It’s been awhile since the 29ers all took a trip together, so I’m sure you were all missing the stories about our crazy shenanigans. But not to fear! We set everything straight this weekend when we jetted off to London for a visit.
I’m not going to lie — things got off to a rocky start when we realized, only a few days before our departure, that the AirBnB we’d booked wasn’t actually going to be a viable option. Queue the panic attack! I’d already been having a rough day, and finding out that fixing the mistake might end up taking up way more time and money than I had budgeted for definitely didn’t make me feel any better. Luckily, we got the situation sorted out pretty quickly. Special thanks to Ben and his sister, Emma, for helping us out! (I haven’t even met Emma yet and she basically saved us with her London knowledge, so I’m already sure she’s fab.)
Anyway, crisis averted, we were off to see some…caves? Yup. On Friday we took a field trip to the Marble Arch Geopark in Northern Ireland, which was pretty neat. For you New Yorkers, think Howe Caverns.
So after a long day on the bus to trek through some underground caves, the 29ers got ready to head off on our weekend away. We took a flight into London on Saturday morning, dropped our bags off at the AirBnB, and set out to see some sights. Our first order of business? The Jane Austen House, of course. Courtney opted out of this one. (I know, right? Opting out of Jane Austen?) But alas, her literary nerdiness levels aren’t quite as high as the rest of ours, so she decided to meet up with a friend in London instead. Don’t worry, she’ll appear again when we meet up with her later in the evening!
Now, our girl Jane didn’t exactly live in the city centre, so we had to hop on a train to go see her one-time home. Turns out, there was an emergency along the tracks, so our train ride turned into a train/bus ride, but we made it! The museum is located in Chawton, where Jane lived later in her life with her mother and sister. She did lots of writing there, including revisions for my personal fave, Pride and Prejudice.
And I can totally see why she was so inspired to write there. Even with a more modern-day feel to it, the little town was absolutely adorable, and the house where Jane lived was tiny, but picturesque. I could have stayed there for hours, wandering the house and gardens. Unfortunately, we only got 1 hour in Jane’s homestead before closing time. So to make up for it, I, of course, impulsively bought Penguin’s 200th anniversary edition of Emma. How could I not? I was literally standing in the very place the book was written. What kind of book nerd would I be if I passed up that opportunity?
So Sarah, Abbie, and I left the home of one of our favorite, strong female writers — the woman who pioneered the modern romance novel as we know it — on Cloud Nine. We were practically giddy. I’m sure we looked ridiculous walking down the little country road, three American girls with gift shop bags and giant grins on their faces.
Now, to get to the museum, we’d had to take that train, and then that bus, and then we were supposed to take another bus after that. Unfortunately, we missed bus Numero Dos, the dreaded 64, so we ended up taking a taxi from the train station in order to make it to the museum prior to closing. To get back, we originally set off to find the 64 again. We started walking. And walking. And somehow we ended up walking the whole 35 minutes back to the train station. Curse you, 64. We didn’t want to give you our money anyway.
Transportation was actually a huge part of this weekend, sometimes going as planned, and other times, not so much. I tallied it up, and in total we took:
And a whole lot of walking. All in the span of 2 days. Whew.
Once safely back in London, we officially checked into our AirBnB, nervously interacting with our crazy host, and then headed out to dinner. We were originally going to go down the street to this place called the Brass Monkey, but by this point it was 9pm and their kitchen was closed, so we decided to hit up a place around the corner instead. It was called The Queens Arms. I know, how British can you get? I even tried fish and chips! And I don’t even really like fish! (I was in it for the chips, really.) They served me a heaping portion, which was good because I was so hungry. I’ll admit I didn’t quite finish it all, but I think it was an admirable attempt.
After dinner, our waitress found a ghost in the bathroom and a mouse popped out of the floorboards. As you do.
The next day was all about London, which I’m sure our host, Kitty, was pleased about. She seemed a tad bit judgy of the fact that we’d left the city to visit Jane Austen’s house on Saturday. But she was also pretty crazy, so you know. Whatever, Kitty. Go put some pants on.
We began our morning at Buckingham Palace, where the sun was shining and the tourists were out. After some photos and ogling, Courtney went off on her own again, ready to check out the Harry Potter tour, while the rest of us got ready to go museum-hunting. We had originally planned to stay to watch the changing of the guard, but we would have had to wait a whole hour and we could here the paintings calling our names. Plus a cool procession of horses trotted through, so we figured that would be good enough. After all, we only had one day to fit all of this in!
We wandered through the streets of London, petting horses and making our way toward the National Gallery, where we wandered some more through their countless galleries. We were really in it for the impressionist art at the end; Abbie’s a Monet fan and I adore Van Gogh. After an hour or so of perusing, we stumbled upon Monet’s work. It was lovely.
And then I panicked. I hadn’t found Van Gogh, and we’d thought we’d seen every room except one. The one with the closed doors and the sign hanging on it reading, “Temporarily Closed.” Were my beautiful Van Gogh paintings hidden behind that ominous black door? I made the joke at first, but as we passed through more and more rooms without finding anything, I began to realize it might actually be true. You could say I was devastated.
But then! As we were leaving the museum we noticed, off to the side, one last section to explore. And there they were! Five beautiful paintings all lined up, the famous Sunflowers in the middle. I was so happy. I have several Van Gogh posters, but what really makes the paintings for me is the texture. You can kind of see it in his brush strokes in poster or photo form, but it really becomes evident when you get to look at the paintings themselves. I was a happy girl.
Fully satisfied with the National Gallery, we stepped back out into the London sunshine. (Really though. The sun was still shining!) There were street performers everywhere and a couple was getting engaged in the square. So cute.
But it was time for museum #2, so we set off. The British Museum was massive, but not quite as exciting as the gallery, at least for me. It’s mainly a history and archaeology museum, so it’s filled with neat stuff, but I’m a painting girl myself. We did, however, find some Egyptian mummies, including Cleopatra! That was a fun surprise.
After an hour or so, we headed out to a food truck to grab a bite and sit outside for awhile before slowly heading back in the direction of our AirBnB. Along the way we stopped to buy a few postcards and then stumbled upon a bookstore, and being the book nerds that we are, spent way too long there. But to be fair, it was massive! Five whole stories. They even had a cafe, so I basically could have lived there. It was beautiful.
One last stroll past Westminster, our buddy Big Ben, and the Thames, and it was time to grab our things and head out. London was great, but it’s massive. Overwhelmingly so at times, especially when you’re trying to see as much as possible all in the span of two days. So I can’t say I wasn’t glad to be heading back to the comfort of my bed in Dublin. It really was a whirlwind adventure of a weekend, and I can honestly say that I’m very happy with everything we managed to see and do.
But we weren’t home yet. Public transportation, man. The bus ride to the airport was an hour and forty-five minutes long, but that was only if we could get on a darn bus. We may have sort of accidentally chosen a slightly sketchy bus service. A bus service that was very, very late. I honestly wasn’t sure it was real at points. I apologize to my roommates who had to listen to me crankily worry that we would miss our flight and oh-no-what-do-we-do-now?!
Thankfully, the mythical bus was, indeed, real, and it did eventually get us to the airport. Let me tell you, I’ve never been so happy to see an air traffic control tower in my life. I also fell in love with the airport, massive but quiet. There were hardly any people there at 9pm, and they had a quality coffee shop where I spent my last few pounds on a latte and relaxed to some funky jazz music. Shout out to the two guys working the coffee shop late at night for being so friendly and kind.
Our flight was delayed and there was a shortage of taxis at the queue in Dublin (something that never happens) when we finally arrived at midnight, so we had grab the last Airlink 747 bus of the night and hoof it from Christ Church instead. It took longer, and we were all exhausted, but eventually, after seven and a half hours or so of travel, we stumbled through the door of Apartment 29. We 29ers were glad to be home.
Even writing this, I’m still kind of tired. So I’m going to wrap it up and call it a night. Thanks for re-living London with me, lovelies. Until next time!