Trip Start Sep 06, 2009
8Trip End Dec 20, 2009
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I don't know if many of you know this, but there's this thing called the Schengen Agreement that was signed between many countries within Europe. What it basically means is that you can travel between any of the countries that signed this agreement without crossing through border control. And pretty much all the members of the European Union (and even a few non-members) are in the Schengen Area. This is cool on several accounts. One: my Visa is valid for not only Italy, but also other Schengen States. Two: when I travel between these countries by plane I don't have to go through customs
However, the UK is a special little place where they like to consider themselves somewhat separate from the rest of their European counterparts. Perhaps it's the channel. Anyway they declined to involve themselves with the Schengen Agreement, which means customs and passport stamps! (Although they also disinclined to establish the euro as their currency despite being economically eligible, so it also means currency exchange)
Didn't know you were going to get an international relations lesson with this blog did ya?
Anyhow, we flew into one of the airports that were in the outer suburbs of London and took a shuttle bus into downtown London. When we landed and for the entire bus ride from the airport it was raining and it was supposed to rain the entire day, but by the time we got downtown it had pretty much stopped and didn't start again all day. Which was incredibly awesome because my umbrella was pretty much shot
Our hostel was in a very central location so along the walk to check in we saw Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Palace (or the Houses of Parliament), Big Ben and the London Eye. Which was very nice considering our crunch for time. After checking in and dropping off our stuff we explored the sights some more such as Buckingham Palace and it's gardens as well as Downing Street (the headquarters of the government). I saw 10 Downing Street! (The official residence of the Prime Minister) It's actually not that impressive. Certainly not as much so as, say, the White House. But I got a big geeky thrill out of it thanks to associations with Doctor Who. (I got the same feeling the first time I saw the London Eye) =P
In fact, I think it's safe to say that this is pretty much why I enjoyed my London visit as much as I did. I could make all sorts of associations with what I was seeing to things that I really enjoy. For instance, during the evening my friend and I went on an adventure to find Platform 9 3/4. Which is actually harder than it sounds when you decide to do it on the fly.
We headed over to King's Cross Station and the first thing we noticed is that it looks nothing like the exterior shots of the King's Cross in the Harry Potter movies
There is, however, another train station right next to Kings Cross (why, I'm not sure) called St. Pancras whose exterior looked a bit familiar. So we checked inside and while slightly more similar to the movies, it was still not right. We couldn't even get to platform nine and ten, though.
Some post-trip research has revealed JK Rowling actually confused King's Cross station with another called Euston Station. And that they had to re-number platform 4 and 5 at King's Cross so that the shot would work.There is, however, a wall that is set up somewhere at the station labeled Platform 9 3/4 with a trolley sticking half-way out of the wall. We, unfortunately, did not find this. Or even know it existed. Although, it turns out that they did film the exterior shots at St. Pancras though.
And although the quest can be considered a failure, it still turned out to be really fun. There was one success that did come out of it, though. As I believe I have said previously, my friend has this things about collecting Starbucks mugs from every city that we visit. He really wanted one from London, but after we got out of dinner (which I will describe in a bit) we realized that all the Starbucks were already closed
Okay for dinner I wanted something very specific. I wanted a meat pie. Preferably one from a Mrs. Lovett's on Fleet Street =P. Finding an affordable meat pie in an actual restaurant and not a pub was actually rather difficult. We would have gone to a pub to complete the English experience even more, but when we went inside one we got rather confused with how to order. And no one else was really eating anything. So we finally found a restaurant and I ended up getting a chicken, pea and leek pie with a side of onion rings. It was yummy.
Oh, I forgot to mention that we took a ride on the London Eye, which was pretty cool. One thing I dd not get to, though, was ride the London Underground (metro). But this was because it was obscenely priced (comparatively speaking that is). Here I thought metros were supposed to be a cheap forms of transportation.