London Day II

Taking a break from writing a 15 page essay to write this blog. I know, it seems kind of weird taking a break from writing by writing, but writing a blog is much more fun. My second day in London was full of very popular touristy things. First, I set out for Buckingham Palace which was beautiful but so crowded I could hardly see through the mass of people.Day2 Compared to all the places I’ve visited thus far, London has been the busiest. It’s also getting closer to summer so I know tourism is about to spike and any trip from here on out is going to be claustrophobia inducing. Even the back of the palace was full of people and I was done staring at it. To be honest, I might have been more excited to see Chipotle than the palace, oops. I enjoyed the gardens around Buckingham palace much more than the palace itself as there weren’t as many people. I walked around this area for a little while before heading to Westminster Abbey. D6C72ECF-9A64-41AB-BF7B-4709BC4F8CFF
On my walk toward Westminster, I saw Big Ben off in the distance. I knew Big Ben was under construction but I still thought I’d be able to recognize the iconic building. Nope. Big Ben was so covered in scaffolding there was no telling it was even the right building. In fact, some random fellow tourist got my attention to ask me if that was indeed Big Ben and after I said “yes”, he seemed very disappointed. Same dude, same. There was only one visible face of the famous clock, but otherwise it was entirely unrecognizable. Oh well, maybe if I get to come back to London later on in life, I’ll actually get to see it scaffold-free and it’ll be that much sweeter.

 

 

84CD8302-8B13-4A7E-8C13-EC37C33468DDNearing Westminster Abbey, I decided to stop for an iced coffee and have a little break in Parliament Square Garden. It was nice to stop and enjoy the views for a little while. Sometimes those are the best little moments of a trip. Just sitting in the grass, enjoying how life has brought me to visit these astounding postcard-worthy places. Ooo, also a quick shoutout to London and Europe in general. No unnecessary plastic straws! As you can see in my shameless selfie, the straw they gave me was made of paper. Most places in Europe have been banning plastic straws to better the environment and I’d love to see the U.S. follow suit. I can’t name one time in Slovenia where I’ve been given a plastic straw which is amazing. I’m actually considering writing a blog about how eco-friendly Ljubljana is compared to the United States. Sorry for the short mental detour… back to Westminster. As I walked closer to the Abbey, there were a few street performers, including a man playing bagpipes. Here, I’ll share a video and bless your ears as well. Haha, oh the bagpipe.

Westminster Abbey was beautiful but the line to get in was unreasonably long and there was an entrance fee. Most of the churches I’ve come across have had free entrances so anytime one costs money, I’m a little less likely to see the inside. I’m a traveler on a budget, sorry. Look at that beautiful gothic architecture on the outside though, geesh.

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Westminster Abbey

Next up on my cliche London day I walked over the Westminster bridge to get a closer look at the London Eye. The London Eye was immensely larger than what I had imagined in my head. Part of me wanted to experience taking a ride on the oversized ferris wheel so I checked out ticket prices. After seeing how much it would set me back to  be locked in a glass box with 24 strangers for 45 minutes just to make one revolution of the wheel, I thought I’d rather just observe it from the ground. Also, for those of you who thought it moved at a typical ferris wheel pace…wrong! The London Eye moves so slowly, you can barely tell it’s even moving. Just thought I’d enlighten those who’ve never been able to see it in person. I know if I had bought a ticket, I would have been excited for the first five minutes then incredibly bored the rest of the ride.

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Near the London Eye there was a fish and chips restaurant flooded with people, so I figured it was about time to eat something. Disappointingly, I don’t like fish so I ordered chicken and chips instead. Nothing to write home about really. Tasted like bland fried chicken and fries. Sorry London, but everyone already knows you aren’t famous for your food scene. The food wasn’t great, but the view was beautiful as I found a ledge looking out over the Thames with a good view of London. After finishing my food, I walked through Jubilee Garden to the Golden Jubilee bridge where I walked back across to the other side of London. The National Gallery called my name and I filled the rest of my day with art.

Okay, I won’t overload you with all the photos of the magnificent and iconic pieces of art I was able to see because it would be an entire gallery. Seriously, pieces from Van Gogh, Monet, Rembrandt, Jan van Eyck, Botticelli, Da Vinci… the list goes on and on. The National Gallery was stirring with visitors, normally I’d find it annoying that I couldn’t take a photo free of people in a gallery, but I had an exceptionally fun time taking photos of other people enjoying the art. Looking at all the ways people observe art is really interesting, from taking selfies, sharing with a loved one, looking through someone else’s phone camera, drawing a re-creation, or looking at the painting right in front of you in a book. After all, art is interpreted differently by each person. Every painting, though it may be the same, is distinct dependent on the beholder. Enough of my rambling, here are the photos I took of complete strangers at the National Gallery.

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So I was having a jolly good time at the National Gallery and was nearing the end, when a man in his late 30s came up next to me while I was looking at a painting. He made a comment about the paint color of the room and how it was different from the others and I was like yeah, that’s an interesting point. I’m not one to be rude to people so of course I responded to his comments on the art. From that point on, this man creepily followed close beside me to every painting I went to. Standing way too close for comfort, I kept stepping further and further away from him and stopped responding to his comments on the art. I really thought this guy would take the hint but he sure didn’t. This older guy was determined to make the rest of my time at the museum incredibly uncomfortable. Luckily, I had already almost seen all the rooms of the gallery so I was able to tell him I was leaving just to escape the awkwardness. It wasn’t so easy though. Before I left, he asked me if I wanted to go have a drink with him, which I definitely did not. So, I told him I didn’t drink and I’d rather just spend the rest of my day alone. Sort of brutal and also dumb because now this random stranger knew I was alone. Wow, I’m really not great at talking to strangers and I was super anxious. Now that I was on high alert after angering a creepy stranger, I left the museum in a rush to get as far away as possible. Of course I had on my bright yellow backpack so as to be super identifiable in a large crowd. Way to go Katrena, you told him you were alone and you have a backpack the color of the sun in a crowd of muted colors, awesome. Freaked out, I naturally called my mom for comfort and then called my older sister for someone to call me an idiot I guess(haha, thanks Kass). I ended up walking down the road to a very busy McDonalds where I ordered a coke(with a paper straw) and hid out in the basement seating area until I figured the coast was clear and I headed back to my airbnb. Fun times in the hustle bustle of London today.

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London Day I

So, I’m splitting my London trip into separate blog posts so my readers don’t have to read an entire book for one blog and also because it’s nearing exams, making me extremely busy. Thanks for understanding, here we go…Flew to London today! I chose London as my spring break trip while abroad. Arriving in the Luton airport, I was still a while away from the center of London where I’d be staying so I took a slew of public transportation to get to my airbnb. I was transferring from one station to Kings Cross station and as any Harry Potter fan knows, Kings Cross is a large part of the books so I was already pretty psyched to even be inside this particular train station. I was walking toward the platform for my platform transfer to London when I saw a large crowd of people gathered by the wall. When there is a crowd, I naturally walk toward it to see what the hullabaloo is about. The crowd was encircling the iconic Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter. DSC_6441editWords can not express how beside myself I became. I always knew I was a giant HP nerd, but this week took me to new levels. Naturally, I dropped all prior plans to get to the center of London to wait in this long line to snap a single picture in front of half a cart in front of a faux Harry Potter platform. There was absolutely no way in the world I could see Platform 9 3/4 then continue walking toward my destination like I hadn’t seen it. Technically this was on my list to do later in the week in my personal itinerary, but who am I kidding, I never follow my itinerary anyway. Physically shaking with excitement, I desperately needed to talk with someone who also loves HP as much as me(maybe as much as me), so I Facetimed my friend Lexi. Lexi was getting ready for her mother’s wedding, which I was bummed to be missing, but I was able to say congrats to her over FaceTime so that was cool and I think she was understanding about my absence seeing as I’m across the world, haha. Lexi shared in my excitement about me being in line to see Platform 9 3/4 which is exactly why I called her, because I knew she’d understand my enthusiasm. Thanks Lex(if you’re reading this). Traveling alone is so incredibly rewarding, but at times I really want someone to be here with me to share in my experiences, it would make standing in a long line much more fun. There were workers in the front who took the photo and also put a house scarf on you, I watched them thinking about how I would thrive working here. Closer and closer, I made my way to the front of the line, thinking about how I only had one chance to look decent in the photo and if I failed there would be no second chance. Finally, it was my turn. Proudly, I grabbed the blue ravenclaw scarf and walked toward the half luggage cart sticking out of the brick wall. Rummaging through the selection of fake wands, I had to make a quick decision. I saw the elder wand, Harry’s wand, Ron’s wand, Lucius’ wand, Hermione’s wand… but not Luna’s wand which I desperately searched for. Yes, I am a Harry Potter nerd, I already told you that, you just didn’t believe me. Choosing Hermione’s as a close second, I pointed it to the sign, the worker made my scarf blow in the wind and *snap* the picture was taken, scarf taken off, and another young wizard ushered into my spot. Well that was quick. Totally worth the 45 minute line though, I would have waited longer. DSC_6453After the photo, they had a Harry Potter shop full to the brim of merchandise. Obviously I wanted to buy every single thing but all the price tags were crazy expensive. I had to walk through the whole store, convincing myself I did not need £70 ravenclaw sweater. Not without difficulty, I made it to the end of the store to the cash registers to see my photo. Nervously, I looked at the photo assuming it would be absolutely terrible with me having my eyes closed or a double chin or basically anything ruining my one memento from being here. It was actually decent! Since it wasn’t dreadful, I bought the photo and went on my merry way.Platform934

Finally back on track to my airbnb, I had the most fun pretending to listen to music but actually intently listening to the English accents around me. Seriously, all week long I had the most fun listening to British accents and feigning my own accent in my head, it was bloody brilliant.

After dropping off some cumbersome items in my backpack, I headed back out to see the most remarkable crosswalk in the world. Turning the corner in Westminster, I came upon Abbey Road. The zebra stripes themselves were fairly insignificant, but knowing the Beatles were here and they recorded at the studio right across the street made these white lines extraordinary. A handful of tourists gathered around Abbey Road taking turns finding the perfect opportunity to cross traffic and capture the perfect photo. For some reason, I thought maybe the road would be blocked off or away from traffic but nope. Cars continuously streamed down the street, the drivers angrily honking at various tourists running into the oncoming traffic. Watching people take photos was deeply entertaining as they waited for an absence of cars, ran into the street and froze for a few seconds, then quickly bounded to the other side of the street. I stood at Abbey Road for entirely too long watching tourists getting honked at, kind of wishing I had someone to take a photo of me being an idiot in the middle of the street. A lone girl on the other side of the crosswalk looked as though she were thinking the same thing as I was. After a few minutes, I decided to run over and offer to take a photo of her if she would take one for me as well. It worked out perfectly. I love the fact that you can see the cars waiting for me to un-freeze and make it to the other end of the street in the photo. Yay for being an annoying tourist!9D8E7C74-F830-47F5-931A-5A7B35312E4A

While I was at Abbey Road, I made sure to FaceTime my grandma and my mom and show them where I was. I even walked across Abbey Road again so my Grandma could go with me(virtually) across the famous street. I love being able to share fun little experiences with my family back home. After Abbey Road, I walked toward Notting Hill but became utterly sidetracked when I saw a Chipotle on the horizon. Shining in all it’s splendor, Chipotle called to me. I love Chipotle, I eat it constantly when I’m home in America. I haven’t eaten my beloved burrito bowl in months. Honest to goodness, the amount of joy from seeing that Chipotle sign was way beyond the excitement I felt for Buckingham palace the day after, I know I’m ridiculous. Well, the day was basically over after eating so I headed back to my rented room to settle in for the night. Lovely first day in London. More to come when I have time in between exams/presentations!