Alright, here's the deal - I've been meaning to post all week but I've been sick, busy and exhausted so now that we've decided NOT to travel this weekend at all (best decision ever) I can actually post and feel like I'm using my time well. I'm going to do this in an easy format: 1 blog for London, 1 for Ireland and 1 for Scotland. Enjoy!
London Day 1: 14 February 2008
We arrived in London around 11pm and checked into The County Hotel - maybe the worst hotel ever. The rooms were literally 6 feet by 12 feet. Too small. We got the worst continental breakfast ever even though they had eggs and sausages literally an inch away. It was sad. Once we got there and settled we went out and got money (no service charge! YAY!) and bought food. Then we went to bed because we knew the week ahead was going to be very long.
London Day 2: 15 February 2008
The next morning we woke up, got breakfast and met in the hotel at 9:30 where we were divided into groups for our walking tour of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. Once we got into our groups we took the TUBE which I adore and went and looked at big ben, the bell not the clock, and the Houses of Parliament. We then stood on a bridge in the cold and the wind and listened to a lecture about the Houses of Parliament for way too long. We then walked over to Buckingham Palace and watched a bit of the changing of the guards. It was really different than it was during the summer - they were all in gray coats and their winter gear. Jenn, Sara, Zander and I broke off with Rob Dukers, one of the professors and went back towards the tube. We went and got lunch at an adorable cafe before we met up with the group again to go visit the British Museum. The British museum was really cool - sadly we were all exhausted and we really didn't care to stand around and listen to people talk about art. We did get to see some really cool things though and the building was amazing. The Rosetta Stone was really cool and the Egyptian exhibit was really interesting. After our guided tour we got to wander for a bit and then we returned to the hotel. That night I met up with Briony, my babysitter when I was about 6. Briony moved to Edinburgh 10 years ago and I hadn't seen her since. It was really great to see her, we went to an excellent little pub on the River. I then met up with some of my friends and we went out to Camden Town and hung out at a couple of pubs and a club.
London Day 3: 16 February 08
After another crappy breakfast we met up with Ralph Trost - professor of history at the castle - and went to the Imperial War Museum. It was a group of about 16 of us and it was the first activity we had gotten to sign up for. We wandered through the museum and Ralph taught us a lot about Europe's role in all of the major wars. We then went through an amazing/depressing Holocaust exhibit that was sad but beautifully put together. After we finished at the museum we went out and got lunch and met up with everyone at the Trafalgar Square Fountains. From here another group of about 14 of us went to the Tate Modern Museum with Allard Koers who works at the cultural institute of London. He was really well informed which was awesome and although we were exhausted we got to see a ton of really cool pieces of art. I love modern art so this was an excellent place to visit.
London Day 4: 17 February 08
Sunday was our only free day - so I arranged to meet up with a friend from middle school, Caroline, who lives outside of London. We met up around noon and walked all over London shopping. It was really cool to see her because it's been quite some time. We went to Top Shop - a really fantastic British store that has all sorts of adorable clothes. We also visited Covent Gardens and watched all the street performers. After returning to the Hotel for a bit we walked to Kings Cross Station and took our picture with the trolley at Platform 9 3/4. It was really fun. Her sister Katherine came in and met us and we got dinner before Caroline caught her train home.
London Day 5: 18 February 08
Monday began VERY early - 4:30 am to be exact when we woke up to a fire alarm going off in the building. The entire building was evacuated and all the Emerson students were really annoyed to say the least. The best part about it was the smoke was coming from the 7th floor - where no Emerson kids had rooms - and the next day one of the other customers blamed us for setting off the fire alarm. Great. Thanks. It's always the kids isn't it?
After ANOTHER delicious breakfast of bread and jam we divided into small groups and went to Westminster Abbey. My guide, Adriano Aymonino was a guest lecturer from Italy who happened to be studying one of the Aristocratic families buried in Westminster. He was really well informed and knew so much about the Abbey and the architecture. Westminster Abbey is one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic/neo-gothic architecture I've ever seen. It blew my mind to see all of the incredible arches and columns. One of the highlights was definitely standing on Charles Darwin's grave - I wrote an enormous paper on Darwin and the Catholic Church my senior year of high school so getting to see his tomb was awesome - especially since it's in a CHURCH. After Westminster I looked around for Laura and Allison but our tour had run long so I met up with Sara, Jenn, Emma and Billy and we took a bus to Victoria station and got lunch at a cute little sandwich place. We then took the tube to Harrod's and wandered around the food area and all the beautiful clothes. We decided that we were going to get cookies which was the best choice ever - I got a dark chocolate chip cookie for 90p and it was SO delicious. We then went back to the hotel to meet up with the guides for our walking tours. Laura, Allison and I signed up for the Jack the Ripper Walking tour and walked around for 2 hours learning about where and how Jack the Ripper killed 5 prostitutes in the 1880s. It was interesting but in retrospect I kind of wish I'd signed up for the London of Dickens and Shakespeare so I could have seen the Globe Theatre...but whatever. We then went back to the Hotel and hung out with people and had a couple of drinks in the Lobby - not wanting to over exert ourselves seeing as we were leaving for Dublin the next day.
London Day 6 - 19 February 08
After breakfast and check out we met up with Dulcia Meijers - the Greatest woman ever to live (she runs the castle program and basically when I grow up I want to be her. She's so euro-chic and chill it's ridiculous) and we headed off to the Tower of London. Even though I'd already been to the Tower of London I remember it was really cool and I knew I had to go back to get a video of the Ravens for Audrey because I deleted it along with all the other pictures of London when we were there in 2005. We spent about 2 hours at the Tower of London before grabbing Subway and Ben and Jerry's - a great American lunch - and running to catch a train to the airport to fly to Dublin.
Overall I adored London. I think that when I graduate from college I might try to get a job with the BBC or something and move to London for a couple of years. I really like the city - everything about it, even rush hour. I can't wait to go back.
Now let's move on to Ireland!