A Weekend in London!Siena, Spring 2012

This past weekend my friend Katie and I ventured to London! Since we heard word of a transportation strike in Italy on the day we were leaving (Thursday) we aimed to leave Siena early.  Although our flight was not until 6:50 p.m in Pisa, we left Siena around 11 a.m, as soon as our language class ended.  I was a little nervous because although Pisa is not very far, it requires a few train transfers. Everything worked out and we arrived at the airport exactly 5 hours before our flight! Evidently we did not need to leave so early, but I am glad we did.  Strikes are common in Italian transportation, and everything is fairly lackadaisical... so you never know! Luckily our travel adventure was uneventful and we took an express train to the Liverpool Street Station in London where my cousin Rich picked us up.  At this point it was around 10 p.m and I was not only exhausted but I had a migraine.  We walked to his apartment where we were to stay for the weekend, which was just a 5 minute walk away.  Due to a day of traveling and the hour time difference, we decided that we would just go to sleep for the night and begin exploring in the morning. At this point in my Study Abroad Adventure, I had been in Italy for 6 weeks.  SO as you can imagine, Katie and I were quite excited when we went through customs and we could have a full conversation with the worker.  It was refreshing to see signs we completely understood, and to be able to ask questions and get directions! As we walked to Rich's apartment we saw Subway, McDonald's, Burger King, and other things that looked familiar.  It was a strange feeling, but even though we had never been to London before, it felt homey! Rich's son and his friend were also staying in the apartment.  They arrived later in the night than we did.  We greeted them in the morning and then we set out for our bike tour! In order to get there, we had to take the underground.  At this point in my travels, subway systems do not intimidate me at all.  We purchased our "oyster cards" and navigated our way to the Fat Tire bike tour. The bike tour was definitely a great way to become familiar with the city, and it wasn't expensive at all! We saw all the major sights: Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Tower of London, Princess Diana memorial, Prince Albert Memorial, the National Gallery, Trafalgar square, as well as many beautiful parks.  Our tour guide was so entertaining too.  He knew so much history, as well as interesting tidbits and stories that we definitely would not have heard if we decided to tour the city on our own. We really lucked out with the weather as well.  London gets a bad rep for it's weather.  Rain was predicted for the weekend, but we got none! (We even got a little bit of sunshine on Saturday).  The bike tour lasted for about 4 hours.  Afterward we went to King's Cross to see Platform 9 3/4! I am an embarrassingly huge Harry Potter fan, so this was a dream come true.  It was harder to find than we had anticipated, and it was definitely less crowded than we thought.  We were basically the only ones there! We each took pictures and it was a dream come true! We then headed back to the apartment to get ready for dinner and a night out afterwards.  We  all walked to a restaurant that was on the Thames river with a great view of the Tower Bridge.  It was a nice place and we had a really tasty meal.  By far our dessert was the best.  Katie and I got an apple crumble rhubarb.  It was definitely a nice break from Italian food!After dinner, we went to a lot of different pubs.  People go out a lot earlier in London than they do in Italy.  Italians normally do not go out for the night until after 11.  One time my friends and I showed up to a bar in Siena at 11:30 and no one was even there yet! The pubs were fun, especially this one pub where everyone was dancing to oldies music. On Saturday we went to the "changing of the guard" ceremony in front of Buckingham Palace.  Unfortunately we got there a bit late, so I could not see much of what was going on but I am still glad we made it there.  After that we went to one of the indoor markets- Covent Garden.  It was nice to walk around.  There was lots of things to see, different sweets and food, little tents selling scarves and jewelry, as well as well known stores like lush, the loft, etc.  After we walked around for a bit, we went out for lunch in China town (which is pretty close to the market) and had dim sum! Dim sum is so yummy and it is so fun to pick what you want from the carts. After lunch we took the underground to Harrod's which we heard was an epic department store.  I was expecting it to be something like Bloomingdales, or Nordstroms.  I was shocked to see that it was even more immense and had even more of a variety of items.  They had a whole chocolate store, many food markets, furniture, clothes, accessories, a toy store, and more things that I cannot even name.  Basically they have everything you would ever need, through out your whole life, in this store.  We stopped at the chocolate section and I got a piece of chocolate that was filled with raspberry and peanut butter.  It was like a chocolate covered peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I have no words to explain the glorious taste. We walked around some more, and headed back for a nap.  For dinner, we went down "Frying Pan Alley."  Katie and I decided that we had to get Indian food while in London, because it is known for having great curry.  Again, it was nice to have something that was delicious but not Italian.  I finished off my dinner by getting a McFlurry from McDonald's.  I don't think I have had one in years, but I was craving the taste of America! We had an early night because we had to leave for the airport the next morning at 4:45 a.m. As always, I was happy to return to Siena after a weekend away.  It was a wonderful trip filled with English speaking and familiar foods! I really loved London, and I would definitely enjoy a longer stay. [caption id="attachment_36966" align="alignnone" width="225" caption="Westminster Abbey"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_36967" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="In front of the Tower Bridge!"][/caption]
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