Published: February 10th 2009February 10th 2009
First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MARK AND TONI! I miss you two tons :(
London was AMAZING! There was so much to see and do and so much history behind the entire city that just made it even more interesting. WARNING: This post is going to be long, so get ready!
On Wednesday, we flew out of the Cork Airport, which was super small and took about two minutes to get through security. Once we flew into Stansted, we had an hour and a half to travel by bus to actually get into the heart of London, and then we had to take the “tube/underground” with our “oyster cards” to get to our hostel. Fortunately, my friend Kristina visited London 2 years ago so she understood the tube quite well and was able to help us travel around London. Our hostel was a short walk from the tube and we arrived a bit before midnight. The hostel we stayed in was called Journey’s and it was right by the London Eye and Big Ben, which was great for taking pictures :) Brianne and I were in a separate room from Meg and Kristina and we definitely had a smaller room! We actually had a roommate from Cork who now lives in Scotland so we got loads of info from him. We also had a roommate from South Africa, Bianca, who slept underneath me and, to put it bluntly, she woke me up a night or two while “talking” with our other roommate from South Africa. Lovely. Anyway, we also had another roommate from Argentina named Walter and he was super nice and told us ALL about the shopping in London, I guess he didn’t understand the whole concept of a college student travelling on a tight budget? Haha. Well, this hostel was definitely more homey than the one in Dublin, plus it was more of a “youth” hostel so we met a lot of young travelers like ourselves.
On Thursday, we were up bright and early to buy our 48 hour Big Bus Company Tour tickets for 24 pounds (our friends suggested it). It included 3 walking tours, a river cruise, and two different bus lines, one with a live tour guide and the other with recordings. They also constantly reminded you that they could offer you discounts on overpriced attractions throughout London. I understand they need to make their money, but did every single employee I encountered have to try and sell me these damn tickets? WE ARE COLLEGE STUDENTS LEAVE US ALONE! Haha. So it was a good thing we were on a somewhat warm bus because it was freezing and raining—not fun weather to explore a city as huge as London in. Fortunately, I had my handwarmers that my mommy sent me in a carepackage so that kept me quite warm…I eventually had to use them on my poor toes because I was convinces my pinky toe was going to fall off! (stupid not warm wellies!) We saw nearly everything on Thursday and got lots of pictures covered in raindrops from the stupid rain :( We also got to eat at The Sherlock Holmes Pub and we all got fish ‘n’ chips (except Meg got roast beef to stay on the safe side and took a picture for her bro haha) and it was really yummy! Later on, we ate a West Cornwall Pasty=the best thing in the world. It’s kinda like an empanada but with various fillings that aren’t deliciously Spanish, but delicious enough! We also bought these huge postcards that were quite inexpensive and silly and had images like a huge headshot of the Queen. We wanted to see the Phantom of the Opera because our friends highly recommended it, but it was sold out for the weekend so we got tickets for only 20 pounds to see Wicked on Friday night!
Thursday night we made some pasta with this sauce we thought was going to be amazing. It was probably one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever tasted! We decided to offer it to other people in the hostel and, lucky for them, they got the bottom of the pot which didn’t have much sauce on it. Later that night, we had reservations for the Absolut Icebar which was designed by the same guy who made the Ice Hotel. Basically, it’s kinda a small bar but the entire this is made out of ice: walls, seats, glasses, chandeliers, sculptures…you get the picture. You were required to wear this super warm poncho they provided that had gloves attached so you could drink your complimentary Absolut cocktail out of your ice glass without getting stuck to it! I had the Absolut Sparkling Sunset which was Absolut Mandrin, Passion Fruit Syrup, Papaya Juice, and Grenadine Syrup. It was yummy but QUITE strong! We had 40 minutes in the bar, and I actually didn’t think it was that cold. Some poor girl sitting next to us had heels on with no tights or anything so her feet were freezing (that’s why I love uggs so much!)! After the Icebar, we met up with Brianne’s cousin (who is studying abroad at King’s College in London) at “The George” which is apparently one of his favorite pubs. It has a lot of history with famous writers drinking at an old pub that used to be there, etc. It was pretty cool and it seemed as if the pints were cheap, but when converted into USD, it was the same :( We got to see his dorms and realized how much better ours are in Cork (no offense, Nick)! We took a bus back and finally got some rest…emphasis on the some.
On Friday, we woke up bright and early again to get the most out of our 48 hour ticket. During our exploration of the city, we found this AWESOME candy store and tried bon bons…they were actually really good but got stuck in mine and Meg’s teeth! They also had my favorite candy ever—licorice bricks. The candy store at home stopped selling them and I was SO excited when I found them here. I probably have a cavity now but it was totally worth it! The weather was still awful and we missed The Beatles tour as a result of the terrible map our Bus Company gave us of various stops on their tour. Apparently they don’t even go to Abbey Road—which is absurd. And I didn’t even get to see Abbey Road at all…don’t remind me :( To warm up, we went into the National Art Gallery which was so awesome! It was FREE and there were so many fantastic paintings there. We saw Monet, Van Gogh, and a bunch of other artists I didn’t recognize, but enjoyed their work. Some of the pictures were about 10 times the size of me! Unfortunately, no photos were allowed, but I guess it wouldn’t be nice if I reproduced Monet’s work and sold it on the internet. After the Art Gallery, we went on a “Ghost Tour” provided by our bus company and were not scared, at all. I felt bad because the tour guide was really nice but the stories were pointless and he didn’t even talk about Jack the Ripper. I think the only reason he mentioned Sweeny Todd was because we reminded him about it, but Johnny Depp was nowhere in sight haha. Apparently Johnny Depp’s daughter was very sick a few years ago and was admitted to the children’s hospital in London and once she was cured he donated 1 million pounds to the hospital. He also has a room reserved at the hospital to house his Captain Jack Sparrow costume and he frequently visits the hospital, gets in costume, and tells the children stories. I clearly should marry him. Anyway, we also got some cheap fish ‘n’ chips for lunch for only 5 pounds and it was the same amount of food as at the Sherlock Holmes pub, but cheaper!
Friday night we saw Wicked and it was absolutely amazing! I was happy I finally got to see it since my sis and mama got to see it in the city and I didn’t :( It was definitely worth the wait though! The actress who played the bad witch had probably one of the best voices I ever heard…she was fantastic! Our seats were in the “stalls” aka a few rows back from “front row” but a little to the side…however they were only 20 pounds so it was a great deal! Once we got back to the hostel, we met Jodi (Jods for short) from Australia and he was so cool. He’s been traveling for FOUR years and loves snowboarding and lots of exhilarating sports. He had so many crazy stories for us, including one in which his tent burnt down in the middle of snow in Colorado because the space heater he borrowed was broken! He lost everything and had to work under the table to be able to afford to fly out of the country again. He also got chased by a crocodile, nearly flipped his car over…he had loads of interesting stories. Even though it was supposed to be an early night, since we were talking to Jods for so long, we didn’t get to bed until about 2am! Oh how I craved sleep all weekend…
Saturday we had to wake up early, again, for the Royal walking tour in which we witnessed the changing of the guards. Our tour guide was super cool and I took about a 10 minute video on my camera of the whole process. On our way to the changing of the guards, we walked through a park and a pigeon nearly hit me and ended up flying into Brianne’s head. Poor Brianne! They were everywhere though and apparently you get a 500 pound fine if you feed them, and they also have guy with trained hawks that walk around to scare them away (I didn’t see any, but that’s what the tour guides told us…)! We pretty much wandered on Saturday and ventured into Kensington where all the super wealthy people live. The average apartment-flat thing in Kensington costs 768,000 pounds! We saw the Lambo store and plenty of Lambos and Mercedez driving around. We also found this really cool cupcake store that sold gourmet cupcakes for over 2 pounds each! They looked yummy, but not that delicious! Then we had lunch at this sweet Italian deli/restaurant and it was under 4 pounds for an AMAZING sandwich with actual Mozzarella cheese—who knew that existed in Europe?! After Lunch we went to the Natural History Museum because I wanted to see the Darwin exhibit. They only had a few tickets left for a later time slot for ONLY and hour so I bought one of those and then we checked out the Human Biology exhibit to brush up on our knowledge before Anatomy starts. The exhibit was for kids, I guess, but it was QUITE informative with diagrams of sexual intercourse and how a baby is born. We even saw a little boy who was explaining child birth to his younger sisters? They are definitely more open in Europe! After that splendid educational experience, we headed to Harrod’s which is the biggest department store in the world..or one of the biggest anyway. It had like 7 floors, with one of them entirely consisting of food…desserts, coffee, deli, restaurants…you name it, Harrod’s has it. It kinda reminded me of Nordstrom but on an entirely different level. They had amazing Gelato there that I just wanted a lifetime supply of. We also went to this sweet toy store called Hamley’s on either Thursday or Friday. It was 5 or 6 floors of so many cool toys! They also had employees demonstrating all of the different toys they were selling. The coolest thing there was the fake snow they had. You just added water to a powder and magically you had snow! So cool! After Harrod’s I got to see the Darwin exhibit which was AMAZING! His actual notes were right there in front of you! His tools, beetle collections, finches…they were all right there for you to see! Unfortunately, since I only had an hour, I didn’t get through the entire exhibit, but I did enjoy what I saw. I also got to see an original copy of the Origin of Species—seriously an amazing experience (what can I say, I love Biology!). After the exhibit, I headed back to the hostel to meet up with the others and saw Fish & Chips Crisps (Potato Chips) for sale so I grabbed them, along with Penn State pretzels (so delicious), for us to try in the hostel. We didn’t get to them until the last night but they were SO GROSS! We also tried the “Builder’s Breakfast” and you could taste the bacon and eggs on a CRISP! So weird.
Saturday night we made some pasta (we decided not to use sauce this time) and it was quite delicious. We then headed out to meet up with Brianne’s cousin at his school’s student bar. It was super cheap and we got to try “Snakebite” (my sister recommended it). It’s beer and cider with balck current syrup…well the version we had was. I think normally it’s cider with a shot of something, but, nevertheless, it was quite delicious :) After taking a double decker bus back to the hostel, we all crashed from being sooo tired.
Sunday we headed out a bit later since we had to check out by 10am. We finally got some pictures of the touristy stuff with no rain and we actually met an Irish couple who were from Cork and were trying to teach us Irish. They were really nice, even though they got a little frustrated that we didn’t know a lick of Irish. We eventually got to check out Camden Market. It reminded me of street venders in New York and of Canal street, but it definitely was edgier. After Camden Market, all we wanted was a Cornwall Pasty but they were nowhere to be found :( We decided to check out Yo! Sushi and paid way too much money for a few pieces. It was a really cool concept though, and they only have them in Europe. Basically, they have a mini conveyer belt going along a bar set up. You have a menu which is your key to determining what sushi is what and whatever passes by you, you can grab and eat. Each plate color means a different price and at the end of your meal they tally up your plates and you pay. It was absolutely delicious and a really cool experience but, again, WAY over priced. After we “Yo-ed”, Meg and I checked out the Imperial War Museum which had actual Army Tanks the British used in various wars. We saw an exhibit about “The Children’s War” and we got to walk through a typical WWII style house. We also saw what the children had to go through during wartime, especially with the Blitzkreig. Things like carrying around a gas mask that was disguised as a teddy bear, and seeing their little rations of eggs, butter, and meat for the week. I’m just glad I never had to endure that during my childhood.
Sunday night, we hung out at the hostel without having to pay for a room :) We ate our leftover non-sauce pasta and literally sat in the lobby all night. The BAFTAs were on TV which are basically the British equivalent to the Oscars. We almost non-intentionally went to the red carpet pre-show event because we wanted to check out the garden they were being held at because we heard it was cool. Although it would’ve been cool to see Brad Pitt in person, it was pouring rain and we probably wouldn’t have standing room anywhere near the actors.
Monday morning at 2am, we left the hostel to catch the bus to the airport. We had to hop a fence in the middle of a road because we were on the wrong side to get the bus! It was quite scary since I almost got squished by a bus, but we made it to the airport on time! I got about an hour of sleep on the bus, and then had to deal with Ryan Air and their stupid fees at 4am—grand! After we got through security, which wasn’t that bad either, we got some yogurt and just hung out at the gate until our plane was ready to board. I basically slept for an hour on the plane, and then we had to get the shuttle from the airport to Cork and then take the bus (or walk) from the shuttle stop, to our apartment. We caught the shuttle in time, but the stupid city bus in Cork was late and my toes were frozen :( Once I got back to my room, I checked my e-mail and passed out from 10am until about 7pm! I kinda just remained a bum for the rest of the night, and then woke up for my 9am Physics lecture this morning.
Although I’m still a bit tired from the weekend, this week is RAG week at UCC…aka Raise and Give Week…aka lots of student events mainly revolving around drinking to raise money for organizations! Hooray! Although it began Sunday night, it begins for us tonight and will pretty much continue throughout the weekend since Meg turns 20 on Sunday! Woohoo!!!
Now I’m going to go grocery shopping. That should be a fun, chilly walk to Tesco :) Love and miss you all<3 And Happy Valentine’s Day if I don’t post before then!