Thursday, May 6, 2010

LONDON: The Final Post

On Friday, April 9, we took it easy and went to meet Lindsey and Elizabeth at their flat. It was heaven compared to the apartment we live in. However, they do have bunk beds still, so I guess we all end up sacrificing something. We moved out of the sorority house and thought bunk beds were going to be out of our lives forever. Yet they continually keep popping up. We just stayed there, talking and playing games for the night. It was nice to relax since we had literally been on our feet all day.
Saturday morning we woke up and got dressed to meet up with Lindsey and see the changing of the guard. The changing of the guard happens every other day at 11 a.m. We couldn’t really see too much because it was incredibly crowded. As we were standing there, all of a sudden we hear an “Oh hey guys!”

It was Mark.

We had not been able to contact Mark at all since we had arrived and he took off into the night at 1 a.m. He might have been dead for all we knew. Instead, we learned Mark had been to the Tower of London, met a friend named Garrett and went on a pub crawl the night before by himself. He is very independent.

Lindsey showed us around town. Much to Haley’s pure joy (and my secret one) we went to Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross. Platform 9 ¾ is a fictional platform from the Harry Potter books. It’s the way the wizarding community gets to Hogwarts, their school. We took a few pictures (even Nick took one). In Haley’s case we took a dozen since it didn’t look like she was pushing hard enough on the first few. Trav refused to take a picture.

Then we went to the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. We didn’t go into the Tower since you had to pay and our friend Mark said it wasn’t worth it, though Rick Steves (travel book Mark loves) gave it 3 stars. I loved finally seeing the Tower. I’ve read a lot about it in my historical fiction novels. It’s so strange being at places where I know Anne Boleyn or Robert Dudley or thousands of other people have been and awaited their death. This building was really used during the Renaissance, which made me feel like I should be walking around in my Renaissance dress. Sadly, I have wanted to bust out my green and gold RenFest dress more times on this trip than anyone should ever want to. The Tower wasn’t like anything I pictured. I thought it would be a huge, lonely building rising high into the air. However, it was a bit more cheerful than I had anticipated.

The Tower Bridge was so impressive. It’s very stately and regal. I loved it because it had a pretty blue on it that matched the dress I was wearing. We took a few pictures. Haley and Trav took an engagement photo that apparently got a few people talking once it appeared on Facebook. But no, curious public, they are not dating (yet).
We walked to the other side of London. Apparently this is the more sketchy side. For a while there were several haunted houses. It was definitely weird to see zombies walking around in broad daylight. However, I didn’t see them feasting on anyone so I figured that’s why the Queen lets them just run rampant. I ran into the London Red Bull offices! Sadly they were closed. But they sure did look fun. I wish I could’ve gone in.

Every Saturday London has three different markets. There is an antique market, furniture one (I think), and a food market. We went to Burrough, the food market. Tricia said she read it is one of the top 10 best smelling places in Europe. Where you find a list of smells, I don’t know. The market was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was hard to navigate through the crowd there was so many booths set up with any type of food you could think of. We tried tons of different things from sausages to hazelnuts to jams to cheeses. It was a nice snack. The market went on and on, with wine, meat, vegetable and fish booths.

We went back to our hostel after that to get ready to go out that night. Earlier in the day we had gone to London’s West End, the theater district, to buy tickets to see a musical later that night. We each made our own dinner then went to go meet up with the London girls at the theater, where dancing is prohibited above all else.

We saw the amazing Billy Elliot: The Musical. It was so good. I forgot how much I love seeing shows and how much they make me want to be up there. At times it was hard to understand them because of their thick accents. They had just gotten a new cast, but the boy who played Billy was just such an amazing dancer. It was pretty expensive, but I’m glad we did it.

Some of us had to split up during the show so we waited for everyone afterwards right outside the theater. All of a sudden, we looked into the bar to our right and Jack was inside. Why was Jack alone in the bar? However, Jack had received a ticket that was for a different showing so he got kicked out before the show even started. He didn’t get to see any of it! Since we had no way of communicating with each other, none of the rest of us had any idea that this happened to him. So for the two hours that we were in the show, Jack was busy making local friends, watching soccer at a hostel and receiving beers from strangers.

We stayed at that pub for a bit then we all separated. Jack, Haley and Laura went home. Lindsey, Tricia, Mark, Savio, Trav and I still felt that the night was young and so were we. Lindsey took us to The Walkabout, a popular place for Australians to go to. I was amazed by the amount of Australians that were in London, particularly at our hostel. They were everywhere. I made friends with two of them (they said they were from Oz and I literally had to think for a minute what that meant) and they told me that the Australian government gives money to everyone to come to England. They might have been just kidding because they liked to see me get worked up (so they said). They actually said it way better than that in some Australian slang word, but I forgot it. They also really liked to make fun of me for saying “y’all.” Welcome to the club, boys. I asked them if they liked Vegemite and if they had kangaroos as babysitters while growing up and if they rode around in their pouches. They asked if I owned a gun and rode horses to school. Touché, my Aussie friends. Unfortunately we never got to say bye to each other and will never see each other again.

The Walkabout was hilarious. Tricia and I danced. A strange little man fell in love with me. My friends took pictures of it instead of saving me. There were a couple bachelorette parties there. In England, everyone dresses up for the parties either all in a matching theme or in Halloween costumes. Not necessarily very attractive, but hey, neither are English people’s teeth. Can’t win them all I suppose. A fight broke out so we decided to leave. Oh you crazy Brits. Lindsey and I had a fun bus ride home, riding on the top of the double decker and just being silly tourists.

The next day we woke up, packed and set out to the Victoria and Albert Museum again. I paid 5 pounds to go into the Digital Media exhibit. I thought it would be different than it was so that was a little bit of a letdown. It was really all sorts of electronic art pieces. Though I don’t necessarily think these pieces were as beautiful as traditional art, it was so interesting. Most of the pieces were interactive. For example, when you walked through the entrance, a series of reeds would light up as you walked. I felt like I was an Avatar. There was one that encouraged you to take life slower by only capturing your image if you stood still in front of a portrait for a long period of time. My favorite one was a giant white screen that you stood in front of. As you moved your arms, color would splash upon the screen. I had a pretty fun time throwing my arms hard and fast then slowly into the air to see the different types of designs I could make. The people watching me apparently had a fun time too.

I liked the exhibit because it made me think differently about art and the future of art. I have never really cared that much for paintings and sculptures. I liked realizing that this is what houses may have on display in the future and seeing what people are pushing themselves to develop in a creative way. It definitely took more effort to create this art than the typical modern “art” that is a splash of paint on a white canvas.

Afterwards I wandered around the museum by myself, stumbling upon the jewelry and theater exhibits. Perfect. I was a little disappointed though because we were missing the Grace Kelly fashion exhibit by only one week. I would have really liked to see that. I did however splurge to buy the most recent issue of Vanity Fair with her on the cover at the airport.
We left the museum and went back to the hostel to go catch the bus to take us to the airport. Mark missed it. However, we finally ran into him again at the airport. So at least we got to spend another three hours with him.

We all decided that London was one of our favorite trips we had taken. Since we were there from April 7-11 and had locals to show us around (and since we spoke the language), it made us feel more a part of England instead of just the tourists that we usually feel like. We didn’t have to rush from place to place, but we still saw a lot. I think subconsciously we really enjoyed being in a culture so much like home again. Things were bright and busy, there wasn’t dog poop on the streets, nothing closed down in the middle of the day. It was so nice to be reunited not only with amazing friends, but also our culture. I could see myself living in London one day. Of course, many thanks to Lindsey and Elizabeth for being amazing hosts and showing us around London!! We love you guys and travel safely back to America!!

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