Read entire post in an English accent:
This past weekend, I was able to speak only English and soak up some sunshine (yes–you read that right–SUNSHINE) in lovely London! A trip originally planned with a few girls to meet up with an Iowa State friend and fellow Pi Phi, Ellen (who is studying abroad in Cork, Ireland) became a great getaway weekend, and quite an adventure!
Naturally, we had to do the complete royal tour, starting out on Friday morning. Therefore, beginning with the oldest castle in London, we took the official Tower of London tour!
Being a Phillipa Gregory novel addict through high school, I had learned a lot about the happenings in The Tower. Infamously known as the place where King Henry VIII had two of his wives’ heads chopped off (among many other brutal beheadings), we got the full–and quite gruesome–Tower tour. Clive, our hilarious and knowledgeable Yeoman Ward tour guide not only works there by day, but lives there with his family by night. It is tradition that the Yeoman Warders protect the Tower, and they continue to do so today. Also news to me: the Crown Jewels are held in the tower, which we were very eager to see. Best part of the Tower? After retelling the gory demise of Anne Boleyn, Clive paused and said, “Now, if you’ll pardon the pun…we will be heading this way!”
Whatever luck we had, we definitely brought it to London, because the weather was absolutely PERFECT! While it may have been a little dreary in the morning, around 11am, the sun came out and stayed all day! We couldn’t believe it! So we were a little surprised to find how many sites were closed for the “winter”, but, it was still worth getting to see it. Therefore, we decided to take ourselves around the city to see the famous sites like Buckingham Palace. When we finally got to it, I was so excited! THIS is where the queen lives! This is where Kate Middleton is regularly! This is so beautiful and grand! Take a photo of me please! But…where are the guards? Hmm…it is kind of a bunch of buildings patched together…We can just walk right up to it? This can’t be right…
Thank goodness for Renea who finally looked at the map and realized that it was the House of the Guard! Buckingham Palace was down the road…
Now THAT is what I call a Palace! But, alas, the queen wasn’t even home to invite us in for tea! We were able to come back to watch the changing of the guard the next afternoon, but the palace is closed for tours until June. Now I just have an excuse to come back (as a princess, of course).
The same mix up happened outside of Westminster Abbey. We walked and walked and walked until finally I stopped to ask a police officer how to get into the Abbey. He kindly pointed across the street and said (in a British accent) “That over there is the Abbey, miss. This here is House of Parliament.” I think I read the map backwards a few times this weekend.
Another fun part of the weekend:
This photo shoot for the three of us took about half an hour, due to the influx of people there and the amount of traffic! The poor locals who live nearby must get so frustrated! (But that didn’t stop us!)
But, Claire, you said it was an adventure? How so? Well, most of the adventurous part of the trip was the hostel. Arriving Thursday night after a 14 hour long travel day, we had to take a 30 minute tube ride out to the hostel in Willesden. Ellen and I were so proud because we had found a last minute place to stay and the prices were so low! We were able to save 100 euro just by staying on the far outskirts of the city! How bad could it be?
Lesson learned: you definitely get what you pay for when it comes to hostels. For about 9 euro per person, per night, we were shacked up in a mixed gender, 18 bed bunk room. There was definitely some questions on when was the last time our sheets had been washed, how often the place was cleaned, and how sanitary the bathrooms were…Not to mention “Bob the Builder” sawing wood all night in the bed above me. Also, for anyone thinking about staying in Willesden, I wouldn’t recommend it. We didn’t run into any problems (luckily) but when I was talking to the man next to me on the plane ride home, his eyebrows raised in surprise when I mentioned where the hostel was located…Not to mention the weekend we were there the only tube line that runs to our stop was closed. SO we got to ride on a famous red bus! Prior to the trip, I had definitely thought that they were only used as a tourist point, but really they are used to get to work and whatnot! I loved sitting in the front on top!
We didn’t let the hostel damper our weekend though, in fact I even told Caitlin as we are gingerly stepping around the wet spots on the bathroom floor “I am still determined to look cute in spite of this place!”. But after a weekend of tube riding, English pub crawling, and site seeing it definitely feels good to be settled for a little while. Mini adventures in Cáceres for the weekend before heading up to Valencia, Spain early Wednesday morning to go to the famed Las Fallas festival to welcome Spring!