London Baby! I couldn't believe that I was really here. Actually, at first I didn't feel like I'd even left the US. (The Brits would probably find that last statement offensive.) The thing is, when I arrived in Latvija as a missionary, EVERYTHING was different. But when our founding fathers started developing Washington D.C., they came to Europe and modeled our architecture after what they saw here. And by "modeled" I mean "copied exactly." I really felt like I was in downtown DC. Fortunately, as I started getting out into the city and hearing that beautiful British accent and seeing how nice and friendly the Brits were, it started to sink in that I really was in Europe. I couldn't have had a more perfect vacation. Everything was wonderful. The weather was cold, windy, and rainy but that's what I expected it to be so it didn't bother me. I just couldn't have asked for things to have been any more perfect. England is an interesting juxtaposition of the ancient and the modern. Buildings that were built five years ago sit next to buildings that were built 1000 years ago. It can be a confusing city so I really stuck with the tube. I'm so grateful that things went as well as they did and that I didn't have any problems. If you've never been to England, go. It's an incredible place!
Okay, so I arrived at Heathrow around 21:00. (In England they go by military time. Seriously, if I were British I would say that I arrived at twenty-one hundred.) The nice man at the Tourist Information Centre helped me get my train and underground ticket and told me which stop to get off at to get to my hostel. So I ventured forth into the city. I got off at the stop he told me and walked the direction he told me, took a right, and headed toward my hostel. I got there, checked in, and immediately went to bed. When I woke up the next morning, I got dressed, ate breakfast, and headed to church. After heading the wrong direction getting off the underground and wandering around aimlessly, I finally found the church building. It was 9:15. I was sad that I was fifteen minutes late to church. Or so I thought. Oh no! In fact, I was actually 45 minutes EARLY for Stake conference!! That's never happened before! So I settled into my seat and eagerly awaited hearing church conducted with a British accent. The first guy that spoke was an American. GRRRR!!! But then things got better. The rest of the people were British and I thoroughly enjoyed Stake conference, and not just because of the accents. The meeting was great and the people were very nice and friendly. I met a very nice girl named Esa who is from Italy and is studying to be a psychologist. After church, I headed to the Tower of London and from there off to see the other famous sites. I've included pictures of unique things about London - things that set England apart from the US. I'm amazed how much British influence exists here in Virginia. It was nice to see that some things are, in fact, different.
My room at the hostel. I'd highly recommend this place, by the way. With hotel rooms averaging $200 a night (and we're not talking the Marriott Marquis here) my hostel was simple but clean, convenient, cheap, and safe. Plus, they include breakfast and I'm all about getting as into the culture as possible.
I even had my own sink. The only common room was the showers. Okay, that could be a bit awkward but they were all their own little rooms so I didn't have to worry about accidentally running into a naked guy.
A view of London on Sunday morning.
Another view of London
The Eye of London. This ferris wheel was built by British Airways. You pay $30 for a half hour ride. You go around once and get to have a nice aerial view of London. I figured that I'd already paid for an aerial view and I got it as we landed at Heathrow so I saved my $30 to spend on something else (like Cornish pasties ... mmmmm).
This is the pub where I tried fish and chips after my tour of Westminster Abbey.
This was one of my favorite signs. I took the underground everywhere. In England, you don't take the subway, you take the "underground" or the "tube." It's such a great system. You can get anywhere on the tube. In England, a subway is a place for people to walk under the street, such as...
...this. This subway takes pedestrians to the Tower of London. Only pedestrians are allowed here. Aren't the paintings cool?
Okay, how could I resist? Running across Cheers was fun. "Where everybody knows your name ... and they're always glad you came..."
I HAD to get a picture of the double decker bus. We took a double decker bus in York, actually, when we went to Whitby. I was glad because I never rode one here in London.
Here are the local pay phones. Aren't they charming? Everything about England is charming.
I figured out why people drive on the left here. They're trying to figure out how in the heck to get where they need to go. Check out that sign. I don't think I'd dare drive in London. I'd just end up going in circles and then probably end my British driving career in a head-on collision.
The front couple of cars are taxis. Charming!
This monument marks Trafalgar Square.
This is St. Paul's Cathedral. I went in and looked around and decided that the National Cathedral is just as impressive (even if Princess Diana was married here) and I'd rather spend more time at Westminster Abbey so I got this outside shot and moved on...
...to Westminster Abbey. This place is AMAZING!!!! It's huge and chock full of history. This is where coronations take place. This is also where kings and queens are buried. The Abbey was built in 1065. The nave is 10 stories tall, making it the tallest in England. Edward the Confessor, who built Westminster Abbey, Queen Elizabeth I, Bloody Mary, Henry VII, Elizabeth of York, Mary Queen of Scots, Geoffrey Chaucer, Lord Byron, Lewis Carroll, T.S. Eliot, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, George Frideric Handel, Charles Dickens, and Laurence Olivier are buried here. The Queen comes to worship here, every coronation since 1066 has taken place here, and funerals of royalty are held here (Princess Diana's coffin was here before her burial). There are memorials to William Shakespeare, the Royal Air Force, the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, Winston Churchill, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Unfortunately, you aren't allowed to take photographs in Westminster Abbey.
I have no idea who these guys are but they were practicing their military drills and actually kind of seemed to be showing off so I joined the throngs pressing their faces through the fence and took a picture.
The guy in yellow is a police officer. I wanted to get a picture with a police officer but felt kind of silly asking so I took this picture under the pretense of getting the Houses of Parliament.
Big Ben. When I saw Big Ben I finally really felt like I was in London and in England. IT WAS FREAKING AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Big Ben is one sight I really wanted to see. And I did!
Here's the clock face of Big Ben. "Westminster Abbey, the Tower of Big Ben, the rosy red cheeks of the little children"
Here are the Houses of Parliament on the banks of the Thames. WOW!!!!!!!! I was really there!
I love this picture. It's the Houses of Parliament at night from across the Thames.
This is London Bridge. Since it has a whole song about it, you'd think it'd be grander, wouldn't you? But here it is. A lot of people think the Tower Bridge is London Bridge, but it isn't. This is the real London Bridge. (You're all singing "London Bridge is falling down," aren't you?) :-)