Christie H. (ac_holl) wrote,
Christie H.

In which I have the best weekend of my life.

I don't want to be blogging right now.

I want to be reading Maggie Stiefvater's THE SCORPIO RACES.  Or sleeping.  Sleep would be good.

But I can't.  Because I have a deadline.  Which sucks.

So.  London.

Ariel, Donovan, Kevin, and I, had decided to spend a weekend in London.  We had a list of things to do that was a mile long.  We were super pumped.  But, alas, the boys were in the afternoon class, so we couldn't leave until 6.

So Ariel and I took our bags with us to class, and headed off to les Jardins des Tuileries while we waited for the boys.  These gardens are right next to the Louvre.  We both wanted to see them, since we hadn't had time on the day we went to the Louvre, and since it involved sitting and doing nothing (as opposed to walking with our slightly heavy bags), we thought it was a good idea.

Ariel and I sat down and chatted for over an hour, discussing what we wanted to do, what we were most excited for, and the meaning of life.  There was a girl who was sitting about ten feet from us, reading, who was getting really annoyed.  We didn't care.  It was a park.  That had fair rides and fair food off to the side.  It was a weird experience.

There are a lot of statues in this park.

Also, right after I took these pictures, I used up the last of my first memory card.*  We met the boys back at the school after running a couple last minute errands and then we headed to the train station.

How do you know when you haven't traveled enough?  When you think the board that changes with updates about which train station you need to wait at is the most fascinating ever.  I have a picture of it, but it didn't turn out well.

I was very excited to ride a train.  After going to Versailles and Giverny, I had had two very different train riding experiences.  We were hoping that we would have a compartment so that we could pretend we were on our way to Hogwarts (we had a compartment on our way to Giverny) but we did not.  It was sad.  But that's okay.  We survived.  The good news is that there weren't very many people on the train to London.  So we got to stretch our legs out to the chairs across from us.

The train ride is a couple hours long.  Kevin slept while Donovan, Ariel, and I spent the time narrowing down what we wanted to do and dividing our trip up into what we were going to do on which days.  It was going to be a very ambitious weekend.  Then we decided to rank our favorite Harry Potter books, Harry Potter movies, Star Wars movies, and keep talking about how excited we were.  And then we played with Donovan's iPad a lot and continued discussing what we wanted to do.

The train was only underground for about twenty or thirty minutes.  We were all really impressed at how fast it was.  When we surfaced and were on English soil, we all rejoiced.  First impression:  England looks a lot like France and America.

When we got off the train, we had a lot of confusion.  We knew that we were going to be using the Underground, because we knew we could navigate it after navigating the Metro for three weeks, it was similarly priced to a taxi, and it could take us everywhere.  It took us about ten minutes to figure out how to buy a ticket and which ticket to buy.  That first day we probably should have taken a cab, but we didn't know where all we would be going that night at the time.

When we arrived at the hotel, I was unbelievable excited.  A big, comfy bed!  A shower with lots of hot water!  Big bed!  Hot water!  We immediately freshened up then met back up to go find food.  We were starving.

We knew we wanted to find a pub.  What we didn't expect was how hard it would be.  We asked the front desk where to go and they just said to walk around because they were everywhere.  So we did.  We started walking.  And the first place we tried carded us.  They wouldn't let us in because we weren't all 21.  We were outraged.  This wasn't America!  We've been drinking this entire trip!  But we turned around and walked the other way.  Eventually we found another pub which did let us in.  We all ordered fish and chips and fell in love with pubs.  (We also had a fun time figuring out the English monetary system.  Pounds and quid are the same thing.  And they're pretty.)  I went home early because my back was killing me and I knew that tomorrow was going to be a long day.  I enjoyed a very hot shower and crawled into bed.  I don't even remember Ariel coming back to the room.

The next morning, I was bound and determined to see Much Ado About Nothing.  They have a lottery every morning, where they raffle off 20 of their best seats.  Unfortunately, I was not as great as I thought I was at reading directions.  We got lost and I had a minor heart attack.  I couldn't believe that I was going to miss the lottery.  It started at 9.  At 8:55 we were still trying to find the theater.  On the upside, I did find Trafalgar's Square.  Which we went back to after finding the theater (which had an Underground stop right next to it.  Oh well).

I was so nervous standing in line.  Ariel waited with me because she was willing to see the play, if she could get tickets too, since they were only 10 quid apiece.  They had two showings that day.  One at 2 P.M. and one at 7 P.M.  I wanted to go see the 2 P.M. so Ariel and I got raffle tickets for that show.  Then we convinced the boys to get tickets to the evening show, to increase our chances.  I waited very impatiently as numbers were called off, and nearly died of happiness when mine was called.  Sadly, Ariel's wasn't called either, but it turned out okay.  I bought my ticket, floating on cloud nine, and hoped our other numbers weren't called for the evening show.  Some other person would win instead.

I was so happy I could hardly contain myself.  I was literally skipping up and down the sidewalk.  I didn't care how the rest of the trip went, that day was going to be perfect.

We traveled back down to Trafalgar's Square and took pictures.

The clock in the middle of the square, counting down until the Olympics.

Those are really big lions around that base.  And Big Ben is in the background.

Kevin and Donovan, standing directly opposite of where we were standing.

We then decided to go to the Eye, the one thing Donovan wanted to do in London.  The Eye is a giant ferris wheel, which gives the best view of the entire city of London.  By the time we got there, it was raining.  It would rain on and off the entire time we were there, ranging from sprinkles to downpours, miserable to almost perfect.  I loved it.

What you stand in on the Eye.

London!  The Thames!  Big Ben!

Next, because I tend to freak out about being late to things and because everyone is so wonderful, we headed back to the theater to get lunch.  We walked around a bit before.  Ariel and I went to H&M to buy her sandals, because she had only brought Toms to London and they're not very good in the rain, and the boys went off to look for pipes.

Isn't it beautiful?

We had lunch at a wonderful pub right next door to the theater and we made plans to meet up after the play.  I went on in to the theater and was blown away.  It was one of the most beautiful theater's I've ever been in.  I bought my program, poster, and copy of Much Ado right away (and was very glad I did that then, instead of after.)  And the production?  BRILLIANT!

Some cute old man was nice enough to take my picture next to the sign!

My seat!  Third row, third from the end.  I was SO amazed!

In case you haven't heard me say it yet, this production, was exactly how Shakespeare should be performed.  All the actors were cast perfectly.  David and Catherine were brilliant opposite each other (but we already knew that from Doctor Who).  The set was simple but elegant.  I didn't have a single problem following the action without having read the play first.  And even more, I got all the jokes!  The woman next to me kept looking at me funny every time I would laugh out loud.  And David made eye contact with me while he was on stage!  Eek!

During intermission, the woman next to me was approached by one of the workers because she had been caught taking pictures during the production.  She had to delete them while the worker watched, but as consolation, she was told about the autograph signings that happened after every show.  As soon as the play ended, I raced back to get my autographs.

I had a great point in line, but unfortunately, we were not told that Catherine and David would not be coming all the way over to where we were standing.  I was pushed back to the other side, where I knew I wouldn't be able to get an autograph.  It was raining, so there were lots of umbrellas out, and I was poke in the face numerous times.  I had my book out, ready to go, reaching in front of people, trying to get autographs.  David and Catherine each walked around the roped off area once.  I was so disappointed.  Luckily, people started to move away after they got their autographs, so I got to scoot up a little.  There was a woman next to me who called out to Catherine, after she had already gone by, asking for an autograph since they had traveled so far to get there.  Catherine obliged and I got her autograph then too.  Unfortunately, because it had been raining, the page was wet and so her signature didn't show up very well.  But that's okay.  I was still over the moon.

It was ridiculous.  You can see Catherine's and David's heads, barely.

This picture is now framed, sitting on my desk.

I met up with Ariel and Donovan at an Underground station to find out what they had done that afternoon.  When I found them, I realized Kevin had gone missing.  Apparently, while they were walking around, Kevin had somehow gotten separated from them.  Our phones didn't work to call each other (because they were French) but we could text.  They had looked everywhere for him, texted him numerous times, but eventually gave up.  We hoped that Kevin hadn't gotten kidnapped and that we would later find him back at the hotel.

Though they had already been there, Ariel and Donovan agreed to go to Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey with me.  I fell in love with Big Ben.  And I got the very typical, London photograph.

I also fell in love with the red phone boxes.

Parliament and Westminster Abbey are right next to each other.  I was super excited for the abbey.  But I nearly cried when I saw this.

Because I had gone to the play, we didn't get to the abbey before it closed.  And of course, they are not opened for visitors.  I was really disappointed, but since there were so many things that I wanted to do and knew I wasn't going to be able to do that weekend, I moved on quickly.

See?  I moved on quickly.

We then made our way over to Buckingham Palace.  It was pretty cool.  My back was starting to seriously hurt by this time, unfortunately.  But I was in London and I wasn't going to let a stupid chronic pain condition put me down!  We didn't see the changing of the guards, but that's okay.  They were still cool.

Then we went to Millienium Bridge, known from the opening scene of the fifth Harry Potter movie.  We walked acrossed it.

St. Paul's, which we meant to go see but ran out of time for.  (It's right next to the bridge.)

Then we walked around a lot, looking for the London Bridge and failing.  The signs lied to us.  But we did find some cool stuff instead.

Sourthwark Cathedral

By this time, it was getting late, so we decided to head back to the hotel and hope that Kevin was there.  Lo and behold, he was!  And he had ended up doing the same thigns we did!  We still don't know what happened to him.

I decided to go back to the theater.  I was in London, David Tennant was signing autographs after every production, and by hell of high water, I wanted to tell him how brilliant he was.  So I did.  When I didn't get his autograph earlier that day, I had asked one of the managers what time the evening show would be over.  And I made sure I was there 45 minutes before the last show was out.

When I got there, I was not the only one.  There were enough people there that I was starting the second row, but it was okay.  I was standing behind a very nice kid and his mom, and was able to squeeze my way up to the bar when David walked out.  This kid and his mom made nice small talk with me while we waited.  There was also a girl there, who was also American, who had been standing there for over an hour by the time I got there.  She got to hug David Tennant. (Okay, she threw her arm around him when she asked him for a picture, but stll.  It's a hug!)  I was REALLY jealous of that.

Slowly, more and more people showed up.  By the time the doors opened, I was pushed up very nice and close to rails that were holding us back.  I didn't take any pictures of meeting David because my camera was dying (and I didn't want to risk my camera dying while there were lots of other fans there dying for his attention and risk not getting a picture at all), but I did video the whole thing.  Sadly, I was so shell shocked at meeting David that I have no video of him actually autographing my book.  There is audio though.  I still get all nervous, excited, and shaky when I rewatch it.

One of the things I love most about David is that it's very obvious that he truly loves his job and he really appreciates his fans.  When we bowed at the end of Much Ado, he was grinning from ear to ear, just like a little kid.  When I told him that I thought he was brilliant on stage, he thanked me with so much sincerity that I wanted to hug him.**  I went back to the hotel that night unbelievably happy.  I had met my favorite actor, gotten his autograph, and had a conversation (albeit a very short one) with him.  That day was arguably one of the happiest days of my life.

This was about twenty minutes before they came out.

David Tennant and Catherine Tate's autographs!***

I went back to the hotel to find that Ariel had done a lot of research and had planned out the next day for us very well.  I was impressed.  We weren't going to have a lot of down time because we had so much to do.  I had a very nice, long, hot shower and crawled back into my big comfy bed (which I was sharing with Ariel and it was so huge I forgot both nights that someone else was in it) for the last night.

The next day, we started at the Tower of London.  I've always thought the Tower of London would be a big, giant, black, scary looking tower that overshadowed a very gloomy looking castle.  It wasn't.  I was slightly disappointed.

Right next to the Tower of London, was this.

Tower Bridge.  It's beautiful.  And huge.  And while we were standing there admiring it, the bridge was pulled up so a boat could go through it.  It was exciting.

London's mapped out pretty well.  Everything we did that morning, was right in a row.  We continued walking down the Thames, past Tower Bridge, and went to the Globe.  (Technically, we found London Bridge first, but it was boring.  It's just a normal bridge.)  Well, actually, the boys went to the Tate Modern Art Museum that's right next to the Globe.  But as you know, I don't like modern art and I adore Shakespeare.

When Ariel and I walked in, expecting just to be able to look around, we were told that the last tour of the day started in 10 minutes.  We happily agreed to go on it and I'm so glad I did.  Sadly, they don't have a brochure with all of the history on it and we're not allowed to video tape everything that's said.  If we had been thinking, we would have grabbed one of the brochures in French, but oh well.  I guess if I want to know all the fun facts, I can google them.  All I know is that the Globe is absolutely gorgeous.  New life goal:  See at least one Shakespeare play performed in the Globe.  They have more than just Shakespeare performed at the Globe and the Royal Shakespeare Company is not associated with the Globe, which I found interesting.  They have try outs for their acting guild every year, so every actor has a chance to perform in the Globe.  They're also currently working on building a second Globe-like stage inside, for the winter months.

The entire stage is made out of wood.  Everything is hand painted to look like marble and other stone.

After the tour, we met back up with the boys and decided to have lunch, one last time, at a pub.  We found a pub that had been opened since 1615.  I had my last fish and chips.****  It was very bittersweet.

Next, we decided to go to the BBC.  We all wanted merchandise from the BBC store.  We were really pumped.  It took us at least 30 minutes to get out there.  And then they had the audacity to tell us that they don't have a gift shop open to the public, just to those who go on tour, and they don't have tours on Sundays.  We were pissed.

BBC, I love you, but I did not like you this day.

We decided to split up again.  I ventured out to Wimbledon while the others tried to find a Chelsea store for Ariel and a book store, since we all wanted British Harry Potter books.  It took another 30-45 minutes to get out to Wimbledon.  It was really cool, but we couldn't walk anywhere.  And everything was closed.  But I was there to buy Michelle's birthday present, and I wasn't leaving London without getting it.

On the way back to meet everyone, I had the most embarrassing moment of my life.  It's a good story, but it can't be told properly unless I am there to act it out for you.  Ask me about it when you see me next.  Let's suffice it to say that it involved my balancing abilities (a.k.a. the world's worst), an inability to grab onto anything to stabilize myself, a video camera, and several European men laughing at my expense.  I was not happy.

We were running late in the day by this point, but we still had two more places to go.  First, we went to Abbey Road.  There were a lot of tourists there.  And Abbey Road is a fairly busy street.  And there is no one to control traffic.  So when you walk out onto the road for your picture, you're blocking traffic.  We stood and watched many other people piss off English people and get honked at, and decided that we didn't trust anyone with our cameras to take a picture of us, and we also didn't want to hold up traffic.  So we did this instead.

The last place we went was Platform 9 3/4.  You didn't think we were going to leave that out, did you?

We had another huge debacle with this.  We went inside the train station to look for it, because we knew it was there.  But it wasn't.  And we felt like idiots.  The good news is that while we were running around looking for it, we weren't the only ones.  Turns out it's actually outside King's Cross station.  I wish they had a real brick wall, but oh well.

After King's Cross station, we hurried back to the hotel to pick up our bags (we didn't want to carry them around all day) and took a taxi back to the train station.  We mostly wanted to experience driving on the left hand side of the road.  Let me tell you, it's really weird.  It's even weirder to get in the car and have the steering wheel on the opposite side of the car too.

The train ride back was not nearly as fun as the train ride there.  We were exhausted from doing so much, we still had homework to do for the next day, and we were all unbelievably sad that we were leaving London.  Being able to speak English for two and a half days had been blissful.  Having a break from reading French everywhere and not being able to understand Metro announcements was exactly what we needed before our last week in Paris.

Ariel and I are already planning our return trip.  I'm dead serious.

Here's a few photos that need to be shared, but don't really fit in anywhere else.

This is painted on almost every crosswalk.  And it's a good thing too.  We needed constant reminding.

A train on the Underground.  The Underground is 37927219187 times better than the Metro system in Paris.  It's clean!  There are comfortable chairs!  It's clean!

Those buses are everywhere.

Reason #174 the Underground is better than the Metro:  There are lots of escalators instead of stairs.  This is the world's longest escalator.  Okay, probably not really, but it sure felt like it.

À bientôt!

*This is very exciting for me now, because my photos are saved into two different folders so they're in order on my computer.  I don't have to scroll all the way down now.  Yay!

**Okay, I wanted to hug him before he said that, but his made me want to hug him even more.

***I'm trying very hard not to hold it against Catherine that her signature was so FREAKING HUGE that David's is small.  I won't hold it against her.  I'm very happy I have both.  I realize how lucky I am that I have both.  But that won't stop me from wishing it's the other way around.

****Because Lawrence is amazing, a fish and chip shop has opened up within the last couple weeks.  I'm very excited.
Tags: london, stories, travel
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