8 January 2018
Well, I am back in the USA now, and my new classes begin today! However, before I left Europe, I visited London with my friends Zoe and Bailey.
We decided to take the train there, so we got to go under the English channel! We arrived at the Saint Pancras station, but the first thing we did was go to King’s Cross Station so we could get our picture going onto Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter.
We then made our way to the hostel, which was a bit of a walk, but it was nice to see a bit of London on the way. It was so exciting to see the double decker buses and the cabs—it felt like I was in a movie!
We couldn’t check into our hostel until 2pm, so we got lunch at a grilled cheese place called The Melt Room. It was so nice to order something in English for once! They had really good tomato soup also.
After we dropped off our bags, we did some window shopping on Oxford Street, which was right near our hostel. We found a GIANT Lush store, a Hackett London store, and we went into Hamley’s, a famous toy store. We also visited the John Lewis Department Store and the British Museum, where we saw the Rosetta Stone.
When it got dark, we saw some awesome Christmas lights in Carnaby, Waterloo Square, and Piccadilly Circus. My cousin Chelsea, who lives in London, recommended an Indian restaurant for us, so we tried it and it was soooooo good! It was my first time having Indian food.
The next day, we had breakfast at a cute little place called My Place Soho, before we met a group from the hostel in Green Park for a free tour. The tour guide took us past Buckingham Palace, where we saw part of the changing of the guard, Hampton Court (where Henry VIII lived), Waterloo Place (where there are a lot of gentlemen’s clubs), Trafalgar Square, Downing Street, the Cabinet War Rooms, Parliament Square, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey.
Afterwards, we stopped at a restaurant where I got a real English breakfast for lunch, before making our way to Harrod’s Department Store and Hyde Park, where there was a giant festival called the Winter Wonderland. Harrod’s was very bougie and very expensive, so it was interesting to see. I don’t think that I would be able to afford anything there, but the window displays were very beautiful.
By the time we made it to Hyde Park and got through the security line to get into the festival, it was dark and rainy. They had a Christmas market, (where I bought a London Christmas ornament) rides, food stands, and live music. If it hadn’t been rainy, it would have been perfect. Afterwards, we met with my cousin Chelsea and her friends at a pub.
The next day, I got up early and went to mass at Westminster Cathedral, which was decorated with red and green marble. We got breakfast, then tried to see the Changing of the Guard, but it was very crowded, so it was hard to see. We then headed toward the West Bank, where we saw the London Eye, London Bridge, the Globe Theatre, and Tower bridge.
We got fish and chips for lunch, then walked past Saint Paul’s Cathedral, where Princess Diana was married, and then briefly went to the National Gallery before we left for Westminster Abbey. Normally, you have to pay to go into the Abbey, but they had a free concert that evening, where a boys’ choir sang medieval Christmas carols. It was so beautiful, but we weren’t allowed to take pictures. I think that going to this concert was my favorite thing that I did while in Europe.
On our final day in London, we checked out of the hostel and made our way to 221B Baker Street. Baker Street is a real street, but the actual address didn’t really exist, except for a small Sherlock Holmes’ museum. Then we made our way through Regent’s Park, which had a ton of birds EVERYWHERE to Primrose Hill. Primrose Hill has an amazing view of the city if you can make it up the hill. We were lucky that we went that morning because it was a pretty clear day: you could see the London Eye and Big Ben.
Near to Primrose Hill is the neighborhood called Camden, which is famous for its music history–it is where the famous Abbey Road album cover photo was taken. We explored Camden Market, which had really cool shops and food stands. Zoe’s shoes were so full of holes that we stopped at the Doc Marten store and got her some new boots.
On our way back to Saint Pancras Station, we stumbled on the actual church that the station is named for, which had Mary Wollstonecraft’s grave. Mary Wollstonecraft is a famous author who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women, and her daughter was Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein. It was so cool to stumble on her grave–it wasn’t even something that we were planning to go see.
Finally, we took the train back to Tours, where we spent our last few days saying goodbye to friends and enjoying the last bit of French food we will have for awhile.
Zoe and I took the train to Charles de Gaulle airport one day before our flights and stayed in a hotel for one night, that way we wouldn’t have to scramble to get all of our luggage to Charles de Gaulle the day of. We were able to spend a last night in Paris, walking around, exploring, and having dinner with friends. It was a nice last hurrah.
Zoe’s flight left before mine, but I was able to get on the plane with no problem. It was my first time flying alone, but I sat next to a nice French girl and her mom, so that plus movies made the eight hour flight go by quickly. I was glad to finally see my dad when he picked me up though–it was nice to be driven around in a regular car instead of taking a bus or train or plane.
However, one of my key takeaways from London is that the USA needs to improve its public transportation. It was so nice to have reliable, clean, and quick transportation, especially on trains. I think that this is at least one area that the US has some catching up to do. That and all the amazing food of course!