Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My London London Bridge...

... wanna go down like London London London, wanna go down like London London London...

Does anyone even remember that song? Back when Fergie put out hits and didn't look like a tranny (not to mention that super bowl disaster in 2011)? Just kidding, I still think she's beautiful. Any woman who can get Josh Duhamel to put a ring on it is fine by me. 

The point of that totally pointless intro is that, about a month ago, I got to see London Bridge (the real one, not Fergie's, thank goodness) while I was traipsing around the UK on a seven day adventure. 

On June somethingoranother, I flew from Bologna to London Stansted airport, where my London hi-jinxes began. After arriving over an hour late (thanks, Ryan Air) and standing in the passport control line for over 45 minutes, I barely made my EasyBus to downtown London. Like, got onto the bus with less than two minutes until my ticket expired. Talk about skills!

An hour later, I valiantly attempted to navigate the London metro tubey thingy (which is expensive and has about about a million stops) on an empty stomach and caffeine deprived system. Needless to say, I couldn't stop giggling whenever I saw the stop named Cockfosters, which warranted more than a few dodgy side glances from passerbys. After a few wrong turns and misdirection, I finally made it to the Bridge Hotel (which I highly recommend!) on Borough Street, where I met up with the lovely Laurie Shepardson, my aunt and confidant who agreed to meet me in London when I had no one else to go with. She rocks, right?!

By the time we began wandering, it was nearly late afternoon. Naturally, instead of seeing the incredible sights that London has to offer, we opted to get a plate of nachos and two pints at a local pub, which I suppose could be considered a cultural excursion on its own. After catching up for a few hours, we waddled our way down to the Thames and ran into the best street performers I have ever seen. They were doing crazy acrobatics and stunts. It was incredible!

Big Ben!

The London Eye

We spent the remaining hours of sunlight snapping pictures on the Thames, stumbling into St. James park, wandering into painfully touristy tourist shops, and eating fish and chips (because, really, what else are you going to eat for your dinner in London?). Here is a snippet of the conversation Laurie and I shared:

Laurie: I think I'm choking on a bone.
Me: Are you all right?
Laurie: I'm choking on a bone!
Me: So you're not all right?

As you can clearly see, when I am tired, exhausted, and sucking down a pint of Becks, my deduction skills go straight out the window.  Like doves in the sky... oh, there they go... fly fly fly.

The next day we enjoyed a fabulous breakfast at the Bridge Hotel, complete with scrambled eggs made by the nicest Persian man I've ever met. After a quick coffee stop, we made our merry little way to Westminster Abbey, where we enjoyed a 2-hour audio tour voice by Jeremy Irons. It was fantastic! While Westminster strikes me as being slightly cluttered (lots of people wanted to be buried there, apparently), it was incredibly cool, especially considering that it was where Willy and No-More-Waitey-Katie got married last year (which I unabashedly admit to waking up at 4 AM to watch). It also has one of the best gift shops I've ever seen. Important issues, people!

Gothic architecture!

The most fabulous gift shop ever!
After enjoying a fantastic bus tour, Laurie and I disembarked at the Tower of London and enjoyed a guided tour of the complex by a real, live Beefeater. 

Despite the ridiculous entrance fee of nearly 20 pounds, the Tower of London is seriously cool. It's a beautiful complex, absolutely overflowing with macabre history (my favorite kind!) and interactive biographies of the Tower's victims. There was one story in particular about two little princes who were killed there in the late 1400s; their bodies were found in the 1980s, having been buried beneath one of the staircases. Terribly sad stories, but incredibly fascinating. 

I was particularly moved by the chapel, where you can see the burial marker of Anne Boleyn, one of my top five favorite women in history. You might even say I was moved by it, or at least I would have been if I had more than 10 seconds to process the epic-ness of it all.  Instead I was scuttled off by a Beefeater with an unusually thick neck.

The Tower of London is also the location of the Crown Jewels of England, which are incredible. Although I still believe that everything on display is a highly convincing copy (are you really going to put the world's largest cut diamond on display for tourists? Have you seen episode 2x3, "The Reichenbach Fall," of Sherlock?), the displays were very well done. I exited the building feeling like a pauper, with dilated pupils and a racing heartbeat--so many shiny, glittering, sparkly things! Although I do have one admission to make: the entire time I couldn't help but think how much fun it'd be to let a raccoon run rampant all up in there. 

part of the the dreaded Tower of London complex!

We spent the rest of the day eating delicious, chewy candies as we rode a double deck bus around town. Then we walked down the incredibly busy, ridiculously ridiculous Oxford Street. The night finished with another plate of nachos, another couple pints of beer, and many complaints about hurting feet.

Our third and final day in London was spent sort of wandering about aimlessly and hitting up any sights we hadn't gotten to the previous two days. Naturally this included Buckingham Palace (only from the outside, since Queeny was in town for some sort of parade and, quite frankly, I've heard the palace isn't really all that great) and, much more importantly, the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street (which, fun fact, never actually existed back in Conan Doyle's days). Throw in Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and a  few McDonald's stops, and I say we had a pretty awesome day!

The next morning we were up at something like 4 AM, checking out of the lovely Bridge Hotel and heading to Stansted airport to fly to Dublin. Our time in London had come to an end, sad beans! It might just be my favorite city that I've seen so far, or at least it's up there with Paris and Rome. I highly, highly recommend it. Another fantastic adventure!

Stay tuned for UK Adventures, Part II: Dublin!

I've very proud of this picture.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Time to Say Goodbye

... not to you people, of course. You can't get rid of me that easily.

Last week Thursday, I packed up 10 months of my life into one suitcase, a backpack, and purse-zilla and hopped on a plane to go home. When I was at the Marconi airport waiting to board, I wrote a goodbye post that I promptly trashed for being too emotional.

I'm not a sentimental type, at least not in public, but when I had to hug Dru goodbye at 5 AM in front of Via Rialto, 23 (AKA my self-adopted home away from home), I got a little teary. After checking my back at Marconi and getting through security, I began having tunnel vision and ohmygodohmygodwhatamidoingwhereamigoinglifeisscary moments. It didn't help that I was still feeling slightly hungover from the celebrations from the night before (Read: Dru and I watching Easy A drinking limoncello and wine like the crazy, girls gone wild that we are aren't) and had guzzled down 3 cups of espresso before leaving. Now, I'm not a math major, but to me that equation reads:

 No sleep + slight hangover + emotional goodbyes + freakouts about future + gross airport air + too much a lot of espresso = Hot Mess Lindsay

Saying goodbye is a strange thing, especially when you don't feel like you're leaving. When you say goodbye to the people, places, and things that you've become so used to, it never feels quite real. But you know it's real. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

All jokes aside, I'm very sad to leave Italy, to finish the final pages of this remarkable chapter in my unwritten, phantom autobiography. This has been the most epic, terrifying, fulfilling, difficult, beautiful year of my life. I have done things I never imagined I'd do, traveled to places I've only dreamed of, grown more than I'd ever thought possible, and--above all--met the most incredible, caring, beautiful people. Over the course of the year, I've realized that it's not the places you go or the souvenirs that you buy that make travel or study abroad so significant--it's the people you meet along the way. Travel isn't as fun if you don't have a partner in crime. Studying is only worth your time in someone is there to distract you (okay, maybe not... but it makes it so much more fun). I suppose this blog post is really a (platonic) love letter to the people that made my year so utterly fantastic. And it was so, so hard to say goodbye to them.

Saying goodbye is hard--but so are all the things that make life worthwhile, which means Goodbye must be a pretty worthwhile thing. Endings are sad--they mean saying goodbye--but you can only start a new chapter once you sign off on the one you're writing living. At the heart of all things, isn't that what life is about? Beginnings and Ends? Really, isn't life just what happens between Birth and Death (the two biggest Beginnings and Ends), which act like bookends on an otherwise extensive library of adventures and misadventures (is there really a difference between the two?). We write the story of our life. We make the decisions that make our story progress. We are the ones who decide whether to be the protagonist, the hero/heroine, the victim, the villain, the best friend,... of our own life story. 

This year was one of the best chapters to date... but I tend to think that every year is the best chapter thus far. And I hope, I pray, I beg that things continue as such. That doesn't mean that things always need to go write, that all events need to be happy, that you can't write in a few tears or scars... You need to have lows in order to have highs. In the end, all that really matters is that your highs make the lows worth it. 

And this year was so, so worth it. 

*Stay tuned for more, much overdue blogs regarding my year abroad. Just because you say goodbye doesn't mean you can't reminisce. :)

Never be afraid to say goodbye,