As you might have guessed by reading the title, London was incredible. We got so lucky! We had really pretty weather, we never had to wait longer than 15 minutes for a tourist attraction, and it was overall a very smooth trip.
My adventure in London began with a super fast flight (it only took about 45 minutes). Maya and I flew with EasyJet, a really cheap budget airline. The plane was smaller than the average plane you’d normally fly on, but it was still comfortable and everything. The really cool thing about it was that it flew lower than bigger planes do, so we had a really awesome view of what was below us as we were flying.
We were absolutely starving by the time we got to Gatwick Airport. We followed the instructions our hostel gave us to get there as fast as possible. The instructions told us exactly which trains to get on and when to switch, so it was really simple. We checked in, dumped our stuff, and hopped back on the tube for some food. This time, we didn’t have instructions. We really only had one “blunder” on the tube, and I’m pretty proud of that. The great thing about the underground is that you can always hop off and get back on the line in the opposite direction if you need to. After that first night, we had the hang of it. It’s actually an incredibly efficient transportation system. I couldn’t imagine feeling the need to drive in London with the tube being so easy to use. With a map of the tube system in hand, London was at our fingertips.
Our first meal in London was fish and chips. We splurged a little and went to a nicer looking place so we could get as much delicious food as possible. We were so hungry. Everything about our huge plates of food was delicious and well worth the money. I don’t like fish, but just as I’d hoped, the fish was so fried that I couldn’t even tell it was fish. The chips (fries) were huge and fresh, and they came with sauce that was basically gravy to dip them in. Sooooo good! After eating, we went straight back to the hostel to get some rest for our big day that was to follow.
Friday morning we headed out early so we wouldn’t risk getting lost and being late for the walking tour we were going on. Thankfully, we didn’t get lost and we weren’t late! We were actually about two hours early. An amazing thing we were learning about the tube was that it made London seem very small. You could get from one side to the other so fast! To kill time we went to a really adorable cafe for some coffee and a small snack. We also explored Covent Garden, which was a pretty busy shopping area. The shops were really fun to look through, and people watching was even better.
Our tour guide’s name was Jake, and he was fantastic. Once again, we learned so much about the city in the most entertaining way possible. Jake walked us around Westminster (which is what everyone thinks London actually is) and showed us Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and so much more. Everything was beautiful of course. All the while, he told us about the history of each place. Much of it included entertaining stories about just how much the English did not get along with the French in the past. When we walked past where Prince Charles lives we saw that there were police and many people lined up waiting for something. We waited quite a while, expecting Prince Charles to leave any moment. We did not see Prince Charles, but we did see his wife, Camilla. So that was cool.
Maya and I had sausage and mash – delicious – at a pub after our tour. We were going to a pub crawl that night, so we had lots of time to kill. We retraced our steps a bit to revisit a few things from the tour. As the day went on, the streets became more and more crowded. London seems to be a city that wakes up early and stays up late – definitely similar to my usual way of life. I loved it. There was so much to see. There were cute cafes, pricey stores, relaxed pubs, and just so many people! I absolutely loved the atmosphere. There were street performers everywhere. Singers, dancers, beatboxers, musicians, magicians, and even a soccer player with some incredible skill! Everything about the city was active and exciting. I couldn’t stop smiling.
The pub crawl was really neat. We got free entry to all of the bars and clubs, and we also got a free shot and happy hour prices in each place. It also happened to be the night of the England vs. Wales rugby match, so everyone was going nuts! I even got to see a guy get so angry at the match that he punched a window. It was even more fun to watch him get thrown out by the bouncer immediately after his outburst.
On Saturday morning, I woke up to discover that my legs were very angry at me. My knee especially does not like cobblestone, but Europe happens to LOVE cobblestone. It’s just something I’m going to have to deal with for the next few months. I really just wanted to be lazy, but I pushed through the pain and got up anyway because IT WAS FINALLY TIME FOR ME TO GO TO PLATFORM NINE AND THREE QUARTERS. Words (not even words in all caps) cannot describe how excited I was to finally go to King’s Cross.
The station was absolutely gorgeous, but my eyes were really only focused on finding my platform. We were so lucky. I was expecting to see a crazy long line that we’d have to wait in for hours. I did see a line, but barely anyone was there. We only waited 15 minutes! Good thing my knee woke me up super early! After I got my picture taken at the platform, it was time to go to the Platform Nine and Three Quarters store.
Oh. My. Goodness. My inner nerd could barely handle the beauty that was contained in that store. There were so many incredible Harry Potter replicas that I had never even seen before. From the moment I walked in, I knew I was surrounded by souvenirs that I would likely never get a chance to buy again. Needless to say, I bought a lot. I left that store practically skipping with excitement. I am a child.
We spent the rest of the day just exploring around London. We walked A LOT. We started by seeing the changing of the guard, which was so cool! We explored Piccadilly Circus, which entailed a lot more street performers and some really awesome stores. We found a four-story M&M store. It was so amazing, colorful, and full of delicious-smelling chocolate. Most stores on Oxford Street were also four stories. It was incredibly overwhelming. I really enjoyed the Nike store because not only did it have four floors, but three of those four floors were all dedicated to soccer. I just love that my favorite sport matters here 🙂 We spent lots of time in Covent Garden. It may have been my favorite spot to be. It was busy, but not too packed, and there was such a huge variety of stores and kiosks to peruse. Even though it was a little chilly outside, it was absolutely lovely to sit outside, sip on some coffee, and just watch everything happening around us.
Sunday, our last day in London, was just as lovely as the rest (despite the ever escalating pain in my knee). We went to The London Eye and once again, we barely had to wait! We waited maybe ten minutes total to get on that giant ferris wheel. We were so fortunate. It was a beautiful day to see the most beautiful views of London. After that we explored just a little bit more before spending the night in Gatwick (boy, was that super fun).
We got back to Leiden at about 8:30 this morning. I can’t stop thinking about London. Everything about that place was just amazing. I unpacked immediately so I could look at all of my souvenirs again. There is now a very special place in my heart for London, and I really hope I get to go back some day. Maya and I joked often about moving there. I mean, we are apparently great at blending in. Four people asked us for directions or some other form of information! When we were drinking our coffee, I decided to whip out my British accent and Maya was very impressed. Unfortunately, I had to inform her that my talent came from years and years of quoting Harry Potter movies. The nerd inside me will never fade.
Barcelona is next! February 19th-23rd 🙂 I miss you all!