Some highlights from my weekend in London (25/3/16):
- Seeing the London Eye lit up at night
- An awkward encounter with a sleeping stranger
- Sprinting through the wrong O2 with a very important mission at hand
- TORI KELLY
- Experiencing the magic of a pretty sweet bookstore
- Trying a traditional cornish pasty
- Developing my ability to fall asleep anywhere
- and FRIENDSHIP
Story time. My two travel companions and I arrived in London pretty late in the night on Thursday, and took a taxi to our to our hostel. We arrived at the hostel at about 1 or 2 AM, and were immediately shown the way to our beds for the night. Without hesitation, I climbed into a bottom bunk the porter said wasn’t taken. One of my friends, Mary, claimed the bottom bunk across from mine, and Kiki took the bed above mine. In the dark and full room, we agreed on a wake up time in hushed voices before falling asleep.
Mary kindly me woke up the next morning. As I staggered out of my bed, Mary whispered something along the lines of, “I can’t wake Kiki up!” Still half asleep, I took it upon myself to complete this task. I wasted no time in tapping her annoyingly on the head and whispering at her to get up. Strange, grunting noises came from her and she stirred under her covers. I took this as sign of a slow awakening, but these noises quickly transformed into a deep, groggy voice saying, “No. Stop it. No. Go away.” That’s when I realized Kiki wasn’t really Kiki. I immediately ducked away from the top bunk and on to my bed, and Mary backed up to hers. We sat on our beds in the still sleeping room, looking at each other incredulously. Kiki’s boots were still by the foot of the bed, but we couldn’t see her or backpack in the dark room.
“I don’t understand. Where did Kiki go?!” Mary whispered.
I started laughing uncontrollably (the silent kind that shakes your whole body) at the ridiculousness of the situation. Not only had I rather rudely just swatted a sleeping stranger’s head repeatedly, but I also couldn’t find my friend. Even as I write this now, I’ve got laughter tears forming in the corner of my eyes. It was all so bizarre. I finally composed myself enough to tip-toe silently around the room to see if Kiki was in any of the beds. I finally found her at the opposite end of the room. Turns out she’d been in the wrong bed, and was asked to move sometime after we’d all fallen asleep. Clearly, we were off to a stellar start in London.
In the lobby/bar area, we convened for breakfast and a bit of planning and mapping out of directions. And when we’d all eaten and showered up, we headed for the neighborhood our Airbnb was located in. We were meant to share it with some friends (who are studying in France this semester) for the rest of the weekend. We were unable to access the apartment ourselves though, because our France friends were the ones who booked it. So, all 7 of us eventually met up at a Starbuck’s near the apartment, and from there, we made our way to the Airbnb.
We unloaded our stuff and had just enough time to get settled in and plug in devices before we split up. Abigail, Mary, Kiki, and I had a Tori Kelly concert to get to, and our other friends had a Harry Potter tour to get to. Together, Abigail, Mary, Kiki and I figured out the way of the Oyster card at the nearest underground station, and set off to the concert venue two hours before the doors opened. Dedication, am I right? And thank goodness for that, because we accidentally ended up at the wrong O2. Silly first-time Londoners. We had no idea that there was more than one O2 center until two kind gents who worked at the center told us we were at the completely wrong one. Before receiving this news, we’d been care-free, but suddenly the pressure to get to the concert was real. And thus began the sprint through the wrong O2 with a very important mission at hand, as mentioned above in the highlights. I’m certain we looked absolutely ridiculous and like #typicaltourists and/or like #typicalAmericans, but none of this mattered because it was Tori Kelly we were running for. When we arrived at the correct venue, the line to get in was wrapped around the building. BUT we still ended up with pretty decent spots on the floor!
Abigail and I both had the chance to see Tori Kelly together in St. Louis last semester. We were pumped to hear her live once more, and in London of all places. We screamed, sang, and danced like fools. And after her final song on stage, we floated out of the venue on clouds of happiness. Side note: If my words of admiration for TK and her singing abilities haven’t convinced you thus far, friends reading this, you should definitely look her up and take a listen.
We ended the day by stopping at a small supermarket on the way home for some celebratory ice cream. Back at the Airbnb, we alternated between shoveling spoonfuls of the stuff into our mouths and bursting with post-concert bouts of excitement and “what just happened??” feelings. Overall, it was a splendid first day in London.
The next day, we split up again. My group first visited Buckingham Palace where we caught the tail end of the Changing of the Guards. Afterward, we visited the Big Ben, observed the London Eye from there, stopped by Westminster Abbey and by then, it was lunch time. We found a fairly cheap indoor cafe, where we ate and warmed up some before going back into the cold. Then, we headed for the British Museum where we were scheduled to meet up with the other group. As we waited in the lobby, I put my developing ability to fall asleep anywhere to practice and took a little nap before they arrived.
“Persephone Books” was next on our list (after a fish and chips pit-stop), and my inner-booklover was delighted. Today, this gem is a quaint little bookshop that reprints works written mostly by female writers from the mid-twentieth century. All of the books have grey covers, with various patterns on the inner covers that have been borrowed from many different places, people, and works of art. Lucky for me now (not so lucky for me then), I didn’t have much spending money with me at the time or I might have walked out with an armful books and an empty wallet that day.
Then, Tommy, Mary, Kiki, Abigail and I headed traveled to Kings Cross Station to experience a run at the wall of Platform 9 3/4. Quick confession: I haven’t read all of the Harry Potter books yet. I’ve slowly been working on the series since about a year ago, so I wasn’t nearly as excited about the experience as I should’ve been. However, I did get to witness some of my friends experience this long-time dream of theirs which was pretty darn cool. After we got our pictures taken, we strolled through the Harry Potter shop there, and then Tommy and I grabbed and split a cornish pasty. A good friend of ours had given us the task of trying this food, and because it was food we were talking about, we had no problem in completing this delicious task.
Next up on our list? Chipotle. Tommy’s birthday was on Sunday of that weekend – the day we all flew out. So, we planned to have Chipotle birthday dinner for him for the night before, because the kid is obsessed with it. After dinner, we walked back toward the London Eye. Yes, we’d seen it from afar during the day, but it was an even better sight to see at night. In the Eye’s reflection in the Thames River, its red lights mingled with the blueish-purple ones of its neighboring buildings. It was a sight difficult to look away from. For my part,during moments like this one, I worked hard to ignore the date of my return flight and all that it entailed. We were in London, in front of the London eye, and I still couldn’t believe it.
So I guess you could say that during my weekend in London, I was like a baby bunny (or squirrel – your pick) who had just opened their eyes for the first time. “Oh, so London made you feel completely and utterly adorable, eh?” Good guess! But no. By this I mean that I did a lot of staring up at things with wide eyes and standing stupefied before all of the London sights we saw and London things we did. At times, my excitement-o-meter was so great that I wanted to stop the strangers passing by who were so casually absorbed in their phones and chuck their devices into the Thames river (even though I’ve absolutely been guilty of getting distracted by technology in similar ways). Luckily, I had friends with me who were just as thrilled by in the city, if not more.
My time in London this semester is complete, but I sincerely hope I’ll get to visit again some day. A couple tips for future, first-time visitors to London? Make sure you have plenty of time to see all the cool things if London is a big one on your list (two days was pushing it). And with this, a sound budget, because the pound can hurt. Also, to future visitors, if you don’t like the idea of becoming so enchanted by a place that you maybe possibly are transformed into a newborn rodent, I’d suggest a visit elsewhere. Ciao for now!