Monday, April 13, 2009

Spring Break: London

We kicked off our spring break with 5 days in London. There was so much to see--our time there was a blur. The weather wasn't the best; it was colder than I expected. Luckily I had my winter coat handy to keep me warm, which is more than I can say for certain people in our group...haha

We stayed at the Clink Hostel, formerly an old courthouse. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, since hostels aren't exactly known for their comforts, but I was pleasantly surprised. The eight of us stayed in one room probably not much bigger than a dorm room back at SFU. There were four sets of bunk beds all side-by-side and very orange walls, haha. But it really wasn't too bad. It got a little crowded in the mornings when we were all getting ready, but otherwise there were no problems.

On our first day in London, we took a bus tour of the city. They were double-decker buses, of course, and we could hop on and off as we pleased at various bus stops. Hamley's, a famous toy store, tempted us first and we got off to go inside, only to be distracted by a tea shop on the way there.

Below is Picadilly Circus, practically the Times Square of London. It was a very busy place, bustling with people.

Here's Big Ben!

It was so pretty in person, truly a massively exquisite work of architecture.

Our bus tour also included a riverboat ride, so we braved the chilly winds over the water to see sights along the Thames. We got a nice view of the London Eye while waiting for our boat. It was right across from where our boat was to be docked.

Our first day in London was probably the coldest, but we didn't let that deter us from having a good time. We dealt with the cold weather in the open air on top of the double-decker bus. After all, when would we ever have a chance to see the sights of London like this again?

You can hardly tell that it was on the chilly side from this next picture. We walked through St. James Park on the way to Buckingham Palace, and there were flowers galore. I wish the weather had been nicer; I would not have minded spending the better part of an afternoon lounging against a tree with a good book and flowers in bloom all around me.

Buckingham Palace wasn't as big as I expected it to be. It wasn't the palace itself that I enjoyed seeing the most, though, it was the Victoria Memorial in front of the palace.

The Victoria Memorial is a beautiful sculpture which honors Queen Victoria. It was built in 1911, 10 years after her death.

There were many other statues to admire in front of the palace.

Next, we walked to Westminster Abbey. Above is a view of the Great North Door. We decided not to pay the admission fee to go in, and instead agreed we would return on Sunday to go to mass there (for free). It ended up working out nicely because we found out on Sunday that there is a no-picture policy inside the church. We would have paid just to walk around; actually going to mass there gave us time to admire the inside...for free!

The church is very striking, a poignant example of the gothic style. It was very beautiful inside, with finely-carved wood and other elegant decorations.

In London, they drive on the other side of the road... This didn't bother me as much as I thought it would, though everytime I crossed a street, I did so with trepidation because who knew if there would be a car barreling my way from the opposite direction... There were helpful arrows telling us to look to the right or left on the ground, but it took some training before we knew which way to look first without those arrows.

We also went to the National Gallery, which was particularly interesting for me because a lot of the artists we have learned about in my art history class have works that are showcased there. One of the artists I had to do a presentation on earlier in the semester, Peter Paul Rubens, had an entire room devoted to his artwork. It was cool to see in person the works I had studied and analyzed. Outside the National Gallery, there was a massive fountain with statues that I found to be quite a pretty sight.

London at night was also a sight to behold. Big Ben, the London Eye, everything was lit up.

We couldn't go to London without seeing the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace, and we managed to secure a pretty good spot from which to watch it. It was extremely crowded--there were people everywhere but it was pretty cool to see the tradition that England is known for in person.

Next on the agenda was a ride on the London Eye, the largest ferris wheel in Europe. Each capsule can hold about 20 people, and you are free to walk around as you please inside the capsule.

It takes about 30 minutes to make a full revolution, so there is quite a bit of time to admire the gorgeous 360-degree views of London from the ferris wheel.

Above is a bird's eye view of Big Ben and the River Thames.

I think the London Eye may have been one of my favorite things about London. I really enjoyed getting a unique look at the city from above.

We also visited the Science Center. They had a special exhibition featuring Formula One and how its advanced technology is changing the world. It's not quite NASCAR, but it's still racing, so I was all over that, haha.

The Tower of London was a really interesting place. It used to be a fortress, a royal palace, and a prison. It also houses the United Kingdom's Crown Jewels.

The place is massive--there are so many buildings and towers. We didn't have time to get to them all. Above is the White Tower, which was the original square fortress built by William the Conqueror in 1078.

And here's the Tower Bridge, aptly named because of its proximity to the Tower of London. It is probably one of the most well-known sights of London. It's quite an elegant-looking bridge, very pretty.

We visited King's Cross on our last day in London. Our hostel was actually pretty close to the station but we waited until the last day to venture inside to see...

Platform 9 and 3/4!!!!!!

This was probably my favorite thing in London. haha.

Later that day, Cat and I went to the Natural History Museum.

I thought the museum was beautiful, both inside and out. It was a nice way to cap off our time in London. We moved at our own pace and viewed some really interesting exhibits. The Emerald of Devonshire and the Hope Diamond is housed within the museum.

London seems to have been most everyone's favorite city. I have to admit, it was very reassuring to be in a place where English was the primary language being used. But I didn't quite enjoy London as much as everyone else... London didn't seem to like me, haha. I lost my scarf there, among other things, but worst of all, one of my hearing aids decided to go out of commission and I had to walk around pretty much in my own little world for two days because it was (of course) my good ear, the one I rely on the most. Thankfully I was able to find a place to get it fixed and Cat was nice enough to tag along with me so I didn't have to go alone (it was quite a ways from the city center). The people there were really nice and I was so appreciative that they fit me in for an appointment at a day's notice. I'm also very glad that if this had to happen, it at least happened in an English-speaking country. I could not imagine trying to get my hearing aid fixed in Rome. That would have been a headache!


  1. it seems you covered almost everything, the bis tours are great in london id definately advise them to friends, and you can prebook them online to get a cheaper deal.