Friday, October 21, 2016

Dancing in the [London] Rain

>>> Hello London <<<

“Bloody idiot” spoken enthusiastically in a British accent almost made me laugh audibly, but I kept it together.

“Bloody idiot” is probably also what I am for fitting in as much travel as I have over the past couple weeks, especially since I’m taking off in an hour for fall break Oct. 21st – Nov. 2nd.

It’s worth it, though; I’m still loving every minute.

View of Big Ben walking out of the underground

I went to London with my friend Troy. He and I had an amazing time exploring the major sights of London, and hiding from the rain in museums, markets, and a number of restaurants and cafes. We arrived very late on Thursday night, and departed very early on Monday morning. Travel times aren’t ideal, but, when you’re playing games with cheap flights, you have to take what you can get.

I'm desperate to post this blog about London before I start my long trip, so bear with me as I post another butchered blog post with only an outline of my travel and very little style. 

On Friday, Troy and I started the day buying transportation passes, "oyster cards" as London calls them, and we ate the most delicious almond croissants from an independent seller on the way to the Swiss Cottage underground station. It was the closest thing I've tasted to a doughnut since I've been in Europe, and it would be an amazing additional to Bill's Donut's menu. We stepped out of the Westminster Underground station, and the first thing I saw was the bottom half of Big Ben. As I actually got to the street, I was amazed by how tall Big Ben really is, as we were so close I was craning my neck to see the top. Throughout the day on Friday we saw sights around Whitehall and Trafalgar Square. We also spend a lot of time looking through the National Gallery. At a friend's recommendation (thank you Ana), we stopped at Jamie Oliver's Italian for lunch, and I had the most amazing chicken club and a strawberry sorbet dessert as part of a fairly inexpensive two-course lunch. Would recommend. We continued the day walking to Green Park to Mayfair and Burlington Arcade. We walked down Bond Street which was full of high class shopping, and enjoyed window shopping our way to Oxford Street. Eventually we got to Grosvenor Square and saw the American Embassy, passed through Marble Arch, and went to Hyde Park. We spent time there to look through the gardens although it was getting pretty dark by that time. Chinatown was our dinner destination, and after we enjoyed watching street performers around SoHo and took the tube at Leicester Square. We headed back to the hostel to get comfortable since we had come in so late the night before, and we spent some time planning the rest of our trip before we called it a night. (Destinations enjoyed but not listed above include London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament, Horse Guards Parade, and the area of Piccadilly Circus)
Palmer's Lodge hostel in Swiss Cottage was really cozy and nice!
inside our hostel

Saturday was spent in the city center of London. This included visiting St. Paul's Cathedral, The Tate Modern, and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in the morning. The Tate Modern was absolutely amazing... Modern art is crazy and complex, but I could've spent hours wandering through and seeing all of the amazing pieces. The commentary these artists can make with their various mediums of expression are just breathtaking.  After this we went to Borough Market for lunch! I ate an amazing pork sandwich from a stand run by Portuguese men. It was fun because I could greet them and say thank you in Portuguese, and one of the men happened to be from the same town as Francisca. The world is small, but Europe seems super small in pretty much all of my interactions so far. We  ate on the London Bridge because there weren't tables in Borough Market, and I laughed as I looked at the city and ate a humongous sandwich because they definitely gave me extra food since I spoke in Portuguese to them. Saturday continued sightseeing at the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the Shard, and City Hall. It started raining pouring, so we found a Pret a Manger to hide in and grab a coffee hoping the rain would slow down. Naturally it persisted, so we crossed London Bridge to go to a pub across the way to kill time and dry off before dinner. It was nice because the heated lamps convinced us we weren't freezing even though I was definitely feeling like a wet dog. Once the rain slowed down, we went to an Indian restaurant that Troy found for dinner. A funny thing about my trip to London is that I ate food from a number of cultures, and had fish & chips once, also. Troy is big on eating well when he travels, so by the end of the weekend we had meals that were natively Chinese, Portuguese, Indian, and English. I'm not sure what my Sunday lunch was from, but we can assume I'm missing at least one nationality on that list. Anyway, as we finished our dinner the man beside us caught us into a conversation. This Mr. James (actually his name) was such a nice guy! He grew up in Notting Hill and knew London quite well, and he was happy to make recommendations for fish & chips on Sunday. We stayed at the restaurant probably an extra thirty minutes talking to Mr. James after we had paid for our dinner, and he gave us his email so we could contact him for recommendations for ourselves or friends traveling to London, Dublin, or Venice anytime in the future. Very cool. We planned to check out some of the night life on Saturday night, but we were soaking wet and tired, so we decided to sneak back to the hostel early again. To be honest I don't regret this decision at all. This particular hostel had super comfortable beds, too. 
Those almond croissants ^ are perfection.

Optimism alone got us through these rainy days.
Sunday we knew we needed to complete our London Bucket List, so we really wandered all over town to see as much as we could in our last day. We started our day in Camden Market, and we could've spent the whole day there, really. The shops were endless, and they were full of cheap and exciting finds. I even found a super ridiculous 80's windbreaker sporting good old Michigan. For 30 pounds, about 40 USD, I resisted that impulse buy. For lunch I had an amazing salad with duck and a cranberry dressing... I typically don't eat duck in America, but oh my gosh this was an amazing meal. It was cheap too! Double win. After Camden, we took one of the double decker red buses to the city. Wespent a few hours in the British Museum, and it was so impressive. The Rosetta Stone and huge pieces extracted from the Parthenon are just two of the amazing artifacts we saw. Then we ventured over to Kensington and saw the Kensington Palace, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and walked through Harrods so Troy could get one of the "Top 5 Carrot Cakes in London". We accidentally waltzed into Notting Hill, and then we got back to the hostel to pack because we had to leave at 3:45am on Monday morning. 

The trip home seemed to take forever. Troy and I had an amazing time, and he's amazing company, but I was extremely ready to be home. This weekend was the first time I could really say I missed anywhere since I've been in Europe... And it was Strasbourg I was missing. I missed Francisca and the rest of my friends here, and I really felt for the first time like I had been spending too long away from my home here. (I laugh as I type this because in 20 minutes I'm leaving for 12 days, but I'll be taking more than 12 of my friends with me this time... hopefully there won't be much to miss.)

Enjoy the pictures and excuse the typos!

Love, Jules
"Wander with wonder and the whole world becomes home." - Tyler Knott Gregson

Entertaining sidenote: Packing for a 12 day trip when you came to a city with two suitcases is hilarious because your apartment looks straight up barren. 


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