Saturday, March 26, 2016

Laughing around London

The story in which I have border security issues, leave behind crucial items (again), manage to navigate public transportation without any mishaps - then get lost while using Google Maps, and go to Hogwarts, and also get mistaken for being in a couple with my cousin.

It began when I realised that I only had one more 'long' weekend before two more of my classes would begin. Onto Skyscanner (note - if you use it, always use it in 'Incognito' mode so it doesn't save your searches and hike prices next time you look), and of the many places that were appealing to visit, I decided it would be a good idea to get a taste of London before the hoards of tourists arrived later on in summer.

I semi-planned semi improvised my trip, but managed to squeeze in a lot for the limited amount of time I was there. Not only that, but it was absolutely wonderful so see some friends from home again. Ali and his family were my hosts for the weekend, and I couldn't have asked for more incredible hospitality in London. I owe them a huge thank you for making my stay so comfortable and easy - so thank you Ali + co!

Here's how it went, anyway.

Typically, early mornings are not really my thing. So I slept in, then quickly finished off packing, power walked to the train station then arrived at the airport. Moment of panic at border security when they questioned what I had packed in a glass jar (a humble salad, not about to detonate any bombs with a tomato). I was allowed to keep it so didn't have to buy lunch.

Arrived at London in the afternoon and drove around the City of London. Many sights were seen - including the London Eye, Westminster, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and the London Bridge. It was like a free personalised tour; the best kind of tour. Harrods was the next stop, and it was a good look into what our futures will be like when we are millionaires - expensive handbags, a jewellery section that had a name like 'exquisite jewellery' or something really fancy to warn plebs like me that I probably wouldn't even be able to afford the case the bracelet or whatever came in, no matter what employment I get when I graduate. There was also designer furniture; the whole floor was laid out like dozens of lounges in different styles, Egyptian, 'Formal', 'Classic' etc. The toy department was also wicked and the people who worked there got to demonstrate many of the toys, so hovercrafts were flying around, train sets chugging, nail art demonstrations etc.
Harrods from the outside

Post Harrods, we explored the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum - two sites which I had earmarked that I absolutely had to go to, and now must return to when I go back to London. You may have noticed I've changed the name of my blog (still am not arty enough to come up with nice graphics for the header/formatting etc but also low key don't really care) to Slightly Lost Kiwi. I found this guy in the museum, he's a little bit lost as well.

Another Slightly Lost Kiwi
Friday night was topped off by exploring the nightlife around Shoreditch (kiwi are nocturnal birds after all). I am a big fan of going to cute bars/pubs and trying cocktails or craft beers, something I don't really do that often in Madrid because they're harder to come across, but the selection in London was plentiful. The bars we saw and went into were so cool! Definitely wouldn't be out of place in Wellington. We decided on a place which had plants hanging upside down from the ceiling, and seemed to specialise in coffee cocktails. Ali's cousin joined, and thanks to her knowledge of the area, I got to try something I'd been missing out on - a decent sour beer. I was a very content kiwi. I nearly forgot - we walked further across down to go to Duck and Waffle, a bar in a skyscraper. We took the lift (up literally a million floors), sat down, took photos of the view, looked at the menu, then made a subtle escape after deciding it was actually quite late.

I got to go to Hogwarts.

Before the tour began, and to my absolute luck and lack of planning (by arriving 45 minutes earlier), I got a chance to see the start of the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. For the rest of the day, I also had the nursery rhyme stuck in my head.

This cop told me off for taking a photo? Now he's in the photo.
Thousands of tourists were there, and I had a quiet chuckle to myself about the chance that I just happened to be there at the right place at the right time, sooooo unplanned. So free spirited I am.

The real treat though, was getting on a double decker bus, driving one and a half hours out of London, and arriving at the Warner Brothers studio to see my friend Dumbledore.

If you're a Harry Potter fan, please see it while you're in London. It was well worth the more than $100 NZD to pay (probably the most you'll ever see me drop on a tour) - I knew I would regret not seeing it if I went to London. It didn't disappoint. It was a huge studio space filled with sets, props and information about the production of the movies. Here are a few pictures, but I won't ruin it for anyone who's going to visit themselves because it was really, really cool.

About to enter the Great Hall
Gryffindor common room
As mentioned earlier, I had a few friends in London who I planned to catch up with. With the help of Facebook's group chat function, we managed to coordinate a time and place to meet and catch up for dinner. It was really good to catch up and see how our lives had developed since seeing each other last - and also get some insider tips on living in London/Europe and hear the real side of things - like how hard it is to rent in London and how expensive things are.


The day began with a foggy walk around Kennington House. I was amazed at the large amount of space in the city compared to Madrid! So nice to see joggers on the tracks, actual trees and foliage (you have no idea how I miss nature in Madrid).

I met my cousin at the Tower of London. I had a bigger bag (which I like to put my camera bag in when I'm not using it because then I don't look like an absolute tourist) but it took longer to search. Matthew already went through security, and the guard said he could carry on entering - then noticed me and said 'aah are we waiting for the other half'. Awkward when you're cousins...
View from inside the Tower
 As part of the entry, you get a one hour long tour/historical overview by a Beefeater. I'm sceptical of tours, but this dude was great. Look at that cheeky smile.

Our excellent tour guide

Not only was it interesting, but he kept my attention and made everyone laugh with some (sometimes inappropriate for children) jokes.

We explored a lot on our own after that. The Crown Jewels was a must. They're kept in a museum like part of the many buildings of the tower, and because they're such a drawcard, the layout very cleverly keeps the people flowing through. Sometimes literally, when you get on a conveyer belt thing to go past them. They were impressive though, and a good look at the very ceremonial aspect of the monarchy.

Post Tower of London, I took a tube to Camden and met with another friend from uni, Sam, who showed me around the markets and led me back to the London Eye which I'd been wanting to photograph. We took a cheeky peek inside the afamed Cereal Killer Café and he patiently waited while I tried to get a photo of some double decker busses because #london.

One of my favourite things about visiting London was being in a place that had inspired so many of the books I read growing up. It's a city with so much to offer.

The Big Ben
Busker on Southbank

I will definitely have to come back - two days in a city where I could have spent two weeks is not long enough, but it was a perfect taster of the city and what to expect. I nearly thought I'd be turned back at the border because I didn't know the address of where I was staying, only the suburb, and the lady at customs scolded me... 'next time you need to know the full address, madam'. Terrifying, because I think anyone who speaks in a British accent is telling me off!

That's all for now. Happy Easter, everyone!

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