we left Amsterdam at 5 in the morning and arrived in rainy, grey London around 8 after some delays. after dropping our bags off at the hostel we decided to get some sightseeing in, so we headed to the tube and got off at Piccadilly Circus!
we were pretty darn relieved to be somewhere where everybody spoke English!! granted, everybody in Amsterdam spoke English, but you get what I'm saying. I kept forgetting that I couldn't swear loudly anymore because everybody knew what I was really saying.
anyway, I immediately liked London. it was clean, very beautiful, the public transportation was easy, and we were staying in Kensington which is the nicest area of London! the weather also reminded me a lot of home, very blustery and rain at unexpected times and a definite chilly bite in the air.
we were starving so we wandered a bit trying to find a place to eat, but once we saw a TGIF in Piccadilly Circus it was game over. we were really, really craving American food.
my first meal in London... mozzarella sticks
after lunch we did some more sightseeing! first stop was Buckingham Palace.
I couldn't get over what a hard job these guys have... they can't budge and it was freezing out!
the London Eye from below
the view from the London Eye
The London Eye was really cool, even though when we got on it was FREEZING and so windy and rainy.
we were really damp and cold, so we returned to the hostel where we watched some Hollyoaks, which is actually the most addictive soap opera in the world. consider me hooked. once we were suitably warmed up and had our fill of deliciously good looking and dramatic British men on the telly (haha), we headed out for dinner in Soho to this insanely cool restaurant called inamo. inamo is a pan-asian restaurant serving pretty darn good food but the real draw is that the menu is touch screen!! it projects onto the table and you can order and see what the food will look like on your plate before you get it.
I'm looking at the cocktail that I have just ordered on the menu and seeing it in person!!
another example of how the sick menu works
Anyway, inamo was good food and really fun, a bit noisy but the service was fast and I totally recommend it even if just for the kitsch appeal of playing around on a desktop while eating dinner. you can change the tabletop design and even play games or stream a live feed of their kitchen.
on our way home, a guy in a pirate hat (it was Halloween) told me that I didn't know what was Gucci. if I wasn't so cold I probably would have told him that I AM Gucci, but in that moment I was too offended (and frozen) to come up with a proper response to such an insult.
the next day we got an early start to our day to go to HARROD'S!! I was devastated to find out that we were missing the unveiling of their Christmas windows and decorations by 3 days, but even so Harrod's was magnificent. totally life changing, I may move to London one day just so I can to Harrod's every day. they really do sell just about everything you would ever need or want.
first floor: food halls!
cheese, enough said
the dog collars. the pet section was our favorite by far, luxury pet goods? a pet spa? 300 pound collars?all of these things spoke to me.
a funny anecdote about the excellent customer service at Harrod's: in the pet department they sell actual pedigree dogs, and for business hours they are kept in these pens behind glass walls where shoppers/tourists can rap on the glass and harass them and in general make these poor dogs wish they were on the other side of the glass. anyway it looked really depressing and sad in there and I said I felt sad in the vicinity of a sales associate, who came over to me immediately and asked if I was alright and if I needed anything.
the disney princess department. seriously.
anyway, Harrod's was amazing. I loved the toy department, the luxury home furnishings department, the women's shoe hall, the food halls (obviously), the book department, and the designer baby clothes for no reason other than they were the definition of over the top. gaultier for baby? really?
after Harrod's we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum. the V&A was hosting a fashion exhibition, displaying the progression and development of fashions and style from the 17th century to now, and it was so cool! shoes from F/W 2012 collections were displayed alongside vintage dresses, which I thought was great. it's nice when museums appreciate the vintage and the new together.
some vintage dresses
the V&A also hosts a large sculpture collection and a medieval art collection, among other things that I didn't get to see. I also almost peed myself because I didn't realize that the V&A was home to the Raphael cartoons of his tapestries, but they were all there! the room they were kept in was totally empty too, which was sad but great for me since I got to enjoy it without tourists asking stupid questions. no joke, one time in the Sistine Chapel I heard some really hick people asking each other "where them prophets were in this place." I mean, each prophet is labeled with his name under him, so... ugh, anyway.
Bernini's Neptune and Triton
after all this culture we really needed lunch, so we stopped in for some fish n chips with mushy peas! I didn't really enjoy the peas but I very very much enjoyed the fish and the fries. mm, now I'm craving fish n chips...
fish n chips!
later that night we went to a Halloween party at Imperial College, which is a math and sciences school and one of the best universities in the entire world. so, totally my scene. I had a lot of fun even though my costume was a pitiful pair of cat ears. the cute bartender did tell me he liked my ears though, so I guess it's alright.
we headed home to Rome in the morning, totally wiped out after a long week of traveling and living out of bags that were much heavier from souvenirs, and I actually found myself missing Rome! who would have thought? I really did like London though, I absolutely will be back.
traveling so much to very different places made me appreciate how comfortable I've gotten here in Rome, and I really liked seeing how life goes in different places. public transportation says a lot about the city, I think; in places where it's well-organized, timely, and clean you'll probably find living there to share those characteristics. it also made me realize how hard it is to have a language barrier where you live. in Rome, there's always the chance that somebody won't understand you, which is a definite stressor because every time you leave school there's the fear that you'll end up in a situation where you won't be able to communicate! finally, as a general travel tip: always check tipping policies of a place before you get there, because it's the last thing you think about before you leave and the first thing that makes you say "oh, s#!t" once you arrive.