Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fall Break: Part I-London

Ciao a tutti!!

I apologize for the delay in my blog posts regarding fall break.  It’s been pretty busy getting back into the swing of things again! 

I am going to divide up my blog posts into each place that I visited so that I don’t bombard you with all my experiences, memories, and pictures at once!  First stop: London!

I kicked off fall break with my roommate Alyssa by visiting two of my close friends Amanda and Isabel in London.  I took my first RyanAir flight that Friday from Perugia straight to London…I survived! RyanAir seems to have a negative connotation when it comes to flying, but honestly it was no different than any other flight I’ve taken.  When we landed, recorded sounds of trumpets played!  On the flight, we flew over the Alps, which was a breathtaking sight! Snow-capped mountains peaked through the thin layer of clouds and I could see right down into the valleys between mountains.  Before coming to Italy, I never really saw big chains of mountains, so this aerial view from the plane window was incredible!

I stayed with Amanda first and she lives in South Kensington, a very posh area of London to say the least.  One of the clubs that Prince Harry has been spotted at is literally down the street from her apartment.  Once we took the tube into what I consider the “main” area of London (where all the tourist attractions are located) I almost felt like I was in NYC.  There was a very similar feel: fast-paced, city life.   I immediately fell in love with London!

The first afternoon (Friday), Alyssa and I did some exploring ourselves while Amanda was at work.  Amanda’s room looks out over the Museum of Natural History so Alyssa and I wondered around the museum for a little bit.  We came across the gem collection room.  No joke, it looked like a scene straight out of Breakfast at Tiffany’s!  There were rows and rows of glass display cases holding very precious gems.  In the back of the room, there was a smaller room called The Volt, which contained even more valuable gemstones.  This small section of such a massive museum was my favorite.  That night, I went to my first English pub.  I had a traditional English meal of fish and chips and a lager shandy.  The fish and chips were really yummy, a nice change from the abundance of pasta and pizza which I have been eating.  A lager shandy is half beer-half sprite (or lemonade as the Brits call it).  It tasted like bubbly lemonade-Delicious!

Saturday and Sunday was a marathon! I think I saw just about every major tourist attraction in a 48-hour time period.  Isabel met up with us and Amanda served as an excellent and informative tour guide.  She took us all over the city and I am so fortunate for that because I got to see everything in London that I came to see!  I saw the following: Big Ben and Parliament, Westminster Abbey, The London Eye, The Tower of London, London Bridge, Millennium Bridge (the one blown up in the most recent Harry Potter film), Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and Harrods.  I think I hit it all!

I was so photo obsessed with Big Ben because I feel like it is the epitome of London.  I think I took a picture from just about every angle possible!  You can see Big Ben from anywhere you are in the general vicinity.  You see face on or you walk a way and you see it poking up from behind some trees.  All I kept thinking and saying was “Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament!”  My Dad always says this line and I couldn’t get his voice out of my head every time I saw Big Ben. 

I got super excited when I stood in front of Westminster Abbey.  I literally had to stop and breathe in front of the main entrance because all I kept thinking about was that Kate Middletown and the whole Royal Family walked into this main gate on that famous wedding day.  The famous picture of Kate in her wedding gown waving to the camera (with Pippa holding her train) was taken at the very spot at which I stood and I got the goose bumps!  I really wish I could have gone inside but the line seemed very long and we had a lot to see that day.  Next time!

A similar feeling took over when I went to Buckingham Palace.  I nearly cried when I saw that famous balcony!  Again, I stopped and stared in awe at the balcony.  I took so many pictures of just the balcony.  After being in the presence of such a famous palace, I became obsessed all over again with everything royal and anything having to do with the Royal Family.  I even bought Princess Diana/Kate Middletown’s knock-off engagement ring.  Best 5 pounds ever spent! J We walked down the Princess Diana Memorial Walk and saw the house where Prince Charles and his family live.  The best view I could get was the very top of the house.  I was so euphoric the whole time I was in the general vicinity of the palace! I couldn’t believe where I was standing and what I was seeing.

I got the opportunity to go on the London Eye with Isabel and Alyssa, which was awesome! I got the best view of all of London.  We had been trying to time it all day to go in the late afternoon so that it would be sunset by the time we were at the top of the Eye.  Indeed, we managed to achieve that goal.  Absolutely perfect timing!  When you are standing in this small pod you get the best views anyone could ever get of London.  You see for miles beyond just the main tourist area.  I could see Wembley Stadium way off in the horizon.  Very neat experience to say the very least.

Of course, Harrods was I place that I couldn’t miss.  It was extremely similar to the Macy’s in Herald Square: A grandiose department store with all things posh and expensive.  I loved it! Alyssa, Isabel, and I had lunch there and walked around for what seemed like a few hours just trying to see as much of the store as possible, which proved to be very difficult.  It was a true London shopping experience!

Like I said earlier, I fell in love in London.  It was such a vibrant city with so much fascinating history.  Amanda gave us so much historical context to what we were seeing, that I realized how much I enjoy learning about British history.  Thoughts ran through my head about possibly living and working in London.  Knowing myself, I knew that would happen with just about every European city I visited (ehm, Paris?).  I definitely want to go back to London and go in to more things, like Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace.  Overall, it was an incredible way to start my fall break Eurotrip! 

Enjoy the pictures! These are just a selection of the hundreds that I actually took…

Museum of Natural History

Inside the museum

The gemstone collection: Breakfast at Tiffany's anyone?


In the courtyard of the Victoria Albert Museum

Museum of Natural History @ night

Amanda & I on my first night- at the pub enjoying a lager shandy!

Isabel, Alyssa, Me, Amanda


Big Ben & Parliament

The most famous telephone booth in all of London!

QE II's conference center

Westminster Abbey

Alyss & I outside the back end of the Abbey

Isabel & I

Red/Green shows division of houses in Parliament

The London Eye

Millennium Bridge

London Bridge

The Tower of London

Tower Bridge

I needed a black/white and red bus picture....

Buckingham Palace!

There it is...the balcony!

Look kids, Big Ben!

Prince Charles' house (which means Prince Harry lives there too :))!

I remember this from The Parent Trap


Changing of the Guard

Next stop: PARIS!            

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