This weekend I visited my favorite place in the world: London, England. Is it weird that I had already chosen my favorite place in the world without having been there? Yes? Oh well. Now I’ve been there, and it’s official!
Our plane to London arrived around 10:00 pm, and since we had already bought bus tickets into the city before leaving the Madrid airport, we figured it would be an easy trip. We were wrong. Our bus stop was one of 10 stops outside the airport, and it wasn’t properly labelled. So unfortunately, we missed the first bus at 10:30. We managed to catch the next one at 10:50, and settled in for an hour’s drive to the city. But our bad luck wasn’t over, and we somehow missed the right bus stop, and ended up near Victoria Station (way farther than we needed to go). The bus driver wasn’t helpful at all, so we started walking towards what we thought might be a group of bus stops to take us back to where our hostel was, but we weren’t really sure where we were going. Fortunately, a man came up to us and asked if we needed a taxi. We were incredibly relieved and resigned ourselves to paying for a taxi because it was super cold in London… until the man brought us to an unmarked cab with no taxi meter. We got in and hoped for the best as he told us it would cost 28 pounds to take us to Paddington Station and our hostel; the Pride of Paddington (side note: who remembers reading the book “A Bear Called Paddington”? I thought about Paddington Bear A LOT while we were in London). Even though I was pretty sure we were being kidnapped, the sketchy taxi man delivered us safely to our hostel without any incident, and drove off after wishing us a good night. Moral of the story: you still shouldn’t get into cars with strangers, even though it’ll probably be fine.
Unfortunately, the sketchy taxi driver was not the last of our rotten luck. We walked up to the hostel entrance (located above a bar) around 1:45 in the morning… and the doors were all locked. The pub below had closed at 11, and we were stuck outside with no way to get in. We rang the doorbell, but to no avail (and keep in mind that it’s FREEZING in London right now. I was shivering so bad it looked like I was having a seizure). Thankfully, Jaime has an international phone, and we were able to peek through the window and find the phone number for the night manager, who came down to let us in. Luckily for us, we got all of our London bad luck out of the way on the first night, and the rest of the trip went smoothly. HUGE shoutout to Jaime’s parents for making sure her phone worked internationally.
We woke up early Friday morning, and left the hostel before breakfast was even served. We had to pack the entire city of London into a few hours because the rest of our trip was full of pre-booked tours. Our first stop was King’s Cross Station, where we were able to take pictures with Platform 9 3/4 (Did I mention this trip was all about Harry Potter?).
After King’s Cross, we took the underground to the Tower of London, where we were taken on a free tour by a yeoman named Stephen. He told us that he has been giving the same tour three times a day for the past fourteen years, but he still managed to make the tour exciting and enjoyable for us. We got to hear about all the prisoners and bloodshed of the towers, and at the end of the tour, we got to see the Crown Jewels. We even saw a few of the Tower ravens… By law, there have to be six ravens residing at the Tower at all times, or legend says that the tower will fall. Our guide told us that they keep eight ravens there, just in case.
When we were done admiring the huge scary ravens, we hustled to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. The palace was beautiful, and the changing of the guard was a cool ceremony… except for the fact that there were tall people standing in front of me and I didn’t get to see much of it. But on the bright side, I got my picture with the palace like a true princess!
After the changing of the guard ceremony, we went to see Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the London Eye in quick succession before our tour bus to the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studios arrived to pick us up in Trafalgar Square. I took approximately 25 pictures each of Big Ben and the London Eye, and almost all of them look exactly alike. But here are the best ones 🙂
London summarized in a single snapshot:
London Eye by day:
Obligatory London phone booth picture:
And then we went to Trafalgar Square where our tour bus picked us up! I sat on the edge of my seat in excitement the entire ride to the Harry Potter Studios (aka I took a nap…) and when our bus finally pulled up, I started smiling. And I didn’t stop smiling the whole time we were there. We saw so many amazing things there, including the Great Hall (decorated for Christmas!), Yule Ball gowns and decorations, the Gryffindor dormitories and common room, Diagon Alley, Privet Drive, and all sorts of props and special effects. I won’t bore you with the details, but the studios were my absolute favorite part of the weekend. I took more pictures inside the studios than I took of all the rest of our trip put together. Here are just a few:
Professors Trelawney, McGonagall, Dumbledore, Snape, and part of Hagrid in the Great Hall
Ministry of Magic
Mr. Weasley’s flying car
Okay that was more than a few pictures. My bad. Are you feeling the Harry Potter magic yet??
We got back from the Harry Potter studios just in time to catch a tour bus for our third tour of the day: a ghost bus tour at night. Our guide told us all about the ghostly and bloody histories of certain buildings, and threw in many sexual innuendos for comic relief. It was great. I would definitely recommend the tour.
We walked back though London after the tour ended, and got to see the spectacular London Eye by night. It was an amazing sight, and we took our pictures and were about to move on when the Eye changed to rainbow colors for all of sixty seconds, and I managed to get a picture.
Oh look! The London Eye! How pretty!
On Saturday, we woke up super early again, and again left the hostel before breakfast even started. We got on our tour bus to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford. It was a long drive between each of the sites, and I took a few naps that day to make up for waking up so early.
Windsor Castle was huge. We got to walk through the castle with audio guides and learn about all the history of the paintings, furniture, and weapons on display. We saw another changing of the guard ceremony, which I was able to see more of than the one at Buckingham due to the lack of tall people in front of me. While we were there, the Royal Flag was being flown, meaning that the Queen was currently residing there! Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see her.
After the castle and a bus ride (and another nap), we arrived at Stonehenge. We didn’t have much time there, but luckily it doesn’t take very long to walk all the way around the circle of stones (side note: I know it looks like I’m wearing the exact same outfit as yesterday, but you can tell this is a new day because I’m wearing a different color scarf).
Our next stop on the tour was Oxford. Our bus had to take a detour to avoid a road closure, and we ended up getting there after dark. We didn’t have time to see much, but we got to see Christ Church and a small sweet shop called Alice’s Shop. Apparently, when Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland, he based the story on the daughter of the dean. This shop was where young Alice liked to buy her sweets, and the name was changed to Alice’s Shop when Carroll’s story became popular.
When we arrived back in London, we had a typical English dinner of fish and chips at the bar below our hostel, did some shopping, and went to bed after a long day. We flew back to Madrid early the next morning after once again leaving the hostel too early for breakfast (can you tell I’m really bummed about missing out on English breakfast??).
Over the course of two days, I fell even more in love with London and all of England. We were so incredibly productive in our two days in England, but there was so much that we didn’t get to see. London, one day I’ll be back for you.
TL;DR: I STOOD IN THE SAME PLACE DANIEL RADCLIFFE STOOD.
The kiwi bird is the national bird of New Zealand.