28.11.2008 - 30.11.2008 10 °C
After doing so much traveling outside the UK, it was finally time to stay home and show off London … to Elizabeth!!
We started the weekend off right by going to dinner and show. We almost didn’t make it on time though because the tube was slower than I’d anticipated. With a few sprints however, we made it to our seats just in time to say hi to Lauren (who met us there) before the lights went down and the powerful theme, Phantom of the Opera, filled the theater.
All I can say is – wow. The show was amazing. I loved how the entire theater was the set and not just what was on stage. The special effects were wonderful, especially when Christine first travels to the Phantom’s lair. And since I had (purposefully) not listened to the music in a while, I’d forgotten how much I loved it.
After the show we didn’t want to go back home right away, so Lauren and I took Elizabeth on a night tour … we walked through the Squares Leicester and Trafalgar and then past Big Ben and the London Eye. It was fun and I think Elizabeth enjoyed seeing a bunch of famous sights.
Our first full day was jam-packed with sightseeing and we still didn’t get everything done! We certainly made a valiant effort though …
We went not-quite-bright but still early to the Tower of London, one of the must-see sights that I’d somehow not managed to get to in the three months I’d been living in London. It was really interesting and a lot more fun than I’d expected! We walked through the gates just in time for the next Beefeater tour, and our guide was absolutely hilarious. He obviously loved telling all the stories and legends of the Tower as well as getting out a few somewhat inappropriate jokes. (My favorite was his mention of his wife who also works at the Tower. She handles the jewels every day [significant pause/snicker from the audience] … the CROWN jewels that is …)
Did you know that there are resident ravens at the Tower? They’ve been there for (I’m guessing) hundreds of years and legend has it that if all of them ever leave, the Tower will crumble, the monarchy will fall, and a terrible tragedy will befall England. Or something to that effect. So – there’s a special guard who watches the birds all day to make sure they don’t leave (and keeps their wings clipped). Also, did you know that people actually live in the Tower of London? (And by tower I mean the complex in general, not the White Tower for which the fortress was named …) There are currently about 120 residents! Who knew!?
We also took a stroll past the Crown Jewels which were shiny and through the White Tower which was tall. I hadn’t realized there was so much to see at the Tower, so I’m glad that we had plenty of time to wander through it.
Next stop – King’s Cross Station! Were we catching a train anywhere? Not exactly. Our actual mission was to act like thousands of other tourists and find Platform 9 ¾, where Harry Potter famously caught the train to Hogwarts. Yes, we know we’re dorks, but we couldn’t NOT go since we were already so close! It took some effort to find the spot though. We easily found platforms 9 and 10, but there was no 9 ¾ in sight. We finally gave in and asked a guard walking by, and he pointed to the wall behind us and said it was behind there. This wall was definitely not what we were looking for though because it had a bunch of garbage (or rubbish, if you want to be British) and construction tape in front of it and no tourists. We obviously couldn’t go THROUGH the wall either. After questioning the guard again, and feeling even more like dumb tourists, we finally understood that we had to go back through the ticket barriers and around to the other side of the wall. THAT’S where the sign was – so simple! (And yet, I think the guard was being confusing on purpose just to entertain himself.)
Our final adventure for the night was a quick “flight” on the London Eye. At the ticket booth we were sad but unsurprised to find out that there weren’t any student discounts, but then the lady helping us did something incredibly nice – she charged us as if we were buying a disabled (£10) ticket and then the carer (£0) which meant that rather than spending about £16 we only spent £6! It was great! As was the view … absolutely spectacular.
We began our last day together by touring Kensington Palace, located quite nearby in Kensington Gardens. There were a lot of exhibits for such a comparatively small museum, but it was fun to look through them all. First we saw some old court outfits followed by a display of some of Princess Diana’s dresses. The largest exhibit by far was called ‘The Last Debutants.’ It was fun because in addition to the history part of the exhibit there were also some interactive rooms where Elizabeth and I learned how to curtsy, waltz, walk in a straight line with a book on our heads, and tie a bow tie. The tour ended with a walk through the State Rooms of William and Mary and the bedroom of Queen Victoria. I wonder what it would be like to live in a place like that … where sections are preserved as a museum.
After the palace we were hoping to run by Speaker’s Corner and Harrods, but we didn’t have time since we’d picked up tickets for a matinee of The Lion King! We hadn’t originally planned to see two shows this weekend, but Elizabeth decided she was up for another musical and I’m always ready for a great performance! (It was a little weird to hear the dialogue in British accents, but the actors could REALLY sing!)
We finished off the weekend in a nearby pub where we met Lauren for dinner and a drink. We ordered fish and chips as well as bangers and mash so that Elizabeth could get the full British experience. Very tasty in my opinion!
Thus endeth the wonderful weekend of Emily and Elizabeth …