Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Day Last

Today Tina and I went to the Tower of London, and it was pretty fantastic to say the least. We were there from 11 am to 4 pm, and took about an hour or so for lunch in the Tower Cafe. After that we went to the hostel and sat around for a bit until we met Juliet and Jeremy before we took the train to Leicester Square (Lester) to see Avenue Q, a musical with puppets. Before the show we stopped by a McDonald's and it tasted just like home except my burger had probably been sitting there awhile. It was kind of amazing. No hamburger in this country seems to taste the same. The show itself was really awesome, and we all laughed and had a great time. The final group that went was me, Tina, Lacee, Juliet and Jeremy. It was lots of fun. After we got back to the hostel after the show we went to the Food & Wine store to buy some drinks, to celebrate our last night in London. All the pubs/clubs close at midnight or before during the week, so we had to drink in the breakfast room of the hostel instead of being able to go out. But that was fine with me. We played cards and met some folks from Mexico who were travelling all across Europe, and that was fun. I'm still a little tipsy so i'm going to keep this short since I have an early morning tomorrow. Also, it rained a bit on our way back from the grocery store, and it was the first time it had rained since we've been here on our journey. I'm excited to be back in the states tomorrow, even though I really don't want to leave. We were going to go back to the British Museum and Library (two seperate venues) but we just didn't have time. I do plan to return soon, so I will have to hit those up again next time. Tomorrow we will be out of the hostel by 9 am, and on our way to the Heathrow Airport. I'll be back in KC around 7 pm. Love you all and see you then. :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


TODAY WAS A BLAST!!! We got up in time to meet Dr. Storm at the British Museum for travelling to the station to meet the Stonehenge and Salisbury tour guide. We got there about 20 minutes early, so we bummed around Waterloo Station until our guide showed up. Her name was Chris (or something that sounded like Chris). Elysa and I both felt that the guide reminded us of Emma Thompson the actress from Nanny McPhee, Love Actually, and Much Ado About Nothing. The train ride to Salisbury was very pretty, and we saw lots of rape fields (rape = flower of canola plant, used for making canola oil). The flower is bright yellow and dreadful for one's allergies, as we found out once we actually got to the stones. Salisbury is the *cutest* little town I've ever seen in my life. The cathedral at Salisbury was very quaint but also very large, and is home to the largest steeple in all of the UK. (something like really freaking tall, and definitely crooked). The cathedral did not have any of the Medieval stained glass because some jerk decided it was extraneous or something, so all the stained glass in the chapel is more modern than that, and some of the larger windows have only regular panes of glass in them instead of anything colorful, or are partially boarded up. It was pretty sad.

The inside of the cathedral was absolutely beautiful, and they even let us take as many pictures as we wanted! So I have a lot of the interior. I was so glad to be there. At 1 pm they have all of the visitors stand in silence to show respect for those who are worshipping there. We even recited the Lord's Prayer as we stood respectfully, and it was a touching moment. I was very glad that I got this chance to pray in a legitimate cathedral.

We walked through the town and found a quaint little shop to have lunch in, and as we were ordering, Chris (from our school group, not the guide) told me and Tina to look outside. When we hesitated he said that we needed to look outside right now! So we peeped out the door, and we saw a man playing a portable piano. Its difficult to explain it without being able to show you pictures at the same time, but it was pretty much the *coolest* thing i've probably ever seen in my life. It was just the sort of thing that would have made Grandpa Willie crack up with laughter and take an insane amount of pictures. I've also had quite a bit of fish and chips since i've been over here, and the dish i had today was by far the best I've had, so I dedicated my meal to Grandpa and hoped that he could tell just how awesome it was as i sat and watched the man with his portable piano.

After lunch we walked through the Salisbury market and i bought a cute necklace for 3 pounds. I wish i had more time to lounge around the market, because it was a pretty day and there were some interesting goods for sale.

The bus ride to Stonehenge was also full of sights, but most of them were successfully blocked by trees, so I don't have a whole lot of decent pictures from that. When we actually got to the stones, I wasn't as impressed as i thought i would be, but after we got off the bus and crossed under the road, i was more impressed with it the closer i got to it. I got a whole bunch of awesome pictures of Stonehenge, and tried to get pictures of the burial mounds (there is a term for these but I forget what it is at this moment) but the mounds were harder to get because it just looks like pictures of grass. lol.

We got back to Salisbury from the bus and loaded right onto the train. We didn't spend any time visiting after the return bus ride, but I was tired so that was okay. On the train ride back I slept pretty much the whole way just because I was so tired. I was on the wrong side of the train and facing the wrong way anyway, so i wasn't able to get any good photos of the landscape, as it were.

We got back to Waterloo, took the tube to Holborn, went to the hostel and were lazy bums until it was time to meet for our "farewell" dinner at the Founder's Arms. I had a cheeseburger, and while it was good, it definitely didn't taste like beef. Or lamb. Interesting to say the least. After dinner we took the tube back to the hostel but I got some ice cream at a small grocery store and at it in the room. The others went to a Baskin Robbins (I didn't want to walk the few extra blocks because my shin splints were bothering me) and they returned as I was in the shower after eating my ice cream. Since then we've been hanging out and chatting as we usually do.

Tomorrow *for sure* Tina and I are going to the Tower of London, and in the evening we're going to see Avenue Q (a musical parody of The Muppets). Packing and getting ready for the big fly day on Thursday is also in order. I can't believe tomorrow is the last day we'll be here. Its kind of crazy. In any case I've had a wonderful time so far, and while part of me doesn't want to leave (pretty much ever), there is another part of me that is very excited to be back home with everyone. It will be so good to rest once I am back home though, that is for sure.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Manic Monday

Today was supposed to be the day that Tina & I went to the Tower of London. We decided to go on Wednesday since it is pretty much an all day adventure and we had some other little things we wanted to do today. We're trying to fit in everything we can in these few days we have left, so we don't miss out on anything we want to do.

So instead of going to the Tower today, we went instead to Kensington Palace & Gardens, where Princess Diana used to live. The palace itself and the grounds were very lovely, and lots of folks were out sunning themselves, kicking around a ball, or taking a stroll. We went from the palace to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain (I'm not sure how far this was from the palace but it was a good walking distance anyway). The fountain was nearly impossible to get a good picture of because so many people were there visiting and playing in the water. They let you stick your feet in fountains here, and don't mind that you climb about in this fountain because it is low to the ground as is, and is also very shallow. There were lots of little kids there with their parents, and the girls (the ones about 5 or younger) were only wearing their bikini bottoms, and not the tops at all. We did dip our feet for a little while because we were very hot from the walk, but the water is ice cold, so we did not keep our feet in the water for more than ten minutes i'd say.

After this fountain we caught the bus up to Oxford Square. I wanted to go to Foyles, the rumored 8 story bookstore, as well as Hamley's Toy Store. We weren't able to find Foyles this afternoon, but we did make it to Hamley's, and that in itself was an adventure. The whole first floor seemed to be dedicated to teddy bears and Paddington bears, and they even had a Build A Bear Workshop as well. On one of the higher floors we found all of the Harry Potter memorabilia, and some of it was really awesome. They had Godric Gryffindor's sword, wands for Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Neville, Voldemort, Luna, Cedric, Krum, Fleur, and Bellatrix. They also had a Wizard's Chess Set with the pieces that looked just like the ones in the movie. I was highly impressed with it, and if i had a lot more money to spend and a whole new suitcase in which to put said chess set, I would have bought it. As it stands, I do not have 250 pounds.

After we left the store, we took photos with a man dressed like a pirate out front of Hamley's, and that was a lot of fun too. :) Tina got a nosebleed (not so fun) and we caught the bus back to Oxford Circus, and from there caught the tube to Tottenham Court Road, just two blocks or so from our hostel.

We got back to the hostel in time to rest for a bit before Tina had to leave to go to the London Eye with a few other folks that didn't manage to go on Thursday night. While she went to the Eye, Lacee, Abbi, and I went to Subway down the street and around the corner for dinner. The chicken they have tastes different here, and Abbi's sandwich had too much of the sweet onion sauce on it, and gave her an upset stomach.

After our trip to subway, we went back to the hostel and found that Chris and Tina had returned from the Eye, and Alli and Elysa joined shortly thereafter to chat about an email we got from Dr. Storm. None of us have really seen him for a few days since we've been off doing our own things pretty much, so he wanted us to check in and make sure we were all alive. We may have a dinner tomorrow that is our "last dinner" or we might do it wednesday, i'm really not sure. There is a little Italian place across the street from the British Museum that's open til 11 pm, so we might go there if we can.

This evening as we relaxed in the room, someone suggested we actually attend a pub, so that is what we did. Alli, Lacee, Christina, Elysa and I all went to Rising Sun and got our first official pub drinks. Alli, Christina and I all had the same thing, which was a "cider with fruit." It was very tasty, definitely a girly drink, and tasted more like fruit punch than anything else. It was hard to tell that there was actually any alcohol in it at all. Elysa had a Guiness (it looked pretty awesome in the glass, but I declined the offered sip).

After the pub time, we went back to the hostel and sat around chatting for awhile, and ended up playing "I have never ever," which is an interesting game to say the least. We had a lot of laughs, mostly because I was tipsy and saying silly things, and probably making silly faces, but it was a good time overall.

Tomorrow of course is Stonehenge, Salisbury (and i think one other place), and we leave from the museum next door at 9 am. We all are going to get up and shower/eat breakfast and hope we can all make it over there on time. I have no idea how long it will take for us to get from here to Stonehenge, but I hope that it isn't an extremely boring bus/train ride to any of the places we'll be. I'm charging plenty of camera batteries tonight so i have fresh juice for tomorrow. I definitely do NOT want to run out of working batteries before we ever make it to Stonehenge.

As for now, I'm pretty tired so I'm going to hit the sack. I can't believe we only have two full days left before we catch the plane back to the states. Its crazy!

Also, Gma, I will have 3 girls with me on the return trip. Tina doesn't have a person to pick her up from the airport so I said that it shouldn't be any problem for her to ride with us and then stay over with the others too. So it will be me, Jen, Christina, and Tina. If that is okay. I meant to email this earlier but I haven't been able to until now. :)

Sunday Funday

Yesterday Tina and I found a Krispy Kreme! So we bought a dozen donuts and some oj and went to a park by our hostel (Russell Square) and ate our very delicious donuts. There were blueberry filled ones, apple pie ones, strawberries and creme, the typical sprinkle donut (of course), caramel dreamcake, chocolate dreamcake (we didn't try this one), lemon meringue, and more. So of course we got the ones that we'd never seen before in the states. The lemon meringue was delicious! Alex I wish I could have shipped you that donut. Maybe we could find it in KS. I haven't tried the strawberries and creme or the apple pie, but Tina had the apple and said it was awesome. I believe it after the lemon meringue and caramel dreamcake donuts I had. We saved some of them for today.

While we were in the park, three construction workers kept waving at us and smiling. It was friendly gestures but also kind of weird since we weren't sure why they were waving at us, but we could guess. We narrated for the pigeons we saw, as the males tried to woo the females (the females were simply not interested, so no action for the pigeons). We also so a couple snogging (making out/kissing/necking) on a bench not too far from where we sat. And to be honest, it was more like she was wanting to snog with him, but he didn't want to. He kept ducking his head away and pushing her back. At one point she kissed all over the side of his face and he pushed her away with both hands and then wiped off the side of his face like she was giving him cooties. These people had to have been our age at least. I don't think they looked any younger than us.

Speaking of snogging, people do it everywhere! They'll stop in the middle of a congested walkway and just start kissing like crazy, without regard to any sort of audience, time of day, or that they're blocking the bathroom (or anything else important). Its weird. And the amount of men with their shirts off is also somewhat amazing. On the subway. In the park. In the middle of the city at the fountain. I don't really care either way about the dress code, but its just different from home.

So after donuts in the park Tina and I went shopping around for some souvenirs until about 1, when we went back to the hostel to chill out for a bit. At 2 pm she and I went with a few others on the Harry Potter Walk with our guide Richard I, and that was fun. It was pretty hot out and dreadfully sunny. I'm not complaining though, at all. We went to several filming locations, such as the Thames River (the segment where Harry flew over the river with MadEye and Tonks), Westminster Tube Station, where Arthur Weasley escorted Harry down some escalators in the Ministry of Magic as he was on his way to his hearing for practicing magic outside of Hogwarts), we saw the Odeon Theater, which is where all the films are released in London, and the stars come here to the premiers of their movies and get the red carpet treatment, and Diagon Alley (or at least the one that inspired JKRowling--but it looks SO much like the one in the movie that its ridiculous!). It was a lot of fun. We ended up in Leicester (Lester) Square, where we shopped around a bit more and met up with Jeremy, Juliet, Beth and Rita before the Soho Walk at 7. We ate at an Italian place just off Leicester and Trafalgar Square, but the pasta i got was way too spicy and I had to stop eating it after a couple of decent bites. I could not get the fire in my mouth to go out. Juliet had some leftover sauce from her pasta (a white sauce) so we mixed it with my pasta and it was much easier to tolerate and I managed to eat most of it after that.

We went for ice cream after dinner and I got a waffle cone with mint chocolate chip ice cream, because i wanted something I was sure would be delicious. After ice cream we hopped on down to Trafalgar Square (in front of the National Portrait Gallery) and we sat with our feet in the fountain. Both fountains were covered in people who were sticking their feet in the cool water. No one was allowed to walk around in the fountain though, and there was a fountain warden (she even had an official vest) who would yell at you to get down if you were in the middle of the fountain. We stuck to the sides though, just happy enough with being able to put our feet in the water. Maybe we got ice cream after the fountain and not before. I don't really remember. lol. Anyway, after the Trafalgar Square fountain Tina and I had our caricatures drawn (it was lots of fun!) in Leicester Square before the Soho Walk at 7.

The walk started at the Leicester Square Tube Station, and we walked to our first pub, The Spice of Life, where Bob Dylan used to play in the basement before he made it big. The pub itself had big mirrors on the wall, with wall sconce lamps, oversized leather furniture and low tables, and was pretty much smoke free. John got some pretty intense looks from some members of the male gay community, which we all think is funny but also awkward. (John is not gay, but quite straight). Either way, there were giggles to be had. The second pub we went to was the Dog and Duck, where Madonna used to drink. This one was much smaller than the Spice, but also quaint and historical feeling. The guide explained that Soho was known for its food, music, and sex. So as we went along he described that the word "model" was a euphemism for sex, so basically if you wanted a prostitute, you would look for the "model" sign in an upper floor window with a red light. Hence, the red light district (thank goodness someone finally explained this to me). There was a specific street that had the fanciest place in London (for eating) and three doors down was a "shop" on the bottom floor with "models" above. After this we took a twilight tour through the red light district, and i tried to get pics of the area as best i could, but after awhile we started getting weird looks so I backed down on the pictures a bit. There is some pretty hilarious stuff in that area, but its not an area i would want to be walking around in at night. I was glad when we were out of it.

After the Soho Walk (which ended at about 930), we found a Pizza Hut and got some pizza to go. Juliet and I got the Meat Feast, which was funny to us because of all the gay bars we passed in Soho. We just couldn't resist ourselves. We walked from Cambridge Circus to our hostel which wasn't as far as I thought it would be, but the two tiny blisters i have were just big enough to be a consistent bother. We got back to the hostel and ate dinner with everyone in our room. After dinner we worked on plans for the rest of the week.

Today we're finally going to the Tower of London (me and Tina) and that should take most of the day. In the evening I don't have a whole lot planned, but Tina is going to the London Eye (I went on Thursday). So if i'm tired after the Tower I think i might just hang out and relax, and gear up for Stonehenge tomorrow. Whew! So much to do!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday Eve

Today was a pretty good day overall, even though we didn't do much, tired out early and spent most of the evening in the hostel. we ate "breakfast" more around lunchtime, and i had a strawberry & nutella crepe, which was awesome. finally made it to Tate Modern and we went through all the galleries we could (some required tickets for entry). There was a no photo policy, so i took a picture of only one thing that i knew i wouldn't be able to describe to anyone and still do it justice. I saw some original jackson pollocks, monet, francis bacon, picasso, and a dali. There was a really wild surrealist sculpture that took up half a gallery, but i couldn't get a picture of that because the museum police were hardcore cracking down on those that took pictures, or at least they were in that area at that time. (Alex i'll have to draw it for you when i get back home, it was way cool). After the museum our group for the day (me, John, Abbi, Tina, Lacee, Chris) all went to find some dinner. The guys ate at a japanese restaurant, while us four girls went to a place called Tortilla. Its essentially the Chipotle of London, and it was very tasty! I even snagged a menu so i could show everyone what it looks like.

After dinner Tina and I were tired so we went back to the hostel. We caught the RV1 bus but Tina's Oyster card wouldn't work so i helped her pay 2 pounds for the fare, and swiped my own card for my fare. The bus took us all the way to Covent Garden (one train stop away from Holborn, where we are staying) and we checked her card there. It had plenty of money on it and also showed a charge for the bus fare, even though we paid in cash. So she went to the information/service booth and the lady gave her the number for customer service and said to call them. She also said they would refund not only the 1.20 pound bus fare from the Oyster card, but that they would also refund the 2 pounds from the cash we paid.

While we were on that adventure, the other four went to help Abbi take some pictures for her project. Tina and i got some snacks from the grocery store before heading back to the hostel (all the grocery stores here are more like tiny convenience stores, minus the fuel for cars bit). I found some Bueno at the store to bring back with me, and I was very excited about that. Got back to the hostel and we all just chilled for awhile. it was only me and Tina at first, then Christina came back, followed shortly by Abbi, Lacee, John & Chris. After a bit, Jen came back from her post in the breakfast room, and we were joined by Juliet, Jeremy, Rita and Beth to discuss plans for tomorrow. Alli and Elysa said the Tower of London was absolutely amazing, and not worth missing out on, so Tina and I might go Monday since tomorrow we're going to take pictures of the Elephant Parade and hang out in Hyde Park in the morning, then we're going on a Harry Potter walk at 2 pm, and a Sizzling Soho Walk at 7 pm.

Its really great to be here, and I'm becoming more accustomed to finding my way around the city and the suburbs around the city. The city map I have is starting to tear in the corners where it is folded the most, so it very well may be only scraps by the time the trip is over.

I just have to say that the architecture here still amazes me, and I see something new everyday. its all very sculptural, dramatic and hypnotizing. I will definitely make time in the future to come back. Everything is so clean here too. There are always people sweeping sidewalks, or mini street cleaners driving in and out of cars. People don't litter, and if they see any they pick it up. The people are pretty friendly too, and are always willing to help you find things or learn something new about the city that you didn't know before. Driving in the city is pretty crazy (just from an observers viewpoint; i've not been driving anything) and you never can tell what one car or another will do. Everyone is always in a hurry though, so if you don't walk fast on the sidewalks, you'll get run over by others. Same for the underground as well. There is no slow-poking anywhere in those tunnels.

And there are escalators everywhere! Every single underground station has at least two escalator systems from what i've seen, and some of them are so steep that if you look up or down while you're riding it one way or another, it will make you dizzy! Some of the underground stations have murals on the walls or other artworks that are historical or have some direct meaning to the location that you're in. I'm hoping to be able to get some good photos of these before we leave.

It will be a very long time before I will forget this city.

Saturday = Relax

The electro show/concert last night was a great time, I got a good workout from dancing around like a crazy person. I went with Abbi, Lacee, Tina, Jen, John & Chris. Some guy spilled beer all down my back and gave me a very awkward hug, which i got out of fast. Some other guys tried to dance with Tina, John was asked if he was gay, Chris was offered drugs which he denied, and all of us left the club with our ears ringing. A man outside offered to help us get a taxi back to our hostel (he was dressed officially, like a traffic cop or something) but the taxi was 15 pounds from Elephant & Castle to Holborn, where we are staying. We didn't have enough so we went around the corner to the bus stop and caught the 188 to Holborn. We went to bed pretty quick last night and slept pretty hard.

This morning we were planning to go to the Tower of London at ten am, but that didn't happen for me and Tina because we didn't want to get up. We were just sooo tired! So we're getting ready now with some others from our room, and we're going to get lunch at a place around the corner where they serve really delicious crepes. After that we're going to go to Tate Modern, an art gallery on the Thames River. I plan to take pics of everything I can. This afternoon the plan is to go to Hyde park and chill on a blanket, and maybe eat some ben & jerry's ice cream (I found a local shop that sells it). I think it will be a pretty chill day.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Friday, I'm in Love

with Alex!

Today has been pretty cool so far. i got up at a much more reasonable time than 5 am, so i felt more energized over the course of the day. The first thing we did was walk around the British Museum and check out the Grecian exhibit, the Egyptian exhibit, and i even got some good pics of the Rosetta Stone! So after that, Tina and I went down to Green Park (directly north of Buckingham Palace). We photographed some elephant sculptures for the Elephant Parade (to save the Asian elephants) before catching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

Afterwards we went to lunch at a little Italian place across the street where we had some awesome chicken & spaghetti and some Italian ice cream afterwards. It was very tasty, and well priced. Afterwards, we roamed around until it was time for Macbeth at the Globe. I had yard seats, which means i stood the whole time, which wasn't so bad. I ended up with a spot in the very front and center of the stage, which was AWESOME, despite being spit on, sprayed with fake blood and spit on from the enthusiastic actors.

Afterwards we had an adventure (which I will write more about later). Now we are headed out to buy some drinks for before we go to a concert later (since drinks at the venue will be really expensive). I'll update either later tonight or tomorrow.