London, England. Feb 23-26, 2017.

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London is probably the most unpredictable but most exciting city I have ever been too. Unfortunately we didn’t start the weekend off strong, our flight getting extremely delayed because of a storm in the U.K which caused us to get into Gatwick way later than expected. We had contacted our hostel before our flight to make sure that everything was okay for us to get in late, and believed to have had everything settled with them. When we ended up getting into Gatwick at 1 AM already exhausted, we kind of predicted the night would continue to go south from there! It was also then when we realized that our hostel was over an hour away from Gatwick Airport… We then waited for a taxi to take us there for another long time, slowly becoming delirious from the lack of sleep and our situation! To top it off getting into our hostel at about 3:30 in the morning, of course, our hostel was dark and locked when we got there (our taxi driver was generous enough to help and wait with us so we wouldn’t be left on our own). We ended up frantically calling them to see if anyone inside would wake up and let us in, and when that failed, we desperately called every hotel in London to see if they had a spare room for the night for us! Slowly losing hope, someone that worked in the hostel during the day walked by saw us waiting outside the building. And of course when we walked in, the receptionist for the hostel was fast asleep! We decided to stay the night (and when we finally went to bed it was a little past 4 AM) but leave the establishment immediately in the morning and book another hotel in a different part of London. Did a mention a fight broke out in front of our hostel while we were waiting to be let in??

Despite this crazy introduction to London, the rest of the weekend was something close to magic. We arrived in our new hotel which was right next to Wimbley Stadium, a large stadium on the outskirts of London which famously holds soccer games and other events. This hotel was also really close to a Tube (Underground) station, so it only took us about 15 minutes to get into inner London on the Jubilee line. On our first official day we decided to go on the London Eye, which was amazing because we went while the sun was setting. We also snagged a pretty good viewing spot on the side of Big Ben and Parliament and it was something unforgettable. Made up for what happened less than 24 hours before! Then we walked across the River Thames into the center of the city, close to Piccadilly Circus to eat at a delicious (vegetarian) burger and milkshakes, something dearly missed when you’ve been eating pasta and pizza for dinner everyday. Although we were planning on doing more that night, we actually had an early night in since we were still exhausted from our adventure the night before.

 

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The next morning we took the Tube to Green Park, where we walked across the greenest grass you could possibly ever see and passed through a gate leading to the Buckingham Palace. Although we weren’t able to go inside, looking through the black gate into the large courtyard and white stone was impressive on its own. Sadly, we knew the Queen was not in because the “in residence” flag was not raised. Next time maybe we’ll be able to stop in for tea.

We then walked through St. James’ Park, which was kind of scary since it seemed every bird on the planet lived in this park. There were geese to swans, to pigeons to pelicans, all varying in size. The park was beautiful though, because as you walked away from the Palace you could slowly see the London Eye and Westminster Abbey in the distance. As we were walking towards the direction of the London Eye and Big Ben, we walked towards the House of the Guards, where the Queen’s guards and horses were just hanging out in front of the archway of the building! Hilariously enough, there was a sign right in front that read, “Beware! Horses may kick or bite!” You can imagine I couldn’t gather the courage to go touch one.

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After taking a cute and necessary London phone booth pic, we decided to hop on over to Brick Lane and enjoy some fish and chips in a small market going on there. We also stumbled upon a “cafe” of sorts called Cereal Killer Cafe, which served every cereal from around the world along with any combination of milk or topping you could think of! This place was so interesting, colorful, and brought me back to my childhood from when I loved to try different types of cereal and fun flavors. Of course I got some Mini Wheats with soy milk, which is usually my favorite choice back home (and I’ve been missing it!). We relaxed there a bit as we had been having a long day wondering around but we enjoyed the 70’s vibe of this cafe and some perfect cereal. If you happen to be in Brick Lane and you also are craving your favorite cereal from back home, or just want to try some cereal from other parts of the world, definitely go there! Other than Cereal Killer Cafe, Brick Lane is also home to many quaint tea shops, restaurants, and boutiques that you can stroll in and enjoy.

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From Brick Lane we hopped back onto the Tube and being the Beatles fans that we are, we decided to go look at Abbey Road. Although we immediately came across a problem when we got off the “Abbey Road” stop… It was the wrong Abbey Road! The right stop that was home of the Beatles was at a completely different station, and feeling defeated (once again!) headed over to the right Abbey Road stop, the St. John’s Wood station. It was pretty interesting to see where the Beatles had experienced a lot of their journey, and we also managed to walk across the infamous album cover crosswalk. Shoutout to my dad for always blasting Beatle’s music for most of my childhood!

We took a small break and decided that at night we would go to a musical or play. It took us a while to decide on one and also find one cheap enough, but we eventually snagged tickets to The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Nighttime and the Gielgud Theatre near Piccadilly Circus. Although I had an interesting first encounter due to someone sneaking into the theatre (some random guy followed behind a girl and snuck in!), I was so glad that I made the decision on seeing this play because it was one of the best theatre experiences I’ve ever had. The set and technology was so interesting, almost reflecting what was going on inside the character’s mind instead of the actual setting of the play. Not giving too much away, this play really made me emotional at the end due to personal reasons, along with just a great story line and the extra mile to make an amazing audience experience. It also felt very special to see this play actually in London since the actual setting of the play was in London, I was able to picture many of the places in my head and understand where they were. Definitely spend the money to go see drama in London if you can! After the play, it got late and we headed back to our Wembley Stadium hotel to rest up for another busy day in London.

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Our last day in London arrived, and we headed over to Kings Cross Station to catch a train to Hogwartz! Or at least try, of course. We waited in line to take a picture where Harry Potter crosses into the wizarding world from the muggle world at the 9 3/4 Platform. I grew up watching and reading Harry Potter, so this was definitely an exciting and fun experience, even though it was just a decorated brick wall! Just imaging that going to Hogwartz and meeting Harry Potter is enough to make me happy, and I have lots of great memories with my family, especially with my sister, watching Harry Potter and pretending when we were a lot younger that we were wizards. Although it was a long wait just for a picture, I definitely do not regret going there and passing through the Harry Potter Shop where you can buy all of your wizarding needs.

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Sadly after this we had a quick lunch at Vapianos (a restaurant also in the U.S that we had been craving!) and headed back to Gatwick Airport. Although London started out a bit rough, it was definitely a learning experience for the future and for sure worth it in the end. Some advice to avoid making the same mistake as we did is to do your research for where the airport you’re landing into is, the distance from your housing arrangements, and how close both of those things are to public transportation. If we had done just a little bit more research on those things maybe we would have gone to sleep just a bit earlier than we did the day we arrived! Although this happened, I actually really fell in love with London and I can’t wait to go back there when my boyfriend comes to Europe in just a few short months! London is one of those places that I could actually see myself living if I had the opportunity to as long as I learned to drive the other side of the road, and there’s always something exciting to do, without losing it’s touch of beauty and history. This weekend I’ll be traveling to Florence (staying local in Italy!) to see my dad who is there on business and I can’t wait to have a bit of family time. It was also just my 21st birthday so this is a perfect way to celebrate. After Florence is spring break and there are definitely some exciting plans in store for it… Arrivederci! 🙂

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