I returned back home to America on Thursday after two very long days of traveling. I thought I’d dedicate a few posts to my trip, to let you know what I did, etc…
July 9th My father and I woke up in a Boston hotel and took a shuttle to the airport. We walked around for a little bit, then I hopped on the plane. I was so nervous about flying- my hands would not stop trembling!
I spent six and a half hours reading, as the little TV wouldn’t work. Finally I arrived in Heathrow, the airport in London. A staff member of British Airways guided me through the building as we retrieved my luggage and went through immigration (where they interrogated me as if I had done something extremely illegal). I figured out that I really dislike airports… Especially the part where they ask you questions. My hands and voice shake violently and I probably look extremely shifty.
Eventually I found my aunt and uncle, patiently waiting for my arrival. We boarded the Heathrow Express train, and suddenly I was standing on the lamplit streets of London. This was rather shocking, as the only city I have ever seen is Boston. The Tube Strike was occurring as well, so everyone was milling about, attempting to find their way home. Each double-decker bus was full of impatient commuters and confused tourists, and we spent a long time just trying to find a bus with enough space to stand.
Once we got on one, my aunt sent me up the stairs, promising to follow after my uncle boarded. I obediently climbed the stairs of the fast moving vehicle and sat down right as I heard the shouting of two fighting men. One fellow pushed the other down the stairs- this guy then threw himself on the other, and a few attempted punches later they separated. Meanwhile I was trying to make myself as small as possible in the seat next to this commotion. My uncle appeared and brought me back down where we waited for forty minutes to get to the hotel.
It was around 9 or 10 when we sat down to eat at an Italian restaurant, and I was very grateful to lie down on my pull-out mattress in the hotel across the street.
July 10th We woke up and after grabbing some coffee and porridge, took the Tube down to Trafalgar Square. It was gorgeous out- hot and sunny! We wandered down the street and found ourselves in St. James’s Park, strolling through the quiet gardens (a relief after the busy traffic filled streets).
When we emerged from the park we decided to check out Buckingham Palace, and noticed a large crowd gathering outside its gates. The red cloth was showing underneath the balcony, which means that something is going to happen. Impulsively we found ourselves searching for a good view point, and settled down on the sidewalk to wait. Thirty minutes later a marching band arrived and disappeared behind the fence and shrubbery. Ten minutes later, mounted policemen and women appeared, and shooed away the people in the middle of the road.
Twenty minutes later the doors swung open and I held my breath as the Queen herself stepped out into the daylight. Out followed other members of the royal family, waving to us commoners… They looked to the sky as Spitfires soared past, in memory of the Battle of Britain. After a time they disappeared behind the curtain doors, and I was left in complete awe of what had just happened. I mean… I saw the Queen!
After this spectacle we joined a bus tour and rode to the Tower of London, where we ate lunch and took a ferry ride down the Thames (river) and disembarked by the Parliament buildings and Big Ben. We then got back on the bus tour and rode up to Trafalgar square again, and poked around the National Gallery before grabbing some dinner at Pizza Express.
First we took the Tube to Trafalgar Square, where buskers perform and the National Gallery stands
A gorgeous day, we walked to St. James’s Park
St. James’s Park gardens were stunning and vibrant
Then we noticed a crowd gathering outside of Buckingham Palace, with an excellent marching band dominating the street
So we waited around, and saw this…
It took about an hour of waiting outside the Palace
But the doors opened- and out came the Queen! Seriously!
The Battle of Britain Memorial Service
July 11th We woke up a bit later due to my annoying jet lag, and made our way back to the Tower of London. We spent all morning and afternoon taking a Beefeater tour (a fascinating and entertaining tour led by a retired member of the Royal Army) and looking at the museum, which was full of interesting stories, armor, and weaponry. This experience was one of my favorites in London- especially since I am an avid historical fiction reader, and many scenes from my books took place within these very walls!
We took another bus tour down to the Parliament buildings, and also visited Covent Garden (sort of like the British version of Fanuell Hall in Boston). It is a street lined with a multitude of shops, restaurants, and buskers who entertain everyone with music and performances.
A street in London
The Tower of London
July 12th We began the day by taking the Tube down to Westminster Cathedral, a truly magnificent building that is still being completed. There were several side chapels, each with splendid golden mosaic patterns. Sound reverberated throughout the building, and the delicate smell of incense wafted down the aisles. Marble columns and arched windows led the way to the altar. It was a very peaceful start to a busy day.
Another Tube ride took us to the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) which is a museum filled with just about everything you can think of. A beautiful fashion exhibit, bits and pieces of old buildings, sculptures, epitaphs, jewelry, theatre, and in the center of it all, a lovely tea room.
We poked around the National History Museum- a little less enjoyable thanks to the hundreds of children running around- but still fascinating.
We then took another ride on the subway and a very long walk to the Globe Theatre, a replica of the theatre from William Shakespeare’s time. As we made our way across the Millennium footbridge the sun hid behind the clouds and it began to drizzle. We found ourselves some dinner and took a short walk across the street to the Globe. Our seats were on the very top and directly overlooked the gilded stage below. The thatched roof just barely sheltered us from the damp precipitation. The actors took their places on the soaking wet stage, and the two hour showing of Richard II began with a flourish. It was amazing. The actors and actresses were the best I’ve ever seen, the music was wonderful, and I was thoroughly engrossed in the events happening below me. This was by far my favorite part of London!
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Globe Theatre
St. Paul’s Cathedral
July 13th We spent our last day in London within the British Museum, thoroughly exploring its multiple rooms and exhibits. We began with the Rosetta Stone, then worked our way through Assyrian carvings, Roman and Greek sculptures, essentially taking a walk through history. It was very cool, though I think I preferred the Victoria and Albert Museum.
I was browsing through a gallery full of old books and tomes when I noticed someone standing really close to me. I saw in the corner of my eye that it was a young man holding up his phone on front-facing camera, shooting a video of me. I was extremely confused and started to panic a bit so I tried to step away from him but he got in front of me again and started aggressively telling me to “say hello!” in some sort of accent (not American or British). Now that I think on it- he was probably just messing with me- but at the time I had a whole mental panic attack. My thoughts literally consisted of: OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD MUST GET OUT MUST GET OUT MUST GET OUT. It’s nice to know I can rely on keeping my cool in tough situations….
Anyways, he wouldn’t leave me alone so I finally said “hello?” and he chuckled and exited the room. Of course this happens to me- a socially awkward, timid, shy teenager from America. Needless to say, I was glad to get up to Scotland after this…
Check back for Part Two of my adventure!