On Wednesday, I went to my riding lesson again and it was fantastic. I rode an amazing horse named Charlie and we did a lot of flat work and then got to ride bareback. I hope to build a lot of confidence while riding here. It’s also nice to be able to hang out with a different group of people with a common interest.
Thursday night there was a pub crawl called Carnage that I went to with a few friends and flatmates. It was fun getting out into town, since I haven’t been to any clubs or bars down there yet. I’m glad my first bar crawl was in Lancaster because it’s such a safe town — I never feel uneasy about walking anywhere.
Over the weekend, my friends and I took a long bus ride to London. So far, it is definitely my favorite city. It was much cleaner that I expected, the people were nice and, even in such a big city, I never felt unsafe. I always made sure to keep my purse in front of me and be aware of what was going on, but I never felt as if something bad was going to happen. We took the six-hour bus ride instead of the train because it was so cheap, and it wasn’t a bad trip.
We got to London around 11 p.m. Friday and walked from the bus station to the subway. If you’re ever in London for a weekend, purchase an Oyster Card. We were able to get unlimited rides for Saturday, Sunday and Monday for only 26 pounds, and it definitely paid for itself. Our hostel was in Holborn, so we had to figure out how to use the Tube real quick.
After finding our hostel (about a five-minute walk from the subway), we walked around to find something to eat. This was a very difficult task, seeing as it was after midnight, but we did find somewhere (with a two pound cover charge) to eat.
Our hostel was on the same street as the British Museum, so it made sense to go there first thing in the morning. This museum was interesting because they had many ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman artifacts, including the Rosetta Stone. The museum also had a collection of mummies, which for some (creepy) reason was intriguing. There was one mummy that they had completely unwrapped. The skin looked like leather and there was even some hair left. It was unbelievable and interesting and I’m so glad I got the chance to discover and learn about ancient Egypt.
After we saw all the exhibits, we took the Tube to Westminster. We walked to the street and I was so occupied petting a dog, I didn’t even realize that Big Ben was was first thing you see when you exit the underground. I even had to ask our friend who had been to London before if it was Big Ben. I also was too overwhelmed to notice my friend Morgan crying from happiness. We were all wearing huge smiles as we realized where we were and how amazing it was to be in London. We stood on the bridge and saw the London Eye and took a bit to take it all in. We probably spend an hour just walking around on the bridge and near Big Ben. Afterward, we walked down the street to get something to eat. Everywhere was packed, but a nice couple gave up their table so we could all sit together.
After giving our feet a much needed rest, we were up and walking again toward Buckingham Palace. On they way, we perfectly timed something happening — though I honestly couldn’t tell you what building it took place at. There were guards on horseback guarding the entrance to the building and I was trying to decide if I would get deported (or at least yelled at) for petting a horse, when suddenly a police officer was telling everyone to step back. When we did, the horses walked forward from their posts on each side of the gate and then a handful of guards walked in perfect alignment and stood shoulder-to-shoulder next to the horses. Then another man came in, yelled a few things I couldn’t understand, and seemed to go to each guard and inspect them. After each was inspected, the group left and the inspector looked at the horses. This all was about an eight minute ordeal, and I wish I would have asked what was happening.
After a beautiful walk through a park, we made it to Buckingham Palace. There were so many people wandering around like little ants that I didn’t really know what to do or where to go. I also didn’t get to see any of the iconic guards with the fuzzy black hats, so that will be a mission for my next visit to London.
On Sunday, Valentine’s Day — or as we called it, “Galentine’s Day” — we went for brunch at this amazing little cafe. Our waitress greeted us by saying, “Happy Independence Day!” We chatted and laughed and had a great time loving each other and talking about how glad we all are that we made such a wonderful group of friends. After brunch, we went to an art museum. I’m not a huge fan of paintings and such, but I did appreciate Money’s paintings. We then walked to Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street, and finally made our way back to the hostel.
Back in Holborn, we stopped at Spaghetti House for dinner and had an absolutely fantastic end to Valentine’s Day. At some point in the day we got split up, so we had a smaller group for this dinner. The staff at this restaurant were wonderful, charming and really made our experience great. We all drank some wine, ate too much pasta and even ended with a sweet dessert. I even got my dessert for free because they were out of what I ordered.
Monday was, sadly, the day we have to leave, but our bus home wasn’t until 9 p.m. We somehow got slightly lost on our way to the underground, but discovered a Krispy Kreme store and, of course, had to get donuts. We then happily ate our donuts on the way to the Natural History Museum. We stood in live for almost an hour just to get into this amazing museum. At some point we, again, got split up, and Morgan and I toured the museum by ourselves for about four hours.
After the museum, we took the Tube to King’s Cross to find Platform 9 3/4, and we stumbled upon it after wandering around for a while. Not being a Harry Potter fan myself, I didn’t get my picture taken, but was glad that Morgan was able to make a memory.
We still had time to kill before we had to meet up with everyone, so we ended up taking the Tube to Covent Garden, which supposedly was home of a very good cookie store. We got distracted by a Mac store on the way — never made it to get cookies — and treated ourselves to makeup instead of real sweets. We spent way too much time trying different lipsticks and getting a full face of makeup done by our new friend Adut, who was from Sudan. She was so positive while running around helping a handful of people all at the same time, and we were happy to sit and wait for her to come back. She was great, and even put us in a better mood than we already were.
Finally, the time came to head back to Lancaster. London has become my favorite city in the world so far. It was an absolutely wonderful experience and I cannot wait to come back in June. If you’re going to London, get lost, but an Oyster Card, don’t be upset that you will be pushed a million times in one day. Everyone always talks about the terrible weather, but it only was lightly raining on Saturday, while the rest of the time the weather was beautiful. It was a wonderful weekend, but my body and my back account are definitely ready for a break from traveling for just one weekend.
About the blogger
Valerie S. is studying abroad at Lancaster University in Lancaster, United Kingdom.