Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spring Break : LONDON!

Hey Folks!

Shelby here to recount the rest of my fabulous spring break adventures! After our group travel in Germany, Kjerstin took the train to visit her German host family from her highschool exchange program, and I went with Stephanie, Julia, and Lauren to London!

London: Day 1

We did not accomplish much on this first day. We didn’t get to London until early evening, and spent most of our time finding our hostel, settling in, and getting ready to meet up with my friend, Megan Dowd. Our hostel, while not the greatest of lodgings, was in a very handy location, as it was situated about 5 minutes walk from Paddington Railway and Underground Station. This made it really easy for us to get everywhere we wanted while we were in London. I was very excited to see my lovely friend because I had only seen her once in the past year. She graduated from Concordia last year and was a good theatre buddy of mine. This year she studied in London at LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) and so I wanted to make sure that I could visit her. She met us at Paddington Station and we had dinner nearby at a Chinese restaurant. Then we parted ways with Megan and went back to our hostel to plan our next 3 days in London. Hostel vacationing is certainly not “deluxe” by any means, but it saved us the money we used to have great adventures whilst in London!

London: Day 2

On Megan’s advice, we just purchased a day pass for the “Tube” and used that to travel each day we were in London. During the week, using the tube is definitely the easiest and most economical way to get around. Every attraction we visited was within 10 minutes walk of a tube station

Our first stop in London was Picadilly Circus and Leicester Square. We knew that we wanted to try to catch a show while visiting London, so we hit the cheap ticket booths first. Much to our luck, we were able to get cheap tickets to a showing of Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre for the next night. We were thrilled! From there we walked to the National Gallery, where we were able to see tons of beautiful works of art by Monet, Van Gogh, and basically every famous painter in Western Europe for free! In front of the National Gallery is Trafalgar Square, which has some beautiful fountains and monuments. Next we walked to Covent Garden, a really interesting open air market complex. It was very “old London,” and I really liked it! We ate in the courtyard (and avoided some rainfall), did a little shopping, and even got to watch some “buskers” (street musicians) playing some pretty string pieces.

For the afternoon we hopped on the tube and headed over the Westminster area, where we saw Big Ben, the London Eye, Parliament, and of course, Westminster Abbey. On some nights at the abbey they have a service called “Evensong,” that is free for the pubic, and we had planned to attend it. We were about an hour early to the area, so we decided to walk to Buckingham Palace and back while we waited. It was 4 in the afternoon, so there was no activity at the Palace, but we were able to take lots of pictures. Then we walked back through a pretty little park with arrays of daffodils to go and see “Evensong.” It was extremely cool to be inside the Abbey hearing a Men’s Chorus sing sacred Latin texts. We definitely got the old cathedral experience.

Next up was to visit some places famous for their literary signifigance. First stop was King’s Cross station and Platform 9 ¾. This is a Harry Potter place, if any of you are wondering why we wanted to go there. In the book, the wizards and witches get to their school by going to this platform, but to get there you have to push your luggage cart through the brick wall in between Platform 9 and 10. To recreate this, the lovely London Transit Authority anchored half of a luggage cart into a brick wall at King’s Cross Station near Platforms 9 and 10 and labeled it Platform 9 ¾. I will certainly include a picture.

After that we took the tube to St. Paul’s Cathedral, of Mary Poppin’s fame (Feed the Birds, anyone?). It is quite a massive and gorgeous building. A few blocks away was the infamous “Fleet Street” from the thrilling musical “Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” Funny thing was, there was a barber shop on Fleet Street, interesting marketing ploy don’t you think?

London: Day 3

We had two main goals for this day: The Tower of London and the Globe Theatre. We took the longest tube ride of our trip (almost an hour!) to get to the Tower of London, but it was definitely worth it! We had a wonderful “Yeoman” tour guide, say the crown jewels, climbed up into a few of the prison towers, and had a great time being immersed in the history of the Tower. As a Tudor/Elizabethan history junkie, I had a really great time! After that we had Fish n’ Chips on the shore of the Thames and walked across the Tower Bridge to the other side of the river.

The walk to the Globe was a little longer than most of the walks we had done, but we got to see some cool things along the way, like the London Bridge, a few outdoor markets, and of course the Thames. It would have been a lovely walk had it not been pouring rain at the time. But soon enough we got to the Globe and got to go on our tour of the complex. Needless to say, I certainly enjoyed myself! There is also quite a historical exhibition next door, which I also found really interesting.

After that, we took the Millenium Bridge (a very cool walking bridge across the Thames also used in Harry Potter) to St. Paul’s Cathedral again (for some daytime pictures). It was getting close to supper time, and we needed to be close to Picadilly Circus area for “Les Miserables”, so we took the tube there and found a nice family restaurant called “The Stockpot.” It was tasty and relatively cheap, and we were very close to our theatre, so it turned out to be the perfect choice.

Then, “Les Miserables”! We had slightly obstructed views from the balcony, but we could still see pretty much everything in decent detail. I love this musical, and this was a marvelous production of it. I got goosebumps many times during the show. I am so glad we were able to see it.

London: Day 4

On our last day in London, we accomplished the last of our concrete goals. We got cheap tickets for the play “Waiting for Godot” (starring Sir Ian Mckellan), saw the changing of the Guard (the band played a jazzy version of Singin’ in the Rain), saw the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, found the Peter Pan Statue at Kensington Gardens, and crossed the street at Abbey Road (we got a picture, and signed the wall at the Abbey Road studios). For dinner, we found another restaurant in the theatre district, it’s a UK chain called “Pizza Express,” although it was definitely not express. It is a very classy and quality Pizza restaurant. The dessert was good too! Then we went to the Haymarket Theatre to “Waiting for Godot.” This time we got prime front seats in the lower balcony, so we had no trouble seeing the action on stage. Ian Mckellan and the rest of the cast were absolutely fantastic. I was in heaven!

Then we went back to the hostel and met up with Kjerstin so we could head to Nottingham the next morning. But that is another blog entry!

Photos will be added in the next entry!



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