Tuesday, September 27, 2011

London, Part 2!

Our second full day (and last day) in London was even more amazing than the day before! I really got into the heart of London, and saw the places I've been longing to see for ages! Our first stop was Covent Garden (home of Eliza Doolittle before Henry Higgins takes her in). Besides all the modern stores and shops, it looked exactly as I pictured it! It was absolutely loverly! I don't know what I was thinking, but I didn't get a single picture! But, I did get some good shopping in. All three of my lovely sisters have a scarf from Covent Garden. I'm a good girl I am!

After we spent the morning at Covent Garden and splurged on some delectable ice cream, we took the Tube over to Trafalgar Square, so that we could eat our lunch on the steps of the National Gallery. This was the first time that I actually felt like I was in London. I'm not a huge city fan, but of all the cities I've been to, I could definitely see myself living in London. Or maybe. living in the English country-side, close enough to London to visit all the time. :)

Even though there were a LOT of tourists buzzing about, there were still many, many natives around Trafalgar square. There was a group of London schoolgirls rocking out to some music, businessmen  eating their lunch on the steps, etc. It felt so very British!

The countdown to the London 2012 Olympics! I want to go so very badly... But my mean sissy pointed out that she didn't get to go to the Beijing Olympics, so I have to suffer too. :(

A very random, very big, ship in a bottle on Trafalgar Square.

The National Gallery! We didn't have time to go in. How sad...

Me, Kaity, and Mary at Trafalgar Square! Notice Big Ben right above my head. Yeah, that's right- I've been there. 
 As cool as tiny Big Ben was from the Square, we decided to get a closer look:

I have to say, I am extremely proud of this picture. It contains everything I love about London: the British people, some tourists, the London Eye (that big ferris wheel), the St. Margaret Street sign, Big Ben, the houses of Parliament, AND a double-decker bus!!! (We may or may not have stood at that street corner for 15 minutes waiting for that bus to come by). The double-decker bus was extremely important. This may sound extremely silly, but do you know what gave me my first impression that I needed to go on this trip? A picture of double-decker bus on the streets of London. I know, I know, it's a little strange, but ever since that moment I have felt extremely fond of them. Aren't I a weirdo?

Anyway, after we finally got our amazing picture of London, we walked about 20 yards to Westminster Abbey!!!

It was so beautiful- inside and out. It was definitely my favorite cathedral. I'm really sad that they don't allow pictures inside, because I had an amazing experience while I was there. See, I have this really amazing mother--really, really amazing-- and before my trip she helped me (and by helped me I mean she did most of the work) go through my ancestry on Family Search and find a whole bunch of really cool people I'm related to (such as Henry VII, Richard the Lionheart, etc.). About every two seconds while we were in the Abbey, I would see another one of my ancestor's graves. I felt a connection to every one of them. While walking around that very-tightly packed building, I realized just how far-reaching the concept of family is. It was an amazing moment. Then, at the end of the walk through the Abbey, we got a chance to get a close look at Poets' Corner. I just went from one amazing moment to the next- seeing the graves of some of my ancestors to seeing the graves of some literary giants who might as well be family, I love them so much. If you go into Westminster Abbey with the right attitude and spirit, you can have a truly incredible experience there. That building is magnificent. It serves as a memorial for some truly great individuals. It also serves as a memorial to some individuals who had enough money to pretend to be great, but that's not the point. :) I love Westminster! 

K... off my soapbox... after we finished in Westminster we made one last stop before dinner at the Victoria and Albert museum. It was a big huge art museum that had many different types of art: sculptures, wrought iron, blown glass, stained glass, even jewelry. This was my all-time favorite piece in the entire museum:

It's a stained glass portrayal of Mary and Jesus as a child. There is something about this stained glass that absolutely takes my breath away. The detail, the love they are showing to each other, the colors, the symbolism of the doves and the olive branches... it's just magnificent to me.

Another crazy-cool piece at V&A was this chandelier:

It's all blown glass, and it is MASSIVE. That's all.

Finally, after we had explored the sights of London sufficiently (HA! I could spend a month there and still not be fully satisfied), we grabbed some dinner (during which I tasted a small bite of fish and chips-just to be able to say that I had), and headed to the Queen's Theater by Piccadilly Circus!!!

We ended the day- and our time in England- with Les Miserables! It was soooooo good! Dare I say it, maybe even better than Wicked (*gasp!*). In fact, Kaity and I were so hyped up about finally seeing this play- and in LONDON, no less!- that when the opening music began we started hitting each other out of pure excitement. Then at the end of the first act, when they just finished "Do You Hear the People Sing", we both looked at each other and just started bawling. Don't ask me why. It was the fulfillment of a life-long dream, ok?! Yeah, we got weird looks, but there was no stopping my joy! 

I was wary of leaving the English country-side at first. In fact, I was really sad when we did. But I have to say, this entire day, and especially the way it ended, was the perfect way to say goodbye to my precious England.

Coming up next... PARIS!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

London Part 1

London!!! My precious, beautiful, London! I have to admit, I was absolutely terrified when we first arrived. I went from the peaceful countryside to the bustling, insane city. The atmosphere was so different, but not bad. :) It was pretty scary the first time we rode the Tube. It was my first ever encounter with a subway system, which was pretty stressful. Our leaders were all stressed out to the max trying to get all 48 of us on the same train without losing anyone. It became much less stressful after we got a chance to try it out in small groups. 

This was our hostel in London- the Clink 78. There are several Clink hostels in London, all of which are former prisons. Pretty cool stuff, yeah? It was definitely the creepiest of all of our hostels. I and 11 other girls were on the ground level, and there were always drunk, high people right outside our window. Luckily there were bars on all the windows. :) Ah, the good ole Clink!

Our first night in London, almost everyone went to a play but me and a few others. I think there were seven of us total, but Chellie and I couldn't find any of the others, so we decided to explore King's Cross station and find Platform 9 3/4, but we were surprised to find...

...a sticker on the wall. 
See the shiny reflection under the sign? King's Cross was under construction, so they made a temporary replacement. The saddest part was that it was nowhere near platforms 9 or 10. It was sad, but you get the basic idea. I was still at King's Cross station, in LONDON, so ha!

The next day was mostly spent at the Tower of London!!! It was crazy cool. It was crazy to go from the outskirts of the city right to the heart of it in one little Tube ride. The Tower Bridge was pretty impressive the first time I saw it.

The first glimpse I got of one of the Queen's Guard! I was excited. :) This is at the Tower of London- he's guarding some royal person's apartment. We never figured out whose.

The Tower of London was pretty impressive. :) My royal ancestors used to live here. :) There's a whole exhibit about their scandals. Anyway, it was really cool being there. My favorite exhibit was crown jewels. It had scepters (one of which contained the world's largest diamond, crowns (including Victoria's teeny tiny one), the coronation robes that they've been using for the past century+, etc. SHINY! That's the best way to describe it. It was kind of sad, though. They wouldn't allow pictures, and they put you on  a moving sidewalk so you have like 30 seconds to see all the cool stuff. But it was fun. They also had the swords of all the Kings of England:

and this really random, yet awesome dragon guy made out of armor:

Another cool room in the Tower was the torture chamber...mwahahahaha...

They only displayed a few torture devices, including the rack, but I'd never seen this before- 

-it's called the scavenger's daughter. That thing not only forces you to  stay in that position, but it can tighten so it squeezes you harder and harder and harder... it's pretty legit. The exhibit said it's the most effective and terrible method of torture.

This is what I'd look like if I was a soldier. Notice the mostly-naked man over my right shoulder that I maimed.
 One of the most distinctive features of downtown London is it's crazy, very modern architecture, mixed in with ancient buildings like the Tower of London. You'll see that all over the city- old and new mixed together.

After we left the Tower of London, there were people in our group who wanted to see the Dr. Who Experience, so those of us who didn't care helped them find their fellow Dr. Who fans and the Dr. Who Experience. That took the better part of three hours. It was a wild goose chase. After a while a few of us gave up and ran off to Buckingham Palace!

It was cool. And the Queen was home, so that made me feel sufficiently stalker-like. :) After spending some time there and on Buckingham Street, it was time to go to the Globe Theater, where I saw As You Like It.

It was a really cool way to experience watching a play like this- the original Shakespearian way. All those people on the floor are standing, by the way. How would you like to sit through a three hour play like that? It was pretty packed... but amazing!