Yesterday was our journey back home. It took 20 hours from the time we left our hotel in the morning to the time I got back to Brookings, so that should explain why I didn't write this until today. We said goodbye to our hotel in London and dragged our suitcases to a subway station, where we used our last ticket and took our last tube ride in London, which lasted at least a half hour, since we had to go all the way to the airport. We got through security and everything at Heathrow without too many hitches, and I finally tried one of these Cadbury Dairy Milk candy bars everyone had been eating. It was pretty good, probably even better than Hershey ones. On the eight and a half hour flight from London to Minneapolis, a girl wanted to sit by her friend and so switched with me, and I ended up with a window seat, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I couldn't sleep on the plane so instead I watched some of the free movies the plane offered, Les Miserables, Jane Eyre, and the Perks of Being a Wallflower, which were all pretty enjoyable.
Today, our last day in London, was definitely a fun day! Sarah, Tawny, Emily, the other Laura, and Chase joined us for the first part of the day (we split up at lunch time). We started out by visiting one of the oldest and largest department stores in the world, Harrods. It's known as a very fancy department store, but many of the items there were a lot more affordable than we expected. We got there a bit early and so walked around the store (which is very big!) and checked out the window displays. It was really cool because about half of them were Great Gatsby-themed, and Mickey and I had just seen that movie last night! The food halls were the first part we went through, and probably my favorite. Most of us ended up getting cupcakes we could eat outside, which were delicious and cost 3.50 pounds. We all thought it was worth it to say we bought something at Harrods, eat a delicious cupcake, and get a Harrods bag to put it in. We also wandered through some sections with handbags and jewelry, then men's clothing. They have each room set up in a different style, but they are all rather elegant, and it was a very nice place just to look around. We also got to ride on the Egyptian escalator, which is basically what it sounds like, an escalator with decorations around it in an Egyptian style. We also realized you could basically live at Harrods--we bought food, exchanged money, mailed postcards, went to the bathroom while we were there, plus we saw some beds that looked rather comfortable!
Today we got up early to finish packing and catch our train to London. As we were walking to our subway station and saying goodbye and good riddance to Paris, we were greeted by a scene of two men fighting fairly violently right in front of our subway station. It was pretty scary. One of them was whacking the other one with who knows what and they both ended up on the ground... Told you Paris is a terrible city. Then some scary guys seemed to be following us in the subway, and one offered to carry my bag, which I refused, expecting he'd run off with it or something. We were
all very happy to leave Paris.
I dislike Paris again. I think I must have a sort of love-hate, off-again on-again relationship with this city. Or maybe it gives a bad first impression, then you warm up to it, but then when you delve deeper you realize it really is a dirty, unfriendly city.
But let's start with something more pleasant. On our way to The Louvre this morning there were two performers in the subway system. The first was playing "My Heart Will Go On" on the saxophone, and the second was playing a really beautiful violin solo that resonated really well in the hallways of the subway. There are lots of street performers around here. Later we actually saw one who hopped onto the subways and was playing saxophone, which was definitely interesting.
Well I have to say, after today my opinion of Paris has improved quite a bit, though I still think people tend to overrate it and overlook other fascinating destinations.
Breakfast this morning was orange juice and two croissants. It was pretty good, though it turns out it costed about $10 from the hotel, so for tomorrow's breakfast we just bought something from the grocery store. We tried to be ready early so we could get in line for the Eiffel Tower. It opens at 9:30am, and we probably got there at about 8:30 and there was already a bit of a line formed. By 9:30, the line had stretched around the inside of the base of the Eiffel Tower. I was really glad we got there early then! There is one elevator that takes you up one of the "legs" of the Eiffel Tower, and then you can walk around the lower level and take a look around. There's then another, straight up-and-down elevator to take you to the top of the Tower, and this one definitely made you realize how high up you were really going!
Today we said goodbye to Edinburgh, and it was quite sad--I'd enjoyed Scotland even more than I'd expected to. We took a train back to what feels like our "home" base here in Europe, London. The countryside was just as beautiful as it was on the way there, and I've included a few pictures. We stayed in London for a few hours, waiting to get on another train, this one to Paris. Mickey and I played some music on one of the public player pianos and I ate my first boxed sandwich, which was pretty good. Mickey's been obsessed with them since she got here, if you've been reading her blog. Going through the Chunnel wasn't as exciting as it sounds as it was just a really long black blur. One thing that I could note is that anytime you go through a tunnel in one of these really fast trains, it does weird things to your ears. It's a little like when they pop on an airplane, except it hurts more than that...
Today was our free day in Edinburgh, and we packed in a lot! We started out with a quest to find a tin whistle, something Mickey wanted to buy while she was here. We hadn't found any in the last two days, but she'd found a place online last night which opened at 10am, so at 9:00 we set off and got off the bus at Princes Street, then walked up the road to St. Patrick's Square, where the store was. We stopped in most of the tourist stores along the way (which were mainly around the place where the road crossed the Royal Mile) and ended up getting to the store right as it opened. They had plenty of tin whistles there, as well as any other musical instruments you could want, and Mickey managed to find one she liked. The shopkeeper was very interesting with his Scottish accent and the way he said "close but no cigar" and that he would just find "a wee box" for the tin whistle or that some of the other ones were "a wee bit more" [expensive].