Sunday, May 13, 2012

London Calling

Samuel Johnson once said, "When a person is tired of London, they are tired of life." I could not agree more with this quote. And, by the way, I am so sorry to keep you all waiting! Here's the thing: my sister arrived in Rome last week and I was far too busy to sit down and organize my thoughts, especially while having to pack for my trip. I didn't mean to neglect you all, but now that I'm here, I'm ready to jump head first into a detailed description of one of the greatest cities in the entire world - London!
My sister and I went to the Ciampino airport last Saturday morning to catch our flight, which only took two hours. I forgot how much I love to fly. I seem to have this love-hate relationship with airports, because as cool as they are, they're also stressful. So many things could go wrong. It isn't even terrorism that frightens me, but more of the fear of my own stupidity for doing something like forgetting or losing one of my documents. Of course this has never happened before and I've flown a couple dozen times, but still - airports do not 
Buckingham Palace
tend to have a happy atmosphere (not to mention overpriced bottles of water and sandwiches). 
We didn't have any problems whatsoever, but once we stepped off the plane, Nicole and I were whipped in the face with a cold wind. I prepared myself for it by layering up and packing an umbrella and pair of gloves. I suppose I really shouldn't be complaining. The weather wasn't that bad, but at 9 degrees, it felt like a far cry from Rome (when I came back last night, it was 30 degrees out!). It was really easy to navigate around the city because London has a fantastic transportation system. The buses and tube were easier than the instructions on the back of a Kraft Dinner box.
We stopped at London Bridge station where our hostel was located just down the street. It was an all female hostel called The Oasis which was part of a chain called St. Christopher's, where
my friend Chris Madronich was staying. Him and I went to daycare together and have known each other for the majority of our lives. We spent the day doing a little sightseeing and catching up with each other. The great thing about hostels is that you meet people from every corner of the world and learn about other people's cultures, as well as sharing your own. There were a surprising amount of Canadians in London, and it really made me realize that even though Canada has a small population (compared to its geographical size), we're well traveled.
On the second day we went on a walking tour with a guide who I can only describe as "zany." This woman was originally from New Zealand and took us around the main sights of the city such as Buckingham Palace, the changing of the guards, Prince Charles and Camilla's home, and more. (Side note: It was from this
I get by with a little help from my friends.
tour guide that I learned that the British call rain boots "Wellies", due to their former Prime Minister Wellington who invented the rain boots). But during the tour, Nicole and I had to leave early because we had to meet up with Carlie Smith, a girl who I went to high school with. She's been a close friend of mine for the past several years, and, like me, she decided to travel and move overseas. She's been living in England, not too far from London, and will be for the next two years. We met right outside of the Parliament building where we also walked and saw views of the London Eye and Westminster Abbey. 
Seeing friends from home was great, and I was so happy to be able to explore a new place with old faces. During our entire trip, the weather was fairly decent, aside from a bit of rain on Wednesday. 
But with my umbrella featuring the British flag and candy coloured Wellies, I didn't even mind. We did a bit more touring around the city and went to a store called Primark which my friend Rhianne suggested and that Carlie described as "the Galleria Mall on drugs." It was a huge store that was packed tight with full of people who were all fighting over piles of insanely cheap clothing. I ended up buying a cool sweater with, once again, the British flag that was found in the men's section. I kept coming up with cool scenarios of myself wearing the sweater at university this upcoming fall. It's perfect for walking through the quad as orange coloured leaves crunch beneath my feet, or when I want to occupy myself by studying in the library or sitting by an open fire roasting chestnuts. What scenario I didn't see coming was running into someone at the hostel who was wearing the same sweater - a guy who was in his early twenties. I was able to redeem myself by complimenting him and luckily he found the situation funny. 
As my sister and I are avid Harry Potter fans, a must stop was the King's Cross station where we took pictures at Platform 9 3/4. Another stop we made was Abbey Road, the famous road
where The Beatles crossed. Later on during the same day, we walked over to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre where Mr. William himself used to showcase his famous plays. Unfortunately, the original building is no longer there, but it was remodeled and is in the exact place of the first theatre. We spent most nights in the Chill Out room at the hostel with all the other travelers playing cards and drinking games.
On our final day in the city, my sister took a train to visit the WB Harry Potter studio where the films are shot, which gave me some time to wander around on my own. I visited a bakery close to the hostel where I bought a single $3 cupcake that was piled high with rich, sugary vanilla icing and had more calories than days I've lived. I almost went into a sugar coma afterwards, and it was worth every single bit. When my sister returned from her tour, we visited the Tate Modern Museum. One of my favourite things about the city is that the museums are free, offering its residents and citizens a price tag free experience through a gigantic building filled with impressive art and other pieces of eye candy.
London is a fantastic city where I was able to speak fluent English for the first time in eight months, see friendly faces, and witness some of the world's most notable landmarks and pieces of art. Now, tomorrow... I will tell you all about the great big city of Amsterdam. I hope you enjoyed my much outdated post and promise to do a better job of keeping you guys in the know!

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