SO much to write, so little time.
I am in my last week. Last days, really–I leave in two. Lest I neglect to write these posts once I reach the States as I become consumed in visiting those people I have missed this year, I want to make sure I get my thoughts down on “paper” now.
On August 26th, three of my friends and I boarded a London-bound train for our last trip of the year. That night we arrived at the hostel and got dinner, but that was about it. On Wednesday, however, Sayali and I went to Oxford!
The getting there and back was almost as exciting as the trip itself (cue The Hobbit reference). On the way there, our bus broke down and we lost our prime seats at the front of the upper deck with the big windows when we had to get on a different bus. Sad. But then we got there, and everything was stone buildings and ivy and turrets–perfect. While we did a lot of exploring, our main destination of the day was Christ Church college, which is famous for being the filming location of the Great Hall and staircases of Hogwarts! We had to wait a while for them to open the Great Hall as it was closed for a lunch event, but t was so worth it. We wore our Hogwarts shirts that day and majorly geeked out. Another notable location was the place we stopped for lunch, Queens Lane coffeehouse, as it is supposedly the longest established coffeehouse in Europe since it first opened in 1654. I finally ordered a jacket potato, and even ordered it with cheese and beans to be extra British. The potato they gave me was probably as big as my head! On the way back, there was an accident on the highway and we were stuck in traffic forever. When the bus driver decided to turn us around and take a different way, we found that there was an accident there, too. Good thing we didn’t have anywhere to be that night…
Thursday was reserved for anything in London we didn’t get to do when we were there previously, or that we wanted to see one last time. For me, this was the special exhibit at the Natural History Museum: “Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story.” Can I just say it was AMAZING? I got to see casts of the Happisburgh footprints, which were found in Norfolk just last year and are estimated to be 850,000-950,000 years old! It’s so refreshing to see the latest finds in the field. Then Homo heidelbergensis and Neanderthal remains, both of which I had never seen before because we don’t have any people in North America that early. I saw the oldest remains of Homo sapiens found in Britain (41,000 years old), a maxilla from Kent’s Cavern in Torquay. That one was neat because I have actually been to that cavern. I even bought a cast of it. All in all, a fantastic exhibit. And luckily it is adult-oriented (probably because of all the reconstructions of naked people), so we got to enjoy it in peace, away from all the end-of-summer crowds. Oh, I say “we”–Sayali was such a good friend and not only came to the museum with me, but also went through the exhibit! I liked being able to answer her questions and talk more about what I love. She said, “What better person to go to such an exhibit with than you?” 🙂
After the museum, we went to Tower Bridge for some fun picture-taking. Then we walked along the River Thames, stopping for a lunch of pulled boar sandwich (for me), and crossed over to St. Paul’s Cathedral at Millenium Bridge. Here we took some more pictures for those who didn’t get to on their last visit, then took the tube to Hyde Park for cycling. This was so much fun, and a big highlight of our trip! I realized I haven’t cycled in probably four years at least, so I was a little shaky at first. Especially because I was riding on the opposite side of the road than what I am used to, so I was afraid I was going to slip up and cause an accident. I did cause a minor one–Sayali stopped for some pigeons who wouldn’t budge from the path, and of course I wasn’t paying attention until I crashed my bike into hers. Oops! Overall, it was a great way to see the park and I would definitely do it again. Once we left the park, we went to our hostel to change clothes and get dolled up to see The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre in Covent Garden! Again I will use the word AMAZING, or perhaps INCREDIBLE. The Lion King has been a favorite of mine since I was a very little girl; I had a stuffed Simba, a Lion King sweatshirt, and even Lion King underwear, and used to make my Dad pretend to be Mufasa while my parents’ bed was a makeshift Pride Rock. I’ve wanted to see it performed on stage since I first saw a preview for it on one of our old VHS tapes. So when the cast started singing “The Circle of Life” and the fantastically colorful animals pranced around the stage, I will admit it was an emotional moment for me. It was a dream come true!
Thursday we headed back to the museum for the “Mammoths: Ice Age Giants” exhibit. This one was more kid friendly, so it was a little busier. I didn’t mind, however, as long as I got to see the one thing I had come for: Lyuba the mummified baby mammoth. I learned about how she was only a month old when she died due to asphyxiation in the bottom of a mud hole or swamp. Then she was covered with permafrost, which preserved her for 42,000 years! You couldn’t take pictures, so I took a long time in front of her case, just admiring her perfect little trunk and the tufts of hair in her ears. It was like time traveling, almost too unreal to wrap your head around. Who would have guessed that we would ever be able to see a mammoth? Though poor Lyuba suffered a terrible fate, I am so thankful for the circumstances which brought her to us. She is truly a treasure. After the exhibit, we took a tube ride to check out Little Venice and the pretty boats there. We didn’t spend too long there, however, as we had yet another excursion planned that night.
The special trip was to Brighton. While it was a touristy little place, I quite enjoyed it. We walked around the Royal Pavilion and the surrounding gardens, all built with an Indian influence. If it weren’t for the chill in the air and the incessant wind, I wouldn’t have guessed we were in England anymore. We saw Choccywoccydoodah, a chocolate shop famous here because it has a TV show. Then to Brighton Pier, which was like a carnival out on the water. There were arcade games, rides, ice cream, doughnuts, and cotton candy. Unfortunately it was very windy, as I’ve said previously, so many of the rides were closed due to “severe weather.” 😦 We ended up strolling around and eating the famous doughnuts, which were oh so delicious. The only problem was that every time you would open your mouth for another bite, your hair would blow in!
On the last day of our “last hoorah,” Sayali and I took the train to Cambridge. It was a beautiful day for exploring, and we walked around all the colleges and took pictures of the castle-like buildings. We kept getting harrassed by guys asking us if we had gone punting yet, and started making up elaborate excuses even though we planned to go later in the day. After walking around what must have been the entire city, we stopped for lunch at The Eagle. This was my special request, as it is the pub Watson and Crick frequented while working on their research, and is the first place they announced their discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. They even had DNA-themed menu items! I had the DNA torte: Dark chocolate, Nougat, and Amaretto with a chocolate double helix on top 🙂 We also got some appetizers here, which we thought would be small…needless to say, I will not want to eat whitebait for a VERY long time. Then after lunch, we finally went punting. Oh my, SO fun! We did not rent our own punt but took the 45 minute guided tour, which was enjoyable for several reasons: 1) we learned about the colleges and bridges along the river, 2) neither of us fell in the water, and 3) we got to watch other people make fools of themselves and we laughed for a solid 45 minutes straight. One guy lost his pole and used a tupperware container to paddle back to it! There were crashes and traffic jams galore. Though we elected not to this time, if I ever go back, I will definitely try my hand at punting.
Well, I think that about sums it up. It was a great way to end my time here with some dear friends, especially my favorite neighbor, Sayali. It was very sad having to say goodbye to them on Sunday before they flew home 😦 But I must say, as usual, she planned a wonderful trip!
I will be trying to fit in one more post before I go, but I have to get a lot of packing and cleaning done first…