Frienship and LONDON!
The week of Amanda’s visit has come and gone, ending with our visit to London Friday through Sunday! Monday was a really chill, relaxing day, but not entirely of our choosing – it poured all day, and the buses weren’t running their full routes due to the Dublin Marathon…basically, we were stuck at home. On Tuesday evening, Amanda accompanied me into the city to get registered as a single-semester student by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). I stood in a line for 45 minutes waiting to receive a ticket that would give me my number in the actual line, waiting to meet with a representative to get my registration complete – total insanity. Thank God Amanda was there with me – she made everything totally bearable. After about three hours I received my GNIB card, which allows me to travel out of the country (or, more specifically, allows me to reenter the country after outside travel) – 150 euro later, I was free to be on my way. AHH. I attempted to introduce Amanda to the Irish drinking scene Tuesday night, but failed pretty miserably: we went to the Student Bar around 10 pm, and found it nearly empty (maybe 20 people inside) – and the lights were on! We obviously decided to turn around and hang out at home, instead.
Wednesday morning I went into the lab (although Amanda, the technician, was out for the whole week) and did some general cleaning and organization. Afterwards, Amanda (my friend from home) and I went into the city. We stopped in at Paul Ryan Woodwinds and picked up my – completely fixed! – oboe. Thank goodness: I was terrified that it would basically be the equivalent of totaled for a car – just a total loss – but it works like new now! (Knock on wood…) After getting my oboe back, Amanda and I wandered around the city for a while before heading back to UCD.
Thursday was really fun – we spent the afternoon visiting two amazing tourist attractions: the Number 29 Georgian House Museum and Kilmainham Gaol. Number 29 is a restored row house made to look as it would have when a middle-class widow owned it in the late 18th century. Photographs weren’t allowed inside, which was really sad because it is a tremendously beautiful place! We missed the introduction film (which encompassed the story of the widow and her children), but the tour guide was very helpful in explaining the details about the house. Definitely worth the 3 euro entrance fee…Kilmainham Gaol (jail) was another truly amazing site to visit. I had heard from numerous acquaintances that it is worth the journey (about a 20 minute journey from the bus stop at the River Liffey), so Amanda and I got on bus 79a after lunch. We had asked the driver how far away the stop for Kilmainham was, and he said 20 minutes; however, the bus stopped about 10 minutes after we had started. We were sitting on the top of the bus and were unsure of whether that was our stop, but google maps on my phone indicated that we were really close – we went downstairs (while the bus was in motion – a difficult task!) and asked the driver when to get off, and he responded “That was your stop!” Whoopsies. Luckily he was in a good mood and stopped the bus right then and there, letting us get off not very far from the original stop; we then commenced the 10 minute walk to the jail. Interesting sight on the road: a train car. Yup, you read that right – a train car! It was on a flatbed truck, being escorted by a “tyre” changing truck and a brigade of Garda officers on motorcycles. The train car came right down the road we had to walk down (look at the pictures – it’s nuts), stopping traffic everywhere for about six or seven minutes. Amanda and I just stood and watched for a while – quite a hilarious sight. A train on a road…I literally could not get over it. After the train got out of the way, we went into Kilmainham Gaol for a truly fantastic guided tour – Siobhan (pronounced sha-bahn) really knew her stuff and made it a really interesting visit. Learned all about the Irish revolutionary figures and the insanity that accompanied all the uprisings against the English…very neat presentation. The jail itself is huge, drafty, and amazing – it was restored in the 1960’s by a group made up entirely of unpaid volunteers (some of whom had previously been prisoners IN the jail!). It was definitely a worthwhile trip – I might just bring my family there when they visit for Thanksgiving!
That concluded Amanda’s week in Dublin – Friday was our departure for London! The morning was a moderate disaster for me – I wanted to do my laundry before leaving. Not a good plan, as it turned out…the closer laundry room is STILL broken (three weeks later, it has yet to be fixed and we have yet to hear anything about it); however, I didn’t find that out until I walked there with my laundry. It took a full 25 minutes to get from my room to the laundry room I ended up using, but I still had plenty of time so I figured that’d be fine. I went back to my room and showered, then returned to the laundry room after 40 minutes to move my clothes into a dryer. Imagine my surprise when, upon opening the washer, I discovered that the clothes had never rotated – the detergent was un-dissolved and the top half of the clothes were completely dry! In my frustration, I moved all the clothes into the washing machine directly to the left of this broken one – big mistake! I managed to put them into the silliest machine alive, which counts every minute as at least 2. Sometimes three. Meaning that my 40-minute wash cycle turned into 90 minutes…giving me just over an hour until Amanda and I had planned to be leaving my dorm. Also, the washing machine that counts wrong also refuses to spin dry clothing – I had to take everything out individually and wring it dry onto the floor (it looked like a lake after, no exaggeration, unfortunately). Put everything in dryers and returned forty minutes later to remove them…and nothing was dry! AHH. It was the craziest morning…I ended up just grabbing some clean (although wet) socks and underwear and taking clothes that hadn’t just been put through the wash – thank God I had some left! – with my to London. However, Amanda and I got on the Aircoach at around 1 for a 3:30 flight and waltzed our way through the Dublin Airport security (score!), so we ended up having time to grab some food at Butler’s Chocolate Café in the airport before boarding. Funny side note – they list flights as “boarding” when they want you to start making your way to the gate. We did NOT know this and ended up hustling to the gate just to find out that we had at least another fifteen minute wait to actually start boarding…which they ended up not announcing, either. It was quite a little adventure…
The flight passed pretty rapidly (although there were no free refreshments, dangit), and we got into Heathrow Airport at around 4:30. We got onto the Tube together, headed for the London Bridge stop and our hostel – however, there was a minor mix-up when we were switching lines. I managed to get on the train, leaving Amanda behind on the platform! Luckily there was another train following a minute behind and she got on the same car as I did (just a train behind), so when she got off at the London Bridge stop I was directly across from her on the platform! Whoopsies…had quite a laugh at that one. We headed up to the street and walked over to St. Christopher’s Village, the main hostel that has the reception area for all of the St. Chris’ hostels – we were booked into Oasis, the all-female hostel about two blocks down the road. Check-in went smoothly, but actually getting our beds sorted wasn’t quite so easy – we were supposed to be in room 7 (on the fourth floor), in beds C and H. C was occupied when we got into room 7, though…so Amanda & I locked our stuff in one of the trunks under the bed and trekked back to the Village to see what could be done about the room situation. The guy at the desk was super-accommodating and changed us into room 2 (I don’t remember the bed letters) – and reprogrammed our cards. It was only after walking back to the hostel and up the four flights of stairs that we realized that, due to the reprogramming of our cards, we could no longer get into room 7, where we had stashed all of our stuff. After the third trip to the Village, we got everything sorted out and moved successfully into room 2 (second floor for the win!). We got cleaned up and changed and headed to the Piccadilly Circus Tube stop to wander and look for food. London is so beautiful at night, by the way! People everywhere, without the insane hustle & bustle of NYC, and everything was lit up. I’m a fan. After wandering aimlessly for about half an hour, we settled on Prezzo for dinner and had some fantastic Italian food – Amanda had pizza and I had pesto pasta. Yum. After dinner we decided to wander around a bit more and see what was going, which led to us finding the most awesome place ever: M&M World!! It’s the biggest candy store in the world (at least, according to Wikipedia), and it was really fantastic. It was packed with people and M&M everything – plastic champagne bottles filled with multi-colored M&Ms, walls of different M&M colors, and larger-than-life plastic M&M figures. I took so many pictures there…such a neat find. After wandering around in there for a while, we decided to go in search of dessert – and ended up finding a Haagen Das restaurant! As in, you go in and they give you a menu of all the crazy Haagen Das creations you can have. It was perfect. I got something that was completely and utterly sinful – cookie dough ice cream with cookies and brownies and hot fudge…YUM. After Haagen Das we hustled back to the Tube to catch the last train back to London Bridge and turned in for the night around midnight (travel is hard work!).
Saturday we got up and headed over to the Village to grab breakfast…after seeing what they call breakfast, we decided to grab something at Starbucks instead. We walked across the London Bridge (NOT the pretty one – that’s the Tower Bridge), and then down the Thames Path towards the Tower of London. Let me just say, anyone going to London who wants to really experience some history – GO GO GO! It was incredible. We joined a one-hour guided tour, led by a “Beefeater” (actual title: yeoman warder) – a member of the Royal Bodyguard. Our guide made a couple of hysterical statements that I wrote down to share:
The Tower was used as the Mint for England for a long time, and our guide mentioned that Sir Isaac Newton was the minter there fore 30 years, and therefore lived in the outer gate of the Tower. In reference to Newton, our guide said “Sir Isaac Newton – yes, the inventor of gravity. Another great invention of London!”
When walking into a chapel: “Turn off those things of Satan – mobiles, cell phones, whatever you call them. Is there anyone here under 25 years old?? (A few of us raised our hands at this point.) I can tell you categorically that if you turn it off…your heart will keep beating!!”
The tour itself was amazing – the history of the Tower is true insanity, including everything from minting coins to murdering children (because they were next in line for the crown, of course!). After the tour concluded, we walked around for three more HOURS! There are numerous exhibits to look at – including one on the menagerie that was kept there before being moved to Regent’s Park as the London Zoo, and the crown jewels – as well as a little café and plenty of photo-ops. Four hours well spent, in my opinion.
After getting late lunch, we headed back to the hostel for naptime and showers in preparation for our night plans – going to Broadway! Well, technically the show was on Shaftesbury Avenue, but you get my point…we saw “Rock of Ages”, which I would recommend to anyone who enjoys hilarious musicals (and doesn’t mind good-natured raunchiness). The best line of the show by far was when one of the characters proclaimed “I’m not gay – I’m just German!!” The entire audience lost it at that one, and the people onstage had to freeze for a few seconds before they could continue on with the show. It was an incredible show – the performers were amazing, and there was so much audience involvement! Definitely worth it. After the show we stopped in a convenience store so I could get bandaids – my heels KILLED my feet so fast! (I realized that I should be grateful that I’m going to be wearing scrubs instead of business casual clothes for work for the rest of my life – heels and I are not friends.) We were planning on going out but decided getting changed first was a better idea…and then we ended up deciding not to go out at all. However, by the time we had made this decision, all the restaurants had closed (after having lunch at nearly 2:30, we hadn’t been hungry prior to the show)…so we got junk food at another convenience store and then watched most of the movie Notting Hill in our room. Yay for being in London and watching a movie based there at the same time!!
Sunday morning we took the Tube over to Parliament so I could see Big Ben (truly a stunning sight) and the London Eye. Unfortunately I’m terrified of heights, so I kept Amanda on the ground and we shared a fantastic waffle with strawberries and whipped cream for breakfast, instead. After breakfast we headed out to the Gatwick Airport for our respective flights; unfortunately, they were in different terminals so we couldn’t stay together past security. The flight home was fine – flew through security (after getting a full-body pat down! They really are as awkward as you expect…ugh.) and then onto the plane with no real difficulties. I hustled off the plane (I was the third person through the security checkpoint), and then I ran down to get on the Aircoach back to UCD – getting there literally 30 seconds before the bus pulled up. The trip home was so drama-free and simple – thank goodness.
Woo. That’s so much for you to read! Hope it was worth it…