Sunday, September 23, 2012

Grab the Guidebook!

Finally this weekend, I got to be a tourist! Since I haven't been in London since 2010, I was actively ready to get started on seeing some of my favorite places. During the week, I was able to see Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, and Hyde Park when I was running errands. LSE has quite a few historical structures and monuments that I took in quickly as I moved around campus on Friday.

Buckingham Palace
On Saturday, after opening my bank account, I took my bus (#52) all the way down to Victoria. My plan was to get semi-lost, but still in the correct direction of Parliament and Big Ben. I like to get semi-lost to find other things that normally one wouldn't see. I did, eventually, find my way to Parliament and Big Ben. Much too crowded to head towards the Thames view of the Houses, so I quickly changed courses into St. James' Park. Much of the Olympic signage and materials are still around the city, and I wanted to head over to St. James' Palace where the beach volleyball games were conducted. At. St. James' Palace, you can also get a glimpse of Buckingham Palace as well as view into the back of 10 Downing Street.

Road I lived on in 2010
Continuing on my journey, I did pop over to see if Lizzie was in town. The flag signaled she wasn't- there are two different types of flags identifying whether she is in town or not.

And, no, Harry wasn't running around naked anywhere. 

My next plan of my off-beaten tourist jaunt was down to South Kensington where I lived before. Nothing much has changed in the neighborhood. Boujis is still there (nightclub frequented by the elite of London including the Royals), Snog was up and running (frozen yogurt), and it's still a mob at the tube station on the weekends due to the museums. Quickly, I headed down to Queensgate and checked out 123. The door looks to be new, but it was such a flashback to 2010.

Delicious, right?
A sorority sister who is studying abroad in Spain was in town, so my next stop was at Kensington Palace. I still had an hour to kill, so I took the longer walk in Kensington Park to include the gardens before arriving at the Palace. When I was here the last time, it was still under remodeling, so the exhibits have changed. I made a quick note that I will have to come back whenever I have free time. After Aspen and I found each other, we headed over to the Orangery for high tea!  For 20 pounds, we each had our own teapot, scones and clotted cream, sandwiches, and dessert. I went with the traditional English breakfast tea, and let me just say, how excited I was to have the real toppings for scones again. Catching up over tea, we decided to head down to High Street Kensington, Piccadilly Circus, and Oxford Street afterwards. It was nice to see someone from Syracuse (and Pi Phi!), and to do some of the more touristy attractions at night.



Today, it was raining. It was cold. Typical London. Nicole and I did decide that we wanted to be touristy and do things despite the somewhat Syracuse weather that had arrived in town. We had heard about Open House London where many of the famous buildings had free admission. So, rather than read the guidelines about these free admissions, we decided to meet at Tower Hill and redo the Tower of London. We both did the tour with SU London in 2010. My whole plan to steal the crown jewels started off the wrong foot right away in the morning.


The tube line I needed to take that just so happens to run at my stop was closed this weekend for repairs. The TFL worker at Notting Hill Gate said to take the Central line all the way down to Bank and grab a bus. That was funny. After I got off at Bank (already one of my least favorite tube stations), I quickly plugged in Tower Hill into my phone. Magically Google said to take bus 15.  So, here's the thing. I can read maps fairly well. I have the walking and GPS map feature enabled on my phone, and I still couldn't find this said bus stop. Clearly, I inherited Mom and my brother's tendency to get lost today. After walking around in circles for about 10 minutes,  I finally asked someone. He sent me in the right direction, the bus came along, and I figured I was fine. Funny story. The bus terminated half way along the route leaving me to walk the final 20 minutes in the rain. Now, I know I could have gotten a cab. But, I can be stubborn. I was determined to find my own way there.  I did get to see the Shard and walk along the Thames throughout my journey.

Eventually, Nicole and I found each other. I left my flat at 10, got a bus at 10:15, and arrived at the Tower of London at 12:30. Nicole had similar transportation troubles. And, then we realized we should have read the guidelines on Open House London as we had to pay to get in. Skipping out on the tour, we took photos outside, walked across Tower Bridge, and walked by the construction of the Shard. Cold, we decided it was time for lunch. Hot chocolate and a croque madame at a French cafe was perfect to warm up before the rest of our excursions for the day.

Christmas at Harrods
Harrods was the perfect way to continue a rainy day. Who doesn't love getting lost in a store of everything? Quickly, we made our way to Winter Wonderland and Toy World. As a child at heart, I do love looking at all the toys (haha). They have redone a lot of the store since I was there, so it was an interesting change that resulted in a few circles when we were trying to find the pet area. The British bulldogs were all sold out while we were there. Don't worry, Wally, you are still my favorite dog.  Taking in the food hall before we left, we decided we wanted macaroons and hopped on my old bus actually to the Burlington Arcade for Laduree. #nomnomnom



We ended the day with Starbucks and a short spin through Fortnum and Mason. All of the food for the Queen is purchases through F & M, and they also own William Sonoma back home. Fun Fact of the Day: if you order something large and special, it can be delivered by horse drawn carriage. Dad, I saw a really pretty bedding set...(kidding).

Outside of Fortnum and Mason
My pre-semester math course starts tomorrow, so I'm going to bed early. I haven't done a real morning commute yet, so I want to leave a bit earlier for delays. Wish me good luck since I haven't done math since high school!