Since the UK does not celebrate Thanksgiving, they have no excuse to give students a week off in the middle of the term. So they created one. Reading week is meant to be a time for students to catch up on reading for class and writing assessments. I can assume this is the exact opposite of what USW students spent this last week doing. I say assume because I did not spend reading week on campus. Instead, Caitie and I traipsed around Europe making the world our classroom.
We spent most of our week in London where we wasted no time seeing the sights. Each day we wandered around the city and hitting all of the places that held interest to us. On our first full day I personally requested going to a bookstore, Waterstone’s on Oxford Street. I follow them on twitter and I felt I had to visit. It also just so happened that there was a Chipotle only one block away.*
That evening Caitie, our friend Amanda, and I toured the Warner Brother Leavesden Studios where the Harry Potter franchise was filmed. It was incredible and I cried approximately three times. Judge all you want, but so much of my childhood happened right alongside Harry in the halls of Hogwarts. The magic this place held for me was indescribable.
The next day held some more exploring including Big Ben, The London Eye, and the Tower of London. This may have been one of the longest days of my life. Walking along the Thames and seeing all these famous places was incredible. But by the time we reached the Tower of London, we were very far away from our hostel. There was a beautiful poppy display at the Tower and every person in England had turned out to see it. Just as I was remembering my hatred for people, it began to rain. The following hour and a half left us wet, tired, and cold. Luckily though, we had tickets to see Wicked on West End that night and plenty of time to recover before curtain.
Wicked. What a masterpiece of musical theatre. The cast was great. The music, set, costumes, and dancing repeatedly blew me away. While I may not think the story or the characters were as fully developed as they could have been, I most definitely see why the show is a hit and continues to bring in audiences. I need to however take a minute to express my surprise at the differences between how theatre is viewed in the UK and in America. At home, I get dressed up to see a play. I saw a production on West End, the UK equivalent of broadway and there was a girl sitting in the second row wearing a camisole and jeans. I was flabbergasted. Here Caitie and I were in the fifth row at a West End show in our dresses and heels and we were overdressed. After the show, as people filed out of the theatre they all left their concession wrappers on the floor as if they had just seen some rom-com at the local megaplex. This in no way detracted from the phenomenal performance, but it was a bit shocking.
The plan for the following day was to take it easy and hit up Hyde Park then do some souvenir shopping. We did just that, but yet again underestimated how much walking we were actually doing. And of course, what would a pleasant day in London be without it ending in rain? We elected to skip the walk and hooped on the tube to get us back to our hostel.
The next day we stayed close to the hostel and just hung out watching movies in the morning.
We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog post with a laugh break induced by Caitie and I both singing “I’m a hustler baby” when it came up in a song on Pandora. We are the least hustler-like people I know.
Back to the post. By staying near Victoria, we also stayed near the bust station we would leave from on our trek to Paris. We perused TopShop, sat in on a church service in Westminster Cathedral, and tried the McDonald’s mozzarella sticks that had captured our curiosity. The verdict: they could be good but they weren’t hot enough for the cheese to be melty. In case you were wondering.
That night proved to be far more eventful than either of us anticipated or wanted it to be. Just as we are about to cross the English channel on a bus to Paris, I get a migraine. This along with the rocking of the ferry made a horrible combination that I will leave to your imagination. I was miserable and just wanted to sleep/be at home. Somehow I powered through and woke up at nine am in the city of love.
The record holder for longest day of my life had previously been held by our raining trudge back from the Tower of London. That day was usurped by our twenty four hours in Paris. We walked 8 miles around the city seeing the sights before we checked in to our hostel. We then crashed hard and fast. The next morning bright and early we walked another four miles to the bus that would bring us back to London. While in Paris, we missed Beyonce at the Eiffel Tower by no more than a couple of hours. So that happened. I began to show signs of madness under the Eiffel Tower. Whether it was the exhaustion or the realization of where I was standing, I began to giggle. A lot. I don’t really have much to say about Paris. It was beautiful and I am glad I went, but I do not regret only being there for one day.
Twelve hours on a bus, one night’s sleep in my own bed, and a hot shower later: here I am. Back safe and sound in Treforest writing for all you lovely people to read about my adventures. I am sure I have forgotten at least 27 relevant things to tell you about, but that’s just how it goes some times. Maybe I will add notes at the bottom as I remember in the next few days.
*This was not, in fact, a coincidence. Chipotle was very much a planned part of our time in London.
The only pillow you really need is the shoulder of a good friend.
Closed captioning really adds to movies and tv shows.
City stank is real.
I BOUGHT MYSELF A FIRST EDITION COPY OF THE UK VERSION OF ORDER OF THE PHOENIX.