Over the past week, it has become increasingly obvious that I need to accomplish more work in a day. So, I decided to go to London for the weekend.
Not exactly. I wouldn’t do that. I’ve had this trip planned for a while. And while it was at a bit of an inconvenient time with the school work I need to do, I was glad to be able to give my mind a break and enjoy the big city.
The big highlight of this trip was being able to meet up with my friends Mara, Michelle and Marissa, who from now on I will be referring to as the M&Ms. It was great to see them again and spend the weekend with them. It certainly made sightseeing more enjoyable having them around.
My journey started off to a grand start when the seat beside me on the train was empty the whole way there. I could spread out and stretch my legs. The train arrived at Kings Cross station, which is the iconic station that the Hogwarts Express leaves from every September, while also being a stunning building itself. Of course, I had to get a picture at platform 9 3/4 (which, for the record, is not three quarters of the way between stations 9 and 10, as well as not being where it appears in the movies). I met up with Michelle there and we made our way to the hostel.
Let me explain to you the hostel situation. There is St. Christopher’s Inn, which is a hostel. Within St. Christopher’s, there is Oasis, which is a female only hostel, where the M&Ms and I were staying. They had different addresses, but they were right beside each other, so I was on the lookout for St. Christopher’s Inn. We’re walking along the street and I think we’ve gone too far and somehow missed it, but then I see the sign in the distance. We arrive and the sign points us down an alley with picnic tables and numerous drunk men. I was starting to worry that the hostel was not everything that its website was claiming it was. We found the door, but it was locked and there was no way in despite being labeled “Entrance”. After searching around some more, we eventually call the hostel asking them what’s going on. Turns out there are two St. Christopher’s Inns on the same street. I can’t imagine why anybody would do this, especially when they’re run by the same company. So we back track and find the St. Christopher’s we’re supposed to be staying in. We met Marissa there (we wouldn’t go on to meet with Mara until Saturday evening).
Overall, the hostel was above my expectations. Everything was clean, people were polite, and the free breakfast was simple but good. There was a little bit of confusion with the beds because between the four of us we were staying three different numbers of nights, but it all worked out in the end. Apparently they have a location in Amsterdam as well, and I’m thinking I’ll stay there when I make my way over that way.
On Saturday, we spent the morning at the British Museum. We saw the Egyptian and Roman exhibits. Because there was a number of things we wanted to see, we didn’t stay super long. You could easily spend days in there though; time we didn’t have. We then headed over to Covent Garden Market. It was smaller than I remember it being (it’s been 7 years since I was last in London).
We stopped by St. Paul’s Cathedral, but it was raining so there wasn’t a lot of picture taking opportunities. We, as a group, had decided that we weren’t going to go into some of the places because of the cost to enter. We crossed over the Millennium Bridge and went to the Tate Modern. I had added the Tate Modern to the list just because it was nearby some of the other things we wanted to see, but it ended up being one of my favourite stops. A big instillation they have right now is called Empty Lot by Abraham Cruzvillegas. Each plant bed has soil from a different location (one was from Buckingham Palace Gardens). The plots are watered regularly and have sunlight, but nothing was planted them. The idea is that over the 6 months of the instillation, things would or wouldn’t grow based on what was in the soil. Some planters do have plants in them, while others are barren. And it just looked super cool. I was able to see a couple of Piet Mondrian pieces, which was very exciting. I also saw The Weeping Woman by Picasso, some Marilyn Monroe prints by Andy Warhol, and a Salvador Dali piece. They were all pieces that I had learned about in art history, so to see them in real life was exciting. I got the most excited about Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain. I had learned about this piece in art class as well, and it was the piece that really made me think about when something crosses the line into art (I’ve since decided that you can draw that line wherever you want). I was crushed when Marissa pointed out that it wasn’t the real Fountain. However, upon further reading on the plaque, I read that the original had been lost, and there are a very small number of recreations, which have been authorized by Duchamp. I felt a little better after that. And of course, as with every modern art gallery, you see your fair share of strange installations. Some to note include giant burlap oblong shapes scattered in a room, a cloth held up with branches, and a room filled with meters and meters of real human hair knotted together to create a rope. That one was a bit disturbing.
We then headed over to Leadenhall Markets, only to find that it’s closed on the weekends. So we took some pictures of the arcade, which was one of the reasons we went in the first place, and moved on. The Tower of London was the next stop. It was dark by this point, so we got some neat pictures of it with the spotlights on it. We then walked over Tower Bridge (not to be confused with London Bridge). That was exciting because my family hadn’t done that when we went.
After dinner, we went back to the hostel to meet up with Mara. We wanted to go to a bar where we could sit and chat without having to talk over lots of loud people. Along the way, Mara saw the Shard and decided we should go to the bar on the 32nd floor. We go in, get our bags scanned, up the elevator (which only stopped on the first and 32nd floor) and get rejected at the bar because of our attire. That didn’t surprise me, since we were dressed for sightseeing and not high end bars. I just wish they had said something at the building entrance. Regardless, I can now say I’ve been part way up the Shard and got a quick glance at the skyline while I was up there. We ended up just going to a lounge in a hotel and sitting and chatting for a couple hours. It was nice to catch up with the M&Ms.
On Sunday we went to Buckingham Palace to watch Changing the Guard. We went fairly early and got a spot just one row of people from the gates. One of the marching bands stopped right in front of us so we were able to get some photos of the marching band (as well as of the guards). There was one girl who’s job it was to hold the symbol for the snare drummer to hit. What a job.
We then went to Westminster Cathedral, which is not to be confused with Westminster Abbey, although they’re only about a block away from each other. There was a service going on when we got there, but we were still able to go up the tower and see the London skyline. That was really cool. You could get a 360 degree view. I might try and stitch my pictures together and create a panoramic picture. They had signs labelling some of the buildings. A MI6 building was labelled, but we couldn’t figure out which one it was (maybe it’s like that on purpose).
On our way to afternoon tea, we walked by Trafalgar Square, which was all blocked off. We asked a police man what was going on, and he said there’s filming for a WW1 scene going on. We couldn’t see a lot but through the cracks in the fence we saw people all done up in period costume and some old fashioned posters and flags. Turns out they were filming a scene for the new Wonder Woman movie! I’ll have to go see it for sure now.
We had afternoon tea at the Strand Palace Hotel. It was lovely. And as with last time I had afternoon tea, it was way too much food. The others really enjoyed it though.
Next stop was the Palace of Westminster, otherwise known as the parliament buildings, and Westminster Abbey. Fun fact, Big Ben is the name of the bell in the tower; the tower is called Elizabeth Tower, after the queen. The other (taller) tower is called Victoria Tower and stores historical documents and other records. The British government had been writing laws on vellum made of sheep skin for years because it lasts longer than archival paper. This year though, they were going to stop because it was costing them a lot of money. But then a different section of the government said, nope, we’ll take the money out of our own budget to continue the tradition. It costs them £80,000 a year.
Our last activity together was getting gelato, shaped like a flower. It was the most overpriced gelato I’ve ever eaten, but I’m saying it was worth it. It was delicious. You were allowed to get as many flavours as you wanted. We then split ways because Mara and Michelle had to catch their rides back to Liverpool. Marissa and I went to Piccadilly Circus, which I think is a little overrated. The only reason I was even interested in going was because a portion of the Sherlock intro had a shot showing Piccadilly Circus. Then we headed back to the hostel and called it a night.
Marissa had to catch a train at 9am in order to catch her flight back to Holland, so I had today to myself. I had been hoping to go to the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, but they’re closed on Mondays. I walked by Royal Albert Hall and spent a brief moment in Kensington Gardens. Then I went to the Science Museum. It had some neat stuff, but I felt like I couldn’t enjoy it because I didn’t have a lot of time to look at it all. They did have an interesting exhibit called “Who Am I?” that looked at the science of humans and how it impacts things like appearance, memory, fears and sexuality. I was particularly interested in an interview between “patient PM” and a scientist. PM had very bad epilepsy and had his hippocampus removed to try and help it. I’m not exactly sure how that connection was made, but the hippocampus is the part of the brain that helps us form memories. After this operation, PM couldn’t create memories and/or lacked the ability to remember. The scientist he was talking with had known him for 30 years, but he never remembered her. She would ask him questions like what day is it or how long have you been having memory problems. He stated that he thought he’d been having memory problems for about a year when it had really been much longer than that. He was one off in guessing the month, but he was able to get the year right.
After the Science Museum I headed to the one spot that I knew I wanted to visit while in London: 221B Baker St. There’s a museum in the house, but it was £15 to get in and I wasn’t willing to pay that kind of money. Besides, when I had been researching visiting 221B, I found someone’s video of their trip through the museum. So I’ve seen it anyways 😝 But I got a picture of the door and the street sign, and now I can say I’ve visited 221B Baker St.
Then it was back to Kings Cross to catch my train, where once again I had an empty seat next to me. I’ve been spoiled. From now on, lots of hard work to catch up on all the time I could’ve been working but instead spent minding the gap.