Day 180, 181, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188 & 189
London, our last city in Europe (still can't believe I'm saying that), finished off Europe in the perfect way. We managed to do a little bit of everything we had done through Europe. We toured, we partied, we met people, we shopped, we went to events, we went to shows, we obviously ate and even ventured out of town for a night. The only thing that we didnt seem to do was hit the beach but in the UK that isn't really an option. It was our Europe trip summed up into 10 long days. We were so busy all the time it felt like we were there for much longer than just a week and a half.
Now getting to London was one of the more enjoyable journeys we had throughout Europe. Coming from snowboarding it was an easy train and then a bus to get to Munich. From Munich we took our first ever Ryanair flight which turned out to be the funniest flight we had ever been on. Before we even had taken off people were in hysterics as someone on the plane reassured our flight attendant named Jesus that did indeed love him. The joke did wear off however when we realized there were two attendant that had the same name. The laughs didn't stop there though as on landing there was a scary yet somewhat funny announcement. As we touched town horns were played through the speakers and an announcement that we were yet another Ryanair flight to land safely and on time was heard. People laughed wondering how much it would suck to be the people that don't hear that announcement.
Now knowing that London was packed with attractions one would think that touring it would be fantastic. We could not of been more wrong with our last free walking tour being one of the worst tours we had done. Maybe we were just over tours, maybe we had higher expectations for a town like London but for some reason the tour didn't rock like all the others did. It did show us all the main highlights though, including Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament house, Trafalgar square, Hyde Park, Green Park, Churchill's war rooms and 10 Dowling Street. Not all the tours in London were bad though. On one of our last evenings we did the Grim Reaper tour through the east side of London. It showed us the dirty side of town telling us about ye olde London with public executions, Jack the ripper, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the Black Plague and more. It made us love London again with one of the more charismatic guides we have had throughout Europe leading us. We also did venture out the one day to see the famous changing of the guards. We got there late yet still managed to get a above average view. We saw the soldiers march, play with their gun, turn around and then march again. The funniest part was when they started playing ceremonial music which somehow turned into theme songs of tv shows. It wasn't at all what I expected and came across as more of a battle of the bands than a military exercise. to be honest it did drag on for ages and we got pretty bored halfway. We stuck it out to the end but for anyone who is going it doesn't really get much better. I'm glad we went and saw it but I don't see why so many people flock to it everyday.
Markets were a big thing in London with us going to one almost every day. We had our local food Market up the road from us called Borough Market that sold the best meat pies we have had in 6 months. They also sold the best cheesecake with berries on top that I must of had every time we went there. Camden markets was definitely one of my favourites being the indiest markets in the world. They sold the coolest stuff there but it was all ridiculously priced. What impressed me so much though was a shop there called cyberdog which felt like a rave from the minute you walked in. Music was blazing, everything was glowing or in bright neon colours and all the staff were wearing the craziest outfits. Each floor was packed with stuff from moon dresses to rave glasses and everything in between. There was also the infamous bottom floor that we were urged by Mr Goldberg and Alexander to go to. But I will leave that one as a surprise for anyone who decides to venture there themselves. The famous Portobello markets was a bit disappointing for us as we went there looking for something we couldn't have. Zac and Aid had informed us that the best burgers around were sold at a place called Banger Bros right in the middle of Portobello. Yet on arrival we found it closed with a sign in the window telling us it was for good. With no burgers the whole place became a bit of a drag. We weren't able to get what we wanted and no amount of markets were going to fix that. Brick Lane known for it's Indian food also had a decent market that we walked around on our last day. Whilst we didn't get the best Indian the Market itself was lots of fun, selling stuff we hadn't seen before. Things really got interesting when I asked about a price on a rubiks cube necklace and was instead offered a challenge. After initially being given the price of 5 quid she reduced to 3 after telling me it wasn't solved. Excited by the prospect of getting something cheaper that I could easily fix I was about to say yes when she offered me a challenge I couldn't refuse. She stated that if I could solve the cube in less than 5 minutes, I could have it for free. She didnt know who she was messing with. 5 minutes later I walked away with a cube in my hand and 5 pound still in my wallet.
In London we even got some culture into us visiting west end not once, not twice but three times. On one of our first nights we saw Wicked the musical which absolutely rocked my world. It was funny, the music was brilliant and the way it fit in with the Wizard of Oz was so well done. I could of seen it again and again but there were other shows to be seen and it wasn't the cheapest experience ever. The next night was quite the disappointment with us seeing Thriller, a Michael Jackson show. It was very bad with most of the actors and actresses being able to only sing or dance and not both. They also performed the songs in a very unMichael fashion which was not what we were expecting. We were looking for something along the lines of his This is it concert but got something that couldn't have been further from it. Luckily for us we did pay for three shows and the third saved our opinion on the west end. We wrapped it up with a show we had been recommended to go to called Rock of Ages. Following the story of a young rocker trying to make it in Hollywood in the eighties it was the funniest thing I had seen in a while. We laughed from the minute it started to the minute it ended. It made us want to go to more West End shows but we seemed to be running out of time and of course money.
Shopping in London was something else, taking all preconceptions of what we thought was good shopping and blowing them out of the water. We spent hours and hours in stores like Hamleys, Ferrari, MnM, H&M, Nike, Quicksilver and even a giant panda emporium. We went up and down Regent street which was completely decked out for Christmas and anywhere else we could find shopping in the city. Hands down my favourite place was Hamleys Toy Store which was 5 floors of happiness. The place was always packed with people playing with the toys making it hard for us to resist a second and third visit.
Food in London was very up and down for us as we found places we loved and others we didn't. As I said before we were disappointed by Banger Bros which closed a couple days prior to our arrival but were very happy with the meat pies we found up the road. The Indian on Brick Lane that is famous was very average yet we an amazing burger place on our second last night after our Grim Reaper tour. We had been looking forward to Nandos ever since we had been told it existed in London. 6 months without decent grilled chicken really makes you miss a Peri Peri Burger. However it too was a disappointment not living up to Australian standards that we are used to at all. I guess for London food you just have to know where to go. If we stayed there a bit longer I'm sure we would of had the whole place down but nonetheless we gave it a good go.
This being our last shared dorm room (thank god) we were keen to embrace the backpacker experience and make lots of friends with the people sleeping around us. Funnily enough we made lots of friends, yet not a single one happened to be from our dorm. Chris, our Aussie friend who we met in Brussels happened to be in London for what was supposed to be just one night. Yet by the time we were meant to leave he had changed his plans several times and spent nine of the 10 days we were there, hanging out with us. He only ended up leaving the day before we did because I guess we are just that cool. We also met Chris' friend Kate who he met on Contiki and ended up going out with all of us. For a good week the five of us bearly left each others sides. It was like we were back in our five again. We also caught up with friends we had made in Budapest from the Netherlands and managed to go out for a drink with them. Rachel, Zara's friend from when she lived in England was a huge part of our trip with us seeing her a good two times whilst we were there. She took us to a pub the first time we caught up to watch the Spurs take on Sunderland which unfortunately ended in defeat for Rach's team Tottenham. We hung out with her the entire night that night, as we trekked to her house about 30 minutes out of London in a small town called Radlett. We chilled with Nintendo 64, pool and some foosball and had a very relaxed night with her. Our second meeting wasnt so relaxed as we headed out to Watford, hitting the clubs with her and her friends. We had a great night as it was Vodka Red Bull night at the bar and ended up crashing at hers that night. We also spent majority of the next day there too recovering from our night before. She was so much fun to hang out with an gave us a side to London most tourists wouldn't see. Thank you Rach, it wouldn't have been the same without you. :)
Nightlife was also huge for us in London going out almost every night we could. We went to pubs, bars and clubs and found so many different places that were absolutely awesome. From casual beers at pubs like all the British do to predrinks at bars we certainly had a lot of fun. Clubs were out of this world too with us going to The Piccadilly Institute, Zoo, Avenue, Area... The list goes on. Taking advantage of late night Mcdonalds and all night buses we rarely came home early.
London was definitely the perfect place to wrap up our trip, combining everything we did in Europe into one big city. We had the best time and couldn't have thought of anywhere better to have ended. our 5 month long escapade of this glorious continent. It's sad to say goodbye to Europe but we really gave it a good go. I'm sure we will be back very soon but for now we are heading back to Asia.
Bring it on Thailand.