Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Look Left! My Trip to London (Part One)

Three days of my life recently were a blur of high tea, fish n’ chips, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, cottage pie, the River Thames, and the crown jewels. Can you guess where I was? London, England!

I've wanted to visit England since I saw my first Harry Potter movie in second grade, mostly because I was fascinated by British accents and dreamed of meeting Daniel Radcliffe on the street. More than ten years later, England is still on my radar, even though I'm now more fascinated by England's vast history and the royal family (although I still wouldn't object to meeting Daniel Radcliffe on the street). My dad happened to be in Europe for business during my study abroad program's mid-semester break, and he gave me an offer I couldn't refuse: a trip to London or Paris. Both cities are on my bucket list, but I figured London was a better place to visit with my dad. So off to London we went!

As soon as I stepped foot out of Paddington Station, every stereotype of London slapped me in the face. Red double-decker buses. Red phone booths. Cars on the wrong side of the road, which actually freaked me out when we rode in a taxi. Signs pointing toward the "lift" (elevator) and warning of a "diversion" (detour). I was glad to note the stereotypical view of London that I've been conjuring in my head for years isn't too far from the truth.

Since my dad and I arrived in London pretty late, we didn't go anywhere that night except an English Pub. One sip of English Ale made me miss my beloved German Pilsner, but the food at the pub was surprisingly good. We split chicken with black pudding (basically blood sausage) and lamb with gravy. I've always heard that England has the worst food, but everything I ate on my entire trip was delicious. If you haven't already noticed, I'm the opposite of a picky eater. One more random memorable thing about the English pub was the tiny doors, so short that I had to duck my head to climb through! Imagine my six-foot-two dad trying to duck under a five-foot door frame, and you'll understand my fascination with the pub's architecture!

The following day involved an equal mixture of adventure, history lesson, and sore legs. If you ever visit London, be prepared to walk! The underground, like everything else in London, is crazy expensive. All of the main attractions are within walking distance as well, so public transportation isn't always worth the money. My dad and I each bought a London Pass, which is basically a card that gives you access to many of the attractions and museums in London for a flat rate. The pass honestly saved so much money, considering many attractions can be $25-$40 each.

Here's what we saw during my first full day in London:

I can't think of anything more British than this picture.

Westminster Abbey

The Palace of Westminster (Parliament building)

Big Ben

Traflager Square

Fish n' chips with mushy peas

My dad helped a clumsy street performer walk across a tight rope. Absolutely hilarious.

Buckingham Palace

The London Eye

A view of the River Thames

Cars drive on the "wrong" side of the road, so London constantly reminds tourists to "look left" for traffic while crossing the street

For dinner, my dad and I wanted Indian food. Indian food in London is like Mexican food in America: cheap, delicious, and easy to find. I actually researched Indian food online and came across Brick Lane, a street full of authentic and popular Indian restaurants. The area reminded me of Little Italy in New York City, but it also had the feel of Chinatown because people outside each restaurant were trying to convince us to eat there. When we finally chose a restaurant, we ordered lamb masala and chicken tandoori. We also had some naan and fancy Indian sauces. I haven't eaten Indian food much in my life, so I can safely say that my Brick Lane meal was the best Indian I've ever had.

Expect the second half of my London post soon! I decided to break the post into two smaller installments that are easier to digest. Thanks for reading!