This past weekend, after a fun but hectic trip to London, I am so happy to be back in my apartment in Barcelona. Traveling this much and doing so many things really makes this apartment feel like home and I’m glad that this is where I’ll be until returning to the U.S. in late December.
So for the past five days or so, I went to visit my friend Moriah, who was here in Barcelona not too long ago. London was yet another first for me, and I was able to do and see a lot of touristy things that I’ve only seen in movies and magazines, so it was pretty cool to make those places a reality. I of course saw the clock tower Big Ben, as well as the House of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Treasury building, the London Eye ferris wheel, those typical red phone booths, the red double-decker buses, the British Museum (where I saw the Rosetta Stone) and Tower Bridge (the bridge that was commonly seen during the 2012 Olympics that had the five Olympic rings hanging from it). Moriah’s friend from college as well as her roommate and I also went to the famous Borough Market, where we walked around looking at tasting fresh foods, cheeses, produce, baked goods, fish, etc. and we tried some traditional English sausage with grilled onions and peppers as well as some hot mulled cider (which I was in desperate need of since it was about 35°F the entire weekend). After the market, we walked around some the city’s streets and across some bridges over the Thames River. We were lucky enough to have sunshine the whole weekend and were able to take some great pictures.
(The British Museum)
(Fish n’ Chips) (Tower Bridge) (Borough Market)
(Classic phone booth)
On another day, we had a tradition British “high tea” including a variety of finger sandwiches, scones, jams, pastries, and sweets, along with the different teas we all ordered (I had Jasmine). And later at night, we walked down Oxford street, an area known for its lively atmosphere, shopping, and Christmas lights during the holiday season. And since the holiday decorations were just starting to appear, we were lucky enough to stumble upon a huge Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, filled with kids’ rides, holiday foods, cider and mulled wine (hot wine with spices), ice rinks, music, etc. Something that did surprise me though, was how much earlier the sun sets in London- by 4:00pm it was already dark out. But that didn’t slow us down at all: one night we went to see the new movie “Catching Fire” that just came out, and another night we went to some pubs in the city.
(British High Tea)
And lastly, we made sure to visit Buckingham Palace. Surprisingly, the building itself wasn’t as grand and elaborate as I thought it would be, but the gates and gold trim, as well as the area surrounding the gates, were beautiful. I also saw the royal guards, although I couldn’t get close enough to position myself to try and make them laugh, but it was cool to just be there. It was also a great time of the year to walk through St. James Park (right in between Buckingham Palace and the area where Big Ben and Parliament are located). The sun was out, it was cold enough to feel like winter, and the leaves were falling off of trees. We walked through and saw a bunch of different animals, birds, and lots of people enjoying the day.
(St. James Park) (Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park) (Hyde Park)
Although I got to visit one of my oldest friends, meet new people, and see, taste, and enjoy the London experience, the weekend turned out to also be one of the scariest and and most stressful trips I’ve ever been on. Think of the absolute worst thing that could happen to you while abroad. To sum it up, that’s basically what happened to me. I accidentally left my purse in a cafe while waiting for someone to grab a quick coffee, and returned 15 minutes later only to find it had been stolen. Inside was my wallet, holding my driver’s license, credit cards, debit card, all of the cash I had brought, and my PASSPORT! I had absolutely no way to pay for anything (like a subway ride or a meal), identify myself, or get back to Spain. It was horrible, and I was in such shock at first that I didn’t really react. It wasn’t until I couldn’t make an appointment with the US consulate until after my flight date that I decided to go there myself and demand an emergency passport (which they reluctantly gave me). And with no way to pay for it, I literally started crying in front of the entire consulate when he gave me the bill. Like I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I’ve come across some extremely moving acts of kindness by strangers, and it happened again this time. The only other person in the building who wasn’t an employee (besides my friend who was with me) overheard and offered to front me the $135 needed to pay for the passport, telling me I could mail it to him later. He was literally pulling his checkbook out of his coat when my friend stepped in and paid, but I was just so blown away that a stranger would even think to offer that. In short, I made it back to Spain on time for my Monday classes, but had one hell of a week. There were lots of ups and downs, but overall, I’m so glad I was able to see some of London, a city I’ve wanted to visit for a while now. And even with the challenges, I suppose it makes for a great story when I talk about my travel adventures. Plus, I will now have a lovely post-breakdown, “just-wiped-the-masscara-off-my-cheeks” passport photo for the next ten years, and I’ll be able to think back and say “Oh yeah… from that one time I went to London!”