So it's our second Saturday here, we didn't have a lot of homework to do (so we thought) or that we wanted to do, and we decided why not take a procrastination day and go to London?
Alexia, Matt, Kenzie, Sean, and I left our building at 9 am, which was pretty exciting because it was such an early start to the day. We walked to the train station, which is a 10 minute walk from our dorm, and we pretty much got the deal of the century on tickets. Because we were in a group of 5 (who knew that 5 people was a group worthy of a deal?!) we got round trip train tickets and unlimited metro passes for £13! Basically, it's an absurdly good deal to get to the Paddington Station from Oxford.
I was a little nervous to go to London without a plan, but with the 3 trusty guidebooks and 5 maps between us, we were able to come up with a ballin plan all before arriving at 10:45 at Paddington Station. Also since we were planning on hitting up all the classic touristy London sites, we decided that only for today we would be the epitome of American tourists. So we took lots of cheesy pictures outside of London's top destinations and even asked fellow tourists to take our pictures...classic. (All of us previously discussed how we hated being touristy, but today, we collectively let it slide)
Our (kind of) first stop: Find King's Crossing and see 9 3/4 station. Unfortunately, this station was closed. Thankfully the closed-down station was not foreshadowing for our day.
We got off the metro into the financial district which was the prettiest financial district I have ever seen. Cathedrals and old stone buildings with beautiful architecture had been transformed into banks, museums, and other financial things. We pooped around here for a while until we realized nothing was open so we headed to a new destination.
Second Stop: St. Paul's Cathedral. This was one of the biggest buildings I have ever seen in my entire life. You can see its massive dome from all over the city, which is higher than 8 stories tall. I was in awe of the sheer size of this cathedral and was suddenly aware of how small I really am in the scheme of the world. Pictures cannot give this place justice. Unfortunately, it was £10 to go inside this structure (I'm pretty sure Jesus would have a couple choice words to say about making a profit off of churches) and British structures so far have much more impressive exteriors than interiors, so we decided that much money wasn't worth it to look inside a building.
Third Stop: Pizza Express. Kenzie was really excited about the idea of going to Pizza Express because they are everywhere in London, so we went. It was a much classier get-up than Pizza Hut (which is surprising because there's Express in the name) and they had delicious gourmet-like pizzas.
Fourth Stop: Globe Theater. This was the least impressive building of the day (structurally speaking); it was white with wooden beams. Globe Theater also cost a ridiculous amount of money to get a 40 minute tour; I would much prefer to see a play there and take in the atmosphere without tour. But it was amazing to think that Shakespeare's plays which we read all the time were performed here. England has so much history, which fascinates me.
Fifth Stop: Tates Modern Art Museum. It was the only free thing we could get into. Usually I'm not a fan of modrn art at all and hate on it in full, but this was the first time I came to remotely close to appreciating modern art. After reading the explanations of the art and artist next to the artwork, it finally dawned on me the point of modern art; it's not to be asthetically pleasing but to break molds and challenge society. I left the museum very content and satisfied. I felt strangely cultured.
To get to our next stop we enjoyed a walk along the Thames River past the hub-bub of London. We passed mimes, Charlie Chaplin look-alikes, men painted and acting as statues (that lots of people took pictures with...bizarre), and a bright fully-grafittied area where high school boys did tricks on bikes and skateboards and spectators gathered around taking pictures. London has an eclectic mix of people who hang out by the Thames to say the least.
Sixth Stop(s): Parliament and Big Ben. Like everything in London, these buildings were pretty incredible. Parliament was a lot bigger than I had imagined and I loved the architecture of this building. And it was incredible being by Big Ben which is the epitome of London. We gathered with the other tourists to take pictures of these deligthful structures.
Seventh Stop: Westminster Abbey. So the abbey technically was not open but on our way to the finding the front of the abbey we saw an open door, set back in stone wall, surrounded by plants that looked classically English. We wandered over to this huge wooden door and decided to explore this building. It turned out to be the back of the Westminster Abbey (which had been closed for three hours) and got to take in the memorials and graves of people who had died in the 1700's. Something bizarre about the abbey is that there is three foot wall around the courtyard in the middle of the abbey, so the abbey is almost entirely open and really cold. I don't know how British people do it, none of the old buildings, libraries, or cathedrals seem to have heating, and it gets cold in winter.
Eighth Stop: Buckingham Palace. It was about 5 when we reached the palace. It was all lit up and practically beckoned anyone nearby to come visit. I could not believe how close to the Queen I was standing. People gathered around the gates of the palace to take pictures, just like the White House. Some things never change. I really wanted to make the guards laugh but they were behind the gates of the palace and too far away to charm them with my wit. I briefly considered mooning but realized that nudity is a public offense in England.
Conclusion: We covered a lot of ground in one day for relatively cheap. We saw the standard London sites all in one day and all in all I was very satisfied. But we were sad to leave London after such an amazing day of sunshine and happiness.