Stonehenge, Thunder Storms, and the Best Last Day Ever (London days 16, 17 & 18)

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So…. I’m home, now. *cue sad music* I had a post written before I left, but again, there were problems loading pictures. But now that I’m back with a somewhat better internet connection, I’ll be able to catch you all up to speed with the last few days of my trip, which were pretty amazing.

Wednesday we took another trip outside the City, starting with Stonehenge.

One side.

One side.

It was crazy windy and cold, but the scenery on the drive out there was beautiful. Stonehenge was pretty amazing, too.

The other side.

The other side.

Some say it’s underwhelming. I can see where they’re coming from. It is just a bunch of rocks if you think about it. But listening to the audio tour and thinking about how impressive it is that it’s even here and the meaning of it all, you see more than just a pile of rocks. You see history and human innovation and a feature the world’s deemed important enough to want to visit.

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And take selfies in front of.

We then went out to Bath, the famous vacation place in Jane Austen novels. We first toured the Roman baths there.

I imagine they had better pool boys back in the day...

I imagine they had better pool boys back in the day…

I always enjoy looking at Roman things. Much like Stonehenge and the mummies, it’s just mind-blowing to think about how old they are. And yet, enough of it is still intact to give you a good idea of how it looked.

The water is warm and slimy, FYI.

The water as warm and slimy as you’d imagine.

Faith and I then walked a little ways to the famous crescent houses. There was the “Circus,” which consisted of four curved buildings arranged to form a circle.

Here's one quarter of it.

Here’s one quarter of it.

Then there was the Royal Crescent, the one you see in films like Persuasion.

Bloody construction ruining another photo.

I would not have ran the full length of this just to confess my love. Captain Wentworth would have to wait for a letter or something.

For lunch we had pasties, which are the better version of bierocks. I was feeling adventurous and got lamb and mint. We also wanted ice cream, since there were like fifty ice cream shops, but they were cash-only and we’d already run out of notes.

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Didn’t realize they gave out awards for these sort of things.

It was raining when we arrived back in London later that evening. A bunch of the class went out for Mexican food, but Faith and I decided that didn’t sound good, plus we were cold and tired, so we spent the night in.

It was still raining the next day. We spent the morning in our last class period, writing about the British Museum and fondly reflecting on our trip with each other. We then went off to our last museum visit at the Tate Modern. We walked across the Millennium Bridge to get there, and it poured on us the whole way. Some people complained, but I thought it was beautiful (and weather I sorely miss now that I’m back in the oven that is Fresno).

The Tate Modern is inside an old powerhouse. It houses “modern” art which, much like modern theater, is weird.

Example.

Example.

I got separated from the group and wandered numbly around the galleries for maybe forty minutes before leaving. I tried to keep an open mind, but barely anything stood out to me as being really cool or beautiful. There was maybe one painting that I liked…

Though by these standards I'm pretty sure I could make it as an "artist."

Which isn’t saying much.

…And a series of photographs of a boy throughout his service in the French army that was interesting (I think I’ve seen them online before, too). But otherwise, I just felt confused the whole time. It definitely made me think about what the point of art is or should be.

By this standard, even I could be an "artist."

By this standard, even I could be an “artist.”

I walked back across the Millennium Bridge to get back. The rain had turned into a storm by then, with thunder roaring in the distance. It was so lovely to spend time by myself admiring the view and the rain.

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Those umbrella-less people are either locals who aren’t phased by a little shower, or tourists who are too dumb to prepare for one…

Faith and I met back at our flat, where we got into our cozy sweats and made dinner. That night’s meal was steak that turned out to be disgusting ground meat, and potatoes in duck fat that turned out to be surprisingly good. Felicity came over later for a little chat, and then we all went to bed early to prepare for our final attempt at Hamlet tickets the next day.

That day was Friday, our very last day. I can hardly write about it without feeling all giddy again (foreshadow alert!) We woke up at 4:30 and made it out to the Barbican theater by 6. It was not a black day, so there was one thing going for us, but we felt a little disheartened that we were about at the same place in line as we’d been the week before. With only 30 tickets available, and a 2 ticket limit per person, we were starting to give up and talk about back-up plans for our last evening.

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Especially since people were holding spots for their friends. Not cool.

About an hour in line was spent outside in the freezing cold, and then the rest was spent inside. The lady behind us in line was from California, and the people behind her were from Virginia, so we at least made some new friends while waiting. Felicity and I had some great conversations in line too, and once again, I felt so blessed to have this opportunity to make such great friends.

By 10 o’clock they started selling the tickets. Our hearts raced as we moved further and further up the line. I was nearly convinced we weren’t going to get them. But, lo and behold… WE DID!

Happy faces!

Happy faces!

Anything could’ve happened that day and we wouldn’t have cared. We were gonna see HAMLET in LONDON starring BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH!

We did have a free afternoon to fill, so Faith went off to get her last-mintue souvenirs while Felicity and I had lunch at Pret. I still really wanted to see the Imperial War Museum even though by then we didn’t have much time. Felicity and I spent maybe an hour in there, but it was so worth it.

Those little yellow things are people.

Those little yellow things are people.

Outside, along with that giant gun thing (I so know my military terms), was also a section of the Berlin Wall.

London's already done that for me.

London’s already done that for me.

Inside there were planes and missiles hanging from the ceiling.

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And stairs. Always more stairs.

We decided to choose one exhibit to really spend time in and just skim by everything else. We went into the Holocaust section where we weren’t supposed to take any pictures, but I momentarily forgot and snapped this pic:

Powerful quote, though.

Powerful quote, though.

It was so… just… mind blowing. This would’ve been a much better museum to visit as a class than the Tate Modern. It was interesting to get the British perspective on the world wars, since it was so much closer to home for them. Even though I was still riding on cloud nine, I also felt extremely humbled as I pondered the Nazi movement and the atrocities it invoked on the world.

Some of the other things we came across while we hurried out was a replica of Little Boy…

No, it's the actual bomb. *eye roll*

No, it’s the actual bomb. *eye roll*

And a piece of scrap from the Twin Towers…

That "how is this British?" question coming up again...

That “why is this in England” question coming up again…

We spent some time back at our flat to cook pasta for dinner and get ready for the play. I finally got to wear the dress I’d bought the week before when we first tried to snag the tickets, and didn’t mind at all that it rained as we set off for the Barbican.

I'm just happy to be honored by Cumberbatch's presence.

I’m just happy to be honored by Cumberbatch’s presence.

Pictures and recording were strictly forbidden, so I can’t share with you how amazingly epic that stage was. HOLY CRAP. I was just blown away by the grandness of it all. The music they played to transition between scenes had slight undertones of eeriness that really set the right mood. And the acting, of course, was phenomenal by everyone in the cast. So many amazing details about that show I wish I could tell you. But I hear they’re filming it and will show it in select theaters later this year. I highly recommend going!

Afterward, we stuck around outside to see the actors leave. Benedict came out and signed autographs. The only pictures I managed to get were pretty crappy, but it’s proof that I stood only a few feet away from maybe the best actor of our generation!

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I would make a horrible paparazzi.

Faith got him to sign her ticket, but Felicity and I felt claustrophobic in the crowd so we pushed our way out of it and waited for her.

Overall, it was just the best way to end the best trip I’ve ever been on. I’d never really had a moment of “OMG I’m in London” up until that last day. I just couldn’t believe it was already over. I still can’t. I might write one more post about what it was like coming back home and all the life lessons I’ve brought back with me. But for now… It’s nice just to sit back and let all those pleasant feeling wash over me while thanking God for this wonderful life.

And these wonderful friends!

And these wonderful friends!

Mistakes, Disappointments, and Not Thinking Things Through (London day 12)

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The last 24 hours have been… difficult. I imagine a bad day was statistically bound to happen at some point during this trip. I’m trying to remain hopeful and optimistic, but sometimes you gotta let the anger, self-deprication, and dejection run their course first.

Saturday morning, Fath, Felicity, and I decided to try our luck getting tickets to Hamlet at the Barbican theater, a production that sold out in record-breaking time last year simply because of Benedict Cumberbatch.

We’d done our research, and the Barbican would release thirty 10 pound tickets every morning for that day’s production. Reports said that eager fans were lining up outside the ticket office in advance, so we got to the theater about 2 1/2 hours before it opened.

Maybe if only the Shakespeare fans were allowed, we'd have a chance...

The people at the front of the line apparently had camped there since the evening before.

The line wasn’t incredibly long, but we weren’t quite close enough to have any luck. We were literally right behind the last person to get a ticket. They had a few returned tickets at full price (upwards of 60 pounds) but we didn’t want to go that badly. We did figure, though, that if we got there an hour or two earlier the next day, that we might have a shot. So we went back to the flat only semi-disappointed with a resolution to get there by 6 am.

Also that morning, I left my map of London on the tube by accident. I loved that thing because it was laminated and sturdy, I’d made marks on all of the well-known locations, and it had a good tube map on the back side that I used pretty much on a daily basis. And… I left it on the seat next to me. That’s exactly how I lost my first iPhone at school not too long ago; you’d think I’d have learned, right?

Anyway, after taking a little nap and doing some laundry, Faith and I then decided to go to the London Dungeons. We’d bought a combo ticket pack through the London Eye to see that, the Dungeons, and Madame Tussaude’s. When we’d gone to the Eye, I had to show my confirmation email to get the ticket voucher for the rest of the attractions.

That I lost, too.

I scoured our room, looking everywhere twice, but to no avail. I’m convinced that it must’ve flown out of my bag at one point. I tried appealing to the London Eye people for a replacement ticket; I had email proof that I bought it, so surely they’d be able to look up my ticket number or something. Nope. So basically I paid 51 pounds to ride the London Eye. I’m still trying to decide if it’s worth it to buy the Dungeons and Tussaude’s tickets separately or not.

Pair the hatred I had for my carelessness and bad luck at that moment with the incredibly frustrating walk back across the Westminster Bridge where everyone and their mothers were either crowded around sleezy street magicians or stopped in the middle of the walkway to take a selfie, and you can imagine how pissed off I was. It took a lot of self-checks and prayers to keep myself from pushing everyone into the road.

We then tried going to Primark, a really cheap British clothing store, to find a nice dress or something to wear to the play the next day (because we were confident we’d get tickets this time!) They were locking the doors right as we got there. Have I ever mentioned that stores and even some restaurants close super early around here? I don’t get it.

How I didn’t melt into a puddle of despair at that moment, the world will never know. We ended up at a nearby H&M and I found a nice dress on sale for 7 pounds. That helped a little. It also helped that Faith and I picked up ciders on the way home and enjoyed them while watching KPop videos.

I’d thought that the next day would be better, especially since we all had a good feeling about these Hamlet tickets. So we woke up 4:30 AM, put on clothes, grabbed our pillows, and set off for the Barbican. We had to use the buses, something we hadn’t yet become comfortable with, because it was too early for the tubes. But Faith had this cool app that guided us, and at about 6 we arrived…

… only to realize, Oh yeah it’s Sunday; there are no shows on Sundays. The doors were locked, there were no people queueing. It’s quite the experience, let me tell you, to realize you didn’t think something through while in a foreign country in the wee hours of the morning in a deserted neighborhood holding a pillow.

And that’s where I’m going to take this. The whole thing was an experience, a learning experience. I know now to not set things on the seat next to me, to keep track of where I place important tickets, and to not let eagerness get in the way of being mindful. I’m still barely an adult. This is only my second time out of the country, the first without my family. So I’m going to have these experiences, but I’m going to learn from them and do better next time.

Plus, I’m in London. I got to see the sunrise in London. And I spent this weekend with two friends I’ve gotten to know so well in just the last two weeks. Faith was great in keeping me calm when I felt like murdering people on the Bridge. Felicity has kept my perspective on the positive side with reminders about how awesome this trip is. And we went through it all together, so now we have like this super special London bond or something that I don’t think three girls could ever replicate anywhere again.

And there you have it, my spectacularly crappy day. It’s already Sunday, so the weekend’s not quite over yet. Fingers crossed that the last plan I have left (hint: it’s Korean related) doesn’t tank, too.

Oh, and PS: We are planning to go back to the Barbican on Friday, our last day. Wish us (better) luck!

This trip's pity party brought to you by delicious cider.

This trip’s pity party brought to you by delicious cider.