10-14 February 2012
With our first semester over and finals done, we are now off on our February break. I am heading to my favorite city: London! and then we will visit our Cal Poly friends who are studying in Copenhagen, Denmark.
JC, Fran, Jess, John, and I arrived mid-day into London Gatwick and took a short tram into the city center. Our first order of business was heading to north London, to the town of Kilburn, where we will be renting a room from an older couple for the next few days. We were greeted with tea and biscuits that we quickly gobbled up.
We rested for a while in the room before heading into the city center for dinner. We were on a mission to find an American restaurant that we all greatly miss in Italy: Chipotle. You might roll your eyes to this, but Californian college students survive on burritos, and not having one for six months is a terrible thing that donner kababs could not attempt to fulfill.
We ate at the Chipotle on Baker Street, just steps from the apartment of Sherlock Holmes. JC and I have become fans of the BBC show Sherlock that showcases a modern day Sherlock in today’s London. It is very exciting and witty, so we were very happy to visit 221B Baker Street! We then discovered a very cute street, Marylebone High Street. This street is an ideal London street, filled with pubs and cute shops. We took a rest in one pub and enjoyed our first cider. Cider is so good and tastes just like apple juice!
We had a simple breakfast at the B&B and then made our way into the city. Our fist stop, the changing of the guards at Buckingham palace. During the winter, the guards wear their grey winter coats instead of their bright red summer uniform. It was interesting to be there during the off-season. It was still very busy, but no way near as crowded as in the summer.
For lunch, we went to Borough Market. Just steps from the London Bridge metro stop, this is my favorite market! It is built under the tracks of the metro and provides yummy artesian foods. We had fun tasting chai tea and locally made granola. I settled for a delicious grilled cheese sandwich and Bienenstich (from a German bakery).
We walked past Shakespeare’s Globe Theater to the Tate Modern. We explored the contemporary art within this remodeled power plant. Next, we crossed the Millennium Bridge (by London’s favorite Architect Sir Norman Fosters) and enjoyed a coffee at the Starbucks (they are on every corner in London!) in front of St. Peter’s Church.
By now, it was dark, but we were still on the hunt to find a few more bits of cool architecture. We found two skyscrapers. One called Swiss Re, aka the Gherkin (it looks like a giant pickle and is also by Sir Norman Fosters) and the other Lloyds of London. Lloyds, by Richard Rogers, is a very interesting building because all of the systems (water, HVAC, circulation) are on the exposed outside of the building, leaving the interior to be free for the occupants use.
For dinner, we enjoyed Chicken Tikka Masala, the national food of Britain, at a great Indian restaurant.
A rainy and lazy morning, then, off to find lunch at Camden Market. Camden Town is the hipster and artist borough of London. With many stalls selling used clothes and locally made arts, we had fun looking at all of the stuff we would never buy. Through the center is a set of Locks that canal boats often frequent through. Up above the canal, we enjoyed tea and scones in a very cute tea shop. So relaxing!
We ventured through Regents Park (my favorite park so far) checked out Harrods department store and then sat in another café until it was time to meet up with some school friends for dinner.
We took the Metro to Parliament this morning. Big Ben looked stunning this morning! We said hello to the Prime Minister at #10 Downing Street and then made our way into Westminster Abbey. Inside Westminster, I got to see many memorials to Britain’s Greats: Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, and Queen Elizabeth I.
We went to Convent Garden to eat Meat Pies and then explored the Monday antique’s market. I bought a very cute and cheap 1940s cameo ring! We had a lovely afternoon tea and scones.
As the sun was setting, we made our way back to London Bridge to see the lit up city hall (it is to look like a river rock and is also by Sr. Norman Foster). This area is filled with some very cool architecture, including a new construction (it is not quite finished) The Shard by Italian Architect Renzo Piano. It will now be the tallest building in Europe.
We walked across Tower Bridge, past the tower of London, and to the Metro where we made our way back to Marylebone High Street for amazing fish n’ chips. The Golden Hind has some of the best fish ever. The batter is so light and crispy. Yum! I remember coming here with my mom when we were in London four years ago. I was so excited to find it again.
We only had a half-day London before continuing on to Copenhagen. Our flight was at 4pm, so we tried to squeeze in a few more things before heading to the airport. We took the metro to Kings Cross train station to pay our respects to Harry Potter and Platform 9¾. We walked through Russel Square Park, to the British Museum. I discovered that the Rosetta stone is kept here, I had no idea! We saw many cool, ancient things, including one of the large, stone heads from Easter Island.
We had Cornish Pasties for lunch, and then our time in London was over…
I want to go back so bad!!! I need to live here! London is the perfect blend between America and Europe. It is still very exotic and European, yet is has the comforts of home.