And now, four days later, I finally have time to tell you about London.
After a quick flight, we arrived at Luton Airport. I was really sad to not be able to greet people with “bonjour,” but I got used to it (kind of). I guess it’s a good sign that I’m already homesick after a month! I almost made a joke with the immigration officer when she asked what I was going to do over the weekend, I wanted to tell her I needed to remember how to speak English but she didn’t appear to be in a very good mood so I didn’t.
When we went to buy our train tickets into the city, we realized a minor problem: the earliest train on Sunday left London at 6, but our flight was at 8 and we didn’t want to risk missing it. So, we planned to cancel our hostel booking for Saturday night and sleep in the airport…adventure, right?
Once we made it to King’s Cross station, we made our way to the hostel, Clink 78. Everyone else there was around our age (and it didn’t give off a Quentin Tarintino vibe)so it was really fun to be in that atmosphere. Then we set off to find food for the first time that day…and found it in a nearby restaurant offering fish and chips.
After satisfying our hunger and checking the cultural classic off our list, we walked around to find one of the starting points for the bus tours, which are on the classic double decker buses but include a commentary as you go along.
And finally we found it! We hopped on board with the Original Tour Bus, where a British man told us stories of his childhood and about London in general. While the first ride was a lot of fun, if I were to go back I probably would just buy a day ticket on the standard bus system, because they are much more reliable in terms of being able to find a bus at anytime. Our two-day ticket also included a river cruise on the Thames, but we didn’t get a chance to use them :(.
From there, we got off at Trafalgar Square and walked around a bit. Fun fact: The person who designed the lions in the square used his cats AND his dogs as models, which is why they have their tongues sticking out like dogs.
After a long walk around London, we went back to the hostel to get ready to go out for the night. We met up with Emily’s friend from home Vince and Sarah’s friend Ian and headed to a pub…after getting Cadbury McFlurries, of course.
The pub was in Oxford Circus, and instead of staying inside most of the patrons took their drinks outside. Not wanting to rain on that parade we followed the crowds with our plastic cups and Emily and I had a very long, probably grammatically incorrect conversation in French(gotta keep it fresh!).
This was when Emily and I realized we never ate dinner, so we went with Vince down to a restaurant down the street. We got hummus, pizza, and a wine from Algeria, all of which were delicious! It was really nice to order a bottle wine and actually have some idea of what/how to order instead of just guessing and hoping it will be good. But it was! Then Sarah and Ian met back up with us and we went back to the hostel to crash…literally. I was exhausted and any bed would have been comfortable at that point.
The next morning, we got up early to partake in the free breakfast in the hostel. While it may have been free because it was basically bread and cereal, we weren’t complaining. Free food is free food, especially when one pound equals $1.61.
Before we left the hostel, I was in the internet cafe researching the nearest and only Chipotle in London. I heard some boys speaking French next to me, so when they asked if the computer next to me was taken I automatically responded in French…I don’t know what language they asked me in, but they understood! Then their friend came up and was trying to figure out how to use the internet, so I explained it to her in French and gave her the rest of my minutes that were about to go unused. It was so much easier speaking French to them in a non-French speaking country, just because they weren’t expecting it!
On Saturday, we did one of the most fun things on the trip: Notting Hill. Don’t know what Notting Hill looks like? Watch this.
We walked through the market on Portobello Rd., rifling through antiques and clothes and anything else imaginable. There was stand after stand of jewelry, instruments, clothes, spoons (almost brought some back for Hels!) and all of it was just too tempting for my budget. I was good for the most part though!
After reaching the end of the market, we found an Italian restaurant and resorted to a very un-Anglophile lunch(but had really good pizza!). Stuffed and walking around Notting Hill, we stumbled upon The Travel Bookshop. Ever heard of it? That’s where Hugh Grant worked in the movie. Unfortunately for the girl working there, everyone seemed to have seen that movie so about once every five minutes she had to tell people they weren’t allowed to take pictures in the shop. While we had just taken pictures outside, we scoffed at them with her and pretended not to be tourists…clearly our accents and cameras didn’t give us away.
Then, we retreated to find a bus to take us to the Tower of London, where we met up with Vince again. We were planning to walk the Tower Bridge and the Millenium bridge before dinner, which turned into walking over Tower Bridge to get dinner and then walking over London Bridge, Blackfriar’s Bridge and the Millenium Bridge to burn off all those calories(we went to an Indian restaurant next to Tower Bridge, second best to going to India!).
Well now, remember how at the beginning I said we had to spend the night in the airport? After such a long day of walking all we wanted was a real bed somewhere, so luckily when Emily told her dad he told us we should just get a hotel room next to the airport and stay there for the night, then booked it for us in about five minutes. That is when he became my favorite person in the world.
So, we took the train back to the airport, checked in at the Holiday Inn Express, and passed out, ready to fly home early in the morning. Walking back into the terminal at Charles de Gaulle was almost like coming home, especially since I wasn’t afraid of the immigration officers! I loved being back where I didn’t get glared at for accidentally saying “pardon” to someone or walking into a store and stopping myself before saying “bonjour.” It kind of made me want to just stay here the whole rest of the time…I mean, I am in Paris.