LONDON! I have honestly been dying to go to London since I was like 10. I am not sure what it is, but I'm just fascinated with it. I've been looking forward to this day since we got our schedule and saw that we had a full day in London. Fantastic. Here we go.
We woke up bright and early. Our house, Penny Lane, is about a 20 minute walk to our director's and fellow student's houses which serve as our headquarters. We had to leave our apartment at about 6:15 so we'd be there in plenty of time to leave headquarters by 6:40 to walk to the train station for a 7:00 train. This train took us to Cardiff Central, where we caught the 7:30 train to London. It was a slightly cold and rainy morning, but we were all so excited that it didn't really matter. We arrived in Paddington Station at about 9:45, ready to rock.
First we visited the Museum of London as a group. Tons and tons of cool stuff. Lots of artifacts, great exhibits, and enlightening historical models. I particularly loved all the Medieval and Victorian-era fashions, like this dress. It's over 6 feet wide! Crazy, right? I sometimes wish we still dressed like that.
After the Museum of London, about 11:15 am, we were released. On our own. Like adults. I know. Ridiculous. We had all-day metro passes and heads full of excitement as we separated from our director and peers to catch the nearest tube line. I LOVE riding the tube. It was so great. I think I would love doing that every day. So easy to get around, quick, fun, efficient. It was great. We went to Kensington Gardens to begin our adventure. Here is our group, the members of which, besides myself, are fondly referred to as "The Irish" because they traveled in Ireland previous to the program. I usually hang with them, but I am friends with everyone and glad we all get along.
Kensington Gardens are really beautiful. And huge! The fountains are so pretty. I think I would kick it here a lot if I lived in London.
We got to see the Peter Pan statue, and Jessica shared with us the "legend" of Peter Pan and Bird Island, which is signified by the location of the statue.
My favorite part of the park, and, arguably, the entire day, was the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. We almost didn't go see it. I really wanted to because I loved Princess Diana. Mostly because my mom did, but still. Who didn't? We decided to check it out and I'm so glad that we did. It's this big, circular, low procession of water through rock, with varying levels and stream directions. The signs said wading was encouraged, so we kicked our shoes right off and jumped in. The cool water felt fantastic on our always-sore feet.
We were trying to take a cute group photo, but we couldn't get a good shot or someone to take it. Finally I saw a cute older gentleman passing by and asked him if he'd take our picture for us. He acted like it was a huge pain and didn't want to, but was just joking.
I said "Oh, please?!!!!"
Old Gentleman (Imagine this in an Italian [I think?] accent) - "Well, what will I get from you young ladies?"
Me - "Ummmm.... Oh! I'll give you a kiss on the cheek?"
Him - "Well! That'll be just fine. You are beautiful young ladies so I am just a lucky old man to get to help you, yes?"
So he takes the picture for us, and then as he's walking away he turns back and is like "Ok so where-a is my kiss??" And he gave me this big smile and his wife was just laughing so hard and then pulled on his arm before I could respond and he finally sighed "Oh yes. I am much too old." Haha. He was adorable.
After Kensington Gardens, we headed for the famed Portabello Road markets. The street is lined with antique and crafty little shops, and street vendors set up on the sidewalks and shoulders of the road. We browsed through little shops of handmade jewelery, antique watches and clocks, mini tea sets, cashmere sweaters, and the typical London tourist souvenir stands. It was really cool, and I found some good stuff, including the ever-appealing "I heart London" shirt. Couldn't resist.
We jumped back on the tube, this time to Harry Potter's King Cross Station to visit Platform 9 3/4. Yeah. We went out of our way to see it. Worth it! I love this picture. It looks like I'm disappearing into the wall, right? Would I ditch all you guys if I could disappear into it and get on the Hogwarts Express? You bet your owl I would.
We then walked to the British Library, which was INCREDIBLE. Ok, I'm a library geek, I know that. But seriously. This library was fantastic. I don't know how anyone could leave unimpressed. In the "Treasures" room, I literally saw things I never even dreamed of seeing. We got in trouble for trying to take pictures, so I wrote down everything so I wouldn't forget. The amazing things we saw stunned me, including but not limited to
- The Gutenberg Bible
- The Magna Carta
- The original Beowulf manuscript
- Original composition manuscripts from Handel, Mozart, Haydn and others
- Beethoven's tuning fork
- The Beatles lyrics on manuscripts including envelopes and napkins - crazy!
- Illuminated manuscripts from China, Japan, Turkey, Persia, and elsewhere
- Da Vinci's Codex Arundel
- Codex Sinaiticus - the earliest manuscript of the complete New Testament, in Greek
- And tons more.
You guys know I'm rarely found wanting words for my mouth to say. I was almost completely silent for the duration of our time in the library. I couldn't even breathe when I saw the Gutenberg Bible. It was almost moving me to tears. I felt like such an idiot, but it really was that incredible. I can't believe I'm lucky enough to do this stuff.
After the Library, we decided to check out the British Museum. This museum is much larger and way cooler. The building itself was just phenomenal.
We didn't have much time, so I really hope we get to go back on our free day in London after our final (August 11). Still, the 30 minutes we spent there were well-used. We got to see the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian sphinxes and sarcophagi (Cleopatra's!!!), Victorian jewelery, Michelangelo's sketches and much more.
One goal we had for the day was to get some legit fish and chips in London. I love fish and chips and I've been dying to get some the whole time we've been here. Unfortunately we took so long in the museum and finding our way to our next destination that we didn't have time. But it's ok. I was able to grab a hummus sandwich, which was delicious. I am loving these sandwiches on baguettes. So delicious.
Our final stop was to meet up with everyone at the Globe for a performance of Henry IV, Pt. II. We finally found the theater, ate, and queued to get good spots. We had groundling tickets. They are the standing seats right in front of the stage. They're the cheapest, but also the most fun and the best experience. It was worth standing for a few hours to feel that close and involved. The performance was really fun and we had a blast because we were literally right up against the stage. I was resting my arms and chin on the edge of the stage. Some girls in our group got fake puke on them! Awesome.
Now. The plan was to head to the tube following the play and catch a line back to Paddington station to catch our 11:30 train back to Cardiff. Suffice it to say for now that that didn't happen. It was a night the likes of which have never been seen before by my eyes, and probably won't be seen again. Absolutely fantastic. The best story ever. But it's too much for this blog post. It deserves its own blog post, and will be following shortly.
Stay tuned to hear about my midnight adventures in London.