We flew out friday evening. Considering it's only an hour flight, it took us a surprising amount of time to actually get to our hostel. We even opted for the faster journey from the airport to the city: The Gatwick Express. We received a prompt reminder of how expensive London is, since our return tickets cost $54 each. (?!?!?!) We stayed in Bayswater, just off Queensgate, which is a five minute walk away from where I stayed on my study abroad in the Notting Hill area. The perfect area, in my opinion. We paid a pretty penny to stay there. We got a private room in a hostel for $150 a night. Pretty pricey for a trashy hostel, right?! I'm now kicking myself for not taking a picture of our deluxe hostel room, just so I could demonstrate how non-deluxe it truly was. First of all, we had bunk beds. There was a green light that stayed on once the main light turned off all night long. My personal favorite feature was the shower. I'm not sure what the technical term is, but it's the kind of faucet you push down and water comes out for about 10 seconds. Then you have to push again for more water to come out. Also, the light in the bathroom was on a timer, so we had to open bathroom door every minute or so to keep the light on. To sum it up, each shower consisted of about 30 faucet pushes and 10 door openings. It was pretty entertaining. Also, we forgot we needed to bring our own towels, so we had to use Cam's sheet as a towel. Funny enough, I would still stay there again.
On to what we actually did! We got to our hostel about 10 friday night. We enjoyed being in a city where everything doesn't close down at 6 PM (ahem, Amsterdam) and headed out to see Big Ben at night. Beautiful, of course.
|Cam's 1st tube ride!|
Saturday morning, we visited 27 Palace Court (my study abroad residence) on our way to the Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill. After all that, we went and got our half-price tickets to see Wicked that night. (More on that later.) Cameron's boss, Steve, lives just outside of London, so we met up with him and his wife and son after that in Hyde Park to peruse the "Winter Wonderland." Cam absolutely loves Steve, so it was great to meet them in person! Afterwards, we headed to the Borough Market for some lunch. This isn't really a big tourist attraction, but it was something I loved when I lived there. It's an incredible food market. My plan was to have an ostrich burger and a brownie from Flour Power. The market has gotten so much bigger! It was amazing to see how many new stands there are. Sadly, Flour Power isn't there anymore with their "best brownie in the world," so I had to settle for a different bakery's brownie. Thankfully, the ostrich burger stand is still there, but they weren't serving ostrich that day, so we opted for a reindeer burger which was equally amazing. After lunch, we headed Buckingham Palace and then walked back to Westminster to look at things again in the light of day. We walked to Trafalgar Square after that to go to the National Gallery, my favorite London museum. Cam loved it, too. Especially seeing the great Van Gogh, Monet, tons of Rembrandt and other dutch painters, and the famous Jan Van Eyck Arnolfini Portrait. We took a long walk after that through Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Oxford Street. It was insanely busy and beautiful with Christmas lights everywhere. We loved how festive it felt. Even Cameron didn't mind the wall-to-wall crowds because it was such a magical atmosphere. We grabbed dinner at a cozy pub on Carnaby Street before we headed to see Wicked. We got our tickets for only 18 pounds (a steal!), but we were disappointed when we got there and they were on the second-to-last row. I think I made some sort of joke about how I was moving up in the world, since last time I saw it in London I was on the very last row. However, our disappointment was short-lived because an employee came over and explained they'd double-sold our seats and needed to move us to other seats. These new seats were amazing! We could see everything so well! 65 pound seats and we only paid 18! I'm a sucker for a good deal, so I was thrilled. It was Cameron's first time seeing Wicked, and he loved it. I think it was the best Elpheba I've seen. The "Defying Gravity" before intermission was electrifying. It was the perfect end to the perfect London day.
|Portobello Road Market|
|Green Park, on the way to Buckingham|
|Trafalgar Square, from the steps of the National Gallery.|
|Regent Street, on the way to Oxford Street|
|Pub Food! Fish 'n Chips for me, a savory pie for Cameron.|
That began a string of events that made us almost miss our flight. Needless to say, it was a very "exciting" couple of hours. We raced to grab our luggage from the hostel, waited for the circle line for forever (that darn circle line!), made it to victoria station to have just missed a Gatwick Express, took the next Gatwick Express (after I ran over a lady with my luggage), raced to take a tram to the North Gatwick Terminal, and made it to the airport 40 minutes before our flight was supposed to leave. We were literally running by this point. We got to check-in and they told us it was too late to check our bag. Trouble is, it was too big to be counted as a carry on and they were going to make us paid 40 pounds once we got to the gate--even though we'd already pre-paid to check it. Plus, I had all sorts of expensive liquids that were too big to be taken through security. We ran to security. As expected, my bag had to be inspected, which of course took a good five minutes. Thankfully, all the generous security officer threw away were some cheap cosmetic scissors. We took of running again. Poor Cameron was carrying our huge suitcase up and down a million stairs, escalators, etc. After ten more minutes of running, bright red and dripping in sweat, we got to our gate. It was...empty. No plane there, no people there. We were pretty confused/worried. Apparently, our plane was running late and they just barely started allowing passengers to walk to the gate from the main airport area. We were pretty embarrassed when we realized we'd just run needlessly that entire distance and all those people we'd just run past were also passengers on our flight, who I'm sure thought we were completely clueless and insane. The gate agent didn't make us pay the 40 pounds to check our bag, after all, so I guess it all ended well. We made our flight, got in a great workout, and only lost a $3 pair of scissors! An exciting end to a great trip.
|You can see Kensington Palace in the back.|
|Tower of London|
|Tower Bridge. Cameron kept trying to call it the London Bridge; don't worry--I promptly corrected him.|
|Beautiful St. Paul's Cathedral|
|St. Paul's from Millenium Bridge|
|View of St. Paul's from the Tate Modern|