Serenaded at Waterloo and Seeing London from Above

 

Jubilee Gardens as seen from the London Eye

Jubilee Gardens as seen from the London Eye

We had a later start this morning.  At Waterloo, we noticed a new book bench, so of course we had to take our picture!  At one point, we stopped to ponder something and a young man began to serenade us with James Blunt’s Beautiful.  I suspect that he was quite drunk.  He belonged to a pack of other young men sniggering as he belted out his lyrics.  It was good fun.

Book Bench at Waterloo Station

Triplets sitting on a Book Bench at Waterloo Station

We took the tube to the National Portrait Gallery, which was amazing.  I never realized how much I adore portraits.  In my mind, they seemed so posed, formulaic, or boring, but seeing all the different styles, people, and media gave me a sense of depth, storytelling, and variety that portraits can assume. One of my favorites was of Fiona Shaw.  I just loved it!

Currently the BP Portrait Award 2014 is on display and it was an absolute madhouse in the gallery.  I was feeling quite claustrophobic trying to navigate my way around.  I definitely did not get to see as much as I desired and I believe that I must take another trip back, preferably not on a Saturday.  A Saturday in the summer in London?  It was quite crowded.

We stopped at EAT for a bite to eat.  Hah!  I got some chicken noodle soup because I was craving something hot.   After lunch, our group dispersed.  Jade and I headed back to Chinatown (we went for dinner on Wednesday).  I was really happy that we got to go back because the stores and business were closed by the time we made it there last time.  This time, I picked up a bag of prawn crackers to make back home.  I almost bought some tapioca balls to make boba, but the queue was quite long and I passed.  I’ll be back!  That’s guaranteed.  I need to go back to buy a bolo bao, some yau tiew (I never know how to spell that), and another milk tea.  The milk tea was the best I’ve ever had.  Better than Coffee or Tea and Taste Tea.  Quel scandale, I know!  The cheek of me to say such a bold statement, but yes, I stand by it.

We headed over to the Tate, which I also loved.  London really does have a great variety of fun, free, and interesting museums to explore.  I love the wide range of art the Tate offered.  From time periods and styles to media and themes, there was definitely something for everyone.  We did not have a lot of time, so we will definitely be back.  Jade and I stopped at Marks and Spencer at Waterloo to pick up dinner and we were shocked to find that the store is closing down.  Where will we shop?   It’s odd to find that we got so attached in such a small amount of time.  I suspect that we will get over it soon enough.

After dinner, Taylor, Laura Douglass, Jade, Paul and I headed down to the London Eye.  We started with the 4D Experience, which made me weary at one point.  I can only take some much light and sound.  Thankfully enough, it was not too bad.  Our ticket was for 9pm, but we are supposed to queue half an hour prior to our booking.  We made it onto the London Eye by 8:35pm, so there wasn’t much of a wait at all.  That was surprising for a Saturday in London during the Summer – to me at least!  It was probably just good timing and great luck!

London Eye

London Eye

We took a few (or many pictures), including a few meta-pictures.  That was fun!  After the London Eye, we strolled down the South Bank.  It was a nice ending to a busy day.  I think that Jade and I walked about 17,000 steps.  I just love exploring London!

I also want to point out that I finally caught up with blogging!   Yay!  I am current.  We’ll see how well I can keep this up and until next time, stay cool, friends!

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First two days

I am glad to report that I made it safely to London.  Despite a delay, a threat of another possible delay (they found another plane for us, which thankfully allowed me to make my connecting flight), and getting lost in Dulles, I infiltrated this crazy, busy, beautiful city.  Several other mishaps such as my luggage wheels crumbling, my water bottle leaking all over my documents (tickets, passport, etc.), and both of the zippers of my bag breaking made for a less than smooth arrival to London, but nonetheless, it all worked out and I’ll keep the complaining to a minimum.  Maybe.

My first day in London is fast becoming a hazy memory because I was tired and unfocused from the lack of sleep and general travel woes.  We’ll see how well my memory is (hint: it’s not great, ask Taylor or anyone who has heard me attempt to tell a story).

After a ridiculously nauseating ride to the dorms, which was 546431384512x worse than the flight for me due to some dubious airplane food, we arrived at King’s College on Stamford Street.  Jade and I unloaded our luggage in our respective rooms and immediately hit the neighborhood for an impromptu tour, mostly to fend off sleep and kill time before our scheduled afternoon neighborhood tours.  I have to admit that my first impressions of London were mixed.  I adored some of what my foggy mind and queasy stomach saw on the coach to the dorms, but the hustle and bustle of the city did stress me out at first.  I definitely could not imagine living in such a huge and busy city with millions of anonymous bodies moving around and about.  We’ll see how I feel at the end of this trip.

Cute al fresco dining area

Cute al fresco dining area at the South Bank

 

Our class neighborhood tour took us to Waterloo Station, which was a madhouse because of a million delays, the fact that we were there at 5pm on a Friday, and those million delays.

We also took a walk on the South Bank where we passed many notable places: the British Film Institute, the Southbank Centre Book Market, and the London Eye, with a few glimpses of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.  I know that I definitely left out a few notables, but remember that memory of mine?  Yeah, it’s not great.  I imagine that I’ll explore much more of the South Bank in the following month.

 

Gnome and Big Ben

Feminist Sven and Big Ben

 

We had a quick reception back at King’s College.  After eating, the gals, i.e.  Jade, Taylor, and Laura Douglass made our way to Waterloo in pursuit of Oyster cards.  We got weekly passes and took the opportunity to ride a few trains.  We ended up at St. Pancreas and King’s Cross station (we didn’t think to visit that infamous Platform 9 and 3/4, but we’ll get there one day).  From that general area, we hopped on a bus (or two) and made our way back to the dorms.  Let me just say, double decker buses are definitely the way to go.  They are speedy, crafty buggers and it’s fun watching them navigate London roads.  London bus drivers are my favorite people of the moment.  I admire their mad skills.

I went to bed at a reasonable time (10pm, perhaps), but unfortunately, my body refused to sleep past 2am, so I must report that I had a 2-3 hour Netflix time suck.  On happier Netflix-related notes, I found that we get the UK selection and Taylor recently discovered that Archer Season 5 was available, so yeah, we will definitely be watching that.

I got a few more hours of sleep and rolled out of bed at 8am.  We had our class orientation at 9am.  It was great to hear about some of the locations we will visit and learn more about my fellow students.  I will admit that I am terrible with names and I can’t be trusted to learn everyone’s name quickly.  Following this, we had a general orientation with the larger group.  I was fast becoming hangry at this point, so I was more than happy to stop into Pret’s for a prosciutto and basil sandwich.  It was a great and quick lunch and I can definitely imagine going back to try some of their other offerings.  I was just thrilled to eat a nice, crunchy baguette (soft bread seems to be ubiquitous in Columbia, SC – soft bread can be great, but I do love me a fresh baguette).

Feminist Sven at St. James's Place

Feminist Sven visits St. James’s Palace

With fuel in my belly, we embarked on a LondonAlive! tour.  The gals and I went on the tour focusing on Women, Suffragettes and London landmarks.  We learned about the significance of Florence Nightingale, Boudica (Queen of the Iceni tribe who tried to run out the Romans), and Emmeline Pankhurst (suffragette) in relation to London statues and buildings.  Other places of interest include the Monument to the Women of World War I, Clarence House (where the Queen Mum lived), St. James’s Palace (I totally touched it), and Trafalgar Square (Emma Hamilton, Admiral Nelson’s infamous mistress).  I loved this tour and I am definitely considering weaving women’s rights into my research paper somehow.  We’ll see.

We broke off from the group at Trafalgar Square and headed underground towards South Kensington where we visited Ben’s Cookies.  I do believe those cookies are what dreams are made of.  Amazing.

From South Kensington, we took the bus to Hyde Park.  We took some gratuitous gnome pictures, posed with the Peter Pan statue, watched the swans and geese at the Serpentine (lake at Hyde Park), and walked by the Italian Garden at Kensington Gardens.  At this point, we were quite hungry again (if memory serves right, Jade’s pedometer clocked us at 8 miles at this point, give or take a mile).

London Eye

London Eye

We took a bus towards Victoria Station and after two failed trips to overcrowded pubs, we found refuge at our third pub.  The service was questionable, as the waitress (not from the UK based on her accent) seemed to laugh and mock us.  It was an odd experience, which I will happily attribute as a odd, personal quirk and not the rule.  Who knows?

From the pub, we took the tube to Westminster in search of ice cream.  Alas, the venture was for naught as the only stand we found was closing down for the night.  On a happier note, we found a man standing on the bank playing bagpipes, so it was a decent end to a long day.

I should definitely be asleep right now, but I’m not because I’m a rebel like that.  If I had Dumbledore’s Pensieve, I might have trusted those memories to keep, but since I don’t, it was best to work them out asap.

I hope everyone is having a great summer.  Stay cool, friends!