Sunday, February 16, 2014

LONDONBABY: Part III

After my first night in London I finally wised up and slept with my ear warmer on in order to block out as much street noise as possible. I still heard some but it was more muffled and I slept much better, even on a mattress worse than my one in Dundee. This was Kiera and my last full day in London and we still had several places to go. We mapped out our attack via the tube and started first at St. Paul's Cathedral. Because we went to the service, we didn't have to pay an entrance fee. The sneaky pictures I again tried to take are no match for the real thing. Even if you aren't religious, I urge you to visit St. Paul's just for the art and architecture. I was completely overwhelmed, and although the service itself was beautiful, I could hardly pay attention because of the gorgeous detail everywhere I looked. It was sunny for the THIRD day in a row and the sunlight streamed through the stained glass in entrancing patterns. 
After the service we hopped back on the tube where Kiera remarked that if we had a pound for every time we heard "mind the gap"we could afford another weekend in London. Our next destination was Buckingham Palace, where the queen was again absent. if I didn't know better I'd think she was avoiding me! We threw pence into the Victoria fountain outside and walked through St. James Park, marveling that Big Ben can be seen from virtually anywhere in the city. Kiera wanted to go to Kings' Cross Station next in order to see Platform 9 and 3/4 so we headed north. I took a photo of the famous marker for all of my HP friends and bought a postcard for the kids I used to nanny for. The British Library was a few blocks down, but it wasn't all that much to look at. Compared to the library at Oxford, I was slightly disappointed. 
From Kings' Cross, we went northwest to 20 Maresfield Gardens, where the psychoanalyst great, Sigmund Freud, spent the last year of his life after being driven out of Vienna by the Nazis in WWII. His library was just as he left it and the couch where his patients lay was the same one from his office in Vienna. It was very cool that his daughter had all the rooms preserved and turned into a museum. We even saw the couch on which he died. 
The sun was just beginning to set as we walked back to the tube and I had one more thing I needed to do. Trafalgar Square. We came up out of the tube station into exactly what I always knew London would look like. For most of the weekend, I never really believed I was in London. I saw the monuments and tell-tale signs, but I never felt like I was truly THERE until I was in Trafalgar Square with a view of Big Ben in front of me and the National Gallery behind me. We walked around the square, listening to live music and watching other people take selfies with London in the background. This was London, baby. 
On our way back to the hostel we stopped to see the Tower Bridge lit up in order to say one last goodnight to our gracious host for the last few days. 
We ate at the same fish&chips place we dined on our first night and I got the same thing. The staff recognized us and begged us to come back again someday. I have no doubt I will return to London, but I hope to God I won't be staying at Woolwich Arsenal again. 
Our flight out of London left early on Monday morning, so we started our journey back to Gatwick airport at 5:30 AM. We were sitting on the airplane by 8 AM and started the take off process. Right in the middle of the usual speeding down the runway before rising into the air bit, the aircraft shuddered to a violent stop. I exchanged looks with Kiera and knew something was up as the plane slowly turned around. A voice came on the intercom: "The captain has rejected take off." Oh? Is that a thing? What will make him accept take off? Flowers? Chocolates? 
Moments later the captain himself came on the intercom and explained there was a fluctuation in the engine and the engineers were coming to the gate to take a look at it. An hour later we were told our aircraft was not safe for flying. I couldn't help glancing at my watch in panic. It was 9:30, the time we were supposed to be landing in Edinburgh. Our train to Dundee would leave at 11:30. Unfortunately, the process of transferring all of the passengers to buses until another plane was ready took a significant amount of time. We still hadn't left London soil when 11:30 came. Making our 1 PM classes was a failed dream. We finally arrived in Edinburgh close to 1 PM and took a bus to the train station, hoping to beg for a new ticket at no extra cost. No such luck. A new ticket to Dundee would have cost 18 pounds. We trekked to the bus station, hoping for cheaper, better news. I used the last of my cash to pay the 17 pounds and we climbed on the bus, tired and poor. 
The ending to our weekend wasn't so great, but I don't regret the time I spent in London! To go somewhere I've only dreamed of...It's an accomplishment I will always treasure. And I plan to go back. Maybe even this semester! But next time, I'm skipping the airports. Give A Very Lucky Girl an overnight bus. 

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