Sunday, January 15, 2017

Madeline and Allison Take London (I Mean, She Lives Here Year Round, But You Get It)


Guess what? I’m not in Manchester (well actually I will be by the time you are reading this). I am in London visiting my friend Allison. She is a grad student at London School of Economics, and is very graciously letting me stay in her flat. I haven’t been homesick on this trip, but I can’t stress enough how lovely it is to be with someone who knows exactly where I am from and is able to have conversation about very specific Alaska things. It is so crazy to think that two students from Palmer High School are in London!

I left Manchester on Thursday at 2:55 pm. I had to walk from the hotel to the train station, which are on opposite sides of City Center, and just barely made it on the train. I sat down in my seat with 5 minutes before departure. Needless to say, that was extremely stressful. I arrived in London at about 5 pm, Allison was waiting for me at the station so I didn’t have to try and navigate London by myself (thank goodness). The station itself was super busy, the line to the underground was crazy long so we decided to take a bus to LSE and then take the tube from there.

The bus was incredibly busy too, and to make matters worse the weather was terrible. It was a really odd mix of snow and rain, which makes me think it had something to do with two Alaskans being together. The tube station we went to was in Skyfall, I’ve never seen the movie, but apparently its culturally significant. We then walked across Tower Bridge to Allison’s flat. It was so cool (both literally and figuratively, the slush rain was pretty bad).

Tower Bridge at night

After getting settled in the flat we went out to dinner at a Wetherspoon’s pub, and then came back for a cup of tea and bed. The student housing for LSE provided us with a mattress so I don’t have to sleep directly on the ground! Hooray!

Friday morning, we woke up to snow (real honest to goodness snow). Naturally by the time we got out the door the snow had turned to sleet again, but it was really pretty while it lasted!

While waiting to meet up with the bigger group from Manchester, Allison and I walked around Central London and explored the touristy spots. I got to see Big Ben (and hear it chime which is good because it’s going under repairs soon), walk along the Thames, see the Palace of Westminster, The Globe Theater, and Westminster Abbey. Basically I lived every Anglophile’s dream. In the midst of all the tourist experiences Allison gave me a tour of LSE. It was really great to see a school like that up close, and even better to have a personalized tour. She also “made” me navigate us around the Tube. Luckily, she told me when I was doing it wrong, otherwise who knows where we would have ended up.

Here I am in front of The Globe

Palace of Westminster

View from one of the LSE buildings

We caught up with the rest of the group outside Westminster Abbey, and after a quick discussion of plans separated so they could find their Airbnb. Allison and I opted to let them do their own thing for the rest of the day and went to the National Portrait Gallery.

The Gallery was one of my absolute favorites! (I know this exclamation is beginning to sound repetitive). They have portraits dating back all the way to the Tudors. I geeked out pretty hard, I spent about 2 ½ hours exploring. I cannot believe how much stuff was in there! It was a really great experience observing British History in a different form.

After the Portrait Gallery we decided to go to the Museum Tavern. This tavern is right next to the British Museum. Marx and Engels spent time there, and so we absolutely had to go. It was a tiny little place, but it was great!

All in all, we walked about 12 miles in a day. I didn’t feel sore at all until I sat down, so I’m expecting Saturday to be pretty rough.

Walking around Saturday was not the worst! I can definitely feel it in my hips, but I was ready to go in the morning. I was supposed to meet up with the bigger group, but we weren’t able to make it work.

Allison and I decided to start the day at Maltby Market. We got breakfast at this tiny little bakery, it was amazing. I got a spinach and cheese croissant that was absolutely incredible. After breakfast we walked around for a bit before deciding to head to the British Museum. Allison had to work on a paper, so I went around the museum by myself.

The British Museum is huge! I was immediately overwhelmed upon entering, but after a few minutes catching my bearings I was able to figure it out. I didn’t see all the museum had to offer, because that is a crazy undertaking, but I did see all the stuff I wanted to.

Entrance to the British Museum

I started with the Egyptian exhibit. It opens on the Rosetta Stone. I cannot believe that I actually got to see that in person! Honestly, it was quite a bit smaller than I imagined, but then I remembered that it is just a fragment of the original artifact. I also went through the exhibits on Greece (which had some pretty great stone carvings), Assyria, Europe through the ages, The Enlightenment (a giant library room), and the North America Exhibit (just for pure amusement). It is so crazy to think that they have all of these artifacts, and probably more, in one concentrated area. I loved the museum, but I did have one critique (if that is the right word). They don’t have very clear information by the artifacts about where they were taken from. It felt a little bit like they are ignoring the effects colonialism had on the cultures they are displaying.

After the museum we decided to go on a sort of literary walking tour. They have these blue plaques all over the place that show a place has historical significance. We went to a neighborhood that was filled with these plaques. We saw where Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Millicent Fawcett lived. It is so crazy to think that those buildings are still standing, and people still use them. During our literary tour we also found this incredible bookstore. It was mostly second hand, but it had tons of material (I’m talking floor to ceiling shelves of books). I managed to limit myself to two, even though it was incredibly difficult. Maybe I need to start giving myself a limit before I enter such a dangerous place.

Home of Dame Millicent Fawcett

Virginia Woolf worked here!

The home of Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley (we read his poem "The Masque of Anarchy")

On the subject of dangerous places, I tried to tour the Tower of London. The gates closed a minute after I got there, and it was only going to open for 30 minutes (when they recommend 3 hours for the tour) so I ended up not going. I did get some pretty fantastic pictures on the walk back to Allison’s flat, so that made it all worth it.

Up close and personal with the Tower of London

The Tower of London from across the Thames

I just got this app on my phones that tells me how many steps/miles I’ve walked in a day. According to the app, which I actually believe, I walked 22,251 steps (which equals 9.86 miles) in one day. It doesn’t feel that bad now, but I bet as soon as my daily walking becomes less my body is going to rebel. How fun is that?

Sunday was much more relaxed. It was one of Allison's flatmate's birthdays so we had brunch. It was so nice to talk to other grad students; it really helped me get a feel for LSE.

We went to the Tate Modern, an art gallery, before I left. It was really cool, even though I don't really know that much about modern art. I got to see one of Monet's water lily paintings that was absolutely beautiful.

After the Tate Modern I had to head to the train station so I could get back to Manchester. Allison escorted me to the tube station, and then I was off. All of her lessons about how the tube works payed off and I didn't get lost once. I felt very accomplished figuring it out alone (although she did tell me exactly where to go). I spent the train back to Manchester reading, and after getting back Emma and I went out to dinner. 

This weekend was absolutely amazing, and I cannot wait for the next week!


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