Well, after a very long layover at the Minneapolis airport and an uncomfortable flight almost as long, we made it to London! We got through customs, got our luggage, and got on the Underground towards our hotel. It didn’t really start to feel like we were in a different city until the subway started going above ground and we could see all the classic English houses. When we got off the Tube and started lugging our suitcases through busy streets, lined with buildings of many different architectural styles and teeming with black taxi cabs and double-decker buses, it really started to sink in that we were in the UK! We are staying at a little bed and breakfast place on Gower Street, which so far has been great. 🙂
Once we got to the hotel, we freshened up, got some money from the ATM, had a snack, and got on a double-decker bus to Kings Cross station. Our instructor had to confirm our tickets to Edinburgh there, and while she did we checked out the station and Platform 9 and 3/4, of Harry Potter fame. Michaela also remarked that since we will be leaving that same station on a train headed to Scotland, it will be pretty much like the first Harry Potter movie. 🙂
We then proceeded to Trafalgar Square, an area with two large fountains, numerous statues and monuments, and a few street performers. The square also faces the National Gallery, so we stopped in to see Van Gogh’s A Wheatfield, with Cypresses, before it closed, and managed to spot a few others on my must-see list while trying to find it, including some Cezannes and Renoir’s Umbrellas. We also caught our first glimpse of Big Ben from Trafalgar Square, which was very exciting! At the end of our time at Trafalgar Square we stopped by a souvenir shop to pick up some postcards, and then we commenced on a very long walk.
The walk passed by many beautiful buildings and a few significant places–like the place where they do the changing of the horse guard and the prime minister’s house (estate? it was pretty large and heavily guarded!)–before we reached our actual target–Big Ben and the houses of Parliament. We could also see a glimpse of Westminster Abbey from where we were photographing Big Ben, as well as the London Eye. We then crossed the Thames on a very beautiful bridge to take more pictures of Big Ben and Parliament, as well as some beneath the London Eye.
At this point we were all very tired and decided to head back to the hotel. We took the Tube back and got some food from a grocery store a few blocks away from where we were staying to eat at the hotel. There we ate, cleaned and rested up, and are now ready for a good night’s sleep!
Up tomorrow: Hampton Court 🙂