Who wants to take a guess at what’s better than missing out on one lecture to fly to London?… ME skipping TWO lectures to take a trip to London FOR THE WEEKEND WITH FRIENDS!!!
Which is exactly what I did with Cam and Amanda last Friday! My not-so-typical morning started bright and early at 6AM to get a bus from UL campus to the Limerick bus station, to a Cork bus station, to a bus to the Cork Airport, to a plane to Gatwick, to a train, to the tube to the hostel! Whew! (it was extra bus time traveling in Ireland Friday morning, but we chose to fly out of Cork Airport instead of Shannon Airport because of the flight schedule)! We flew on an inexpensive airline called RyanAir which was pretty interesting. The flights were cheap, which was obviously our main reasoning, but sometimes you get what you pay for! The seats were basically plastic, life jackets possibly from the early part of the 20th century, no assigned seating, and instead of gently landing, we performed more of a plop on the London runway. They were more strict about the size and weight of our carry-on bags, than with the real important features of flying. Nevertheless, we all departed from Cork on Friday and landed in back in Shannon in one piece!
Once we landed in Gatwick Airport, we took a train into the city. We purchased a daily tube pass each day so that we could take the subway as much as we wanted! This was one of the best things we did for ourselves, because we had no hassle getting around once we knew where we needed or wanted to go! We exchanged our Euros for Pounds and were on our way! Friday we basically had the afternoon and evening to walk around, and perfect for The Beatles fan that I am, our first big stop was at Abbey Road!
After stopping traffic to take a terrible, yet memorable picture crossing the street, we got back on the tube. While getting off the subway at our hostel’s station, I happened to spot our friends Annie and Chelsi (they had flown out a day earlier than us but were staying in the same hostel and would fly home with us)! Acting as tour guides, they showed us the way to Palmer’s Hostel off the Swiss Cottage stop, and it was the best one I’ve stayed in yet– a huge brick building with a WiFi equipped TV lounge, bar and restaurant downstairs, tons of bathrooms, buffet breakfast room, and huge bunk rooms.
After checking in and cleaning up, Amanda, Cam and I decided to head out and walk around. Ended up getting dinner in an awesome Italian restaurant. Cam and I both got one of the specials which included a great Caesar salad, spicy pasta in vegetables, and a dessert. Yum! We then met up with Annie and Chelsi on Shaftesbury Avenue (which can be seen in Harry Potter 7.1 to my obvious excitement)! It’s a furiously bustling street full of double-decker buses, taxis, Broadway play signs, cafes, and tons of stores! We shopped around, went to a couple different pubs, and then called it an early night.
Saturday Amanda, Cam and I essentially walked ourselves into the ground!– trekking about one million miles around the streets of London, and give or take two million miles on the “tube”. After breakfast, Amanda wanted to find a skirt, so I tagged along with her to H&M, Forever 21, and some cool local shops. We then raced on the subway to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting; the building doesn’t fit my Cinderella stereotype of a palace, but it was still cool! I tried to focus on the red-jacket-ed guys with the fuzzy black caterpillar hats, but I kept seeing the “boys in blue” working crowd control on scary horses instead.
Other events of the afternoon included the London Bridge, Big Ben, Parliament (seen in Sherlock Holmes and Harry Potter 5), and an awesome ride on the London Eye (huge famous Ferris wheel). The Eye is advertised as being “green” as in reducing carbon footprint, and low energy and other “save the earth” engineering things, but I’ll take this opportunity to make an American joke that they’re going “green” in the other meaning because it was quite a few pounds to get the view– but worth it, and I’d like to go back at night sometime. After watching some entertaining, yet freaky street performers (7 foot unicycle, enormous bubble wands, etc.), we crossed the Millennium Bridge (seen to be collapsing in Harry Potter 7.1), which I am very excited about in the picture below (you can see the white building with a thatched roof to the far left of the picture which is part of the Globe Theatre).
Then I was finally able to get my nerd on at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Museum of London! Thanks to various courses I’ve taken in the Humanities Dept. at SC, especially Brit Lit with Prof Lartigue, in some sections of the theatre tour and museum I probably could have led a tour myself from all the history we learned to go along with what we read. It’s so dorky, but I was happy to finally get into a museum and learn about the city we’d been touring, in addition to seeing the sights we had earlier. [Check my Photo Links page after I update it this weekend to view my full album with pictures from the theatre and museum– they’re pretty cool!] Needless to say, by this point the three of us were absolutely exhausted, as we had covered so much ground during the day. We met Chelsi, Annie, and her friend Greg for dinner at a completely American fast food restaurant, any guesses? After writing some postcards and hanging out at the hostel, we went out for the night and had fun!
Sunday morning brought brunch and tracking down all our things that had been thrown about over the course of the weekend. I keenly had packed all my clothes in a “space bag”, and the hostel receptionist helped me vacuum it shut to save space in my backpack (RyanAir only allows one bag to carry on, and we didn’t check our bags on the airplane to save money, so it was a tight squeeze!) Our main priority stop of the day before our early afternoon flight was to get to King’s Cross Station for pictures on the staged Platform 9 & 3/4 (yes, yet another Harry Potter reference (sorry haters)). (You can see my picture “going through the barrier” in the post below appropriately titled “Life Complete”!) Before catching the train to the airport, we had lunch at a little pub where I got “The American Sandwich”, which was just a chicken club sandwich, but it was fantastic! All in all, it seemed like we spent a lot of time en route to our destinations, but seeing some of London’s most famous sites with my friends was absolutely worth it!!