A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I decided that it was a good idea to go to London for a few days, almost immediately after my last exam. And so we did. I finished my exam around three in the afternoon on Monday and our bus left at 19:30 pm. I had hoped that I would be able to at least sleep a little bit on the bus over there, but I forgot that we would have to get off the bus for the cross-over to England. So silly me, got up at 2 in the morning to get on the boat, where we decided to plan our first day in London. I mean if you can't really sleep you might as well make yourself useful.
It was 5.45 when we finally arrived at our bus stop in London, which is crazy early but we didn't mind. We walked from Victoria Coach Station to Westminster Abbey and the Big Ben. It was sunny and we couldn't buy public transport tickets on the station yet anyway. We decided to go to our hostel from Westminster station (still way to early but we called them before going to London and they said we could at least store our stuff there while spending our day in London). Turns out we still couldn't buy Oyster Cards because the machines do not accept non-UK maestro cards (at least not the Dutch ones) and the cash machine did not have new oyster cards. Here we met a very kind Brit. A woman explained to us how exactly it worked, how much it would cost and because the machine was not working, she let us get in without a ticket so we could buy one at our destination (we ran into her the next day and thanked her, and again she was super nice about it. Lovely lady).
So we stored our things in the hostel and started our first day in London with a 'Harry Potter' walking tour, which was about 15 km long. We figured, no problem, we can do this but did not consider how exhausted we were from the bus trip, nor how exhausting it would be to stop everywhere to read the tour. 21 pages and 5.5 hours later, we had seen most of London already and returned to our hostel. We changed, ate our pre-prepared dinner (yep we were super smart) and went on our way to see Kit Harington play in a play called Doctor Faustus (originally written by Christopher Marlowe). I didn't quite expect it to be so good and out-there. There was nudity, blood, rape, next to the obvious elements of the play (the devil and such). Above all I didn't expect Kit to be so good in it. Of course I hoped it would be good, but I feared he would be just another famous actor who turns out to suck on stage. But he's not, Kit is an amazing actor on stage (more so than in GoT if you ask me). We figured we could try to get his autograph after the show, but unfortunately there it was too crowded in order for us to achieve.
The next day was another awesome day. We went to Westminster Abbey to start the day. I had never been (even though I had been in London twice before) and I was really excited about it because I knew a bunch of poets/writers I recently read/wrote about for my Literature classes, are buried there (such as Charles Dickens, Geoffrey Chaucer, Ted Hughes, Ben Jonson, Rupert Brooke, Robert Browning, etc). We had been there for about 20 minutes when we decided it would take us all day to actually find some of them (they are not all in the poet's corner, unfortunately), so we decided to ask one of the staff members where these specific people were laid to rest. Instead of just telling us he decided to give us a private tour instead (taking us places we weren't actually allowed to go). He told us that Ben Jonson had been promised by a bishop that he would get a place in the church. However, this bishop died and the one who followed him did not like Ben at all (due to his drinking problem) and told him he was not going to be allowed into the church. In the end they came to an agreement; he paid for his spot. He didn't really have the money for a proper place, so he paid to be buried standing up (rather than lying down)(which is why we initially walked over/past it because it's a very small stone) and he is the only one in the whole church to be buried in this manner.
After this adventure we went to the Royal Albert Hall. It turs out we were 2 of 5 people going on this particular tour, and the other three did not show up. Hence we had a private tour for the first half of the tour (after which we were joined by the other three). The young woman told us stories about the hall which are not publicly known; like who were/are banned and what happened behind the scenes and such. After this tour we went book shopping (yes I had planned this into our schedule). Turns out, the books I was hoping to buy (like Jane Eyre), are actually really expensive when you want to buy them in a good secondhand bookshop (around 200 pounds). It was like walking into my personal heaven, I was afraid to touch the books because of how beautiful (and expensive) they were. I'll have to come back one day, when I'm not an unemployed student.
We met up with Fabian's father for dinner in the Sherlock Holmes pub, which was pretty cool because the first floor is decorated to look like the set of the Sherlock Holmes series (not the modern versions). Once we had had delicious deserts, we walked around a bit before parting ways again. Fabian and I decided to go back to the Duke of York's Theatre to see if we could score Kit's autograph now, and fortunately we were successful (though no picture)!! Which was super amazing. We went back to the hostel to pack our bags (because check-out is at 10 in the morning) and had an early night. The next (and last) day we got up early to check-out and head to Fabian's dad's hotel to put our stuff there (and shower in a bathroom where you could actually stand up straight), almost directly after we went to St. Paul's Cathedral. We went all the way to the top, which is about 600 steps but totally worth it because the view (inside and outside the cathedral) is breath-taking. Once we got downstairs again we decided to go to the Shakespeare Globe, because it closes at 12:30, which now know is because they have shows there in the afternoon. Too bad we did not know this before we went to London because it would have been awesome to see Macbeth in the globe. Ah well, maybe next time.
Next stop was another grave. It took us a really really long time to find this. Train to Greenwich (30 min) and then something that can only be described as a treasure hunt (another 30 min), but we found it: Christopher Marlowe's grave. It was unmarked because he was killed at the age of 29 in the outskirts of London and nobody really cared about his work/name then (especially because he had been arrested for atheism shortly beforehand), luckily they recently (sort of) marked the grave. However, the church is still very difficult to find because it's not on any map and most of the Londoners had not heard of it.
This is going to sound desperate (and maybe it is), but we decided to go back to the Duke another time to see if we could score a picture with Kit. We waited in the rain for a long time before his bodyguard told he was not going to come out. We stayed hopeful though so we continued to wait, hoping it would stop raining. Surely enough, he came out once it was a little dry and took pictures with his fans, urging us to get out of the rain after wards. It was really nice and surely made the hole thing complete.
The following story is even more amazing though. So right after Kit went back into the theatre we started walking to Leicester Station. Fabian and I were still flabbergasted by what had just happened when we were just talking and saw a beautiful young woman walk past us. We looked at each other, thinking it was impossible. Fabian walked after her into a foodthingy and asked her politely if she indeed was the person we believed her to be and yes, we were right. It was Lily James (from Cinderella). She was on her way to a theatre around the corner to play Juliet (along side Richard Madden, who played Romeo). We had a very normal conversation about the film ( Pride & Prejudice & Zombies) and how I wrote an essay about it (which I will probably post after I have received my grade). She asked us who we were and where we came from and said she recently went to Utrecht herself. All I can really say about it, is that it was lovely. She took a picture with us, asked us whether we were going to come to the play tonight.. I wish I could have said yes but the play started at 19:30 (like most evening shows) and our bus was due to leave at 21:00. There was no way for us to make it. I wish we could have stayed to see it, and honestly if I could go back I would have just extended our stay somehow. After all this, we went back to Fabian's father's hotel to pick up our stuff and go to the bus station. And holy.. we almost missed our bus due to very severe delays. We were stuck in one for about half an hour due to flooding in the stations. But we made it. Otherwise we would have missed Lily playing Juliet for nothing.
Next time I'm going to London I'm going to see plays and buy books! For more pictures you can look at my Polarsteps travel documentation.