I remember growing up, my sister always wanted to play with our babydolls. I would join her-but only if we were going to be moms on a boat headed to Europe. I have always dreamt of going to London. Could you imagine my excitement when my Dad paid for a family vacation to not only Paris, but also London? Just like any dream, however, things are not always as they may seem.
This post is on my thoughts on the life happenings in London.
My dream was coming true, but not without a few bumps. I don’t know if it was just our experience, but getting from Paris to London was a struggle. We did not know until it was too late that the train going from Paris to London needed to be booked three months in advance. It is not like the Amtrak here in the States. Taking the train there has to be a cool experience. It is called the Eurostar and goes under water in the Channel Tunnel.It takes around 2 hours and 20 minutes. The price goes up the longer you wait to book yourseats. We then tried to get a cheap flight to London. Having to take an airplane from Paris to London was a nightmare.
Arriving in London, my family got into a cab. It was refreshing to hear English after being in France for the last week. The driver’s accent and English humor was just enough to get my family back to high spirits again. The cab driver told funny jokes about how he and his wife disagree on everything and how Americans drive on the wrong side of the road. It was the perfect way to start off our time in London.
The next part of our trip was finding our condo for the week. For some reason we thought the place was in the city of London. However, it happened to be around 45 minutes away from the down-town area. I felt like I was commuting in Chicago from Logan Square to Downtown. When we arrived, the man we rented from had crackers, wine, and cheese waiting for us. He was interesting. Throughout our trip he checked up on us every morning asking if we needed help planning our stay. I am not sure if it was because we are American and like our privacy, or if he was really a creep. Anyways, nothing happened and no one was murdered. The area we stayed in was quaint and quiet. There was a great Chinese food place down the street along with a deli, a tea shop, a grocery store, a baker, a butcher and there might have been a candlestick maker…
“Mind the gap” is a little phrase that is over used in London. You hear it on the tube, the underground rail services, especially whenever it stops at a station. They print it on tee shirts, coffee mugs, underwear, aprons, shot glasses and on street signs. It is funny to me because if I hadn’t been to London I would never know what that meant. Was there an earth quake that caused a crack in the ground that we have to mind? Should we think about the gap? Should we go to the store Gap? I would have no idea. No, it simply means watch out for the space between the train and the platform when stepping off the train so that our leg doesn’t get stuck. The train might take off with your foot with it. So mind the gap.
In France, the streets were lined with cafes and quiet, quaint places to eat. You could get a great cafe o’le or white wine anywhere. However, in London all the places to eat where pubs. The name doesn’t mean much in the states, but now when I think about a pub I will always get myself prepared for loud. I am not sure if it was just the areas we ended up eating in, but many of the restruants were pubs full of loud Englishmen. I thought the comparison funny. The only time we had a quiet lunch or dinner was in the Queen’s Garden.
Like any city there is a diverse group of people represented in London. There are many from Africa, all across Europe, America, India… The list could go on. I enjoyed the different cultures you could brush shoulders with on the streets. I loved the different kinds of foods you could enjoy. The typical is fish and chips with vinegar. If you ever were in chior you would sing the song, “fish and chips and vinegar, vinegar, pepper, pepper SALT!”. The English do eat fish and chips quite regularily. This was something I found out and felt like there was one song in my childhood nursey rhymes that didn’t lie to me.
It is amazing to me how the train systems between London, Paris and Chicago are not that different. I love how it is similar. It made me feel like the world is a bit smaller. London is pretty similar to Chicago when compared to Paris. Paris cannot be compared. The architecture in London is a mix of old and new. The buildings can be much older than the buildings in Chicago, but it is similar to where there are skyscrapers next to a century old building. There are stone buildings, brick buildings and then the skyscrapers made of glass. It is a gorgeous city.
We took the Tube to the River Thames. This river is the longest in the United Kingdom. The London Bridge stretches over the River Thames. When you look over the river you can see that there is a tower like bridge that you would think is The London Bridge. It’s not. Henry the II replaced the rickety wooden bridge, which was the first way to cross the Thames. The new bridge was gorgeous. It had a drawbridge, shops, houses and gothic arches. However, many times people would get trapped in the middle during accidental fires and collapsed four times. This is how we got the song “London Bridge is falling down”. Eleanor was the queen at this time and was clearly the target for the song. The bridge was replaced by a new one created by John Rennie. It is nothing special and is not the bridge we think of usually when we think “London Bridge”.
The Tower Bridge is close to the Tower of London and is what one would usually picture when thinking of “London Bridge”. The bridge consists of two bridge towers tied together. There is an upper level that now holds a museum. We took the tube to Tower Hill on the Circle and District lines.
Buckingham Palace fades in comparison to Versailles. However, this is because Buckingham Palace was actually inspired by Versailles. The Buckingham Fountain in Chicago was not inspired by Buckingham Palace, but Versailles itself. Buckingham Palace has a Queen’s garden, beautiful rooms and is in the center of the city. If you go on the tour, halfway through you think you understand the family dynamics. Queen Elizabeth, King George, King Edward…. All the names repeat themselves and then you are confused. I love history and figuring out events and the order they occur, but the list of those on the throne always confuses me. At the end of the tour I gave up and decided it was not that important to know.
Here are a few facts that I thought are good to know. Buckingham is the Queen’s official London residence. The palace has 775 rooms and 78 bathrooms. It is 108 meters long in the front, 120 meters deep and 24 meters high. The total floor area of the Palace will cover 77,000 square meters. The land was originally purchased by King James, who wanted to start a silk worm farm and planted a mulberry garden. However, because he planted the wrong kind of bush the silk industry never took off. So what do the English do when they make a bad business move? They build a palace. King George bought the site and built “Buckingham House” for his family in 1761. All 15 of his kids were born there. The House was transformed into Buckingham Palace for the next George on the throne, George the IV. Queen Victoria, however, was the first who moved to live there. Lastly, this is my favorite fun fact: The largest room in the palace is the Ballroom.
I loved my stay in England and I wish I could have stayed longer. The sites, the diverse culture, and the rish history is something I could take in over a lifetime. A dream is a dream even if it is not what you imagine. Finding out a dream is not what you expected allows you to live within the present and reality all the more.