London: For Queen & Country
Trip Start Jan 19, 2012
23Trip End Jun 04, 2012
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We had to take a bus from the Luton airport to the heart of London where our hotel was located. Originally we were supposed to stay with a friend from Chico, but unfortunately his apartment was too small and he had work those days we were there. Nonetheless we arrived in the Hyde park area which along with Kinsington park make up the largest of the Royal Parks. My first impressions of London were that it was extremely clean and had a lot of greenery compared to the other cities I have visited here. We decided to walk though the park and explore a little before we would start the journey that is finding our hotel. In order to get to the actual park however, we had to take the "Tube", the English version of the metro. The London metro was incredibly expansive and literally covered almost the entire city, including some outlying areas. However, the train cars in the metro were very small and crammed in comparison to that of Prague's. My best description for the cars would be vertically discriminating, I am not extraordinarily tall, but even I was hitting my head on the hand rails along the ceiling.
Hyde Park was very beautiful and provided a venue for a variety of activities that people could divulge in. There were people running throughout the park, a couple of exercise and yoga classes taking place, as well as a man made lake for boating activities and an expansive horse riding trail. It was formerly the Home of Princess Dianna, who lived in Kinsington Palace, which was also located in the Park. After about an hour or so of walking throughout the park, and still no idea to where our hotel was located Kinsey and I began to search for a map, which we probably should have done before we left for London. After quite a bit more walking we eventually were able to go into another hotel and get directions to our hotel. We stayed at the Grand Royale Hotel, which boarders Hyde Park. The Hotel was antique in style but very nice and well kept, it was almost as if I was going back in time when I stepped inside. Luckily for us we found a deal online so we only paid a fraction of the price that they usually charge for a room there.
After we settled in we got ready to meet our friend Donald from Chico who is studying abroad in London for the semester. We took the Tube to the part of London that has all the nightlife. We ended up going to 3 bars/pubs in the area. The first pub we went to was very busy and had a live band playing in the bottom level of the 3 story establishment. After that we went to the Brewdog bar. Brewdog is a brand of Scottish beer that is very good and has high alcohol content levels, it is quite good for anyone that likes dark beers. The last bar we went to was not really that good as they had horrible beer on tap, and none of us wanted to spend 3 pounds, or about 5 dollars for crappy beer. After we made the group decision to go and get Kebaps, unfortunately they were not as good as the ones that I had in Germany, however after a couple of drinks they were the perfect greasy, spicy food that one craves for. With that we called it a night and took the bus back to the hotel.
The next day we decided that we wanted to take a hop-on hop-off double decker bus tour of the city. The whole tour cost 24 pounds, which is quite expensive, but it included a river boat tour and would last 24 hours so we would be able to use it for the 2 remaining days we were in London. we started the tour around 12 and rode the bus until around 4 in the afternoon, all the while taking in the beautiful and extremely historic city that London is. We saw all the major sights as well as some that were off the beaten track. It was very nice to have someone explain the history and significance of the buildings we were seeing that we would never had known about if we tried to see all the same sights ourselves.We were also able to take the free boat tour which took us along the main river that flows through London and get a great view from the water. One thing that I noticed fairly quickly about London was the large amount of expensive cars that were seemingly everywhere. It was not uncommon to see a Rolls Royce followed by a Ferrari and three minutes later see two Astin Martins. It really was awesome to see so many nice cars, although it was odd seeing the driver on the right side in stead of the left. After a full day of sightseeing we returned to the hotel and took a small break before heading out that night to get some traditional Fish and Chips at a Pub. Luckily for us there was quite a good variety of Pubs and restaurants located near our hotel. We found one with decent prices (for London) and had a good meal. After dinner we were pretty tired so we decided to shop around for a few souvenirs before heading back and calling it a night. Everyone that studies abroad usually finds some personal way to remember where they have gone, I am doing two things that I think are pretty unique and should turn out cool at the end. I am collecting a coaster from every bar/pub/restaurant that I go to in the hopes of creating a massive collage and putting it in a picture frame when I return State side. I am also getting a flag from every country that I go to, in the hopes of being able to cover the walls of my house of draping them from the ceiling at my house in Chico. Both ideas are relatively simple and cheap compared to some of the other things that people are doing, and its a lot easier to bring home coasters and flags then beer cups and breakables.
The last day in London was very interesting and productive, Kinsey and I again got on the bus tour and headed for Buckingham Palace where we had the option to take a free walking tour and see the changing of the guards. We were able to get a full english breakfast before the tour, which was quite good, except for the mushroom, which I was not even going to dare to try ha ha. After the meal we went and with the tour group headed towards the Palace all the while getting some very interesting history about the Kings and Queens of England's past. I found it a little odd that people were able to drive right around the palace with cars and in honesty even get to see the palace from such a close distance. As we were walking down "The Mall", the red street that leads to Buckingham Palace, there was a large amount of white trailers on the side of the street, our tour guide informed us that they were actually shooting the new James Bond movie there, which was a nice little surprise. Unfortunately we did not actually get to see any filming get done, but nonetheless it was cool to know they were filming somewhere that I was at the time. As we made our way towards the palace to see the changing of the guards we learned quite a bit about the history of the changing as well as a few stories that our tour guide had for us.
The actual changing of the guard was pretty awesome to see, all of the guards are actual military personnel who get chosen to guard the queen, which is a very high honor for the soldiers. They were all dressed in the traditional uniforms and everything was done exactly how it should be, it was incredibly smooth and succinct.
After seeing the changing of the guard we went to explore a little more around the area of Big Ben and West Minister Abbey. After exploring that area we went to The Hard Rock Cafe (The Original) to see it a bit and get a few more souvenirs. Following that we went to Harrods, an incredibly large and expensive shopping mall that has over 300 stores, all of which are very classy and way out of my price range, although the 50,000 pound ($100,000) Omega watch would look really nice on me for anyone that loves me ha ha. We ended up splurging and getting a savory and delectable milkshake that I am still dreaming about.
Once we were done at Harrods it was time to go back to the hotel and gather up our backpacks and make the hour and a half journey to the airport. Overall I had an awesome time in London and would love to go back, once I make my first million that is. London is where the wealthy and classy live, and the dreamers and travelers visit, although I am not sure I could ever live there it was just a little too big for me. Now back in Prague I am getting ready for Istanbul and Greece which is in only 4 short days.