Thursday, October 24, 2013

London (part 1)

Well, this is definitely not the Irish tricolor or the Stars and Stripes.....(my picture)

This past weekend I went to London for 4 days. Anyone who knows me knows how much I have always been drawn to the city, possibly due to my intense love for the Harry Potter books. So this trip was bound to be extraordinary for me. It did not disappoint. I flew out of Cork on a Thursday morning and arrived at London Heathrow around 1 p.m. After getting off the plane and out of the terminal, I took an elevator down to what I thought was going to be the Tube and got on one of the cars. Well, guess what? I learned Lesson One almost immediately. The London train system and the Tube are NOT THE SAME THING. And I had just taken a train, and an expensive one at that. The train ticket person wanted everyone to show their tickets and I didn't have one (I'm not sure I was really thinking straight after getting off the plane, I was more concerned about getting to the hostel and figuring everything out). So now there were two problems: first, I didn't have a ticket and second, the train was going directly to Paddington (which isn't a massive problem, but I was confused). I ended up having to buy a ticket on board. Guess how much it cost? 25 British pounds. As the Irish and British say: "bloody hell." I was barely on the train for 15 minutes and it cost 25 pounds. Regardless, I learned two lessons. Number 1: never take a train. Number 2: London is expensive. So, after getting off the train at Paddington, 25 British pounds poorer, I figured out where a London Underground station was and inquired as to how to get to Pimlico. The guy at the information desk was extremely nice and I also purchased an oyster card for 5 pounds (and put 10 pounds on it to get around London). The oyster card may be the greatest part about London because it is so convenient and you can use it on most forms of public transportation in London (overground, underground, buses). Anyway, I successfully got to Pimlico and to my hostel. My hostel was actually really great and fairly inexpensive considering how highly rated it was and the quality of the service. After dropping my stuff off, I decided to go explore London, armed with my camera. I actually got briefly "lost" (more like I walked in the opposite direction for about 15 minutes) but then found Parliament Square. And it was incredible. Big Ben (which is actually the bell, not the tower), Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament and the London Eye were all right there. Now, as an admitted Anglophile , you can imagine how much I was freaking out with excitement. I actually excitedly called my parents just to tell them about how I was standing in Parliament Square.
        I walked for quite a long time, mostly along the River Thames. Until my phone ran out of money. Which led to about ten minutes of pure panic on my part. See, I had added money to my phone by 30 euro the night before. Well, I had completely overlooked the fact that because it's an Irish phone, it was roaming while in London. Basically, the roaming had drained all the money on the phone. I got back to the hostel, added money and pretty much went to sleep, intending to wake up early the next day.
        Two things about London. First, the streets of London are arranged very strangely and it's a bit difficult to navigate, even with a map. Luckily, the city has a lot of informational signs that have a map and "you are here" on them, which helps. Second, before coming to London, I made a list of all the places that I hoped to see while I was there. It included:

1) Big Ben
2) Houses of Parliament
3) Westminster Cathedral
4) Westminster Abbey
5) Buckingham Palace
6) London Eye
7) the Royal Air Force Museum
8) the Tower of London
9) Churchill War Rooms
10) National Gallery
11) British Museum
12) Trafalgar Square
13) Leicester Square
14) Piccadilly Circus
15) St. Paul's Cathedral
16) Harry Potter Studio Tour (I told you I was a Potterhead....I actually booked this about a month in advance because I just HAD to do it.)

Anyway, I was able to actually do all but 3-4 of the things on my list while I was there. I did and saw A LOT, so I'm probably going to have 2 or 3 (possibly 4, I haven't worked it all out yet) posts about London.

So, here are some of the pictures I took on my first day in London:

Elizabeth Tower, I think that's the name for it now, (Big Ben)--my picture

Houses of Parliament--my picture

River Thames (across the street from my hostel)--my picture


London Eye--my picture

River Thames--my picture

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