✈ Europe | London | Part I

Catch up on our grand European adventure:
Rome | Pompeii | Florence Part I | Florence Part II | Paris | Versailles 

Day 1: We woke up early to the Eurostar (a high-speed train service that travels underwater through the Channel Tunnel aka “Chunnel”) from Paris to London. As we stood in line at the passport checkpoint before boarding, I saw a bald head in front of us that looked awfully familiar. The man was with his wife, both in chic but casual attire, and talking about sweet potatoes of all things. Mom was acting like a giddy school girl when I told her who I’d just spotted but we both managed to keep our cool (for the most part). We did about lose it when the passport officer asked his occupation and he answered, “Actor.” (dreamily, Mom says!). I mean with those lashes and that talent?! Who wouldn’t be smitten with… Stanley Tucci!!! Yep, turns out he and his wife were returning to their home in London after a day-trip to Paris. I only know this because someone else blogged about being six rows away from him the day before!

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| Stanley Tucci: on his wedding day with wife Felicity Blunt, alongside Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia and The Devil Wears Prada, and as the outrageous Caesar in the Hunger Games series (images c/o Google) |

Anyway, our little celebrity-sighting was like finding a heads-up penny because it definitely started the next leg of our trip off right. We arrived in London and went straight to our lodgings at Carr Saunders Hall, a dormitory that the London School of Economics rents out to tourists when college isn’t in session. We ditched our bags quickly, got a map and directions from the front desk, and set off to our next destination… the Apollo Victoria theater.

There we spent the afternoon basking in the glory that is “Wicked The Musical”. I’ve read the book series multiple times, played the soundtrack to death, and saw it once before in Chicago – but it was Mom’s first time going and we had an amazing experience. Great seats, incredible performers, knock-out costumes – Wicked is such a treat that you definitely should go if you ever get the chance!

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| Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz |

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Buckingham Palace |

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| Everyone’s favorite phone booth! |

Day 2: We took a break from London and spent the day in Bath.

Day 3: Mom & I met up with my friend Liz and spent most of the day at the Warner Bros. Studio – Making of Harry Potter tour.

Day 4: We woke up, grabbed breakfast, and headed downtown to meet Liz and do some general sight-seeing. Big Ben, the London Eye, and Westminster Abbey – quintessential London! After taking in the scenery we split up; Liz walked over to St. James’ Park and Buckingham Palace while Mom & I took a tour of Westminster. We reconnected for lunch at The Laughing Halibut where we were joined by Liz’s friend, Lauren. It was a fun lunch –  traditional fish and trips, good conversation, and a little entertainment on the side (a pigeon flew into the restaurant and wildly flapped about until one of the cooks caught it bare handed and tossed it back outside!). Following lunch, we parted ways with Lauren and strolled down to Trafalgar Square, passing the Prime Minister’s house along the way. We then spent some time wandering the National Gallery, a free art museum that houses over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900s. After the museum, we bid farewell to Liz so she could pack and get some sleep before her long bus ride back to Edinburgh (where she’s working on her master’s degree – you can follow her adventures here.). Mom & I continued on to the National Portrait Gallery for a while before finally calling it a day.

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| Big Ben – Palace of Westminster |

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Westminster Abbey |

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| The Chapter House of Westminster Abbey and the oldest door in Britain (it’s the only surviving Anglo Saxon door in the country)|

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Palace of Westminster, The London Eye, Liz soaking up the scenery… and rain |

fishnchips | lunch at The Laughing Halibut |

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| The National Gallery |

Day 5: For our last day in the city, we decided to meet up with a guide from London Walks for a tour of the Tower of London. The Tower of London is a 900-year-old fortress and castle. It has also served as a royal residence, housing for the Royal Mint and the Crown Jewels, barracks, storehouse for military paraphernalia and weapons, and notorious prison. Throughout its history, the tower imprisoned many people – from common criminals to monarchs. Famous prisoners include Lady Jane Grey (who was executed on Tower Green, an open terrain in the Tower of London, nine days after being crowned Queen), Edward and Richard (two princes, ages 12 and 9, sons of Edward IV, who are believed to have been killed by Richard III, their uncle, who took the throne for himself), and Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard (two of Henry VIII’s wives who were both imprisoned and later executed).
After touring the Tower of London, we walked along the Thames and waved to St.Paul’s Cathedral before collecting our luggage and catching a bus to the final destination on our grand European adventure, Oxford.
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| The Tower of London |
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| Traitor’s Gate (the water entrance where many prisoners, accused of treason, passed through), The White Tower, and one of the famous ravens (legend says that if the ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall) |
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| views from inside Beauchamp Tower where the important prisoners were housed |
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| graffiti left by prisoners, mostly from the 16th and 17th centuries when the Tower of London was the country’s foremost state prison (this time period was one of great religious and political upheaval) |
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| an arrow slit in the fortress wall, the Bloody Tower gate, and a glass memorial that commemorates those who were executed on Tower Green –  scaffolds for beheadings were often erected in front of The Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula |
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| Armor and artifacts on display in the White Tower  – including suits belonging to Henry VIII |
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| Tower Bridge |
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St.Paul’s Cathedral |
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| walking along the Thames |

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| traveling first by tube, then by bus to our final European destination |

Up next… Oxford!

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