London Calling

After our adventure in Derbyshire on Friday, we hopped on the 5:30 train bound for London. The five of us (Liz, Mary Beth, Ashley, Brittany, and I) were able to get a table on the train and sit together. The two-hour journey flew by as we talked (and people-watched…the train is GREAT for people watching). Our train arrived at St. Pancras International at about 7:45, where we met with our British friend, Rita. She helped us set up our OysterCards for the weekend, which allowed us to top up money for stress-free use of the tube and bus system. Then, we hopped on our first tube (subway) ride of the trip! We got off at Elephant and Castle stop, then walked about ten minutes to the hostel we booked for the weekend. Liz and Rita stayed in a double-occupancy room, and the other four of us stayed in a quadruple room. It was the first time we’ve stayed in a hostel, and it kind of felt like camping! We shared bunk beds and talked until we fell asleep. 

The next morning, we woke up decently early to get ready for our big day in London. I channeled my inner Kate Middleton by wearing something called a fascinator, which is a combination between a flashy hat and a headband. We boarded a red double-decker bus to head downtown for breakfast and to get our day started. We walked through the city for a bit before finding a hub of competing hop-on hop-off tour bus company representatives. We had already decided a HO-HO bus would be our best bet for seeing all the sights we wanted to, but we didn’t want to book ahead of time so we could get on the spot, competitive pricing. After some haggling with each representative, we finally settled on Golden Tours. Our work was well worth it: for only 20 pounds each, we got two-day passes and a river cruise with the tour company. We started the tour feeling pretty proud of ourselves! 

Saint Paul’s Cathedral

The bus took us to many major sights. First up was Saint Paul’s Cathedral. We hopped off here to see the outside of the cathedral and enter the lobby, but we decided not to pay for a tour of the cathedral. Next up was the London Tower Bridge, not to be confused with London Bridge! Tower Bridge was a huge engineering feat in its day and is located right next to the Tower of London on the Thames. We paid to tour the bridge, and went up inside both of the towers of it as well as see the engine rooms. I wish my boyfriend, Jeff, could have learned about its history! He loves anything engineering-related, and this would be right up his alley. The views from the top of the bridge were spectacular, as well. 

The view from atop Tower Bridge
Throwing the OPA sign in front of Big Ben!

After that, we boarded the bus again and headed towards Trafalgar Square, where we had lunch at a burrito restaurant. There were many protests taking place in the square, so for safety reasons, we didn’t do too much exploring in that area. After lunch, we went to see Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace. No picture could do any of these sights justice! We learned about the history of each famous landmark on the tour bus as well as when we hopped off to get a closer look. Afterwards, we hopped back on the bus with plans to go to Abbey Road. However, due to some crazy traffic, those plans fell through. Instead, we met up with our friend Rita again for dinner at the Olde Cock Tavern before calling it a night. 

Signing the wall outside Abbey Road Studios

On Sunday morning, we started out early again to finish our sightseeing bucket list before it was time to head back to Sheffield. First up: the river cruise that was included in our bus passes. After a sweaty hike around the city (yes, I said sweaty…It was almost 70 degrees Fahrenheit this weekend!), we finally found the Tower Pier where the boat was to load. We loved cruising down the Thames and taking in the scenery. We disembarked at the London Eye and watched some street performers for a bit. Then, we split up to tackle the last of our London adventures. Some of the girls needed to get home earlier to prepare for school this week, so they headed to Kings Cross station. However, Liz and I, Beatles junkies that we are, opted to navigate the tube system to get to Abbey Road after our failed attempt the previous night. This time, our travels went off without a hitch. We were so proud of our navigational skills! We got off the tube at St. John’s Wood and stopped in a cute Beatles gift shop at the station for some souvenirs for loved ones back home. Then, it was time to find Abbey Road! It only took us about five minutes to walk there, and we knew we found it when we saw a crowd of American tourists. It was so nice to hear an American accent again! At first, we tried to take a picture with just the two of us, but it looked rather pathetic. We made friends with some other students studying abroad from California that needed people for their picture, so it all worked out! It was nice to escape the hustle of downtown London and see something not so wildly popular as some of the other sights we visited. After taking pictures crossing the road, we went to sign the wall outside of Abbey Road Studios. Since I was named after the Beatles song “Julia”, I decided to throw in some lyrics for good measure. 

Thanks, strangers!

My letter from Hogwarts finally came!

After our fun side-trip, we headed back into central London for one last photo opportunity: Platform 9 3/4! If you don’t know what this is, then you need to read Harry Potter! We waited for about fifteen minutes to take a picture here, and it was definitely worth it. We capped off the day with lunch at Kings Cross, then headed over to Saint Pancras to catch our train home. 

It was an action-packed weekend that I will never forget. I hope that one day I can return to London for a longer period of time and see all the sights we ran out of time to visit! I’m looking forward to the field trips and other fun things Reignhead has planned for us this week. 

Coming next weekend: a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland! My passport is ready for a new stamp! 

Daffodils are EVERYWHERE here, but
you won’t see me complaining!

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