i'm a succ-er for succulents
if i were a good travel blogger and posted in real time throughout my trip, this title would have been perfect. but alas, i'm no longer in london. and i'm not a good travel blogger. so the title is slightly imperfect. but i still love it and can't think of anything better, so it's staying. let's just pretend, okay?

PS. welcome to the longest blog post of your life. i'm considering writing in an intermission so you can get up and stretch? have a snack? grab a cerveza? paris might have to be a two part-er.

after a twelve hour layover in the madrid airport, the first leg of our trip was in london. we were semi-intentional about beginning here and i'm so glad we did; london was a good place to immerse ourselves into european way of life without having to leap over a language barrier on top of the other cultural adjustments we faced. that said, british english is more unique than i expected - it took us a day or two to figure out how to translate: "find the queue for the loo in the tube station whilst eating a jacket potato." this is like saying, "find the line for the bathroom in the metro station while eating a loaded baked potato." obviously. we took pride in picking up on the slang and incorporating it into our vocabulary like true londoners.
on day one in london, "onedon" (i get too much enjoyment out of word smashing), we bought a 24-hour hop-on-hop-off bus pass to simultaneously get a general tour of the city and have a convenient means of transportation. i would absolutely recommend it. we were led by an entertaining, knowledgeable guide to each of london's most famous landmarks: the london eye, big ben, the parliament buildling, westminster abbey, buckingham palace, and different gardens, monuments, and museums. the tour included a float down the thames river for a head-on view of the london bridge. what more could one ask for? after we completed our bus ride and went crazy-tourist on all things tourable, we ended up at the london tower (which, unfortunately, had closed for the day!), which doubled as the meeting point for a jack the ripper night walking tour. we of course participated, and not only was it historically informative (and slightly disturbing), we saw many different residential parts of the city that we most likely would not have come across otherwise.
above: tower of london flooded with poppies in memory of the fallen soldiers
below: westminster abbey - no photos allowed inside!
on day two, hana and i set out to complete one very specific, very high-priority errand: find platform nine and three-quarters. we knew that it was located in king's cross station, which happened to be right down the street from our hostel. we'd poked around the previous day but hadn't seen any signs, so we were ready to get serious. we assumed that it was literally between the real platforms 9 and 10 in the train station, so we snuck onto the loading platform and wandered around in search. we realized the platforms skipped from 8 to 13 - 9 and 10 were nowhere to be found! in a fury of confusion and paranoia about getting caught, we frustratingly exited the boarding area to construct a plan b. we sulked with disappointment through a mass of people on the main floor and realized - hey look! - they're waiting in a line... to take their picture on "platform 9 and 3/4!" right next to a harry potter gift shop. naturally. we hopped in line and waited for an hour to have our photos taken. it was worth every minute of the wait.
that night we had tickets to see les miserables  at london's queen's theatre. after we took our picture, we went to covent gardens for lunch and then made our way over to what we later deemed the "theatre district" and spent the afternoon leisurely window shopping and cafe hopping (code for: free wi-fi hogging). queen's theatre is small but glamorous, and it was the perfect setting for such a powerful show. the performance was outstanding. each lead character was so strong in both acting and vocals, and my heart skipped a beat every time the entire chorus came together. it was moving! moving i tell you! and i only cried four times! half  the number of times i cried when i saw the movie!

on the morning of day three, we took our time getting ready and made our way over to spitalfields market for lunch. it reminded me of newbo market but on such grander scale - we spent hours perusing the booths of artistic vendors who were selling all kinds of unique crafts, products, food, and clothing. after our exhausting morning of shopping and eating, we stopped at a nearby starbucks for an afternoon pick-me-up. we sat down and noticed the pair sitting next to us, noses stuck in a map, talking about getting lost and swearing "the urban outfitters has got to be around here somewhere!" story of our lives, we thought, and used this as a segue to strike up conversation. we learned they teens were cousins from new hampshire, visiting the boy's brother who was currently living in london. we chatted a bit, wished each other well, and went on our merry way.

we made it our personal mission to incorporate fish and chips into our routine diet at least once a day. mission: accomplished.
fish and chips at a mediterranean restaurant (we were clearly confused) | fish and chips at covent garden
another perk of starting in london: the london tube system was the best place to get acquainted with the little world that is underground transportation. it's clean, bright, well organized, and pretty self-explanatory. it just took practice for us little small-town iowa girls to familiarize ourselves with navigating such a large, detailed system.
memorable london moments: 
- our room in the hostel had an ensuite bathroom with a toilet, sink, and mirror, and we were told the showers were right around the corner. on our first night there, hana and i packed up our shower supplies and went where we were told, just around the corner, where we found a door marked with a small symbol of a stick figure standing under a water spout. these must be co-ed, we thought. but each stall is separated and private. that's cool! our first chance to embrace our inner hostel hippies. mid-shower, hana and my's conversation was interrupted by a(n accented, might i add, wink) male voice, "um, are there girls in here?" "yes..," we responded, "the showers are co-ed, it's no big deal!" "well okay," the voice agreed, "i'm not shy!" *awkward silence ensues* we hurried out and really thought nothing more of it. the next day after my shower i ran into an older man on my way out, who seemed horribly mortified to have had such an encounter. what! i was clothed! i smelled nice! he must be self-conscious? on our third day in the hostel i decided to wander down the hall a little further beyond the shower room, just to see the place. a mere ten feet down from the shower door i see another door marked with a seemingly identical symbol... i took a step closer, squinted my eyes into focus, and noticed the slightest difference: this stick figure was wearing a skirt. the shower rooms weren't co-ed after all. and hana and i, the little innocents that we are, now looked like the biggest hostel pervies. so oblivious! but looking back i can't help but laugh.
- shower room revenge occurred the next evening when i showered in the women's shower room like the aware adult that i am and proceeded to drop all of my dry clothes, including my (hand) towel, on the wet ground, mid-shower. i had to go soggy and commando, and it was uncomfortable.
- i've heard that london is the most expensive city in the world for tourists and i'm here to validate that fact times three point two million. i about crapped when i realized i was about to spend close to fifteen USD on a piece of fried fish and a pile of french fries. (let's be honest though, it was worth it).
- i very much had a dramatic "pinch me!" moment in westminster abbey. i clearly remember getting up at 3 AM central time to watch prince william and kate middleton's dream wedding on t.v. and being so in awe of the abbey and its magnificence. the feeling i got when stepping foot on the aisle of which i watched dutchess catherine walk down to marry her prince... unreal. skin tinglies! all over! a choir began practicing as we were making out way out, magnifying the magicalness, and solidifying my decision to hold my wedding there when (if?) that day comes.

- london was a bit chillier than we expected but it stayed lovely and sunny for us all three days! i couldn't have asked for more in that department. (don't worry, karma got back at us in paris, hashtag perisian saturation).

and now for an overwhelming amount of photos of me posing in front of famous things.
me perching in westminster abbey. suits me well, yes?
us on the london eye!
and this! this terrible, random junk picture. if you look closely and squint just right at the cars parked on the right side of the street you'll notice that the one stationed second from the front is gold plated. gold plated in real gold. it belongs to some arab prince or other that owns eight of these multi-million euro babies. i really didn't get too excited over it but our tour guide was demanding we "snap a photo of this one!" so here it is. fast forward to last night, i'm sitting at the dinner table with my nine-year-old host nephew (would that be his legal title?) and he starts telling me about an arab prince who owns eight cars that are PLATED IN GOLD! and another guy owns one covered in diamonds! and they're worth millions! and i nodded along, "ooh"ing and "aah"ing at the appropriate times when it hit me. and my vision did that super-speedy-mega-blur-zoom-head-jolt thing one does when they're having a major lightbulb moment. "diego!" i stopped him. "I THINK I SAW THAT CAR IN LONDON. I EVEN THINK I HAVE A PICTURE OF IT. WE'VE GOTTA GO LOOK!" that kid lept off of his chair like he'd just been bit in the bum, raced me into my room and helped me sift through the pictures until we found this beaut. julio ran in after us and we proceeded to talk about cars and google audis. (am i impressing you with this vehicular terminology i'm whipping out?) we definitely had *a moment* if you know what i mean, and it completely warmed my heart.

london and i had some good moments, too. thank you, dear city, for allowing me to live vicariously through you and your non-stop action, fast pace, greasy fish and chips, your sweet, proper little accents that i actually fell out of love with, your male residents that all look like members of one direction, and your glorious weather. we had a fun run.

1 comment:

  1. dude, this is so cool. love hearing about your adventures!!!