08 November 2011

London 2008

We now move on to my European Travels of 2008. It's funny to think back on this trip. Me and my friend, Christy, had been planning this adventure for years. We originally had planned a backpacking trip across Europe, but we ultimately decided on a tour (yeah, I know...), but it was our first trip together by ourselves and this was a good starting point. And, I mean....we saw EVERYTHING. We did it all. After months of searching, we found the "European Cavalcade" - a tour offered by Trafalgar. I had dreamed of going to Switzerland and Germany, and this tour included all that and more! 10 countries in all. And we had a blast.

We flew in to London, and being fresh out of college and inexperienced in solo travel, everything we did was a major achievement. The fact that we, delirious from lack of sleep, found our way from the airport to Paddington station - and from there, to our hotel - had us giddy with excitement.

London and the Gherkin (left) as seen from our hotel.
I'm a bit embarrassed by our first day in London. We had grand simple dreams of getting fish 'n chips, wandering into a local pub and exploring the museums and landmarks in the heart of London. But jet lag got the better of us and we napped the afternoon away, random British kids shows playing on the tv in the background. We're a little better about managing the jet lag now...but it took a few years. But, in our minds, we had a busy tour ahead of us and we didn't want to overdo it.

We did a bit better during our second day in London. We actually ventured out! It took a few tries, but we managed to get on the Tube and into the heart of London. Being silly girls, we were so excited to have figured out the Underground and correctly made it to our destination.

Angel Station

We intended to head to St. Paul's Cathedral, as that was something we had not seen during our first trip to London. We got off the tube at St. Paul's station and what happened then is almost too embarrassing to recount here. But, I'll allow a laugh at my expense. Now, I don't know how, but didn't actually know how to identify St. Paul's Cathedral. So, having got off at St. Paul's station, one would assume that the landmark would be within steps, no? So, below is the building that met our eyes soon after leaving the underground. Surprisingly small for a cathedral, right? Me and Christy wandered closer and something just didn't seem right... There was a dentist office's phone number in the window. I thought that a bit odd. Eventually we came to the realization that this must not be it; we hung our heads in shame and continued on (after having snapped photos of it, of course!).

NOT St. Paul's Cathedral

We went on in search of St. Paul's Cathedral and came across Paternoster Square - a cute, uncrowded area. We walked along the shops, enjoying the spacious square, when suddenly, out of nowhere, we saw what must be St Paul's Cathedral from between two buildings. We were not failures - we had found it! Another small achievement!

                 Paternoster Square                                                            St. Paul's Cathedral at last!

Next, we set off in search of the HOHO (Hop On Hop Off) Bus. Now, I had a map and I could see the buses passing us on the street - but I never did see any of them stop anywhere. We must have chased after that HOHO bus for at least an hour, never seeing one stop to let people on/off. We never did catch that HOHO bus and eventually gave up and walked along the river instead. Needless to say, this London trip wasn't quite living up to our first trip. Having been to London twice now, I still really need to go back and experience London the right way - not to mention all the other cute little towns outside of London. How fabulous would it be to bike through the English countryside, stopping at quaint little towns along the way? But as for this trip to London, I still had fun. My first experience on the Underground and just walking the streets of London (not to mention the St. Paul's incident) defined this London venture.

We really felt like 2 little girls amongst all the men in suits.

The Tower Bridge: my favorite.

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