Friday, November 2, 2012

A Portrait of the Artist in London

Welcome back to my blog, dear friends. To those few kind souls who asked me to update again several weeks ago, I'm sort of sorry for completely ignoring your wishes. To those of you who just want pictures, skip to the end.

Last weekend (well, from Wednesday, October 24th to Saturday, October 27th) I took a trip to London. I had to miss a few classes, but nobody's worried because I WENT TO LONDON. Michelle, Evie, and I flew out of the tiny Cork airport, which proved delightfully easy. Despite the fact that security makes you declare your possession of umbrellas in addition to liquids and laptops, everything went much more quickly than expected. In fact, the security guard seemed kind of freaked out when I started taking my belt off, so I just left it on and everything worked out all right. We regretted leaving a solid 2 hours and 15 minutes of airport time because we spent about 2 hours and 5 minutes of that time waiting around in the airport restaurant.

On the flight to London, we even made friends with a 5-year-old British child named Finn who was sitting in front of us. Finn has the musical Mamma Mia memorized, which we found much more amusing than his 'mum' did. Michelle's ridiculously generous uncle got us a car from Heathrow to our hotel in Hyde Park, so we didn't even have to deal with the hassle of figuring out the Underground with all of our luggage in tow. It was pretty late by the time we got everything sorted out at the hotel, so we just found one of the few restaurants near us that was open to eat a really late dinner and wandered around the hotel's immediate neighborhood.

The next morning, we got 48-hour passes to the Big Bus sightseeing tour, which is potentially the most touristy and also the most convenient thing in London. We sat on top of the double-decker bus and listened to the pre-recorded audio tour that took us through most of London's major tourist attractions for a good hour and a half. (The nicest part? We didn't even have to move.) We got off at the stop for Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey, all of which were incredibly huge and ornate. We lurked around Big Ben for a while waiting for Michelle's friend Hannah, who is studying abroad in London and turned out to be an awesome tour guide and person (hey, Hannah). From there, we just explored the area and ended up eating at a pub pretty much right in front of the London Eye, which was really cool-looking but also really expensive (so we just ate near it instead of going on it...same thing, right?). We took the Tube back to an area near our hotel and got lost in Hyde Park for a while, but obviously everything turned out fine because I'm blogging about it.

The next day, we hopped on our favorite Big Bus again and saw the sights, but this time we went much farther (gasp!) than we'd gone the previous day. It was disgustingly cold and rainy, however, so the top of the bus suddenly wasn't as fun. Unfortunately, the covered seats were taken, so we were forced to revel in our sightseeing misery for a good long while. We got off at Buckingham Palace for the photo-ops and, more importantly, the chance to get on a bus whose lower deck wasn't full of ungrateful warm people. Maybe this is the cold talking, but I was honestly not terribly impressed by the Palace. I mean, it was big and all, but it was a wee bit plain for the queen of England, if you ask me (surprisingly, no one did). We got a few miserable-looking pictures and then frantically caught the first Big Bus we saw. Unfortunately, the Big Buses really only have two routes, so we had to ride our trusty BB for a really, really long-seeming time before we got to the stop nearest our hotel. Once we returned to the warmth of our hotel room, we had a short amount of time to figure out how to get to Harrods, the famous lit-up department store, to meet my friend Kelsey (who is also studying abroad and a great tour guide and an awesome person, hey Kelsey) for some more tourism and Indian food. We were successful, dinner was delicious, and a good time was had by all. Despite the fact that it was the type of cold that no one enjoys, we wandered around Soho for a while before calling the night quits and going back to warmer and dryer places.

On Saturday morning, we went to the Portobello Road Market for some good craic (whoops, wrong country) and ended up wandering around for basically the entire day because there was so much to see...and buy. Normally I completely hate shopping and I get cranky and complain after a while (shocker, right?), but the road market actually had really cool things in addition to stupid things like clothes, so I was pretty content the whole time. Plus, there was an entire stand devoted to old books and old things in general which I spent a really long time perusing while Michelle and Evie stood back making fun of me. However, their mockery was completely uncalled-for because some of the books were 2 for 10 pounds (about 17 dollars...WOW, WHAT A CRAZY DEAL) and I just had to decide which ones to buy. The man who ran the stand kept coming up and talking to me and I'm pretty sure he didn't believe that I was going to buy anything because I was there for so long, but I proved him wrong in the end and we became friends. I bought a copy of Essays of Elia by Charles Lamb that was given to Nellie Stockbridge for Christmas in 1934 and a copy of A Kipling Treasury (obviously by Rudyard Kipling) that was given to someone with an illegible name for 'Xmas' in 1940. If you are so inclined, maybe I'll let you look at them someday with my supervision. They're really, really cool.

Sadly, our trip did have to end at some point. We went back to Cork on Saturday night, and I do have to say that I was actually kind of excited to get 'home' and be in a familiar place again. London was a wonderful place to visit, but I did miss the charm and friendliness of a smaller place like Cork.

Regent Street was ready for Christmas before Halloween even happened.

The Big Bus was so fun. Can you tell how fun the Big Bus was? 

The one on the left got really mad at the other two so it tried to storm
away, but then it remembered that it's a telephone booth and couldn't leave.

It's real! It's big! 

Westminster Abbey, sans royalty (unless we're counting me).

What an eye-conic landmark. You see what I did there? Get it, SEE? 
I could make these London Eye puns all day, folks.

If I had bangers and mash for every meal, I would be very 
pleased with my quality of life. 

The Tower of London is even older than those books I bought at the market.

Tower Bridge all up close and personal.

Buckingham Palace plus Michelle's face. Neither are really up to my standards. 
Buh-dum tchhh.

Hey, it's Harrods at night.

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