Sorry I haven't blogged. It is way harder than I thought to get a moment alone. Rather than processing things, I just want to take in as much as I can, and that has made me very busy! This will be long because I have some catching up to do. Let's begin, shall we.
On June 17th at 10:45am I arrived at Sacramento airport to meet my lovely traveling companion, Heather. Fast forward 24 hours...
June 18th-- the arrival in London: First we stopped to have coffee. Apparently, I cannot sleep sitting up, but I tried to set aside the fact that I felt like a zombie so that I could experience some of London. After coffee, we proceeded to the subway, called The Underground and got on the Piccadilly line to Green Park where we transfered to the Jubilee line that took us close to our boutique hostel, which is pictured below. It's called Palmers Lodge- Swiss Cottage, and it cost about £25/bed/night.We stayed in bunk beds, which had privacy because of the red curtains we could pull shut. This is Heather posing by our awesome bunk beds:
After we took a shower, we decided to go back Underground and make our way to the middle of the city, where we planned to wander and grab some authentic English pub food. Somehow, though, we stumbled upon Buckingham Palace, what luck! This is Heather again posing in front of the gates.
After Buckingham, we found an authentic British pub called Bag O Nails. It was a very classy little joint, with a lot of fun and beer drinking happening in the downstairs area and a family-friendly restaurant upstairs, which was very quaint, having about seven tables total. We sat in the restaurant and enjoyed people- and bike-watching from our window seats. A lot of Londoners ride fold-up bikes, and they ride them fast. They will run you over if you don't get out of the way. This goes for pedestrians too. Travel tip: I have heard that you do not tip in Europe. We were in a bit of an awkward situation with the bill because it said "Service charge not included," but when we paid with credit card, there was no line to write in a tip. Very accurate information can be found in Ferne Arfin's About.com article, "Tipping in the UK - When is Tipping Expected in the UK and How Much ?". In short, a 12.5-15% service charge may be added to your bill, but if it isn't, this is about what you should leave. We only had about 10% readily available in cash, so we had to stiff the waiter a little, which I really hate to do being that I work in the service industry myself.
Onwards... after the pub, we took a walk through the gorgeous old architecture to the Thames River where we crossed a bridge and enjoyed a stroll in a lush green park (the whole city was quite lush and green). There we ran into the London Peace Pagoda with various Buddhas, one on each side. After our walk, we returned to the hostel, where we began making arrangements to get to Luton (loo-tun) Airport out of which our easyJet flight to Nice was scheduled for 1:35pm the next day. We got student tickets for a shuttle, which cost only £7.
My first bedtime in a hostel: If I hadn't skipped sleeping the night before on the plane, it would have been very difficult for me to get much shut-eye at the hostel. A lively group of young travelers were drinking and socializing outside until around 4am (on a Tuesday), and other people were coming in and out of the dorm room at various times. I used ear plugs and was able to sleep, but if you have trouble falling a sleep, make sure you come prepared with earplugs and maybe some kind of sleeping aid, take deep breaths and believe that you really will fall asleep.
When we woke up on June 19th, we had our free hostel breakfast and walked to the shuttle. We arrived at the airport 2 hours early, which was a really good thing considering the line took over an hour to go through. If possible, don't check bags... this was not an option for us, since our program is a month long. easyJet was awesome. Small, but lots of menu choices--food and drinks to satisfy a variety of palettes.
This blog has gone on pretty long. I think I will need to learn to condense. I suppose I have some catching up to do! I am about to have dinner at the Chateau and then watch a documentary. After that we are going to Nice, and I haven't even caught you up yet. I will try to find time to write the other half of this blog before we leave tomorrow! Au revoir!
PS: We are 9 hours ahead here, and the sun has been staying up until after 9:30pm!