Last Wednesday I arrived in London late at night and took an EasyBus in to the city center. I met up with my friend Alex just in time to catch the metro back to her place. Since it was already past midnight and I was exhausted, we grabbed a snack and went to sleep. On Thursday we got up, had some breakfast, then went on a Sandeman´s New Europe tour of the city center. Although the tour guide was a little wacko, the tour was great since we got to see a bunch of London highlights and learn a bit about the city´s history, especially royal history.
The tour started in Hyde Park by a bunch of memorials, then continued on to Buckingham palace. The flag was flying to indicate that the queen was at home, and we learned a bit about Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. We continued on to the palaces where Prince Charles residence is, and there we got to watch the changing of the guards which takes place every 2 hours. Although the guards were members of the infantry, Alex and I couldn´t get over how young they looked! They were probably 18 years old, and still had baby faces. But they took their job very seriously and wore their huge bear hats with pride.
After that, we continued down the road lined with British flags towards Trafalgar Square in the center of London. Trafalgar Square is where the National Gallery is, as well as the home of some foreign embassies. Also in the square is a big count down, with the days, minutes, and seconds until the London Olympic Games. After seeing the Square we saw the Horse Guards Parade and 10 Downing Place. The big highlights were towards the end of the tour, when we stopped outside of Westminster Abbey and the London Parliament Houses. Both of these places are absolutely stunning from the outside. I would love to see the inside one day, but due to limited funds and limited time, I didn´t get to go inside on this trip. We got a good view of Big Ben in the tower of the Parliament House, with the London Eye ferris wheel looming in the distance, then we took the metro back towards Holborn, where Alex lives.
We were both starved so we headed to a place called Itsy for fast and health Asian food. I got a delicious chicken rice bowl and we decided to follow it up with a trip to Patisserie Valerie, where I enjoyed a delicious strawberry cake. We walked around the shopping area close by her apartment, close to Covent Gardens, and then we decided to go to the National Portrait Gallery. I really liked the portrait gallery because of the many unique portraits displayed there. The gallery included portraits from the 16th century of royalty, up to recent years. The older portraits were stunning, using vivid colors and romanticized the features of those painted. The more recent portraits were impressive, with tiny brush strokes the arts created almost exact likenesses of those painted, several I at first mistook for being photographs!
After the Portrait Gallery, we made dinner at Alex´s apartment and went to bed to get ready for day 2 of sight-seeing in London. In the morning, Alex headed to turn in a paper and hit the gym, and I walked to the National Gallery. On my way there, I stopped into the box office and purchased tickets to see Singin in the Rain – it was only 15 pounds for balcony seats that night and it looked like a great production! I absolutely loved the National Gallery! It´s extensive collection of paintings is incredibly impressive. I wish I could remember all of the famous paintings I saw, but there were just so many! I really enjoyed the detailed flower paintings by Dutch artists, the equestrian paintings, and the Impressionist paintings by artists like Monet. I´m sure I didn´t see all of the paintings in the museum because it was just so large, but I did get a great sample. When I left the museum, there were tons of people watching street performers in Trafalgar Square. I continued back to meet up with Alex and we grabbed lunch at a cafe on her campus, the London School of Economics. We had a quick lunch, then got on the metro and headed to Camden Town.
Once there, we explored market after market. I couldn´t believe how many different market stalls were set up! It was incredible! The whole area was super cute, although a little too crowded. Alex and I relaxed by stopping at a stall with those fish that eat off dead skin. We soaked our feet in the water with the fish for about 20 minutes. Our feet were definitely softer afterwards, but not quite as if we´d had a pedicure. We saw so many different things for sale, and enjoyed some snacks while we browsed. Then, we headed back to her place to change and get ready for Singin in the Rain!
It was a short walk from her place to the theater. Our seats were way up high, but that was okay because it was an interesting perspective. I really liked the production, it was extremely well cast and was a lot of fun to watch. The best part was when they flooded the stage and the cast sang Singin in the Rain towards the end, twirling umbrellas that were silver on top and had color on the inside. The production was almost 3 hours long, including a 20 minute intervention, and was a very fun experience. After the show, we stopped by a famous Fish and Chips place and I got some Haddock & Chips. Most definitely one of the best fish & chips I´ve ever had, seasoned with some sea salt and vinegar, of course! By then it was late, so we got some rest in order to get up and get going on Saturday…