Alcalá de Henares

Alcalá de Henares

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Semana Santa: The Beginning...

Since I can't sleep right now, I will be productive and begin my blog about my Semana Santa.  A few general reactions: Incredible, Unbelievable, I must go back.  I am in love with England.  In love.  Maybe it's the English accent, or just the English over Spanish, the quaint little homes, the brightly colored pounds, the red telephone booths, the double decker buses, the food that tastes like home, the wonderful land of Scotland, who knows.  Trip of a lifetime for sure.  So how to break it all down into this blog.  The easiest way to tackle this blog I believe is to take it day by day.  So sorry if this gets rather lengthy or if I don't complete all of it in one sitting.  My apologies.

Day 1:  Departure
Due to my inability to read military time correctly, I confused the flight times and discovered it the night before.  Our flight left an hour earlier than I had thought, so I had to skip my last class on Wednesday so we could catch our flight out of Madrid.  I met up with my friends at the train station, my mom drove me and she is such a sweetheart, then took the Renfe into Madrid, then the metro to the airport.  First comment: I hate the Madrid airport.  It just brings back bad memories of running around trying to find where I was supposed to meet my director on the first day, and it's a large confusing airport.  Confusion is not a feeling that I like prior to flying.  Once at the airport, we had to get our boarding passes stamped, which was fairly easy given that I am a little better at Spanish this time around, and proceeded to security.  Took off from the airport and landed in London on time.

Once in London, we had to go through customs and I got my passport stamped!  Yes I've been to the UK.  We also changed over some money, seeing as we were now on the pound, not the Euro.  Finally got to the bus stop, and bought our bus tickets to the city, since our flight (Ryanair) landed an hour out of London.  Thus began the journey with public buses.  Got into downtown London and found the metro.  Since we're used to using the metro in Madrid, it was fairly easy to figure out.  Especially when everything is in English!  So took the metro to St. Paul's Cathedral where our first hostel was.  Our first hostel was in a great location and was nice.  Not as nice as the Yes! Hostel in Lisboa, but we've come to learn that that was an exceptional hostel, not the norm for hostel living.

After we checked in, we decided to take an evening stroll around London.  Probably one of my favorite memories from Spring Break was this first night.  We walked across the Millenium Bridge (Harry Potter anyone?), and saw the London Bridge as well as the London Eye.  We headed in the direction of the London Eye because we wanted to see Big Ben as well.  It wasn't a long walk, but I made the comment like, "I'm sure we'll just look up and Big Ben will be right there."  And sure enough, no more than 15 seconds later, we got our first view of Big Ben.  And I now have a new obsession with Big Ben.  Maybe because it's because I've seen so many movies that reference Big Ben, but it is my favorite part of London.  Very touristy yes, but very cool at the same time.  So we walked by Big Ben and said hello and then headed back to our hostel.  On the way we found a telephone booth, so of course we had to take pictures in it!  We also found a little supermarket that was open, and I bought cereal (well I thought it was cereal, but it ended up being granaola), Dorito's (they don't have Cool Ranch in Spain), Coca-Cola, water, and a few other small items that I've craved for awhile.  We got back to the hostel pretty tired and we snacked for awhile and then went to bed.  Good day.

Day 2: Exploring London
This was our only full day in London, so we wanted to make the most of it and see everything.  Well I now it's impossible to see everything, but we wanted to hit most of the main sights of London.  We got up early and got ready to leave.  I brought a mini-hair dryer that I bought in Spain and was assured in Spanish by the seller, that it would work in England.  Haha good one.  It broke the first day.  Should have known better than to take his word on that.  But it really wasn't a big deal because I was just happy to be in London!

After leaving the hostel, we headed off in the same direction as the night before and saw once again the London Eye, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster, and a few other cool things.  From there we made our way to Picadilly Circle (kind of like Times Square), Buckingham Palace where we saw the changing of the guard, Oxford Street, Burlington Arcade (very ritzy shopping center), H&M of course, and other souvenir shops in search for touristy things.  We also went to the British Museum and saw the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian art, Greek sculptures, and other old things.  I thought it was interesting but seeing as I don't know much about ancient world history, I opted to go to a café to get some coffee since I was getting a little tired and we still had so much left to do and see!

After the British Museum, we started to head back towards the London Eye because we had an appointment to take a ride on it at 7.  On our way, we found a London guard not the really cool ones at Buckingham (they were no where to be found), but a guard nonetheless.  We came up from behind and were super excited to get the most obnoxious and ridiculous London guard photos until we realized that he was just, well, depressing looking?  The photo will explain perfectly.  We felt so bad taking pictures with him and it was just awkward.  Epic fail.        

Finally got to the London Eye, which is the world's biggest ferris wheel if I remember, and got to go when it was just getting dark out.  It lasted about half an hour, and the view was incredible.  I have fallen in love with London and it is one of my favorite cities.  It's modern, but has an old English feel to it as well.  Very interesting.  It is also a relatively clean city and despite the rain off and on, I really enjoyed exploring London for the day.

After the London Eye, we headed back to the hostel to drop off our stuff and then headed out again.  We wanted to try the famous Fish and Chips, and went to a restaurant called The Anchor (yes Hope College references are necessary) only to find out that they had the chips, but ran out of the fish.  However, we managed to get free french fries out of the deal because I think the lady felt bad for us.  So we ate french fries and were content enough with those.  After The Anchor, we tried another place only to be informed that the kitchen was closed.  Shoot.  We are used to Spain where most places will still serve food past midnight, but I guess in England kitchens close around 10:00/11:00.  So we walked around some more, saw the London Bridge and the Tower of London, and called it a day.  
What an amazing day it was.  We saw practically all the "big" sights in London in a single day.  And we walked the whole thing!  We were pretty worn out by the time we finally got back to the hostel, but it was certainly worth it.  I can't wait to go back to London because there are some things that I would still like to do/see, so I guess that just means another trip to London sometime.  I'm more than ok with that.

As for me, I am tired now and have to still pack to go to León tomorrow so this is it for tonight.  I was conflicted, because I could either write a super short blog, skimming and leaving out details, or go a little more in depth and do it in sections.  I have opted for the second option.  So for today, London blog complete.  Still to come: Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, London part II, Barcelona, and Girona.  So much more to come.

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