So as you can tell from the title of this blog entry, the trip has begun! This is a dream come true for me. During my last blog post, I was trying to plan everything and pick the places I was going to visit. A lot has changed since then, but for the better. The biggest change is that after I visit Greece, my sister Tina will be joining me for the rest of my trip! I was originally going to be solo for the whole trip, but London will be the only time I am alone. I am very grateful she’s coming with me. Although it is fun choosing whatever you want to do for the day, it would be nice having someone to share my meals with and get excited over how beautiful everything around me is.
London has been great so far! I was fortunate enough to find a great deal for an 11pm flight out of JFK that had me land at 10:30am in London. I slept the entire time on the plane and felt pretty refreshed once arriving at my hostel. I’m staying at this wonderful hostel/pub called the Walrus. It has a hipster feel to it with beat-up couches and fantastic drink specials. I’m in an 8 bedroom room with the train tracks right outside my window. It’s not ideal for sleeping, however around midnight the trains run less frequently and I’m able to pop in some earplugs and fall asleep. The best part about my hostel is that it is no more than a 10-minute walk from Big Ben, Westminster Abby, and the London Eye. I really couldn’t ask for a better location.
I will say the number one lifesaver for this trip has been my kindle. I bring it everywhere I go. Whenever I’m in a restaurant and feel a bit awkward eating alone, I take my kindle out and do some reading. It also helps me eat slower which helps me stand out less because I eat way to fast like most Americans. I’ve learned some pretty interesting things that I wanted to share with you guys. Some may seem irrelevant but these are things that peaked my interest.
- Pandora and my other music apps don’t work here so no music for me
- My icon on Facebook for my notifications is now a map of Europe and Africa
- After every sentence, people say “Cheers” to me and it confuses me because we’re not celebrating anything. I found out that it’s custom to cheers when initially sitting down to have a drink and it’s considered rude to not cheers.
- London is very very very overpriced. Did I say very enough times? I sleep through breakfast so I only have to pay for lunch and dinner. But if you search hard enough you can find decently priced drink specials (my hostel has some surprising cheap options and I get a 15% discount for staying in the hostel)
- People are driving on the wrong side of the road. But everyone knows that about London. What everyone doesn’t know is that when crossing the street there are signs on the ground telling you which way to look. This has been more helpful than you could ever know because I’m always initially looking the wrong way until I look down and see my mistake. This has led to me almost being hit by a car a few times because just like NYC, these drivers don’t care if they hit you with their cars
- A decent amount of my Netflix shows don’t work here. I was in the middle of watching Super Girl and I was hooked only to find out it doesn’t work here. I guess this gives me a chance to explore other shows, but honestly, I’ve been skipping the Netflix at night to get some good reading in.
- If you want to save some money, head to the local grocery stores. They have really good pre-packaged food that is half the price of going out to eat. And my hostel had a fully functional kitchen and provides everything necessary to cook meals. I haven’t utilized this yet but I plan too.
- Tipping is included everywhere you go. The first time I sat down by bill had a section showing the service charge but I didn’t see that again on other bills so I assumed it was that one place. A friend let me know that the wait staff here gets paid minimum wage so there is no need to tip the server unless you get exceptional service. Out of pure habit, I keep leaving a little something for my waitress. I understand the struggle and have continued to get great service in London.
Those are a few things I’ve observed since being here and it really is so interesting to see the difference between here and the states.
My first day in London consisted of taking a long nap and getting to know the neighborhood I was staying in for the next few days. Day two is where the real tourist adventure began. I walked across Westminster Bridge and was so close to Big Ben I could almost touch it. I walked all the way around Westminster Palace but decided not to do the tour. I really had my sites on spending the money to tour Westminster Abby and I was so happy I did. I love history, so much so I decided to go to college and get a degree in it. I spent a semester learning about Queen Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots, Henry VIII, and more. Guess what’s inside Westminster Abby…..their burial sites! Okay, okay, that sounds lame I know. But when I say these were some of the most beautiful sites, I’m not exaggerating. Now I couldn’t personally take photos inside the Abby, so here is one from online (to the right). This photo honestly doesn’t do it justice. This part of the Abby was built by King Henry VII and was named the Lady chapel. Mary Queens of Scots son, King James I, wanted a burial site built for her after her passing and it is directly lined up with Queen Elizabeth’s site, meaning they were in different rooms but directly across from one another to show a sense of equality. He wanted his mothers site to be just as beautiful as Queen Elizabeth’s was. I loved learning about this family in my history class in college and it was such an unreal feeling getting to actually go to Westminster Abby and see the burial sites of some of the most important historical figures. **Quick fun fact, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin are buried here** **Second fun fact, this is where Kate Middleton and Prince William got married!!**
I spent over four hours here just enjoying everything around me. I did an audio tour of the Abby and would listen to each section twice just so I would fully understand and learn what was being said to me. After the tour I went around the Abby once more and took my time reading as many statues and burial sites as possible. Some of these sites were some of the most magnificent things I have ever seen. I would have loved to have been able to take pictures and shared it with you all.
After touring the Abby I headed outside towards the gardens. You can take pictures out there and man did I take advantage of that. This picture is a little dark, but once you step out of the Abby towards the garden this is what you see (left picture). Some of the most beautiful architecture. As you walked around there were some beautiful things to see and rooms to go into. Here is Britain’s oldest door. This is from about 1050 which is amazing and shows just how old Westminster Abby is. It was founded in 960 and was turned into a monastery by Edward the Confessor in the 1040’s. The gothic style of the Abby is thanks to King Henry III. It took hundreds of years to build, but the gothic style was always carried through the times. My time spent here was so amazing that I would easily spend the 20 pounds again to see it all over. All in all, day two was a success!
Day three in London was spent with an old friend exploring parts of London I would never have seen if it wasn’t for her. A friend of mine from high school named Alahna recently moved to London and got in touch with me after seeing my status about being in London. She contacted me and set up such a perfect day. She first took me to a pub called ‘Hole in the Wall’ where I had the most wonderful beer. Yes, I had a beer and actually liked it. For those of you who don’t know I usually hate the taste of alcohol. This beer was fruity and tasted more like a juice. After our beer we headed over to this really cool rooftop bar. It overlooked some of London and was so beautiful. There, I had one of the best mojitos ever while Alahna and I sat on the grass and had the opportunity to catch up on each others lives over the past four years. Before I knew it the place was packed with locals and I didn’t feel like such a tourist anymore. These two pictures are the view from the bar. It really was beautiful. Once we realized it was getting late and we were getting hungry we decided to walk around and find something to eat. We landed on the Wellington Hotel. There was a big soccer (football as the British would say) game going on and the restaurant was packed! We found the last open table and jumped on it before someone snagged it away. The food was great and so was the atmosphere. While having dinner, Alahna suggested I go buy my train ticket for the airport tonight so I wouldn’t have to worry about it tomorrow. As we finished our meals and headed to the train station I couldn’t help but say over and over again how I couldn’t believe I was actually in London. It all felt so unreal. As we arrived at the train station we figured out I couldn’t buy the ticket until tomorrow. Just as I thought the night was ending, Alahna suggested we head to the pub that was underneath the train station. We ordered some more drinks and caught up on life some more and made plans to hang out again tomorrow before I leave for Greece. Tomorrow is another exciting day. I have booked a two hour walking tour of London and I hope to see all of the things I haven’t had time for yet. I plan to do a separate post for the tour because I’m sure it will be photos and facts overload. I also leave for Greece tomorrow and it’s so exciting knowing I’m so close to seeing my family and sister! London, thank you for showing me an amazing time and I can’t wait for our last day together.
That’s all for now friends!
Thanks for following me along on this journey.