London, The Best Birthday Present Part I

London, The Best Birthday Present Part I

I’ve heard this saying that, “A man who is bored of London is bored of life itself.” Meaning of course that London is so expansive and lively that there are endless corridors to explore and things to do.

Our group departed for London on a Thursday immediately after class. From Valladolid to Barcelona and then to Stansted, the airport about an hour outside London. It was a very long day of travel but we finally reached our destination at about 3 AM at our hostel in Merton, a neighborhood in Southwest London close to Wimbledon.

This particular trip was special to me for a few reasons. First of all, my German buddy Felix was with us for the trip. He had arrived a few days before us because he had some free time as he just finished up his finals for the semester. The second major reason this was an important trip is because my birthday was coming up on Saturday, the day before the beloved St. Partick’s Day. What better way to spend my birthday weekend then in the greatest city on the planet?

After hibernating for a few hours, we woke up on Friday to eat some breakfast and plan out the day. Here’s where the big twist come in. During breakfast we were introduced, by my German pal, to a group of Americans studying in Avila, a city close to Valladolid in Castille y Leon. In their group were 5 girls and 1 guy. The girls were all from New York State and the guy was from Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh to be exact. They said they attended a very small private school of about 1400 undergraduates in Rochester, NY. Now where does this sound familiar?

Needless to say our two groups immediately clicked and I found solace in Matt, my counterpart, who had suffered the same trials and tribulations I had studying in a group of women for an extended period of time. Ladies, I love you but sometimes you are just too much.

After breakfast, Felix and myself joined the group from Avila, hopped on the tube (subway system) and headed to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. The ceremony involved your stereotypical British guards that people tend to mess with along with some other guards on horseback.

Following the changing of the guard we split up further and Felix, a girl from the Avila group and I took to the River Thames to see some familiar sights. We started out at the Westminster tube station which is named after the famous Abbey of the same name. Right across our field of vision Big Ben and the buildings of Parliament stood proud and demanded the attention of our ocular senses. Fun fact only the bell inside of the clock tower is named Big Ben. Walking past the Abbey and Parliament right on the river is the famed London eye. A feat of engineering awe and a truly breathtaking experience that we will revisit later.

Along the River Thames are a slew of must see attractions for any visitor of London. Walking away from the Eye towards Tower Bridge we first stopped by the Tate Modern Art Museum which was having a gallery on pop art which was very interesting. The building itself used to serve as an old power station but the staunch and depressing anterior doesn’t do the interior justice.

After about an hour in the museum we grabbed some lunch at this little place called “Eat.” I’m fairly certain it is a chain but they have a fairly healthy selection of mostly just sandwiches and salads. It was highly recommended to me and it did not disappoint.

Full of energy, we carried on towards some famous sights such as the newly finished and pedestrian-friendly Millennium Bridge and the Shakespeare Globe, a reconstruction of the original place where Shakespearean plays were performed in the 17th century in the same neighborhood of Southwark. We ended our riverside journey at the Tower Bridge, a monumental figure and symbol of London. The drawbridge provides lovely views of the river and the city and is a must see.

From here our small contingent headed back to Westminster Abbey for a free daily service which consisted of about an hours worth of songs. The choir was fantastic! Their voices came together like music one would hear in Lord of the Rings. It was so beautiful that it was putting a lot of people to sleep. No sarcasm.

After the service Felix and I walked down the street to hop on the London Eye to get some panoramas of the city under the blanket of night (and rain). Luckily we had some coupons and our student IDs that got us on the ride for only 10 pounds or 15 dollars. If you can/want to afford it, the Eye is definitely worth it. The get in your pod with a group of about 10 other people for 45 minutes and get an unforgettable view of the city. The attraction itself reminded me a lot of my job at the ride at Hershey’s Chocolate World; helping people on and off the ride and saying watch your step every 5 seconds. Fond memories.

Following the Eye we returned to our hostel and got prepared to go to the nearby pub for a birthday drink. Unfortunately for us we forgot we were not in Spain. We arrived at the pub at about 12:45 AM and were immediately told that we could have one drink, but we would have to drink quickly because they were closing soon at 1 AM. So after one quick pint we made our way back to the hostel and rested up for Saturday.

That’s where I’ll leave you guys for now. Best stuff to come!

Peace and Saludos

W. E.

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