I know this post is long overdue, but between final presentations, assignments, thesis work, family visiting, graduation, a trip back to Italy, and saying “adios” to many of our Murcia friends as they head off for internships, I haven’t quite had time to write about our awesome travels. Dublin feels like ages ago, but we weren’t finished there. Let me remind you of our 12-hour, sleepless, cold, uncomfortable, stranger-filled bus ride from Dublin to London…
When our fantastic (insert eye roll here) bus ride came to an exhausting end in London that morning, we were able to make our way to our Airbnb to drop off our belongings. Thankfully we weren’t forced to carry around our bags around all day, but we would have loved an early morning nap. We hopped on the “tube” and made our way to the London neighbourhood of Southwark, where our place was located quite conveniently near an underground station. We arrived at this small duplex in a residential area of the city with a beer bottle or two on the front step. We followed the instructions to find our key taped under the window and entered into what looked like the morning remains of a university house party. A door with the word “private” written on it was cracked open when we entered, where we could see a trashed kitchen with pots and pans, various empty bottles, and left overs covering the counter. We were less than impressed as we used the washroom which had no mirror and no soap, but we hoped that the great reviews this place had would prove to be true upon our return at check in time later that day. We weren’t holding our breath.
We arrived on a morning when the Changing of the Guard was scheduled to commence at Buckingham Palace, which we were told not to miss. We left the disastrous looking apartment behind us for the day and ventured out into the city to grab a long overdue English breakfast before making our way to the Palace. I remembered enough of the city from the last time I had visited to find our way from the underground towards the Thames River and Parliament, so we got our walk on and took in Big Ben in the morning sun. It was pretty mild in London, despite the season, so we took advantage of walking around the city wherever possible. We stopped to take in some of the sights and to have a delicious breakfast and big coffee before seeing the Changing of the Guard, which helped to erase all memory of the long journey to London and the scary peek we got at our Airbnb. In this moment, my giant coffee and breakfast sausage was all consuming and amazing.
When we arrived at Buckingham Palace, we were shocked to see the number of people flooding the streets. I’m not sure why we were surprised, considering the grand spectacle they make of this formality. We weaseled our way through the crowd to try and find an open space where we could see. Unfortunately, in this day and age, tall people weren’t the only thing impeding our view, but the mass of cell phones filming above our heads made seeing anything other than the procession through a screen impossible. This is the whole reason we travel, so we don’t just have to watch through the screen people!
We had read that the best way to see the entire city in the short couple of days we had was to use the hop-on hop-off bus. We grabbed our tickets (remembering to ask for our student discount) and boarded the bus to tour the full route of the city, to see what interested us most. Little did we know, the bus had four major routes to give you the most of this enormous city. We stuck to the main route, which hit all the major sights and attractions. Being a Sunday, we were hoping to catch one of the traditional Sunday roasts that many pubs do for lunch and dinner in England. We decided we’d check out the Tower of London – a huge castle with rich history beside the famous Tower Bridge. Here we found an old English pub, tucked away under an overpass. The roast lunch was delicious, complete with Yorkshire pudding, roast beef, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, vegetables and gravy. It was just what we needed to re-energize after a long and sleepless morning.
We kept on pace, to make sure we saw as much as possible our first day. Our friend, Victoria, from home was also in the city, so we wanted to meet her the following day to see the remaining sights and catch up over lunch. We walked along the beautiful harbour, took a boat ride from Tower Bridge to Big Ben up the Thames, walked around Parliament and Westminster Abbey, found a really cool vintage market, and wandered towards Trafalgar Square. I spotted a Cinnabon shop from a mile away on our trek back to the flat, which couldn’t be ignored. Joey had never indulged in the glory that is Cinnabon, so we treated ourselves to a late night snack before facing the horror we were expecting at the apartment rental. After an incredibly long and tiring day, we returned to the apartment. We went in to find the private door closed – only hoping that what lived behind it was cleaned up. A really friendly Asian man greeted us as we came in, welcomed us to his home, and showed us up to our room. It was perfect! The room was spotlessly clean, furnished nicely, super roomy, and the bed was comfortable. We were so relieved after our poor first impression and cozied in for a much anticipated restful nights sleep in a bed!
The following morning, for the love of God we slept in! I couldn’t wait to see a friendly face from home in Europe – I still find it surreal seeing friends on this side of the pond. We met Victoria outside “Harry Dick’s” or some ridiculously named bar she knew of. We came across this awesome restaurant with the largest chicken burgers and chicken wings we’d ever seen, something we were missing in Spain. Joey ordered 12 wings, which was the equivalent of 24, considering each one was a flat wing attached to a drum stick. We were in fried chicken heaven. After nearly rolling ourselves out of the restaurant, we made our way down to the Brick Lane area of town, which was very artsy and trendy. For anyone visiting London, looking for chic boutiques and vintage accessories, this seemed to be the place to be. We walked off our lunch for an hour or so and then decided collectively to satisfy our child-like dreams of seeing platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter at King’s Cross Station. We got on the tube and began humming the Harry Potter theme song, while Vic wingardium-liviosa’d and began placing us in our designated Hogwarts houses with an imaginary sorting hat. Although we felt like children, we figured we weren’t the first and certainly wouldn’t be the last grown adults seen acting this way on this particular underground! We didn’t wait in line to pay 20 pounds for a photo with the platform, but we snapped some pictures of our own and wandered around the Harry Potter store before heading separate ways. It was a great way to spend our last afternoon in London.
Up next on the docket was Glasgow, Scotland. We had another dreaded overnight bus to board and were hardly looking forward to another sleepless night. Nonetheless, we headed off to the London bus station and boarded what we hoped would be a slightly more comfortable bus than the last one. The bus was quiet and many people were able to fall asleep before a stop we made about 45 minutes outside of the city. One family of four entered the bus and it was all downhill from there. What began as a fairly comfortable and silent ride, turned into a worse ride than the last, when this obnoxious, inconsiderate and unpleasant family joined us. A mother and father with their young child and what seemed to be family friend or relative loudly and rudely woke the entire bus, asking the man in front of our seats (of all places) to move because they “wanna sit with my kid.” The man reluctantly agreed and we were blessed with these horrible creatures in front of us for the remainder of the trip. Their kid fucking cried for half of the ride, they talked and “shh’d” their restless boy the other half, the random relative they were with decided it was a good idea to FaceTime one of her kids at 5am, and when asked to quiet down and respect other’s who were sleeping, they laughed and continued to both mock the woman and speak louder in their foreign language. Needless to say, all of the passengers were less than impressed. It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut as I tried to find a comfortable position to rest. If it isn’t obvious yet, do not use overnight buses to travel through Europe! It’s become apparent to us that the extra accommodation expenditure is more than worth it.
The sun began to rise and peeked through the clouds as we drove into cloudy Glasgow.
We were sleep deprived and hungry when we arrived. The only restaurants that were open were fast food places, so we parked ourselves in a McDonald’s booth for a while for an unhealthy breakfast to get us through until lunch time and to check off Scottish McDonald’s. That sounds so much more pathetic when I type it out than when I think about it. The cloudy and rainy weather, the lack of sleep, and the unfortunate shortage of attractions in Glasgow made for a pretty mellow day. The city had some beautiful scenery, like the Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis. Otherwise, we wandered the streets, searching for an information booth, which ended up being tucked away in the basement of the Modern Art Museum with no directive sign in sight. At this point, time was running out and the weather wasn’t very cooperative, so we made our way to the airport early, looking very forward to getting home to Murcia. Pictures tell a better story of our 6 hours spent in Glasgow, so I will leave you here with these!