With a few hours left until the official start of 2012 Olympic Games in London, I thought I would recount my trip to The City. I finally landed in London in December of 2011 after being thwarted twice earlier in the year: once due to the riots and once because of a hurricane warning in good ol’ Philly. However , the long wait turned out to be worth it. London is beautiful , especially in the Winter when everything is decked out in Christmas decorations and the roads are lit by sparking street lamps before 5 pm . After a brief four days ,the city made its way to the top of my list of favorite cities.
Piccadilly, Tea Time, and Going to Hogwarts
After spending the morning outside the American Embassy waiting for my friend to get her replacement passport, we spent the rest of the day wandering. As Piccadilly Circus was a short subway ride away, we went there first and spent forever browsing the Cool Britannia and other shops in the area. We also hit up Leicester Square and had some amazing fish and chips at a tube station pub.
On the way back to the hostel we stopped at King’s Cross Station. We had fun checking out the different platforms and, of course, Platform 9 ¾. The Harry Potter monument was a bit difficult to find but definitely worth it. We joined the group passing around cameras and waited for our turn.
Any visit to London isn’t complete without a cup of proper English tea so we spent one afternoon at Bake-a-Boo. The tiny restaurant is definitely for the girly-girl with everything from the cupcakes, saucers, and even the bathroom decorated in shades of pink. There was a nice selection of teas and the treats were amazingly decorated and presented.
Hyde Park, The Lion King, and The Queen
One of the best parts of my trip was the visit to Hyde Park. Starting in November the area is transformed into Winter Wonderland. The attraction was complete with rides, a circus, seasonal foods, and a market. There was also an ice skating ring that we didn’t get a chance to visit. The rides were intense and varied, nearly matching those of amusement parks. We didn’t eat there but did try the mulled cider, which was pretty darn tasty. It was the perfect end to a pretty hectic day.
We spent our last morning in London at Buckingham Palace. We joined crowded sidewalks to watch the changing of the guards and afterwards got as close to the Palace as we could to snap some flicks. We explored the area and ended up walking from the London Eye to Tower Bridge. On the walk we passed iconic sites such as Big Ben, the Thames River, and the unique and gorgeous buildings of downtown London.
The icing on the cake was getting to experience London Theater. After falling in love with the movie as a child, I finally got to see the Broadway version of The Lion King. It was an indescribable musical that everyone should experience for themselves. I will say that it was true to the movie, much funnier, and involved some incredible costumes and props.
The City’s Characters
Even before leaving Spain, I knew I was in to meet some pretty unique characters. On the way to the Malaga airport, we met a Rupert Grint look-a-like who happened to be teaching in Spain and was on his way home for a visit. He escorted my friend and I to the proper terminal, waited patiently while we resembled ourselves after the security check and exchanged some Euros for British Pounds, and even sat with us on the plane. We finally had to say goodbye when my friend left her passport on the plane and was effectively quarantined.
After a two-hour delay we were allowed to leave and started out to find the Smart Russell Hostel. In route, we enjoyed a quick trip on the Gatwick Express and a ride in a double-decker bus. Along the way, we encountered a young lady talking about something that sounded like quantum physics, a neon-clad group of ravers, and a full-grown monkey. Well, in reality it was a man dressed in a Monkey costume and walking around in the early hours of the morning with nothing but a tale and an Iphone. It was just as weird a sighting though.
We come across lots of other strange scenarios and people in the next three days. There was the handsome group of guys conversing over acceptable styles of skinny jeans for men(with one getting up and stretching to prove a point), an old man attacking a car that got too close to him , and a rowdy group of construction workers who shouted some unmentionables and then awkwardly gave us directions.
In general, people in London were fun and friendly. People, especially in the stores and on the tube, were eager to start conversations and return smiles. I can think of at least three occasions where passerby actually walked us to the places we were trying to find instead of just pointing in the general direction. It was them that made the trip so enjoyable and left me yearning to return.
The four days I spent in London were easily the most memorable of my entire European adventure. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to return sooner rather than later. Until then , I’ll relive my experience through books and movies.
I promised you guys a review of my weekend at The Firefly Music Festival and I will deliver as soon as I find my camera cord. What’s a post without pictures?