Oh London. London is where I had my mini mental breakdown. Yes, it is true. Daren had lost his phone the day before, I had somehow run out of minutes on the phone that he gave me, I had absolutely no way of contacting him, was mad he wasn’t trying to contact me knowing his friends have phones and blah blah, plus I hadn’t slept, plus I hadn’t figured out where the hell I was like I did so quickly in Dublin or how to get around aside from by taxi so I sat in McDonald’s and cried for 30 minutes until the cell phone store opened across the street so I could get a phone where I didn’t have to talk to someone in German in order to put minutes on it. And then I was fine or decided I had to be fine and just get over it because this is what I wanted to do and I knew I would be alone a lot of this trip. So mission get over loneliness was accomplished by sitting in the Kensington Gardens Park like a total hippie laying in the grass with everyone else. I really think I was just beyond exhausted at that point having not slept so much the night before.
A few hours later I was finally able to get into my hotel, take a nap, get a tube map, buy an underground ticket, and find Daren crazy intoxicated by Big Ben. Whatever underground station that was – escapes me now – but it was incredible. There are a few things that I really remember seeing for the first time that truly fascinated me – 1) sitting in the 9th row on the 40 yard line at my first ever Ravens game when I was probably 20 years old – their helmets were so unbelievably big, you could hear them crushing each other, so many fans cheering, I was an instant Ravens fan no question about it. 2) Opening my balcony curtain on my honeymoon the morning we got to St. Thomas where I remember saying I don’t think I have ever been to a more gorgeous place. And now 3) walking out of the underground station and seeing the House of Parliament and Big Ben for the first time – pictures will never do it justice. Daren, his friends and I hung out the rest of the day – we went on the London Eye, watched crazy street performers, went to eat Bangers and Mash and wondered around for the rest of the night.
I decided that London sorta reminded me of a huge scale Washington, DC. I say this because I felt like everything I was looking at had to be important. Everything was a monument, everything had dates on it and looked so ornate and beautiful. I felt like I was a crazy tourist taking photos of everything. I though about how I clearly take all of the amazing monuments we have in DC for granted given the fact that I don’t really care all that much about them because I have been to them a million times. I decided then that when I get home I was going to do tourist-y things around my home state – see Monticello, go on a crazy duck tour, actually go inside the Washington Monument – can you even do that anymore? Anyway, it’s on like donkey kong.
The next day I got to see them just enough to go to the aquarium and lunch before they were off to Paris. I decided that I wanted to go see Tower Bridge, which everyone thinks is the London Bridge, but it is not, it is the Tower Bridge which is right outside the Tower of London and if you call it the London Bridge, the locals get angry. So, note: the bridge outside of the Tower of London is the Tower Bridge, the less impressive bridge to the right, the very next one down, of the Tower Bridge is the London Bridge and it is totally lame compared to the Tower Bridge. Kapeesh? Good.
I ended up having the whole afternoon so I decided to go into the Tower of London even though I was pretty sure it was included on the tour I was going on the next day. I am 100% glad I did. I went on the last Beefeater tour of the day with Beefeater Bob and learned so much more than I did from my tour guide the next day. I got there around 3pm and didn’t even see the whole campus before they started closing at 5:30. So, the next day when I went back I knew exactly what I wanted to see since I hadn’t seen it the day before. And wow did I learn a lot about Beefeaters which is the nickname for Yeomen Warders. These people are amazing and I have so much respect for them. They were formed by King Henry the VII in 1485 which is when they began guarding the tower. Today there are 35 Yeomen Warders and one Chief Warder. All warders are retired from the Armed Forces of Commonwealth realms and must be former senior non-commissioned officers with at least 22 years of service. They must also hold the Long Service and Good Conduct medal. Traditionally only non commissioned officers from the Army, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force were eligible to apply. This was because members of the Royal Navy, instead of taking oaths to the Crown, take an oath to the Admiralty, whose Head is the Lord High Admiral. This discrepancy was brought to an end with the swearing in of the first Naval Yeoman Warder in 2011, THIS YEAR! CRAZY! Anyway – Beefeaters are awesome is the long and the short of it. I don’t want to get into too much about the Tower of London, mostly because it is pretty disturbing, but if you have questions let me know!
The next day I went on a tour where I saw the changing of the guard, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral and a few other things. My tour guide was this crazy old guy who while he knew a lot was still a little cooky. I met 3 other people in the group who were traveling around Europe by themselves and felt a little silly for my mental breakdown on the first day which I maintain was because I was tired. After the tour I went up to Piccadilly Circus to grab some souvenirs and dinner and came back to my hotel to pack up for Spain!! Check back for part 1 of 3 of Spain tomorrow!!!