Saturday, November 1, 2014

Netherlands Adventures!: A Solo Trip to London, Part 1 (What I Did)

Note: the following post will be rather long, as I will squeeze my six-day adventure into one post.  This will be a two-part post though.  This post will tell you what I did when, but 

Last week was my fall break, so I decided that it was time to get out of the Netherlands for a while.  So I went to England and spent the entire time in London!  So I packed up my backpack and hopped on the shortest flight of my life (45 minutes!) to have one of the greatest experiences of my life!

At the request of my roommate last year, Shakirah, I had an actual biscuit.

Tuesday (Arrival)
My flight took off around 10:30 Tuesday morning from Amsterdam Schipol and landed at roughly the same time in London City Airport (thanks to the time difference!).  From there, I had the first lesson of the week: learning how to use the train system.  I'd only ever heard of the London Underground, but there's so much more to the underground system and then that leaves out the overground system and all of the lines.  There's even a line that travels through the air!  It's called the Emerites Air line.  I didn't go on that one though.  Any way, I had directions for the trains so that I could get to my hostel in East Ham (a part of London).  I managed to make it there with no problem, but was panicking because of the unfamiliar train system.  But I did make it to the hostel with no issue.  I was early, so I went to this little diner type of place, got lunch, read for a while, and then wandered the neighborhood for a while until I could check in.  

This was my first ever hostel living situation.  I'll talk about my experience overall later, but just so you know of my situation, I stayed in a 10-bed mixed dorm (that is, boys and girls/men and women stayed in the same room).  In the picture above, my bunk is the set of bunk beds straight ahead on the bottom, but later that day, I was asked to move my bunk to the bottom bunk to the right, which you can't really see.  It turned out to be a much better spot than my first spot.

For the rest of the day, I didn't go into the center of London, I bought food (what passed as food) and settled into my dorm.  There ends Tuesday.
Wednesday (First Day of Adventure)
Wednesday, I got up bright and early, hopped on the train (the Hammersmith & City and District Lines are my best friends.  I rode them every day) and went into the center of London, specifically to St. Paul's Cathedral, as my first stop.

I SO wish that I could have taken pictures inside!  But it wasn't allowed.  Still, it was awesome to see such a magnificent cathedral, where many people come to celebrate good news and bad (good news like the wedding of Princess Diana and bad news like 9/11 and Churchill's funeral).  People come here for guidance, almost.

You could do more than just walk around the main floor though.  There was a crypt downstairs, which I did visit (but again, you can't take pictures) and there were many levels that you could climb to get to the top (or as close to the top as you dared to get).  So of course I went up as high as you can get!  

After reaching in the top and taking in enough of the gorgeous view of all of London (and on such a nice day!), I climbed back down, finished up my visit and then cross Millenium Bridge to get to the Globe Theater.
I was excited to cross the Millenium Bridge because it appears in the movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  You know, the one that does this (see towards the end of the video):
Makes you want to walk across it, right?  So I walked across it :)

My next stop was the Globe Theater!  When I got there, I wanted to call up every single English teacher I had who taught me Shakespeare (Ms. Telschow, Ms. Hayes, Prof. Gaskill) and say "Oh my god, guess where I am!  Go on, guess!!"  While this is apparently the second Globe Theater to stand in this spot (third to ever exist) due to a terrible fire started by a cannon during the play Henry VIII, it was still incredibly cool to be standing where Shakespeare's work was originally performed (and is still performed today).  

After I finished my tour here, I had to race around because I was also seeing a matinee of Les Miserables today!  So I hopped on a train, got a little lost, and finally arrived at the Queen's Theater!

I was really excited to see this show because one of my favorite YouTubers, Carrie Hope Fletcher (itswaypastmybedtime) plays Eponine.  To get a taste of what I heard, listen to this:

Afterwards, I felt extremely lucky because I went on Facebook and found out that she wasn't going to be performing that night due to illness that was affecting her voice.  I came at the right time!  The show was amazing and the story was even more moving than I thought.  I was in tears by the end.
Thus ended my Wednesday.
Thursday (The Adventure Continues)
Again, I woke up at a decent time, got ready for the day, and then took the train into the center of London where I started in the St. John's Wood area, also known as the Beatles Zebra Crossing!

I had to laugh, because I was following my map and I thought to myself, "How am I going to know if I'm at the right cross walk?" only to come across a crowd at this precise corner walking back and forth across the street.  I had to laugh again when people would pause in the middle of the street for a picture in the middle of oncoming traffic (who kindly stopped, although did have a certain amount of patience and would honk after a while).  Thank you to the gentleman who operated my camera for me when I was not physically able to take this shot.
From the zebra crossing, I walked over to Regent's Park where I would wander around on such a beautiful and eventually go to the London Zoo.

Rose garden in Regent's Park

The infamous reptile house that appeared in the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone!
He walked a few steps and collapsed from exhaustion.  Made me think of my beagle Louie :)

I have now visited zoos in three different countries (U.S., France, and England.  I'll add the Netherlands to this list sometime before returning to the U.S.).
From Regent's Park, I wandered over to Baker Street where I ran into the Sherlock Holmes museum!  Curious, I stopped in.

Dr. Watson
Mr. Sherlock Holmes
Irene Adler and I are absolutely shocked-- simply appalled!!  What happened again?
Then I decided to skip the teaching business and become a detective in London instead :)  Ha.  Ha ha.
I'd say that one doesn't need to go out of the way to see this museum, but if you happen to be in the neighborhood, it's kind of a fun thing to do.
Same morning spiel, but this time I started my day with the Tower of London, as one does.  They were doing something special and different here.  All of the red at the base of the tower are hand-made ceramic poppies, one to represent someone who fought and died in World War I (I think).  As you can see, there are many.  They wrap around out of sight as well.

I didn't realize that there was so much to the Tower of London.  It's not just a prison and a place where people were tortured and executed, it was also a mint (like, for making money) and a residence.  The more you know.

Where the crown jewels are held :)  I got there at the perfect time of day.  There was no line to speak of.  By the time I was finishing up my visit, there was a line wrapped around the block, practically.  All to see the crown jewels.
Instruments of torture/death
Following the Tower of London, I made my way to the British Museum.
I did get pretty turned around trying to get there once I started walking, but I found it.  It's also so much bigger than I ever thought possible.  I walked in and realized that there was no way I was going to see this entire place that day, much less during this entire visit to England.  So I made a decision.  I wanted to see Egyptian artifacts, so I went to that exhibit and whatever else I could see on the path that led to the way out.  The British Museum is mostly free, so I didn't feel bad.

Human/Centaur epic battle!

I had to, you guys.  It's practically required when you visit London.
And then, I made my pilgrimage.  The pilgrimage of a Harry Potter fan.  I've upped my nerd game by about 1000 points.

Sorry for the awful quality... it's a picture of a picture and this particular picture was taken with an iPod.
When I got to King's Cross Station, I went up to someone who worked in the station and asked, perfectly seriously, "Can you help me find Platform 9 3/4?"  I can cross that off my bucket list!  The person I asked pointed me in the direction of a good-sized line in front of a trolley that was stuck halfway into the wall.  As you can see, I stood in that line (it went fast-- I was watching other Harry Potter fans' dreams come true).  When it was finally my turn, I stood in front of the trolley and as the camera guy gave me directions, I kept saying "Ya" as in "Yeah," and he assumed that I was German, so he gave counted to three in German so that I'd be ready when he snapped the picture.  Nice of him.  Too bad I don't have a German passport :)  I've just spent two months in the Netherlands where they say "Ja" for yes.  Dutch has infiltrated my mind!

Saturday, I ran into my first problems with the train.  The train people decided that it was the perfect weekend to shut down one of my main lines of transportation (the District train line) halfway through the route and I didn't know this until I got on the train.  So improvising was needed.  I looked at my metro map and figured out what stations I needed to go to and what lines I needed to take in order to get where I wanted to go.
My first stop was Buckingham Palace.

Due to train delays and having to deal with a minor medical emergency (finding bandages to bind up my feet after getting truly terrible and awful blisters the day before because the hostel didn't have any, apparently), I missed the changing of the guard and would miss it the next day too.  Next time.

Then I took a walk to the Wellington Arch, which was "just" down the street from Buckingham Palace.

And took a quick trip to see the TARDIS from Doctor Who before returning to Hyde Park.

I made it through Hyde Park and got to Kensington Gardens and Palace.  By then, the weather was absolutely beautiful.  Kensington gardens is actually one of my absolute favorite places now.  Same with Kensington Palace.

Ducklings!  Or are they goslings?  There were a lot of geese around...

Queen Victoria grew up in Kensington Palace
There was a really neat exhibit about fashion trends through the decades and the royalty.  This is from the 60's/70's...
...and this is from the 50's.  I much prefer the dress from the 50's.  So elegant.
So you know how people used to wear outrageous clothing in the "olden days"?  Here, they showed you how to put everything on.  There's a lot of ceremony to dressing one of the royalty.

Sunday (The Last Day)

I checked out of my hostel and then for the last time, took the train into the center of London.  I decided to spend the day in the area of Westminster.  But my plans went a little awry.  I'll get there though.  First, I took a ride on the London Eye.

From there on, I tried to visit Westminster Abbey and the houses of Parliament, but neither were open on Sunday (at least I don't think the houses of Parliament were open.  The Abbey was definitely closed for the day though, which is unfortunate).  But I could still get pictures of the outside.

I wandered around the area a little, but in the end, my feet were in such pain from the blisters a few days ago, despite the fact that they were bandaged up precisely so my feet wouldn't bother me.  So, since I had seen a lot of what I had set out to see and was absolutely exhausted and a little overwhelmed, I stayed in the Westminster/London Eye area until it got dark enough where I didn't want to be outside any more, which happened to be about a couple hours before I needed to board my flight back to the Netherlands.  This was a wonderful and full trip.  I don't regret sitting and watching for the last handful of hours.  I was happy to just be in London's presence.  I know that I've made some great memories here.

Tomorrow's post will be about London, but it won't be about the things I did.  Just my overall experience.  I figured this post was long enough on its own.  

Thanks for reading!  Ta ta!  (I don't know if the English actually say that).  Cheerio!


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