Monday, 16 September 2013

London baby! (and Lincoln too oops)

Holy shit! I am so tired and there is so much to talk about! London was awesome, I’m so glad I went, and I feel so independent and accomplished that I made it on my own. I didn’t get lost and didn’t get hit by cars! But I got back at 11:20pm last night and then we were in Lincoln all day today so I am ready to get in my bed. Brief summary of the places I cried this weekend: the British Library, National Portrait Gallery, Leicester Square when I was remembering The Best Day, on the train to Hampton Court Palace, at Hampton Court Palace, outside of Westminster Abbey, walking to the Tower of London, at the Tower of London, and a fair amount of places in between.

Saturday: Well my plans didn’t work out so I started off pretty pissed—my alarm didn’t go off so I missed my 7:02am train to London, and had to buy a (much more expensive) ticket for the 8:02 train at the station. I went straight from St. Pancras station in London down the street to the British Library as soon as I got in. I was able to register for a reading card, but one of the two books I really want is off-site, which means they need 48 hours notice to have it sent to the actual British Library. I was able to see one of the books I needed though! They’re pretty uptight there, you have to have your Reading Room card with you to get into any rooms, have to carry all your belongings in a clear plastic bag, and you can’t bring pens in, only pencils. But now I know for next time! I think one more trip and my research will be done!

Next I walked across the city to Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square. I retraced my steps from The Best Day, July 7th 2011! It was amazing to be back in the same exact place that Sigrid and I were before, watching some of the greatest celebrities walk past us. Then I went back home—to the National Portrait Gallery. It was unbelievable. They rearranged the Tudor Gallery a bit, they now have a newly identified portrait of Catherine of Aragon (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) which they have next to Henry VIII, and Anne Boleyn’s portrait is the next over. So amazing to have all of them together. Unfortunately, they had moved Elizabeth I’s coronation portrait (they’re opening a new exhibit starting in October!) so I didn’t get to see that, but a lot of my other favorites were there. I have never felt so happy in my entire life. Getting to see all my people and being with them again was just amazing. It’s been several years since I was there and being back felt like being home, it just felt right. They were all just waiting for me and I could just feel it. It’s such an unbelievably warm loving feeling, when your body and your heart and your soul are all in the same place. The feeling reminded me of this part in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, after the battle when Voldemort is defeated, and Harry goes to the headmaster’s office to see Dumbledore’s portrait. So I’ll just let J.K. Rowling explain what that feeling is like:
 “He had one, brief glimpse of the stone Pensieve on the desk where he had left it, and then an earsplitting noise made him cry out, thinking of curses and returning Death Eaters and the rebirth of Voldemort –
            But it was applause. All around the walls, the headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts were giving him a standing ovation, they waved their hats and in some cases their wigs, they reached through their frames to grip each other’s hands; they danced up and down on the chairs in which they had been painted…
            But Harry had eyes only for the man who stood in the largest portrait behind the headmaster’s chair. Tears were sliding down from behind the half-moon spectacles into the long silver beard, and the pride and the gratitude emanating from him filled Harry with the same balm as phoenix song.”
The same balm as phoenix song—exactly what I was feeling. This is so nerdy and I so don’t even care.

After that I walked to Waterloo station and caught the overground train to Hampton Court Palace, where I cried some more! It was so nice being able to take my own time to go through. I made sure to see the H and A in the Great Hall (Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s initials, after the execution they were all removed except they missed this one at Hampton Court), and sat in the Chapel for a really long time. The Chapel is so beautiful. I could have stayed there crying all day. The ceiling! So amazing! One of the most beautiful Tudor ceilings still in existence. It was so great. And thanks to my Historic Royal Palaces Membership, it was free and I got a 10% discount in the gift shops! :)

I had a really nice (and much needed) resting period on the train back and then checked into my hostel. I met up with a friend of mine and we got drinks in Soho, and wandered around Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square and Covent Garden, it was great and I had so much fun. I didn’t get hit by cars and I’ve officially learned how to j-walk like a Londoner!

Sunday: I literally walked across London three times and I am exhausted just thinking about it. I checked out of my hostel and walked essentially from Kings Cross to Westminster Abbey, walking through Whitehall which was annoying since there was some fucking bike race that was in my way. I had been planning on going to the 11:15 service at Westminster Abbey (since you get in for free), but it was invitation only because of a Battle of Britain service, so I just waited outside with the rest of the people/tourists and watched fancy people coming and going in from their cars.

Then since I decided I hadn’t done enough walking, I walked across the city again to the Tower of London. I met up with one of my best friends, Peter, who is studying abroad in London and it was unreal! We've been friends since before we were born, and I couldn’t (and still can’t) believe that we’re living in England. 
Peter and I on our first day of school

Peter blowing out the candles on my birthday cake (thanks)

London baby!!!

I had assigned him homework (know all of Henry VIII’s wives) which he didn’t take seriously, so I had to fail him for his first pop quiz. He gave my Tower of London tour a 9/10, so I’m pretty happy with that! First we went on the Yeoman Warder’s tour, which was fantastic. My goal of marrying one so that I can live in the Tower of London is in reach, since our tour guide wasn’t wearing a ring (I looked). Like last time, I was the last one in the Chapel since I was busy crying. The beefeater had to kick me out since there was a new group coming in. Some things never change. Then we did the Medieval Palace, Wakefield Tower (Henry VI was murdered there on May 21st, 1471), Bloody Tower (Princes in the Tower!!! I gave Peter the whole story and, like myself, he voted for Richard III at the end for who killed the Princes), White Tower (restrained myself at the gift shop), and then saw the Crown Jewels. All so so amazing! I’m so glad I was able to meet up with him! He had never been to the Tower before, so being able to show him everything and all my people was amazing. I’m so lucky!

And since I really wanted to walk more, we essentially walked from the Tower back to Kings Cross, with a brief layover at Peter’s flat so I could meet his roommates and eat their food. My train left at about 8:15pm and I struggled really hard not to fall asleep. I was so exhausted. When I finally got into Nottingham I was worried that I wouldn’t make the last bus out of the city center (my train was due to arrive at 10:49 and the last bus going to my flat leaves at 10:53), so I ran with my huge backpack for four blocks. And I made it!!! I got back at about 11:20 and was exhausted.

Today we went to Lincoln on a day trip, which was great and a lot of fun. We had time to wander around and explore the city before going on a walking tour (including the cathedral!) at 1:00pm. The only places I went into seemed to be book stores and the Whisky Shop. The owners gave Kula and I free tasters of two South African whiskys! There’s nothing greater in this world than free whisky. They also sell the smallest bottle of whisky in the world, and so I bought three of them. Also I'm still not used to the British spelling of whisky without the "e" but I guess I'll get used to it. Our walking tour was excellent, Lincoln has so much history. There have been people living there since the Iron Age (I think?), and there are still a lot of Roman ruins in the city. The cathedral is magnificent. Lincoln has been on my list of places to go for a while, mainly just because I want to see the cathedral. It is just unbelievably beautiful. I’m so lucky! Part of it is still surviving from when William the Conqueror had it built, starting in 1088. Just amazing. Being in England just reminds me how young the U.S. is—we just don’t have that kind of history in the U.S., we just don’t have that level of old. It is so unreal.
Lincoln Cathedral

It was pretty chilly/windy/it kept raining, so for the rest of the day after our walking tour it was pretty low key. I passed out on the train ride back cause I’m so tired. I have no idea how I’m still writing this, that’s how tired I am. Tomorrow is International Student Orientation, so we’re all staying on campus at the university in the dorms from Tuesday until Friday night. Obviously my 21st birthday is important enough that they planned the first day of orientation on it. This is super long but mainly I just wanted to get everything out so that people aka my parents knew that I made it home from London safe and sound! I am so tired but it was so worth it. And now: bedtime.

P.S. For sure said “cheers!” to a Brit today for the first time and it was awesome.

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