Friday, March 2, 2012


hmm where to start? I guess I'll go in order, this might take a while just so you know ;)

Thursday 2/23:
Casey and I: Class at 8:30am. Go home and pack. Class until 2:30pm. Eat lunch in 10 minutes (impressive-Spain lethargic). Leave for the bus station. Take a bus to Madrid for 5 hours. Arrive at our hotel 10pm. Sleep 4 hours..

Friday 2/24:

I tried my best to sleep on the plane even though it was only a 2 and a half hour flight and then we arrived in Standstead airport around 9am and we had to take an hour bus ride into London because apparently our airport was 40 miles outside the city.  We were far too excited to sleep and spent the whole ride looking out the window at the English fog and listening to all the different accents around us. London is a very diverse place, that's the beauty of it... you never feel like a tourist because 85% of the people there are too :)  When we made it to London the first thing we did was eat breakfast and the obvious choice was SUBWAY!  It had been so long since we'd had any kind of meat other than ham and any bread other than white so we enjoyed a delicious meatball sub on wheat bread. sooo good. So we bought our oyster cards (week long tickets to ride the metro--aka the tube) and made our way to our hostel.  The tube was so easy to use and they had these tiny little maps that were easy to carry around, it felt like home the first day we arrived.  Our hostel was great, very large and perfect for people our age traveling around.  It was maybe 200ft from Hyde Park entrance so of course we spent some time walking around the Park and in Kensington Gardens which is attached to the park.  Hyde Park is basically the Central Park of London (except better because its in England :D).  There's big open fields of grass, ponds, fountains, bike ways, walk ways, statues and all sorts of fun things.  Everyone was walking around with their dogs (not on leashes) and they were all so well behaved, playing around with all the other dogs.   Then we came to a pond called Round Pound (for obvious reasons) and it was COVERED in birds. All sorts of birds that I was told came from the time when royalty imported exotic birds, which is why there were so many different types. They also have these really cool bike stations where you can put in a credit card, pay a pound and rent a bike to ride around but we tried and tried to take them out to no avail.  We even had help from several friendly strangers but no one seemed to know how it worked.  We took the tube to the Westminster stop where we would be meeting our Harry Potter tour (yes, that really happened) and since we were early we walked around a little and grabbed a snack.  As you exit the metro station the stairs bring you up and there's this large pole and then as we stepped around it straight in front is Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.  It was amazing, as if you were living under a rock you're whole life and you look out a window to see the sun for the first time. Incredible.  So we went to a local shop, bought some scones which were SO GOOD and sat in a park in the middle of Westminster.  At 2pm we met the lady holding a wand in Westminster station and she walked us through London to all of the places the were used in the filming of the HP movies.  She was hysterical and had really dry humor, acting like everything was very real and talked about all of the "muggles" and how wizards influenced the real events in history.  When that ended she pointed us in the direction of Kings Cross Station were we found platform 9 & 3/4 around a dark corner with a little cart halfway through the wall so you could pose with it :)  Next door to Kings Cross was another station called St. Pancras Station and it was a really pretty red building so we decided to go explore it and found a cute little Italian restaurant inside.  We had dinner there and it was so good to have Italian food.  Next we went back to our hostel to wait for Casey's friend Ben from UNH who is currently studying in France for the semester (he is hopefully coming to Barcelona with us in a few weeks too!)  Once he arrived around 9pm we walked around the city with everything lit up and ended up sitting outside a bar talking and relaxing.  When it got cold we went inside, but it turns out things in England close early, it wasn't even midnight yet and they were shutting down, which is just as well because I almost died when a mouse crawled down the wall behind Casey's head.  We sat with our feet up after that until it was time to leave.

Saturday 2/25:

We woke up early to go see the "changing of the guards" at Buckingham Palace (where the Queen lives).  They say to be there early because it fills up really fast, and we were early but then we saw this really cool fountain and got a little distracted.  We walked to the original entrance into Buckingham Palace and St. James park where the horse guards stand and obviously took a picture with one of the guards there doing his rounds.  We felt really bad but we figured they get this all the time so we apologized for the picture, took it, thanked him and he did nothing but stand there looking angry.  Oh well I guess that's his job. When we made it back to Buckingham Palace the place was packed, the gate was crowded 20 people deep in all directions and the statue in front of the palace was covered with people trying to see over the gate.  We squeezed in close to the gate but there was a pillar that made it fairly difficult to see.  At 11:15am the bands came in playing all sorts of weird music... pieces of the US national anthem, jazzy upbeat music, the entire pirates of the caribbean theme song? Yeah it was not what we were expecting but still really cool. All the guards did there part, walking around looking serious with fuzzy hats or red jumpsuits, holding flags or marching around. It ended at noon and we headed over to Trafalgar Square 10 minutes away.  Trafalgar square is the center point of London and has the National Gallery and a big tall monument in the center with 4 giant lions around it.  You can climb the monument and the lions (which is the appeal) but its SO much harder than it looks.  There were no steps to climb up and the base of the monument was up to my shoulders.  Thank goodness for Ben because he climbed up and pulled me and Casey up afterwards.  The lions were another task though, they were these giant smooth statues, begging to be climbed but they were so slippery and if you fell, it was straight to the ground 10 feet down.  Needless to say we didn't want to die so we climbed around the front and Ben pulled us up to sit in front of the Lion :D  Next we went to Borough Market for lunch.  Its a big outdoor farmers market with fresh fruit, vegetables, meat vendors, everything you could imagine nice and fresh.  So we had our typical English fish and chips and bought blueberries for desert because they don't have those in Spain.  From there we walked to the Tower of London (her Majesty's royal palace and fortress) right on the river Thames (pronounced tems).  We went on a short tour with one of the Beef-eaters-- those guys with the red and black uniforms and the cool hats, its they're job to serve the Tower of London. He was really funny and the tour was nice and short so we had time to walk around.  He told us a little about the history and it was all very brutal, be-headings and torture chambers on the grounds, lovely.  This is also where the crown jewels are kept, which are INCREDIBLE. They don't look real, they're so grandiose and they sparkle like nothing you've ever seen. When they finally kicked us out at closing time (4:30pm) we walked around to some of the bridges on the Thames, like the Tower Bridge, the Golden Jubilee suspension bridge, the Millennium Bridge which was finished late in June of 2000 and the first people to cross it were the "save the children" charity group, who ran off it when they discovered it wobbled.  It reopened in 2004 with a nickname "the wobbly bridge" which HP reinforced when in the movie the death eaters destroy it and it wobbles all over the place :P  For dinner we went to Soho, which is like London's little red-light district just to look around and had Mexican food.  To get there we walked through Piccadilly Circus which is kind of like the Time's Square of London, but honestly it looked just like Madrid and I'm not really a city girl so we didn't stay long.  After dinner we stopped for crepes which were delicious, strawberry and cream, mmmmm and then to another pub near our hostel to hang out and experience pub life :)

Sunday 2/26:

We left for Tower Bridge in the morning and toured the inside workings of it.  For those of you who don't know, London Bridge is a really lame normal looking bridge that has been replaced 14 times, and the large one with the two towers and the blue suspensions that London is known for is actually Tower Bridge.  So we got to walk around the exhibits in the towers and across the top to take pictures and then down into the engine room to see how it worked because it opens up for the passing ships.  Next we took the tube to the Olympic Park.  We got a little lost and ended up walking on a highway for 15 minutes before we turned around and went back to the tube for a different station. In case you hadn't heard The Summer Olympics are being held in London.  Its all still under construction but it was really cool to see how everything is going to be set up and now when we watch it on tv we can be like Hey! I stood there! Then we went to Camden Market for lunch which is CRAZY.  It has so many sections and its this giant indoor and outdoor strip of shops and food stands.  I've never been in a place more packed in my entire life. They had everything from fur coats, wooden carvings, souvenirs, paintings, clothes... EVERYTHING.  We grabbed some Moroccan food and sat in a park nearby for some peaceful eating and the food was actually very good and authentic.  We took the tube back to the center of the city and hopped on a boat taxi on the Thames for the water view experience of everything and had it take us to the London Eye (giant ferris wheel that looks over London).  There we bought our tickets for the London Eye and they take you into a room for short a 4d film of the experience, which was pretty neat.  Then we wasted some time watching street performers until the sun started setting.  We had the perfect timing for our ride in the Eye, the sun was going down as we were going up and when we made it to the top everything was lit up perfectly.  It was gorgeous and the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben was the most impressive view.  The ride was about half an hour, which is great but we could have easily stayed there all night.  We hopped from a couple of the pubs until we made it pack to the same one next to our hostel and had dinner there.  We all ordered a different kind of "pie" which came with mashed potatoes and peas and carrots, a really good hearty meal.  I missed that sort of food, so needless to say we were all very happy.  We stayed there for a while and did a crossword puzzle and socialized with some of the locals. Back at our hostel we had the whole 9 person room to ourselves! It was pretty great because the past couple of nights there was a girl who snored sooo loudly.

Monday 2/27:

We had a whole planned list of things we were going to do until Casey lost it... so a new plan arose and we we decided to go to Oxford.  The trip took the whole day, which we were not expecting but I wouldn't have changed it, it was such a quaint little town and it made me think of what England should really look like.  I don't know about you but when I pictured Oxford I pictured a vast openness of green hills and then a big old building and campus, well its not like that.  On the way there we passed all sorts of green hilly places (which was wonderful, I really miss seeing green things-- the simple things like grass!)  and then we rode into this little town and had no idea what was Oxford University and what was Oxford the town.  It turns out they're one and the same.  The town and the University are blended together so that when you walk down the street you could end up walking into a college that looks like a castle or a little store right next door.  We went into the Divinity School which was Oxfords first classroom/lecture hall.  They told us that they used to take the final exams there: One person standing on a podium for 3 hours, in front of everyone, and they would ask you questions about everything you learned from your 3 year education in Latin, and your teacher would even argue with you if you were right so you had to be certain!  This little building was also the set of the hospital wing in Harry Potter and also the ballroom dance scene in the goblet of fire.  For lunch we found a little pub called three goats heads (finding a good pub was all about the name).  Here we ordered the original English foods: bangers and mash, toad in a hole, and fish and chips, everything was more than I could have hoped for :D  We walked around a little more and when to all of the different colleges within Oxford University and it was just so much fun!  By the time we made it back into London it was dinner time so we went to a pub called Bag O'Nails (great name) and ordered some appetizers to share and a treacle sponge cake for desert (really good but I have no idea what it was).  Here we hung out for hours with a bunch of South African guys that lived nearby.  One of them was part of the building committee for the Olympics and it was quite interesting to hear about the struggle to get it all done on time. Back at the hostel we had the room to ourselves again which was perfect because we stayed up late hanging out.

Tuesday 2/28:

We woke up early to get the most out of our last day in London and headed over to St. Paul's Cathedral.  Sadly, we couldn't walk up into the dome because it was closed for a day of prayer? We're not really sure why but either way we couldn't climb up into it, but walking around it was good enough too.  The statues and the paintings were so intricate and beautiful.  I lit candles for people, and left little prayer cards that would be laid out for the services. A lot of famous people were married and had there funerals here, for example Winston Churchill and lots of kings that I can't recall right this moment.  After spending some time there Ben had to leave to catch his flight and Casey and I headed over to Westminster Abbey. It may look small in comparison to Houses of Parliament and Big Ben because they're right there but don't be fooled it is enormous on the inside.  There's so much to see and we got a free audio guide with our admission which was very helpful.  A lot of royalty is buried here because that's kind of what it was built for.  There were all sorts of chapels for each of the Kings/Queens or other important people which were adorned with intricate statues and carvings.  Very beautiful.  We had a little bit of time left after this and we went outside to take pictures with Big Ben.  Its funny to see everyone trying to pose with it, and all of the cops that were hanging around were laughing at us or with us I hope.  From here we had to go catch our bus to the airport and caught our plane to Madrid.  It was very sad to leave, we kind of dreaded going back were people didn't speak English in the most lavish way or at all...  Mostly I miss how nice everyone in England was, always trying to help out and joking around with us.

Wednesday 2/29:
Left our hotel at 6am.  Took a bus to Granada from Madrid. 5 hours later arrived at the bus station on the other side of Granada. Made it home for lunch. Class til 6:30. Sleep.

Hope you enjoyed my little novel!! hahah :D

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