Two saturdays ago, october 22nd, we flew into London Stansted and took the tube into the city. We were unbelievably excited to hear people speaking English, since we've been struggling with Italian for 2 months. The first order of business? Mcdonalds, of course :) In Europe, however, McDonalds is on the expensive side, and it's extremely popular. Half the time, when someone finds out I'm an American the first thing they ask about is Mcdonalds and whether it's really all we eat in the US.
After mickey d's, we figured out the tube and went to the Casey's hostel. I booked my hostel later than they did, so I stayed in a different hostel the first night, in a different part of the city. We made it to their hostel just in time for the start of a pub crawl, which really excited the Caseys, but I don't drink so I went to find my hostel by myself instead. My hostel, fortunately, was in a really nice part of town, just down the street from Hyde Park. I met some people from Spain while I was waiting for the receptionist, and ended up spending the rest of the night hanging out with them.
The next day, I got up early and took full advantage of the free hostel breakfast, checked out, and went to Hyde Park since I wasn't going to meet up with the Caseys til they got up at noon. I saw Princess Diana's memorial and Kensington Palace, which was gorgeous. Like everything else in London, however, it is undergoing restoration before the Olympics next year.
Across the street from the Westminster station was Parliament, which was so surreal to see in real life. We took a bunch of pictures in front of Big Ben, then the Abbey where we ran into a couple girls from our program, Shannon and Chloe, who were there for the service as well. The service itself was really short, only about thirty minutes, but it was awesome. The reverand quoted T.S. Eliot, and then pointed behind me to Poet's Corner, where he's buried. After the service, we weren't allowed to look around too long but the church was stunning. It was kind of weird to think that I watched William and Kate get married right there just a few months ago, and I never thought I'd get to see it in person.
(Notice the London Eye in the background!)
After church, the five of us went to a pub for some fish and chips, which was SO delicious after having been deprived of fried food for 2 months. Plus, they had Heinz ketchup which definitely does not exist in Italy.
Casey and Kacie seemed to have little to no interest in museums or historical landmarks like the Tower of London, so the next day I went and spent most of the day at the Tower by myself. I didn't mind, however, because I was too busy geeking out. It was absolutely amazing, and I was so happy to be there since it was probably the number one thing I wanted to see in the entire world ever since I took A.P. European History in high school. I saw the Queen's House, where Anne Boleyn stayed before her coronation and also where she was held before her execution, lots of suits of armor that belonged to people like Henry VIII and Edward IV, the crown jewels, the ravens whose wings have been clipped to keep them from flying away since the reign of Charles II, and the memorial to the people executed in the tower.
(From left to right: Johanna, Kacie, me, Tom, Bernd, Mateo, Casey, and Dennis)
(Bernd and Matteo)
The boys took us back to our hostel and said goodbye forever, which is the problem with making friends here. The next morning, we got up at some ungodly hour and took the train to Paris.
Random picture that reminds me of my mom:
I have a lot of other pictures of London on facebook if anyone would like to look: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.299643026714733.87874.100000071149386&type=1&l=55fa7494e3