Sunday, April 11, 2010

London: Mind the Gap!

I got a taste of London this weekend and I know it is a place that I must return to someday. We were there for less than 48 hours, but we were so productive in our sightseeing that I really feel like we did the city justice. Well, as much justice as you can do with one day of touring.

Molly, Colleen, Taylor, Casey and I were representing the Dublin program in London this weekend, but the girls were all staying with friends so it was Taylor and I on our own for a little while. We ended up staying at the Central Park Hotel for the weekend because it was cheaper than the hostels we were looking at (go figure) and it was located right next to Hyde Park, so we were right in the middle of where we needed to be. Plus, it was SO nice to sleep in my own bed that didn't require climbing a ladder. We both agreed that it was good we stayed at a hotel on this, our last trip of the semester, because going back to a hostel would be pretty difficult once you have a private shower and fresh towels brought to you every day.

We got in late Friday night and decided to stay in and go to bed early so we wouldn't be tired for our jam packed day of sightseeing on Saturday. Plus, a Harry Potter movie was on, so we were totally immersing ourselves in the culture.

The best decision of Saturday was when we decided to tour the city on an open roofed double decker bus. The one day pass allowed us to hop on and off anywhere we wanted and provided us with commentary along the way. We drove around for a while and saw:

The Marble Arch, which is based off of Constantine's Arch in Rome. Oh, hey, I've seen that one, too.
If I remember correctly, this is Regent Street, home to some great shopping.
Picadilly Circus. This is the first place to ever have LED billboards that you now see in places like Times Square.
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. I absolutely loved seeing these, partly because they are so iconic and partly because the architecture is just so beautiful.

Taylor had been to London a few times before so he suggested getting off the bus at the London Eye. We walked around the area for a bit, looking at the river and Big Ben and then we hopped on the Eye. It took 30 minutes to do a complete rotation and the views were pretty beautiful.

Then we got onto the boat portion of the bus tour, which took us along the River Thames.

That building with the dome is St. Paul's Cathedral, where Princess Diana and Prince Charles got married.
This is a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

London Bridge. An older version used to sink into the river, hence London Bridge is falling down.
This is the Tower Bridge, which everyone, including myself, originally assumes is London Bridge. Oops!
And last, but not least, the Tower of London. Today it is home to Beefeaters and their families, which is over 100 people.

We got off the boat at the Tower of London and were famished for lunch. Fish and chips at a restaurant with wicked comfortable couches saved the day. And, of course, we got some English tea.

We hopped back on the bus to head toward Buckingham Palace. On the way, we passed by Westminster, where all of the Members of Parliament assemble. This was especially cool to see because we learned all about it in our history of Ireland class.

Then, we got to Buckingham Palace. We were a bit disappointed that the famous guards with their red coats and tall black hats were not outside (did we have the wrong place?) but the castle itself was beautiful.

Oh yeah, by the way, it was an absolutely gorgeous day. There was barely a cloud in the sky and the temperature was in the 60s. After we left Buckingham Palace, we walked through the creatively named Green Park.

Another bus ride later and we were at Madame Tussaud's wax museum.

I enjoyed meeting up with a few of my boyfriends:

David Beckham. (Pay no attention to the Spice Girl physically attached to him.)

Andy Warhol.

David and I again...
Prince Harry, of course.
and Tiger just for laughs.
Certainly I had to have tea with Miss Hepburn before I left.

Taylor then dragged me through the horror section of the museum. Cruelly, the hallway through which to bypass the scary section is painted with rainbows, puppies and balloons. I so wanted to go down that hallway. But, thankfully, the girls ahead of us caught the brunt of the scares, so we knew what was coming. I say we, implying that we were both scared, but I'll be was just me. It ended up not being as terrible as I thought, though I may have screamed a few times.

We ended our day of sightseeing with a stroll down Oxford Street, which is lined with department stores and shops. I desperately wanted a tea cup and saucer as a souvenir, and was elated when I found a store that sold little dainty ones.

A long walk back to the hotel and a couple of much needed naps later and we were ready to meet up with Colleen and her friends for a night out. (But not before watching a bit of another Harry Potter they just play them on a loop in England?? I approve.)

Then, before we could blink, the trip was over. Our flight left London at 10 a.m. this Sunday morning and we were back in Dublin in time for lunch. We had to come back early so we would be able to register for next semester's classes. I got all the ones I was hoping for, so I'm pretty excited for the fall.

I really enjoyed London and it is a place to which I would love to return. Taylor and I travelled really well together and effectively saw all of the major attractions, so the next time I go, I'd love to see more of the places off the touristy route. It is a city I absolutely must spend some time in again.

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