Dear beloved readers, sorry for having taken so long to write about my most recent trip to London, England. As many of you know, I am now back home in Virginia and have begun my summer internship. So it is an understatement to say things have been busy around here. But I promise the following entry is well worth the wait!
Wednesday, May 25th: So long Spain, Hello London. I said goodbye to my host family the night before I left. But my host mom, the family member I grew closest to, bid me farewell on my actual day of departure. I wrote her a note in Spanish describing my gratitude for our time together and sadness about leaving. And so with a letter in her hand and a tear in her eye, Eloisa waved goodbye to me. But I was not going home just yet! I took myself, my backpack, and two large suitcases to the Granada bus station, took a bus to Sevilla, a bus to the Sevilla airport, and a flight to Heathrow. A very difficult task when wheeling and carrying everything you own under the hot Andalucian sun... but hey, I'm young. I managed.
And there she was! My dear friend Shefali Lamba. It was so good to see her again. And it was as if no time had passed between us at all. I knew these next few days were going to be marvelous. Shefali attends King's College and lives in a dorm in Russell Square, so we took the tube back to her room to drop off my things. I promptly met her geographically eclectic group of friends. Three from England, one from Australia, one from Germany, and another from Slovenia. We enjoyed some drinks and games in her room, then headed off to the "Walkabout" in Temple. The rest of the night was spent dancing, chatting, and walking back to Shefali's dorm to take my much earned sleep.
Thursday, May 26th: Tea and scones. We began our day with Patisserie Valerie at Brunswick Centre, a five minute walk from Shefali's dorm. After sharing a pot of tea and scrumptious scones, we ventured out on the town. The Piccadilly tube line took us to Parliament and Big Ben, we crossed over Westminster bridge, saw the London Eye, Westminster Abbey (where Kate and Will wed), and the Supreme Court. Inside we attended a hearing and the men actually wore white wigs. But after realizing the subject was rather uninteresting, we left. Outside there was a curious statue of former President Lincoln. Why? I haven't a clue. As we continued, the clouds decided to rain on our parade around the city so we stepped into a pub aptly named Wetherspoons. I had coffee and tea cakes. The easiest way for me to describe this food is if an english muffin and a hamburger bun had a baby, this would be it. Complete with jam, it's a delectable snack. The rain let up a little so we headed to one of the grandest sites of all - Buckingham Palace. While we were here Princess Anne left in her sleek black car, guards and all. But the rain was only getting angrier. We ran over to the tube line near the National Gallery where there was an Olympic Countdown sign because the next one is in London. Back to Russell Square to dry off a bit before the evening's festivities. That night we went to a modern and classy bar called [email protected] in Trafalgar Square for a birthday dinner. I had a drink called "Arizona Cooler".
Friday, May 27th: Day of Decadence. Today I woke up leisurely, showered in the hall bathroom, and ate breakfast in the dorm's cafeteria downstairs. Shefali, her friends, and I skipped down to the Hummingbird Bakery to choose a cupcake for our picnic, mine being red velvet with cream cheese icing. We walked to Hyde Park, found a shady tree, and began to devour. While we lounged, a dog ran over to our group with a stick in its mouth. I took the stick and threw it across the lawn. Not five minutes later another dog came over with a tennis ball in its mouth. We threw this as well and the dog ran back wanting more. We played with these dogs while finishing our treats, but after a while decided to continue with our site seeing. We stopped by a large Grecian statue decked with gold then passed Royal Albert Hall. Onto Knightsbridge, where I was told we were visiting the department store Harrods. I had never heard of Harrods before visiting London, but it is a place I will never forget. This is not your run of the mill store with linens on the right and TVs on the left. No, Harrods is something much grander. When I first entered this palatial edifice, I was dazzled by the vaulted ceilings, chandeliers, and gold embroidered everything. I strolled into the next room where there was a small village of sweets and candies. If you wanted anything from hazelnut truffles to a £6,000, five-foot, pink icing cake, they had it. Inside there are fancy switch back escalators, overlooked by balconies with plastic models in designer clothes. I heard beautiful opera music playing, only to realize it was coming from a live opera singer standing on a balcony, blue sparkling gown and all. We saw the pet village where you could buy puppies, bunnies, and other fluffy things. We passed through the Salvador Dali art gallery where there was an actual life size couch of the lips from his Mae West painting. This place just blew me away. I heard a story that in the 1980s Ronald Reagan asked for an elephant from Harrods. The employee's response was, "African or Indian, sir?"
For dinner it was a vegetarian restaurant on Regent Street called Tibits. The place was buffet style with a twist. Instead of paying one fee for unlimited food, the waiter weighs your plate and charges you based on this number. In a way, you are both allowed and prevented from having as much food as you want. But no matter, it was a delicious selection. Now, before I came to London, Shefali had scored us tickets to a show for only £25, which is quite a steal for the West End. So we finished our day of decadence with a viewing of The Wizard of Oz in the Palladium Theater. Absolutely spectacular! The female lead had a voice that melted you like butter. The characters were colorful, much like its sets of Oz and Emerald City. The play even had the wicked witch of the east flying on her broomstick right over our heads. I bought a program as a souvenir to remember this night in years to come.
Saturday, May 28th: Ambling. Every Saturday in London there is a large outdoor market held called Portobello Market. The streets are lined with tents, tables, trinkets, and tchotchkes. The avenues host clothing stores with styles from every decade, novelty shops, book stores, coffee shops, and organic juice bars. While walking I stopped to listen to the Ryan O'Reily Band. I really liked their sound because it reminded me of something, then I realized this was the same band my friend Emily had seen when she went to London. She let me borrow her CD of them and I recognized their songs! We spent a long time at the market, browsing, reading, touching, and gawking. But I didn't buy anything except some tea in a cute white and blue coffee shop playing Jack Johnson music. After the market we stopped in St. Paul's Cathedral and listened to some singing during a service. We walked down Fleet Street where I saw a barber shop! Note to self - never get a shave and a hair cut there. Our last stop of the day was the Maughan Library, the place where many King's College students go to study. Unfortunately, some students hadn't finished their finals yet and were still hunched over their large textbooks, learning away. Fun fact - do you remember Dumbledore's office in the Harry Potter movies? Well, there is a room in this library called the round room that was used in the filming of Dumbledore's office! So I got to see some of the set of Harry Potter. Shefali and I decided to call it a day and headed back to Russell Square. We stopped at the pasta bar Fastoche, carried our take out to her dorm, and spent the evening watching Glee, Babies, and Youtube.
Sunday, May 29th: Home again home again. I woke up with a strange feeling in my stomach. I was leaving to go home, so I was happy, but I was leaving Europe, one of the greatest adult playgrounds on Earth. I felt a mixture of excitement and premature nostalgia. We stopped at Patisserie Valerie once more then headed towards Heathrow. After wishing Shefali farewell, I took my flight with a layover in Iceland, then continued onto Washington Dulles. Who better to greet me at the other end then my own brother, Michael! We happily hugged and drove to the Reston Town Center for some dinner. Ah! The pleasures of an American restaurant, how I missed thee. Once at the house, I walked up to my room and laid eyes on my clean, white, fluffy bed and plopped face down in the middle. Home.
Shout outs of today's blog go to:
Shefali: Thank you for being such an amazing and best friend. London would never have been as much fun without you! You are a wonderful tour guide (of a double decker bus? what?), terrific company, great conversationalist and listener, and, of course, have the best sense of humor. I miss you Navaho Prep and cannot wait until we see each other again!
Michael: Thank you for picking me up from the airport and treating me to dinner! What a lovely way to come home.
My friends in Spain: I miss you all very much and look forward to when we see each other again. Qué viva España!
All of my readers: Thank you for keeping up with me and my European adventures. I loved reading your comments and being reminded of home every once in a while.
Mom: you win the Rambling Rachel award for the Biggest Fan! You by far have left me the most comments and messages, and I loved reading every one of them. Thank you!
Hasta la próxima,