Good Afternoon, Your Majesty: My Week in London

When I was a kid, I watched the film The Parent Trap. The Lindsay Lohan version. I remember watching Lohan’s character switch places with her twin sister and go to London, in the place of the other. The scene where she is driving through London has stuck with me since then. The fast-paced city, with its beautiful architecture and odd novelties, have made me want to go “across the pond.” Until spring break of this year, my mother, sister, and stepfather had gone to London, but I was the black sheep.

Now, when I watch those scenes of The Parent Trap, I will be able to say that I have been there. It’s cool to say that. I don’t know if it is the same for you.

My mother, stepfather, grandmother, and I left Orlando on March 9th in the afternoon. I wore my Ed Sheeran concert t-shirt that I had gotten last August because I wanted to arrive in style. After going through the grueling process of security and waiting for our gate to open, I dreamed of what it looked like. Would the people be nice? Was it everything I had ever dreamed of? Will I get to see the Royal Family or an incredibly cute ginger?

Day One

We arrived in London on a Saturday at 8 am. The B&B where we were staying at was in Hammersmith, a good thirty minutes from Gatwick Airport. Of course, we didn’t know that until we had our luggage to our sides and figuring the train situation. By the way, they call it the “Underground” instead of the Subway.

My family and I carried our luggage up and down flights of stairs, and across wobbling streets, until we arrived at the Star Hotel (if you’re staying in Hammersmith, go to this place. The people who work there are amazing and kind people). I smiled as I plopped on the bed and fell asleep. What seemed like thirty seconds later, my mother woke me up to go and explore Notting Hill.

I desperately wanted to find the blue door. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go watch the film Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. In the film, his flat (that’s what they call apartments) has a blue door which greatly sticks out among the white doors around him. Anyway, my family and I traveled through the Underground again to get lost and somehow stumble out way onto Notting Hill. On Saturdays, the Portobello Road market is bustling with people and things to buy. Vintage markets, not so vintage markets, and tourist items are sold along the streets. Food caught my eye, too. Gorgeous fruits and vegetables looked entirely opposite than the GMO, pesticide food that we have back home.

The people were nice as I hoped for. They didn’t hesitate to help us with directions when we got lost and at times when I was the clueless tourist, they gave me a smile and helped me out. We ended the day eating burgers and drinking beer. I got rosé because why not be extra?

Day Two

Ah, I love Sundays. Although this was a bit different than the Sundays I’m used to, I was excited to get the day started. When we finished breakfast and jumped onto multiple trains, we ended up in Regents Park. The park was lovely and unlike something I had seen back home. The grass seemed to be greener, as the grand apartments peeked through the trees that stood along the path. I imagined sophisticated people to be the only ones walking the park, but there were families and kids playing soccer. Dogs walked around without leashes, it was too cute to handle. After we were done walking the park, we decided to go to Camden Market. It’s bigger than the market at Lake Eola because it’s got everything and more. Vegan food stands, mac and cheese stations, and vendors that practically sell items from jewelry to vintage cameras.

I treated myself to Oreo donuts, which is basically deep-fried Oreos. That doesn’t make them any less good though.

Day Three

Okay, this day was amazing and fabulous. First, we began our day doing the Hop On, Hop Off bus that is near Trafalgar Square. We drove past flats that belonged to famous people, tea rooms that were famous in World War II, and the Buckingham Palace. That’s where we got off.

The long road that leads up to the palace is incredibly intimidating. The road is painted red, to symbolize that this is royal property. I know, it’s so cool. Anyway, we were among the many tourists that go to the palace and wait to see if the Queen would ever come out and say hi. Her Majesty didn’t though, but we got the next big thing. We witnessed the changing of the guards, which they take very seriously over there. The Royal Guards march from one side of the palace to the other, as they perform ceremonial songs.

My entire body was cold, but I warmed up when the tour guide told us that the Royal Family would be at Winchester Abbey that afternoon for Commonwealth Day. Without hesitation, my family and I stood in front of the abbey for two hours until we saw the Royals.

Kate Middleton waved at me from the car that she was in and I got a pretty good picture of Prince Harry and William as they got out of the car. The Queen herself waved at me and I almost died.

Day Four

The next day was Kensington Palace, the place where Princess Diana lived before she died in 1997. We toured the grounds in a slow walk because we were in awe of everything. I realized that the Royals take details and tradition very seriously. Especially the fashion. The last part of the palace open for visitors was the exhibit for Princess Diana or the “people’s Princess.” I marveled at the clothes that were on display and wondered what she would have been doing if she was alive today. Princess Diana was the true definition of a lady, who kicked ass and was incredibly kind to everyone she met and knew.

After the palace, we walked around Carnaby Street because we stumbled upon it. The street is hidden, and you will miss it if you’re not looking for it. The street reminded me of SoHo in New York. I treated myself to a new pair of shoes from the Office and a card from Lazy Oaf to give to my sister.

Day Five

Just kidding, this day was the best, especially if you’re a Jane Austen fan. My family and I, along with our tour guide Phil visited the places that Jane Austen used to go to in her life. We stopped at the house where she was born in, which is in the idyllic Steventon. We then drove to the church where her father worked in, all the way to the house she stayed in before she died. If I gave you every detail of that day, I would be here the entire day. I will say this though, Jane Austen was incredibly ahead of her time. She was resilient in the way she wanted to live her life, especially when it came to marriage and her novels.

Fun Fact: Jane Austen was proposed to by Henry Biggs-Wither and said yes. About twelve hours later, she rejected him and the proposal.

I got to see her writing desk at the Jane Austen House Museum. The top part of the desk was the original, but the bottom were replicas of what it could have looked like. I imagined her sitting there and writing some of the best characters I have ever read and studied while I was in school.

We ended the tour with seeing the statue that they have of Jane Austen in Basingstoke. It was modest and simple, but big enough to make a statement, just like she did. Overall, I arrived at the Star Hotel and began to read a book of letters that she wrote to people, courtesy of our tour guide Phil.

Day Six

The Tower of London was a gloomy, yet interesting place to visit. The palace loomed over the modern city of London, as the Tower Bridge was beside it. We explored the tower where Anne Boylen spent her last days before being beheaded at the request of her husband, King Henry VII. I marveled at the Crown Jewels exhibit as beautiful, and shiny, diamonds and other stones stood alone in a glass house.

After the Tower of London, we went to Borough Market, which is basically like Lake Eola market on steroids. There were vendors that sold fresh cheese from France, vendors that sold flowers that looked as if they were painted or on the aesthetically pleasing Tumblr accounts. For the first time, I ate Indian food and drank sangria. It was awesome and made me full for the better part of the next day.

Day Seven & Eight

Our second to last day in London was spent in the city of Hammersmith and Cheswick. My mother, grandmother, and I went into each store that was on the long street. A few times we came out with bags of stuff. My mother pointed out a small, quaint bookstore to me as we continued walking around the city. I stepped in and found Mansfield Park (the last book I needed to complete my collection of Jane Austen novels) and Hamlet (my favorite Shakespeare play).

I was content.

Our flight left early the next day and I was still wanting to explore more of the city. I didn’t want to go back home, but I knew that I would return someday. As I got onto the plane headed for Orlando, I noted how beautiful, maddening, and magical England is. The train system is confusing, but it comes to a point where you look forward to the people coming in and out of the train. The palaces, museums, and street markets are amazing to experience and see.  The food is phenomenal and so are the people. When we landed, and I hopped into my sister’s car, I was reluctant to go back to my routine of school and work.

I would have my beautiful shoes from the Office and one heck of a story of meeting the Queen to tell when I saw my friends on Monday, though.