London Bridges Falling Down
Trip Start Feb 07, 2008
21Trip End May 08, 2008
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Our flight was out of Dusseldorf, Germany so we took a two and a half hour train ride to the airport only to find out that we went to the wrong airport!! RyanAir, being the cheap airline it is, has it's own airport that is approximately 75 kilometers away from the International airport which every other airline flies out of--so we quickly ran out to get a taxi to the other airport hoping that we could still catch our flight
After figuring out where and when to meet the girls in London via facebook and changing our flight for early the next morning we prepared ourselves for an exciting night of sleeping in the airport. Kristina and Jake luckily thought of taking a shuttle bus into the nearest town, Kevelaer and grabbing a few needed beers and some pizza which lightened the mood immensely. Michealangelo's, the pizza place we went to was very accommodating, and even though their sign said they closed at 11pm, they let us stay and drink with them until about midnight when our shuttle bus was supposed to pick us up. They didn't speak much English, but they were pretty entertained by us silly Americans (Kevelaer apparently doesn't get too many tourists). We did get to chat it up with our driver Harry who was very nice and shared a lot of touching personal stories about his late wife and really helped us put everything into perspective and be thankful that we are experiencing this great trip even if we have a few stitches in our plan like missed flights or cranky airport workers
After about 3 hours of the most uncomfortable sleep I've experienced, we checking in two hours early for our flight departing at 7am on Friday morning-we weren't missing this one!! The actual flight only took about 45 minutes and with the time change we set foot in the London airport at about 7am ready to take on the day. Another 45 minute train ride into the city later, Kristina & Jake and I set foot in different directions as I was supposed to meet my travel group at Buckingham Palace at 11am. That Friday morning when I got to walk around London and enjoy all the beautiful St. James Park may have been my favorite part of this trip. It was nice just to have some alone time and to just sit and enjoy some natural beauty instead of listening to the hustle and bustle of airports, trains, and city streets. It was a little chilly and drizzly (typical London weather), but as long as I kept walking and kept my umbrella from flipping inside out I was just fine. I got to Buckingham Palace about an hour and half before the changing of the guards and found a small crowd already claiming their spot for the ceremony. I didn't want to stand by myself, so I found another nice park called Green Park-again, it was so nice to just soak in all the green-ness and listen to the birds chirping in the crisp morning air.
When I finally returned to Buckingham Palace I was greeted by hundreds of people all huddled together trying to get a glimpse of the guards with the tall furry hats in front of the palace...then it hit me-how in the world would I ever find my friends in this huge mass of tourists??? As you may have noticed in almost all of my pictures I am always sporting my bright pink coat and London wasn't any different. I figured that they would be looking for me as well so I just kept walking in circles around the palace hoping that one of them would spot me...no luck
The girls had met up with Lauren's cousin Katie, who lives in London, the night before and she so nicely offered to give us a personal tour of the great city. She is a History major so she had all sorts of interesting stories to tell us about all the sites that we were seeing. Sadly, I had to carry my backpack all day since the girls had already checked into our hostel which was all the way across town, but I didn't care at the moment, I was just glad to be with them! We accomplished a lot in the hours to follow and since I think this blog is going to be a long one anyways, I will just list what we all saw on Friday: The London Eye (huge ferris wheel), Big Ben (clock/bell tower), Buckingham Palace, Parliament Square, The National Art Gallery, St. Paul's Cathedral, Shakespeare's Globe Theater, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, London Tower, and the original London City Wall. We also got to see a lot of the subway system of London (they call it the "tube").
We got pretty worn out with all the sightseeing so we headed to our hostel where we got a free drink upon check-in and man that drink was well needed (I assure you I am not an alcoholic, but you must understand that this is European culture and stressful times-such as missing flights and not finding your friends in a large crowd-can really drive a girl to drink a couple brewskies ;) )
On Saturday we decided to do a bus tour outside of London since we had seen so much of the city already and where else would we go besides Stonehenge? Yeah, really, we went to Stonehenge!
After Stonehenge we climbed back on the bus and headed to the town of Bath where the Roman Baths were located. I hadn't really heard much about these before arriving in the town but they were really impressive. The Roman Baths were actually natural hot springs (just like Hot Springs, SD) were people of every age would come to be healed
Saturday night we met up with another group of students in our program who were also in London for the weekend and I got to see Kristina and Jake again only this time it was under much better circumstances. That night we stayed with Lauren's cousin who lives in London and Jen and I got to share a twin air mattress on the floor of her dorm room...can't say that I had the most comfortable sleep that weekend, but it was a free night of sleep so I guess I can't complain!
Sunday morning was really relaxing and we just walked around the Picadilly Circus area of London and window shopped at all the really expensive stores like Gucci, Dior, Burberry, Prada, pretty much any famous designer that we never ever see in South Dakota. Time kind of got away from us at a couple stores and we ended up missing the bus that we needed to catch to get to the London airport in time for check-in, so we all were pretty stressed out on the next 2-hour bus ride as we inched through the crazy traffic. I was not going to miss another flight, so as soon as those bus doors opened I bolted!! We all sprinted into the airport and found our check-in counter with about 5 minutes to spare...phew!! And because all our adrenaline levels were so high, we didn't stop to think that after you check in, the flight won't leave without you so we proceeded to sprint through the ENTIRE airport, heaving, pushing and sweating like mad women only to find that they hadn't even started boarding the plane yet....
I really enjoyed London and I am really glad that I got to experience it, even through all the little setbacks I had, but when I sat next to the window on the plane and watched London disappear in the distance I was really happy to be going home to Maastricht. One more country to cross of my list of places to go and some great memories that weren't so great at the time, but are hilarious to talk about now!