tube was closed for the night. We left the station and waited at the bus stop for whatever bus would take us in the direction of city center because by now, we were quite a ways away from where we needed to be.
A bus finally arrived, so we jumped aboard and rode along, waiting for some indication that we were getting closer. Luckily, I figured out that while my internet won’t work in another country on my phone, for some reason Google Maps (thank God for Google) could still track me! This made navigating a little easier, and we were able to figure out where to get off the bus that would put us as close to our hostel as possible. Long story short, we still had about 2 or 3 miles to walk to get to our hostel, though we did see just how beautiful London is at night! We arrived right around 4am, exhausted and ready to go to sleep.
BEEP BEEP BEEP
About 3 hours later, the sound of our alarm rudely woke us up. And so Saturday began!
We met up with Skyler at our hostel and from there walked to the Palace of Westminster (aka the Parliament House and Big Ben) and Westminster Abbey. Both were so pretty! But what I very quickly discovered is that I am way to poor to be a tourist in London. To go into the Parliament House cost 20£ and Westminster Abbey cost 12£ to enter, which is roughly $33 and $20 respectively. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather spend $53 dollars on goofy souvenirs! So we made the group decision fairly early on that unless there was something we just had to do, going into famous or historical buildings was probably not going to happen.
From Westminster Abbey, we took the tube to London Tower. Once we got there, we were all feeling rather tired (despite the fact that we had only been active for about an hour) so we decided to embrace the American in us and go to Starbucks! (Side note: For those of you who don’t know, Bilbao (and País Vasco in general) are very against chain companies, including Spanish companies, which means that food options that exist in places like Sevilla, Madrid, Barcelona, etc, don’t exist here. One such example is Starbucks, and as much as I have come to love my café con leche, a girl needs her chai latte occasionally.) So we got our Starbucks, walked around the outside of the London Tower (again, too expensive to justify paying to go in) and then walked over Tower Bridge to the other side of the river.
The next stop on our whirlwind tour of London was Buckingham Palace so we could see the Changing of the Guards! We got to the palace just before 11 and the Changing of the Guards was scheduled to start at 11:15, and (as was to be expected), there were SO MANY PEOPLE. Seriously, the best spot we could get was on a corner, but at least we were along the gate so we could still see into the courtyard (I don’t actually know what it’s called, but the area between the Palace and the gate) where all the action was taking place. So we got comfortable, took tons of photos of the Palace and the guards that were already in position, and waited. About 20-25 minutes later, we heard the faint sound of a marching band, and turned around (away from the gate) to see a parade (literally) of people coming down the street. Some of the guards were marching while others were playing instruments and others trotted along on their horses. It was pretty cool! Eventually, after a tour around the Palace and surrounding parks, the parade of guards made it inside the gate, and the spectacle began! I wish I could adequately describe all that the guards did, but even if I tried I could never do it justice, so instead here are some photos and hopefully these will show better than I could tell!
That’s essentially a pictorial play-by-play of the changing of the guards. I had really hoped I would see the Queen or something like that would happen, but alas, I went royal-less. Oh well! I talked to a guard and I think gave him a bit of a chuckle (I asked him to look my way so I could get a photo of him and he slowly turned his head, and then after I said “Thank you very much!” He replied, “Well, aren’t you a kind one?” and smiled as he walked away. SUCCESS.).
By the end of the Changing of the Guards, we were all starving so we decided to go to lunch before continuing our tour of the city. Being the very cultured and adventurous person I have become, I wanted Chipotle. Not even kidding you. Being in Spain, you would kill for about 3 things and one of them is some kind of Mexican food, and seeing as no one in Europe has any idea what Mexican food actually is, Chipotle is the closest thing because they can’t really stray from the recipes, so it will actually taste like the Chipotle in the U.S. Needless to say, I have never been so grateful for American food chains in Europe. And it turned out to be a great decision because we ran into the rest of Santalbo!
Next we decided to change it up a little and go to the other side of town (which meant nothing to me seeing as I had no clue what side of town we were on) and go to Harrods! If I ever felt poor before, I don’t think I have enough money in my bank account to even buy one thing. Ok, I guess I could afford a macaroon (only 5£ for one), or a stuffed animal the size of my face (200£). Just one questions: Who in their right mind actually spends that kind of money on such trivial things? I mean, I guess if you have the money to spend, why not? But I think they should just give the money to me instead so I can actually afford to visit their town. Or go travel to others…. (Money can’t buy happiness, but I would rather cry on my own private island….)
After wandering around Harrods and marveling at the amazing purses, children’s area, and tea and chocolate rooms, we returned to reality and continued to wander on. We decided to go to Kensington Palace and Gardens because we had heard it was nice and I was all for some nature time! We meandered through Hyde Park and ended at the Palace and Gardens, where we decided to take a little breather because we all were exhausted from the day! Hyde Park was showing some beautiful signs of autumn (which Bilbao has been lacking, so I was super excited to see the fall colors), and Kensington Gardens, while small, were very pretty. It was certainly a nice place to rejuvenate before continuing on!
After seeing the gardens, we went back to our hostel so we could relax for a bit before dinner. For dinner, we decided to experience the famous Indian cuisine of London and ate at a small Indian restaurant near our hostel. The food was new for me, but good! After that, Skyler (our friend from London) took us to some of the bars and pubs he likes to go to. We found one we all liked, got a few ciders, and sat and talked for the next three or four hours! It was a rather enjoyable night. Though we were reminded of what little sleep we were running off of when one of us (I won’t say who 😉 ) felt the combination of the cider and lack of sleep and promptly nodded off at the table. The girls decided to call it a night and go back to the hostel to get some shut eye while the boys went off to enjoy the London nightlife!
On Sunday, Emily and I decided to get up early so we could go explore London a little more and go souvenir shopping. We basically retraced our steps from the previous day as we went to London Tower (there was a good looking souvenir shop there), then over to Buckingham Palace because we weren’t able to see much of the area during the Changing of the Guards. While some may consider this a waste of time, I was so glad to have done it because it gave us the chance to spend a little more time at each of the places (because the previous day we rushed through everything).
After we finished, we met back up with the boys to go have breakfast. Skyler took us to a small tea and breakfast place on the outskirts of town, where we enjoyed a lovely English breakfast filled with toast, yogurt and granola, and apple spice tea. It was all very delicious and we were certainly stuffed to the brim when we left.
Our last stop (that Emily and I forced the boys to go to) was Kings Cross Station! “Why?” you might ask. Well, you obviously aren’t a Harry Potter fan if you’re asking this question. It’s because Kings Cross Station is the location of Platform 9 ¾ , AKA the Platform that takes you to the Hogwarts Express, which takes you to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (yes, here is where I admit to being a nerd). So naturally Emily and I had to go there to fulfill our childhood dream of going to Hogwarts!
At this point, our journey had reached it’s end. We made one more stop by Big Ben to say goodbye to London before we made our way to the airport. It may have been a whirlwind of a trip, but it was certainly a blast and I’m so glad I had the chance to see England!
My travels (as far as I know) are now done until my parents and brother come out to Spain (yay!) so there won’t be anymore posts about me going to foreign lands, so now you’ll get to hear about what my life is actually like in Bilbao when I’m not hopping from country to country to continent! But that’s coming later, so don’t worry, this post is over 🙂
Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I’m thankful for all of you for taking the time to read this silly blog about this crazy life of mine!
All my love,
P.S. A blog about London wouldn’t be complete without a telephone booth photo!