Well, I successfully survived my second London adventure! This time I was able to spend the whole weekend in the city, but I have still barely dented my list of things to do. Guess I will just have to keep going back! I went with a group of nine friends, so goings were a bit slow at times. All the same, the weekend was wonderful.
We stayed in Hostel 639 just across the road from the Kensal Green underground, and even though I had my reservations at first (for £8.50 a night who wouldn’t be nervous?), the place ended up being fairly decent. Don’t get be wrong, it was no five star resort, but there were no rats and no bed bugs and it had beds. After arriving at about 10PM, the night was spent mainly in the hostel (there was nothing to do in our area of town), but celebratory drinks made the night fly by. One hour of sleep and two pieces of toast later, I was on my way to the City of London.
After a little bit of tube confusion we finally made it to the Thames river walk, which brought us a breathtaking view of Tower Bridge and the HMS Belfast. Although it was my second time in London, it wasn’t until I saw the bridge in the distance that I truly felt like I was in the city. I was in LONDON. And despite the dirtiness of the water, the experience was fantastic. Our group spent a good hour wandering along the river walk taking everything in (as well as dozens of pictures). Several of us found our way down to the shoreline, and I made my mark in the sand.
The second marvel seen was the Tower of London, but unfortunately due to a combination of stinginess (entrance into the fortress is £18 for students) and lack of time, we were only able to see the outside. The estate used to be guarded by lions, ensuring only the bravest of heart would risk seeking entry. Models of these creatures remain on the grounds, along with informational plaques to explain the history of the tower. Going inside to see the inside of the castle and the crown jewels remains on my list of things to do in London, but the view was enough to tide me over until then.
After several hours of site seeing, it was time for lunch. Our group split into two smaller ones, and mine feasted at the Borough Market in Southwark. The place was packed, filled with the hustle and bustle of busy shoppers trying to find the finest cheese, freshest fruit, and filets of plump meat. In all honesty, I would not suggest this area to someone who is anxious in crowds or is claustrophobic, but if you are looking for a taste of home, Borough Market is the place to go. Mexican, Italian, English, French, German, Turkish– you name it, you can find it (or at least try to in the mass of people!). Upon exiting the market, we stumbled upon a colorful treat. Umbrellas flood the air behind one of the buildings, creating a unique and magical atmosphere (I was expecting Mary Poppins to float down out of the sky at any moment). If only I could have plucked one down and taken it for a keepsake!
After a quick stop at the Tate Modern, the next stop was to the Globe Theater. As an English major I was excited to see the Globe. I’ve read several of Shakespeare’s plays and a handful of his sonnets, and seeing this famous spot was something my inner teacher was thrilled to do. What I was not aware of was how late in the season productions actually begin. I went inside the ticket office to ask about the price of seeing a play, only to discover that the first show (The Tempest) doesn’t begin until April 20th. This is yet another event that remains on my list of things to do in London.
I also visited Platform 9 3/4, but I am going to write a separate blog entry about all the Harry Potter related sites I have seen in the UK. Kings Cross Station was surprisingly fantastic. I was so stunned by the largeness of it, and couldn’t help but to be impressed. I walked across the street to get a look inside its sister station, St. Pancreas, and it too made me gape. There was a statue by Paul Day inside the building made of bronze that towered thirty feet over passerby. It is called The Meeting Place and it represents the history of the tube and train. Around the bottom edge of the statue are panels, also carved in bronze, depicting scenes such as soldiers departing for war and workers rebuilding a destroyed rail. My favorite scene was of a man wearing sunglasses, and within the frames there were people waiting in a queue for their train to arrive. This was my kind of art.
After I had finished staring at the miraculous statue in St. Pancreas, I left to meet up with one half of the group at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. This was easier said then done however. It took about forty minutes of walking and searching to finally get to the museum, which is held in the University College of London. By the time I reached the building I was too tired from trying to find the place to even go in. On the bright side, our group took a great photo on the benches outside the exhibit!
After everyone had finished at the Egyptian museum, it was nearly time for dinner. We were famished from a long day of walking, and several people were irritable from lack of proper sleep. Nearly thirty minutes of resting later, we set off for china town, and nearly two hours later we finally regrouped and settled on a restaurant. We ate at a buffet and the food was really good (for the most part). I ate nearly three plates! Our bellies full and feet broken, we finally headed back to our hostel to fall asleep and get some rest before setting out at 9AM the next morning for another fun filled day.