Olympics, The Queen, and Big Ben O my!

LONDON, ENGLAND:  I know. I know. Wow this girl hasn’t posted in a while, but like I said in the introduction, “I won’t be revolving my trip around blogging.” We already had one guy call the LA girls wifi-whores because everywhere we stop they are searching for wi-fi! Ha But on my 7 hour bus ride from Lucerne, Switzerland to Florence, Italy, I shall be blogging about London! Amsterdam! Paris! And Lucerne!

Arrival: Oh London, it took my breath away! It was phenomenal and bucket list satisfying! Being that I had just left Dublin, I assumed (which one should never do) that the weather would be quite similar, but I like to think all the prayers for a great trip and safety is creating a wonderful weather bubble for wherever we travel. The weather in London was astonishingly amazing!

After luckily surviving the 3-hour hot box session that our driver liked to call a bus from Llogollen, Wales to London, we finally arrived at our hotel, Hutton Hotel. Our rooms were smaller than bedrooms on RVs, except there are 4 of us. My luck on not having to climb any stairs has been obscene (which makes me not want to jinx it, but o well). I have been receiving the nicest of the not so great rooms in each hotel. Like at this hotel, when in Barbie and Allie’s bathroom, one could bath and sit on the toilet at the same time (no joke). My roommates were Katie, Brianne, and Jeanne. We hit the town in search for some grub. Emmeline, our tour director, brought us to Leicester Square by using the tube (subway). Being that it would probably be difficult to find a restaurant that would not only feed but sit 33 of us; however, we still decided to split up. Maggie, Barbie, Katie, Brianne, Sara, Allie, Jeanne, Peter and I head to a pub with cheap fish and chips. Dying from the amount of carbs consumed on this trip, I ordered a side salad. After dinner and a quick chat with my Pops on the phone, I called it a night.

Day #1: Because of my early night, I am awake at 4 a.m. thinking it’s later because of the amount of light shining in our room (o also, hotel has no ac). I toss and turn for 2 hours then leave with Barbie, Jeanne, Brianne, Allie and Meredith to run around London. Our first destination was Buckingham Palace. The flag was raised so the queen was in her residence. Excitingly we joke about how amazing it would be to see the queen in person. The area around Buckingham palace was dead. The city was just waking up. It was too serene to see the city like this without the people bustling about. It was a lot to take in. Next destination was Hyde Park. Allie wanted to see the Peter Pan statue, because of all the scenes in movies that she had seen. We fast walk through the large park seeing swans, horse riders, runners, cyclist, and just absorbing the nature. Being that I hadn’t showered the day before, I wanted to take one before the on and off bus tour of London, so Meredith and I start our run back to the hotel. Even without a personal map, London has made the city very easily navigable. Every 7-10 blocks they have rectangular post near bus stations with ½ mile radius maps. They became very convenient throughout our stay in London.

While walking to the main hop on bus ticket counter, there were people handing out sample size packets of granola. I got 3 J. We talk with two of the drivers around the area, and he tells us that we could see the queen at the memorial dedication ceremony in St. James Park next to Buckingham Palace. The LA girls faint at the idea of actually being able to see the queen. Barbie and Sara are obsessed with London. Sara follows the royal family on twitter. She could name not only the entire royal family, but also probably some popular distant cousins. The night beforehand, Sara ran around with a postcard with a picture of Harry and William on it telling people, “Help, Have you seen these two boys? I am desperately looking for them”. So you can see how not attempting to see the queen at the memorial dedication wasn’t an option. We get off at the 2nd stop, which was quite near where we had been this morning, and see some crowds gathering. We had passed this area the morning before and I had wondered what the fences, chairs and white tents were for, and now I know. Thinking about America, I wonder if there is this much hum drum over memorial dedications in the States. Walking around like chickens without heads, we ask almost every cop we see where to see the queen, “what is the best spot”. Sara and Barbie lead us. We get to the Buckingham Palace gates and it’s covered with people. “Now this is how I remember it, nothing like this morning, but I am very appreciated that I could see it without the people this morning, a much different experience”. Not only was the queen going to leave the palace at this time but the changing of the guards was occurring at this time too. Chaos. We find out that the dedication doesn’t commence till 12 so we have a good 20 minutes to watch the changing of the guard. It’s such an immense process. I can’t believe that they do this daily. Tradition. Well after waiting for the break to cross the street, we walk into St. James Park to find a spot against the barricades. Long story short, after waiting a good 30 minutes and getting overly excited for every car that came through the barricaded street, the queen’s vehicle came with the flag flying at the top (where a taxi sign would be). People were streaming. Barbie starts sobbing. It was definitely an experience. Queen Elizabeth II was waving to the crowd. Sara described her as the perfect nugget grandma. We watched the unveiling of the memorial on a very large screen, and then we headed out the crowds. Stunned because we had just seen the queen.

After this unreal event, we were too overwhelmed to go straight back to touring the city, so we go to lunch. At lunch, I decided that I was going to part ways with the LA girls and go see the sights I really wanted to see because I wasn’t sure I was going to have time the following day. Meredith decides she wants to come as well, but I feel that at the end of the day she might have regretted that decision because we WALKED! I’d estimate probably a little under 15 miles. We didn’t stop. I just kept going engrossed with the culture and sights that London had to offer.

  • Big Ben and Parliament are still breath taking.
  • London Eye was packed as assumed, and because I had already done it once with my mother I didn’t find it too pressing to go again.
  • On our walk from Big Ben to Tower Bridge on the river bank, they had cute markets, many street performers, and delicious-looking restaurants.
  • I walked on London Bridge, and luckily it didn’t fall down.
  • Tower Bridge had the Olympic rings hanging down, and when we had left Big Ben they did. But once at the prime picture location (London Bridge), they were raised for some disappointingly reason.
  • We decided to head to Regent Street in search of Harrods. You can’t come to London and not explore it. Much to my disappointment, Harrods isn’t on Regent Street. But what was on Regent Street were, the display of countries’ flags for the Olympic Games. Excited to find the American flag, Meredith and I walk up and down the street 2x and could never find it. It was quite interesting to see all the different designs for flags.
  • We did a little window-shopping on Regent Street then headed Chinatown. The street decorations were astounding and unique. One shop was selling Queen Court tickets for Wimbledon, and I went inside to ask how much and he told me 550 pounds. Jaw dropping, I hope that tomorrow’s tickets will not be that expensive.

We found ourselves in Leicester Square and decide its time to head back to the hotel for a nap. We were quite exhausted from our little trek. But, I loved every moment of it. I love walking through the narrow streets and just stumbling on great architecture or interesting stores.

I woke from my nap starving, so Maggie, Katie, and I head to a near-by little Italian restaurant to eat. Like pretty much all of the restaurants we had eaten at the whole trip. The food was delicious. Once back at the hotel, we start getting ready, pregame with most of the people on the trip in our tiny room, then head to Leicester Square to go out. We did a pubcrawl-esque night out on the town. We went to two club-like places, Avenue and Penthouse.  I had fun, but I must say I think I am more of a bar girl than clubs. It is just way to dark and loud.

Day #2: Wimbledon! Katie and I set off for Wimbledon at 9:30 because gates open at 10:30, and we still had to get tickets. We were all prim and proper because this is the first year that they have a distinct dress code. I don’t know why we both assumed that getting tickets for Center Court to see Federer and Djokovic would be a walk in the park. We weren’t really thinking straight, but we hope on the tube to Wimbledon park and luckily meet a man who tells us that we were going to be getting off at the wrong stop. Once off the tube, we realize there is a TON of people here. My hopes for obtaining a ticket become pretty dull, but we made it all this way so we head to the gates. Luckily, we catch a cab and didn’t have to walk in our wedges all the way from the tube to the main gate, which would have been a good 20-minute walk. Once out the cab, Katie asked a gatekeeper man, how could be buy tickets for center court today? He looks at us as if we just asked him if we were at Wimbledon (like as the stupidest question possible). He responds to our question with, “Well that won’t happen because these are sold out. People camped out.” So then we ask about general admission and he says frustratingly that the line is down the road, but we won’t get in because the 6200 tickets have already been sold for that, and after the system for entrance is one leaves, one enters. I disappointingly look at Katie and decided that this was a quite fail, but at least we tried. We catch a cab back to the tube station and the amounts of people have increased. Among our disappointment from no entrance we are both starving. It is about noon now, and luckily we find a store to purchase some Wimbledon souvenirs. As we walk across the street, Katie falls flat on her face, breaking her wedge. Just not our day. We had a ton of men swarmed around us, helping her up asking her if she was okay. She said, “I am okay, just my prides hurt.” As cool as it would have been to be able to attend Wimbledon, I was glad we tried and got to see the atmosphere that surrounded outside the gates, and now I know its not super easy to obtain tickets.

Katie and I head back to the center of London to get lunch/breakfast, since we hadn’t eaten yet, and to change our shoes. (No way I was touring London in wedges). Right off of the station there was this quaint café-restaurant called Giraffe. We had an amazing meal, which brought both our spirits up. Since it was our last full day in London and I had seen all the sights I had wanted to see the day before, Katie and I had a chill day. We did our last few souvenir purchases, napped and got ready for our last night out in London.

At 7pm we were going to see Wicked. I have wanted to see this Broadway show since it came out, and I wasn’t passing up the chance. The show was astounding. The actors were wonderful, and our seats were great. Emmeline has really done a great job at setting up activities for us. The storyline for Wicked was so creative, and the music was magnificently good. After Wicked we headed back to Leicester Square and went out at the Zoo Bar. It was again clubby, but I still had a great time hanging out with everyone on the trip and continuing to get to know them.

Day #3: Our Last Day in London. I didn’t realize that we would have so much time before we left, but we weren’t leaving till 6:30 pm. We pretty much had another full day. Katie and I brought the rest of the LA girls to breakfast at Giraffe because we had seen the menu the day before, and it was well priced and looked tempting. The girls raved. They found it just as delicious as we had the day before. At breakfast we started figuring out the LAST LAST things we wanted to do before we left and it was decided: Abbey Rd, Harrods, and Regent Street for Top Shop and H&M.

  • Abbey Rd: The day before while Katie and I had been at Wimbledon they had tried to find Abbey Road. They assumed that it would be near the tube station stop called Abbey Road. But they were sadly mistaken. Abbey Road was almost as far out as Wimbledon and I think they were all exhausted and very disappointed. We found out the correct tube stop was St. John’s Wood, which was a good 5 minutes away from our main station. The road was very easy to find, and there were a good bit of people trying to get their similar picture crossing the road. Surprisingly it was still open for cars, and occasionally we would get honks from angry drivers. It was pretty difficult to get your picture but all 8 of us did.
  • Harrods: This time I was the one who got off at the correct tube station for Harrods compared to my Regent St. trip. I didn’t remember if when I had gone with my mom and Jess if we had gotten to go in, but I did remember that there was a James Bond display in their windows outside. But inside, it was amazing. They had rooms and rooms and more rooms of things. All astronomically expensive, but still great to look at and pretend to shop. Katie actually got separated from us at one point. One could easily get lost in this place. I think that I could have spent all three days in this store and still not seen everything.
  • Regent Street: Top Shop and H&M. Katie, Maggie and I weren’t really up for shopping, and we really wanted to go lay in the park and soak up the sun before we got on the bus; therefore, us three headed to Kensington Gardens to go relax and enjoy the sun. We set an alarm once lying down because we all knew we would be falling asleep.

We rush back to the bus realizing we had not allotted ourselves enough time to get back to the hotel at 6:30. We were the last ones on the bus, and our bags already packed. Frantic, I had no clue if my bag was on the bus or not, so I was a nervous wreck for our 2 hour drive to the overnight ferry dock. Fortunately it was and I wasn’t going to have to act out any of the scenarios I thought up during the ride if it wasn’t there.

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