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.
The highlight of today was the Tower of London! We started with a tour by one of the Yeoman Warders, or 'Beefeaters', who actually live at the Tower and know all about it. The tour was very entertaining and he pointed out the many uses this place has served--from the royal mint to a zoo to a palace for the royalty to its most infamous purpose, a prison. He told us a lot of stories about different beheadings and prisoners at the Tower, and managed to make that subject entertaining and informative.
Today was another busy day in London! We set off a bit later than usual because of our late night at the performance of Wicked last night, and our first stop was the Hard Rock Cafe shop, because a few of the group wanted to purchase souvenirs there. We then headed past several war memorials and arrived at Wellington Arch. We went to the top, where we could see the mounted royal guardsmen passing through the arch, and took a few pictures. Then we hurried off to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard.
Today was a great day--we took a 1.5 hour train ride to Warwick Castle and got to see part of the English countryside, which was very pretty--lots of sheep, dairy cows, and a few horses, with pretty rolling hills and everything is very green! (Our guess was that it's because it rains so much here).
The castle was very big, and the most fun I had was climbing up on the towers and ramparts, but we also got to see the splendid living areas in the castle, a peacock garden (full of live peacocks), and went through a little tour called "Kingmaker." It was a great time.
We started our second day in London with a hearty English breakfast of beans, bacon, and eggs over easy at our bed and breakfast. Beans for breakfast was better than it sounds, though the bacon was more like ham than what we think of as bacon. We also had some toast and fresh-squeezed orange juice, so it was a strong start to the day. Michaela and I also stepped out to have a look at our hotel's garden, and it was very pretty! Afterwards we headed to Waterloo station and then took a half hour bus ride to Hampton Court. (And yes, I did end up with "Waterloo" by Abba stuck in my head all day).
Well, after a very long layover at the Minneapolis airport and an uncomfortable flight almost as long, we made it to London! We got through customs, got our luggage, and got on the Underground towards our hotel. It didn't really start to feel like we were in a different city until the subway started going above ground and we could see all the classic English houses. When we got off the Tube and started lugging our suitcases through busy streets, lined with buildings of many different architectural styles and teeming with black taxi cabs and double-decker buses, it really started to sink in that we were in the UK! We are staying at a little bed and breakfast place on Gower Street, which so far has been great. :)