Keep Calm, and Travel On!

Cheers! So here I am once again, writing to you from London, England. I’ve only spent a week here, but it feels like much more. Throughout that time, I’ve made some new friends, visited many sites, tried new foods and relaxed. This is my little vacation before I begin classes next week—in Madrid! 😀

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Me and the skyline of London, picture taken on Primrose Hill.

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Another rainy day in London…

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I have SO MUCH to talk about in this post, as I mentioned last time when I wrote about Dublin and my first travel experiences. Here’s what’s on the agenda for this morning/afternoon/evening (whenever you’re reading this!) and what’s included in this post:

1. Day-by-day journaling of my travels interspersed with plenty of pictures!

2. Lots of videos about the sites I’ve seen. THE FULL GALLERY CAN BE FOUND HERE:

http://www.youtube.com/user/92eaustin

3. Explanations of things that are different here from the U.S, as well as some lessons about Argentina! Why Argentina? Keep reading to find out! 

4. SO MANY PICTURES. ALL THE PICTURES. MY COMPUTER COULDN’T HANDLE THE QUANTITY IT HAD TO UPLOAD ON HERE. That’s how many pictures there are. (Okay, so there are approximately 76 PHOTOS!(

So heat the kettle for some tea, grab a scone or biscuit and let’s get started!

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A tea shop on Oxford Street.

First, here are some things you should know about London. These are things I needed to get used to while I was here. The taxis have a different design than the yellow cabs us Americans are used to. In fact, the cabs here are usually black SUV-looking vehicles, sometimes with advertisements. They are rather old-fashioned looking too. 

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The street names are not on signs posted on the corners of the streets. This made me SO CONFUSED! I didn’t know where I was at the beginning! Turns out, the street names are posted on whatever building is on the corner of the street. Sometimes the name is written on the sidewalk itself if you look down. If you’re a ways down the street, looking at the addresses of the buildings sometimes indicates the street name.

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Notice the location of this street sign—on the side of a gate!

Street lights are not above drivers suspended on electric lines. Instead, they are like sign posts, located on street corners and intersection corners a little above eye-level. 

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The post office boxes look like this:

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The street signs look a little different too—for yield, their sign says “give way”, and the speed limits are a lone number inside a red circle target. 

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The currency is obviously different. In England, the British Pound is used. The smallest paper bill is a ₤5, and all of them have the Queen of England stamped on the front. The coins are a ₤1, ₤2, 1 pence (penny), 5 pence, 10 pence, 20 pence, and 50 pence. I liked the feel of the pounds, heavy, sturdy, thick. I also thought it was neat that they have a ₤2 coin. The currency took some getting used to, but by the end I was pretty proficient in the values!

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(L-R top: 10 pence, 1 pound L-R middle:20 pence, 2 pence L-R bottom: 1 pence, 50 pence)

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(http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/pictures/10000/nahled/1-12414484581qS1.jpg)

Little expressions that are used commonly are “cheers” for good-bye, “no worries” for you’re welcome and many others. I also heard “Mind the gap” a lot while boarding and departing my trains and metros, which means “watch the gap”, referring to the gap between the train and the platform. I always liked hearing the British accents (Is that weird?), and I melted a little bit inside every time someone spoke to me, because I am so in love with the accents—especially when it was a young, cute bloke talking to me. J

And last but not least, as many of you know, England is opposite us when it comes to driving. People drive on the left side of the road, and the driver’s seat is on the right side of the car. It was really neat seeing that for the first time! Before I left the states, my brother-in-law cautioned me to look both ways when crossing, since I wouldn’t be used to cars coming from the other direction. 

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Driving on the left side of the road and on the right side of your car!

Okay, so back to my story:

We left off in my journey on New Year’s Eve. After a long hibernation from days of traveling, I woke up refreshed and ready to go out for the festivities. Okay, so maybe I was a bit groggy. The area of London I was in for Hostel #1 (I stayed in three of them altogether.) was very sketchy. I didn’t get a good feeling about being there, and it was a little far from the main part of the city. There was no way I was going out alone. Turns out, the guy in the bunk below me was also going to the fireworks that night! I recognized his accent, as it was very similar to mine—Canadian. He was really friendly too (Not to mention, guapo!)!

So we went to Big Ben, getting much closer than I thought we would be able to! We waited for the 40 minutes it took for the firework show to begin. Of course, it began to rain. During my whole stay in London, it rained EVERY. DAY. Good thing I had a travel-umbrella with me! Thanks, Jess! J Finally, the show began! Everyone roared into applause and happy wishes of a new year ahead. I even got a video of the big send-off to 2014!!Image

¡¡¡Feliz año nuevo!!! 

THE LINK TO MY VIDEO IS BELOW!!!

http://youtu.be/7OryVbNNVL8

That was the fun part. Getting back to the hostel? Not so much. The vast crowds were too much, extra security was required to keep everyone civil and orderly. It took 2 hours to get back, and by then I was beat! On the way, however, my new friend and I enjoyed seeing all of the rowdy, drunk British people singing and shouting, “Happy New Year!” to passersby. Some were climbing the statues and sitting up on fences just having a good old time. The streets were atrociously dirty from all of the accumulated litter from that night. I pitied the clean-up crew. 

The Tube

This is a good time to mention and explain London’s transport system. The major system that is used is the underground, also known as “the tube”. There is also an extensive network of busses, trams, over-ground rails and trains. Within the city, there are various zones, with travel being more expensive in the outer zones of the city. Also, the prices rise based on the time of day: off-peak or peak.

Maps are free, and I got one to study and refer to throughout my stay.

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/travel/downloads/tube_map.gif

 

Since I was staying for a while, I purchased what’s called an “Oyster Card.” This card cost ₤5.00 and is a pay-as-you-go type of thing. I added a balance to my card and began traveling. The Oyster Card can be used with any of the transport systems of London, from the trains to trams to metro.

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http://towerscj.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/oyster-card.jpg

 

You can transfer stations whenever you want underground in order to get to the station you need to get to without having to go back up and scan your card again. You only scan it when you enter your first station and when you exit your last. The average trip cost me about ₤2.50 one-way. It’s a little steep but not completely terrible; I just learned to take advantage of every site while I was in the area at that moment. I didn’t jump around everywhere in the span of one day. 

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This symbol for the underground stations are made to be very visible to the public. They were like my little lighthouses!

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Remember when I talked about military time in a previous post? POP QUIZ! The teacher in me is showing! What time do you see in the above picture, in 12-hour clock terms? Is it in the morning or afternoon?

I’ve been using the app, TripAdvisor for EVERYTHING. My one friend recommended it to me, and I really like how you don’t need internet to run most of it. It is a guide to everything you need to know about the city you are traveling to, with reviews from people like you and I. I highly recommend it!! There’s one for basically every major city you can think of. On this app, I found a self-guided walking tour that I was going to take. When I exited the underground, I heard a lot of commotion on the streets, and that’s when I remembered: the big New Year’s Day parade was happening today! I discarded my previous plans and watched the parade instead, observing folks displaying their national pride. I got some great pictures and video of the parade and surrounding area too!

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After viewing the parade, I decided to go check out London Bridge and Tower Bridge, since they were both a mere 15 minute walk from my hostel. They both cross the every famous, River Thames.  I also wandered about the pier, coming across the Butler’s Wharf. The majestic roof of the wharf (which is basically an inlet within a pier for ships to dock) I visited by the river, there had shops and vendors everywhere. I got some nice pictures of the bridges as well, even though London Bridge is pretty plain. Tower Bridge is much more photogenic!

VIDEO LINK FOUND HERE:

http://youtu.be/cf02piVsMyk

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This is Tower Bridge (Above)

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I’ve also encountered a bit of a problem while I’ve been here. Before leaving the NYC airport, I visited a Travelex station, which specializes in currency conversion. I got a good amount of Euro and some British Pounds—but mostly Euro since I would be spending more time in Spain than London. Two weeks before I left the U.S, I told my bank that I would be abroad so that my debit card wouldn’t be declined. Big surprise, my bank didn’t clear any transactions I was planning on carrying out. I was going to use the money in my account to pay the hostels and then be able to use the cash I had for spending money. I ended up having to use all my spending money on my reservations! Plus, I can’t make international calls to correct the situation. Luckily, I had Euro which could be converted to Pounds at the Post Office down the road. What if I hadn’t brought that? What if I solely depended on my card? Lesson here: ALWAYS bring a substantial amount cash with you abroad! What I did actually, and yes you may laugh, is I wore a small fanny pack underneath my clothes with my big bills inside. (Laugh track inserted here) Hey, I didn’t lose any money and I’m not taking chances with that!!

That evening, I met some new people at my hostel who were from Argentina. Argentinians are the nicest people you’ll ever meet! They all seem so chilled out, friendly and welcoming. I’ve had Argentina friends from my home university and we are all still close. I want to visit them very soon, actually! Anyway, I met one guy and was able to practice my Spanish with him. I also met a girl while doing laundry who was also from Argentina, who I spoke Spanish with as well. In fact, my language skills come into play a lot more within the next couple days. It’s amazing when you see your years of studying a foreign language come into a practical use!! We went to London Bridge among many other places that night. 

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After a lot of walking, we were bushed! 

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I hope this isn’t illegal…

We even visited St. Paul’s Cathedral!

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My camera died, so I had to take lower quality ones with my phone. 

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However the next morning, I discovered that my coat was gone. I knew instantly in my gut who stole it too. I talked to the manager and she went to the girl’s room and saved it for me. Many of you back home may know this girl, and I want you to know that she cannot be trusted. Her name begins with a “C”. Just watch out. She’s a lying kleptomaniac. I was so tempted to take something of hers, but I am better than that and I know it. I will not stoop to her level because I am not like her. Luckily, I trusted my gut when I had that feeling she stole it.

That day, I went on a free walking tour of London and it was the perfect day to do so, because it didn’t rain—for once! At the front desk of many hostels, there are information guides that visitors can take advantage of; this was one of them. In fact, this was much better than some bus tour where you see everything for a passing moment, through a glare of a window. Sometimes you don’t even see the place because it’s on the other side of the bus. A walking tour was the best decision I made while in London. Other than Platform 9¾ , which I’ll get to later. 😉 On the tour, we were able to listen to the history behind each and every monument, building, statue, lamp post, rock and street. My tour guide was excellent, with a rich knowledge of British history. He taught us everything in a way that kept me interested, as he told it all like a story. I visited some big places like….

 

TRAFALGAR SQUARE

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(Fountain at Trafalgar Square)

VIDEO LINK FOUND HERE!!

http://youtu.be/sbNhxNfTxac

BUCKINGHAM PALACE

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“Welcome to my crib!” (I wish!!)

There was also right next door, Prince Charles’ Palace

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VIDEO LINK:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l77x5vvW4Tk

We even watched the changing of the guards!

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VIDEO LINK HERE:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7CzhvFvQ_c

And of course,

Big Ben!!

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This photo was my favorite. 🙂 (Above)

Speaking of which, I also had to do this:

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Westminster Abbey…

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So regal and gothic!

VIDEO LINK HERE:

http://youtu.be/7WGwBkxMMC4

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The intricate details in each column and window are spectacular. 

St. James Place…

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VIDEO HERE:

http://youtu.be/zSiUAOdjAcU

Horse Guards Park…

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(If you look closely, you can see the London Eye in the background!)

VIDEO LINK HERE:

http://youtu.be/Hu0l4HFc03M

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A Roman architectural influence is evident in many of these classical structures.

My new Argentina friends were also on the tour. There were four of us altogether and we grew very close during the tour and in the next couple days. They even shared my fascination for squirrels, exclaiming when they saw them. (They don’t have them in Argentina, they told me.) 

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I love these critters, no matter where I go!

At St. James Park, we saw some ducks, pigeons and crows too. Here’s a funny picture of a duck I saw:

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“You talkin’ to me?”

I was able to speak Spanish with them, and practice with my listening skills. It was this moment where I was so glad I learned Spanish. It allowed me to connect with people of other countries and cultures. Language is a powerful thing! If you know Spanish, you automatically can connect and communicate with 21 other countries. How awesome is that?! In fact, there were days with the girls that I spoke more Spanish than English. I even caught myself thinking in Spanish and accidentally speaking it to English-speakers. Whoops! I can’t wait to be in Madrid, surrounded by Spanish-speakers 24/7. I will need to get used to Spain’s unique accents though. Right now, I’m very accustomed to the Argentinian accent, as most of my Spanish-speaking friends are from there. This will be a good experience for me to become flexible in my language skills.

After the tour, las chicas and I grabbed some food from Subway on the very upscale Picadilly Street. This street is known for being very rich, fine, sophisticated—and expensive. The top designer shops are located here. People in London like keeping up with the latest fashions—not just in this area either, but everywhere. I’ve noticed that everywhere in London, people make an effort to look nice and presentable before leaving home. You simply don’t see people walking around in sweatpants, t-shirts, sweatshirts or crocs with their hair unkempt. 

Mate (pronounced “mah-tay”!)

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http://www.muchaclase.es/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/mate1.jpg

Okay, I’m skipping around cultures a lot, I know. I was talking about London, then Argentina, and then Madrid. Well now I’m going back to Argentina once again, because there is an important cultural tradition that people do there. Toman mate, meaning, they drink mate (pronounced “mah-tay”). What is mate? Well, it’s actually short for Yerba Mate, which is a type of tea. The way they drink it is through a straw called a bombillo (“bohm-bee-jo”, of you pronounce it the Argentinian way!) The tea is not seeped out of a tea bag, but rather the leaves are put loosely right into one cup. Note: ONE cup is shared between all drinkers. Each person does not get their own, but it’s a shared experience. The first sip is the most bitter, as the mate is freshly brewed and the flavor is all still there. You drink all the hot tea in the cup before passing it to the next person, where they add more water and drink a sip. You want to end up making a bubbly, slurping sound by the end of your sipping so you know it’s all gone.

One of the girls told me, “It’s not about the tea, because it’s really not that great tasting. It’s rather bitter. But it’s about the company your with, the sharing and the people, chatting and enjoying your time with them. It’s about the tradition of it all”. I think that just about sums it up. Needless to say, we all had a midday mate together with muffins too!

Afterward, we split up and went to some museums. Two of us went to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Originally, we wanted to go the Museum and Natural History (with free admission), but the cola was wayyyy too long! So we went to the V&A Museum right next door, which was also free. This museum was heavily focused on the history of the people of England. It was very informative and more fun than I thought—plus the building is gorgeous!

For lunch, my amiga and I went on a search for fish and chips. After about 30 minutes, we got to a place that served it. It cost ₤10.99, and then an ale cost about ₤3.50. Totally worth it! In London, fish and chips is the equivalent to the American fish fry, but with some variation. Instead of coleslaw, they pair the fish with peas, which can be mushy or garden peas. By “chips”, they are referring to the French fries that are served with the beer-battered fish. Of course, I had to try a local ale—London’s Gold. It was very light, bubbly and a good match for the fish due to its lighter, smoother taste. 

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Afterward, we met up with the other girls at the National Gallery, which was also free. I really liked how many opportunities there were in Britain to learn about its rich history and see famous landmarks and paintings without the heavy price tag. The most famous painting that I know of there was “Sunflowers”, by Vincent Van Gogh. There was a wide assortment of very intricately detailed and captivating portraits and paintings. I was astonished by the amount of color, detail, texture and accuracy there was in each and every painting. I could stare at each painting for a good 5 minutes, they were so captivating!

Walking around the gallery was rather tiring, plus all of the walking from the entire day had me pretty drained. So I sat on the steps outside with my friend and took in the sites. We were in Trafalgar Square, a big social hub in London. Over the horizon, Big Ben looked back at me. Street musicians filled the evening air with lively music, and the square was buzzing with friendly chatter. It was then, it dawned on me once more: here I was in England, enjoying the company of English people around me, gazing at famous landmarks, relaxing. Especially the relaxing part. I never do that at home! This is my vacation, and I took advantage of every single moment. 

HERE’S A LITTLE VIDEO CLIP:

http://youtu.be/6nA9NSYGAk0

Oh, and I made another new friend: 🙂

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By the way, in London you’ll see A LOT of these chain establishments: Pret a Manger, EAT and Costa Café. Pret a Manger serves cooked and prepared organic food and so did EAT. Costa Café was your typical coffee shop, which sold coffee, tea and sweets. I literally saw at least one of these places around every corner I turned. There were many Starbucks here too. No Tim Horton’s. 😦

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All right, so back to Argentina once again. (What can I say, I love their culture!) We returned to our hostel and grabbed some munchies for the movies we were going to watch in the cinema room. I learned the word for “junk food” or “munchies” in Argentinian Spanish: “bajón”. We had plenty of bajón as we watched Zombieland and Sin City together! We went to the convenience store across the street, Sainsbury’s, and purchased some European chocolates that we had never tried before. We divvied them up and shared the new food sabores together. 

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Bajón! (Pronounced, “bah-hone”)

On a side note, I must say something that is very important to me. Many years ago when I was but a young lass in the United States, I would purchase my favorite type of M&M’s: the Crispy kind. I would always enjoy them, getting them now and again from the store. Unfortunately, they were discontinued indefinitely from U.S. markets. I was devastated. Since then, I’ve been on a fervent search for them. I’ve researched them on Amazon, Google, eBay, or what have you. I discovered that they are still distributed in European countries. So, guess what I bought today?

Indeed, I saw the ever-so-familiar blue wrapper in a storefront in the distance. I thought to myself, “This can’t be true. Could it be?!?” I peered in, and approached the window. “Alas!!” My lovely Crispy M&M’s were there, waiting for my ever-so-delayed purchase. I bolted into the store and explained to my friends that I haven’t had the pleasure of eating this delicacy for a good 10 years. For 78 pence each, I grabbed four. Believe me, there WILL be more, and I WILL be buying a box to bring back to the states. 

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This=complete bliss

 

Gleefully, I tore open the wrapper and poured but one lovely M&M into my palm. As I ate it, warm feelings of nostalgia swept over me as I melted along with the chocolate. I was in paradise.

Anyway, back to the scheduled programming.

The next day, the girls and I had breakfast together at the hostel, and we made some sandwiches for later. One common breakfast food in England, and even in Argentina as I found out, is ham on toast. Pretty interesting, huh? Since being here, I’ve been drinking much more tea, and a lot less coffee. If you know me, this is very strange. When in London, do as the Brits do!

After breakfast, we made our way to downtown. We visited H&M, one of my favorite stores! We looked around Top Shop too. Then we went to a street market, where there were many great deals. This was the best place to buy souvenirs, antiques, food, clothing and much more. I had been needing a rolling carry-on luggage, so I got a really cute teal one with polka-dots (“lunares” is the Spanish word for this. It sounds a lot like the Spanish word for “moons”, which is “lunas”!) My shoulders will thank me!

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The Market

 

While walking around, we stopped at a bakery and bought some cheesecake: blueberry and strawberry. We shared bites of it as we wandered around near Hyde Park and Kensington Palace. The cheesecake wasn’t as dense as I am used to, but rather has more of a whipped texture. Still very rich though!

At Hyde Park, we said hello to some swans and pigeons. Some people were feeding them so we joined in to get close to the swans, or cisnes. That part was a lot of fun! 

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“Om nom nom!”

We went into the Royal Albert opera house to warm up and one of the girls got a hot chocolate from the café. When leaving, we blasted some Daft Punk and jammed out during the walk back to the bus.

That same evening, the girls and I got a fish and chip special from down the road and shared bites of it as we chatted about future plans. They were planning their trip to Spain the next day, making sure they had their itineraries in order. We exchanged farewells and hugs since I wouldn’t be seeing them the next morning. They said that they would visit me in Madrid on their way back around and by them I could give them their very own tour! 

The day después, after, I had breakfast at a local café down the road from my hostel. They had the full English breakfast for only ₤4.50, which is a very good price! I really like the English breakfast. I did find it strange, however that some of them include chips, or for us, French fries. Cest la vie. These are the typical additions to an authentic English breakfast: poached eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, French fries, toast, tomato, mushrooms and tea. Everywhere you go, the breakfasts include most of these items. I like them because there is a good dosage of protein. However, much of that protein comes with the fat of the meat, so watch out! Plus, there are some veggies, which Americans rarely eat with breakfast. 

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A lot of the coffee I was served was cappuccino style: mixed with frothy and steamed milk. Yum!

Now that I had a hearty breakfast, it was time for some exercise. Walking is a way of life here, and I really enjoy it. My boots are pretty comfortable, although sometimes the bottoms of my feet hurt after a long day. I walked down the road to the Monument. This was built by Sir Christopher Wren in memory of those who died during the London fire in 1666. This 202-foot high column is the tallest stone column in the world and the oldest! For only ₤3, I was able to climb the 311 steps to the top and get a 360 degree view of London. Plus, I got a little certificate of achievement once I got out. It was well worth the money!

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I climbed that!! (Above)

PLEASE WATCH THIS NEXT VIDEO! It shows the SPECTACULAR 360 degree view of London I saw after I climbed to the top of the monument.

LINK BELOW:

http://youtu.be/7KiAu3pJX-k

Tower of London

After that, I sauntered over to the Tower of London, the home of the crown jewels as well as a rich history. It was a fortress for the kings to protect from invaders, complete with moat! The cost of admission was about ₤20, so I didn’t go in. But I did get some pictures of the outside.

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Across the street are the Trinity Square Gardens, which commemorate the WWII soldiers who died out at sea. 

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I made my way over to the Tate Modern Museum, but the layout was so confusing and the building was very vast and empty. The cool exhibitions cost money, and it wasn’t really my cup of tea.

Shakespeare’s Globe

Directly next door was the Shakespeare Globe theatre. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the original, but rather a very accurate and detailed replica. In fact, this is the third one to be constructed. The first one burned down in the London fire within Shakespeare’s lifetime. During his life, another one was built and he saw it to completion. After good ol’ Will passed away, the Puritan’s demolished it because they didn’t believe in fun. (That’s basically the essence of what happened!) So here was the third one that I stood in and toured. 

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I learned about the history from our tour guide, who explained everything in great detail and in an interesting manner. I could imagine being there during Elizabethan times, paying a penny or two to watch the show. She mentioned that people were very dirty and smelly, and everyone had lice and ticks. No one bathed because they believed that the layer of grease that formed on the skin protected you from infection. I’m SO glad I wasn’t raised in that time period!! Hurray for modern ages and showers!

Visiting the Globe really sparked my interest in Shakespearean literature. It makes me want to go back and read his famous works. It reaffirmed my recollection of how influential he was in the literature and vernacular language of his time. It was Shakespeare who coined the words “puking, addiction, assassination, fashionable, bedazzled, manager, uncomfortable, negotiate, rant, jaded, zany, torture, lonely, mimic and even SWAGGER. Yes, Shakespeare used it first. Who knew!? In fact, he invented over 1700 of our common words today! More are here: http://www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/wordsinvented.html

If that doesn’t get you pumped about literature, I don’t know what will.

Anyway, that evening I Skyped with my good friend Jess for a little while and caught up on our life events. I miss that girl! That night, I got invited to karaoke by guy at the Blue-Eyed Maid, a bar down the road. Turns out, he goes to SUNY Oswego, a neighboring college to mine. What a small world! Of all the colleges he could’ve been from, it was one an hour away from mine.

The next morning I checked-out of my hostel and headed toward my next one: hostel #3. This one was called The Great Eastern. Although the beds are not as comfortable here, the staff is very nice and the people are more laid-back and quiet. Plus, it doesn’t smell weird here like it did at the one previous. The main lounge is very quiet and pleasant. I don’t have any problems logging into my blog either. It must’ve been something with the internet before. It’s a little far from the main area of London, and I have to take the DLR to get here (an above-ground train that operates with the tube system). But it’s a nice ride and it’s closer to the airport I’ll be departing from.

On a side note, one thing I learned while talking to a local, is that tipping customs greatly differ. In the U.S, we tip our servers and bartenders. Here, that’s not so common. Only when you receive extra exceptional service do you tip. The British guy I was talking to thought it so astonishing that a waitress could make $300 a night in tips alone! When I went to a restaurant, I didn’t know whether or not I should tip, so I’m glad I learned this!

Umm by the way, can I just mention how thrilled I am to be going to Madrid?! Only one more day and I’ll be in SPAIN! AHHHH!!

After locking up my luggage at the hostel, I ventured out to King’s Cross Station, and I bet you can guess what I did there! 😀

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King’s Cross Station, from the outside

VIDEO LINK:

http://youtu.be/Ggad6C9k2GA

Indeed, I got a picture of me “heading to Hogwarts”, proudly representing my house colors: Ravenclaw. ❤

While I was there, I figured I would check out the surrounding area. I admired the lovely architecture of St. Pancras station from the outside. 

St. Pancras

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You can see the Moorish influence with the arches and the stripes on them. 

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I also visited the British Library which houses important and significant historical documents such as the original Alice in Wonderland, a Gutenberg Bible, original Beetles lyrics and the Magna Carta. I simply had to go! It was indeed a hidden gem. I’ve always been an enthusiast, an aficionada of old calligraphy, as I see it as such a disciplined art. Seeing the great detail that went into these historical texts was remarkable. Back in the day, devoted monks would spend hours upon hours neatly transcribing religious texts, notably the Bible. They would not only write it out but also illustrate each page elaborately. Their passion for the scripts was evident with each page, word, letter and drawing. Some drawings had color or even gold gilding. If a monk messed up even one letter, the whole page would be discarded and they would start again with a fresh page. How tedious!

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The Magna Carta

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Original lyrics to “Yesterday”

Museum of Natural History

During the day, I visited the Natural Museum of History. If you recall, I tried to visit before but the line and the crowd was simply too ridiculous. Today was much better, as I basically just walked right in. This museum, free to all, was lovely from its architecture to exhibits. I noticed that it is a very family-focused establishment, so I highly recommend it for families. For adults too, however it is also a great place to learn about our world’s history. There is something for biologists, geologists, anatomists, paleontologists and every kind of “ologist” you could fathom. I am particularly interested in human biology, as the capabilities of the human body never cease to fascinate me. I also visited the dinosaur exhibit which was also very informative and fun. It explained everything in such a way that was kid-friendly, so adults have an especially easy-time understanding. The museum contained a wide assortment of historical artifacts and authentic artifacts and fossils, which was extremely fascinating. One could easily spend a whole day there. My appetite didn’t let me do that, though. 

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The main room, complete with dinosaur fossil!

Needless to say, I stopped for some noms. I got a ham, cheese and sun-dried tomato ciabatta from a vendor which was very delicious. I also tried a coffee and croissant which was also very tasty.

I retreated back to my new hostel after a long day of exploring and began transferring my pictures and videos from my camera and phone to my computer as well as write up this blog. I relaxed, something new and foreign to me, disfrutando my last nights of vacation.

During my last day in London, I took the morning to work some more on this blog post while enjoying some tea and playing some music. I finally got around to showering and getting ready to go out for the day at about 11:00. I had to buy a ₤5.00 phone card from the post office so that I could make a call to my bank back in NY and fix the issue at hand—the issue being me not being able to access my money via debit card.

Regent’s Park

 

After dealing with that, I went out to Regent’s Park, home of the London Zoo and some very gorgeous fountains and walkways. Luckily, the mid-afternoon was sunny and warm but still crisp. The light breeze was very soothing and the birds were chirping away. I saw one strange bright green bird fly over me, and I wondered what kind it was. If anyone knows and can tell me, that’d be great!

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I made my way over to Primrose Hill, which offered a stunning view of London’s skyline. There was even a map which labeled the significant landmarks that could be seen. The whole ambiance was rather picturesque; there were families walking, children laughing and dogs frolicking about the park. The sun which was beginning to set in the sky cast a glorious light upon the park and the hill as the wind made the grass sway in waves under its gentle touch. The whole experience was very relaxing for me.

After that, I went to Camden Town. I went there for a couple reasons: 1) it was close by 2) in honor of my little brother 3) I heard it’s one of those places you need to go in London 4) My friend Jess recommended a tea place there. After miles of walking around the area and searching I finally found the tea shop she had mentioned which goes by the name of Yumchaa. Turns out, it was hiding in Camden Lock, which is a little square tucked neatly behind a number of buildings. What’s more, the Yumchaa place was up high, on the second level of the balcony. I was so elated when I finally discovered it! 

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There, I ordered a tea but I can’t remember the name. It was sweet and fruity—no cream or sugar needed. I also took this opportunity to have a scone. Since it was dinner time, I opted for the olive and feta scone. They toasted it for me and I had some butter on it, which melted delectably into the crannies. I was very pleased with what I got, and would highly recommend this place to others! Furthermore, there is a very wide selection of teas, and you get to smell them before you buy, as they have the leaves out in little white porcelain cups on the side counter. 

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My time in London has been unforgettable. So many memories have been made, new experiences have been undergone, and new friendships have been established. I treasure each moment I spent here and I dearly hope I can come back to visit once again sometime in the near future. Next stop—Madrid, Spain!

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3 thoughts on “Keep Calm, and Travel On!

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