18. The London Chronicles: Part VII

Sunday, July 30th
After we arrived back in London from Dover, it was only noon. We went to the King’s College library straightaway so Ricardo could borrow a computer. After that, we studied at The Press, which was the really hipster-y coffee shop I fell in love with the week before. Ricardo went back to the library to continue studying; I joined him a few hours later after the coffee shop closed. We both continued studying and writing at the library until late, since our Human Rights & Human Trafficking final was the next morning. We had a nice dinner at The George and went home for more studying.

Monday, July 31st
We were up early and had a good breakfast before heading to Swan House. Since there were more people in our HR & HT class than there were tables, everyone voted Ricardo and I to sit at the same table for the exam. Oh my goodness, that exam was two hours long and handwritten. Thus far, my shortest law school exam has been around 4 hours long and all of them have been typed. To say that two hours for this handwritten test was too short a time is a gross understatement. My hand was cramping so badly by trying to fit so much information in such a short period of time that there were times I literally could not feel my hand or my wrist. But overall I think the exam went well!

After the exam, four of us girls went to go get lunch at Eats while Ricardo went to return the laptop at the library. He joined us for lunch a little later. After lunch, Ricardo and I crossed the river towards the colorful pier we had visited before. We went back to Foyles bookstore so I could go buy the remaining three books in this series that I had been reading called the Onyx Court. I had simply devoured the first book. It was the perfect series to read while in London because it was about the historical court (at least in the first book) of Elizabeth I, while at the same time the intrigues of the faerie court that lay beneath the surface of London.

We walked to the Tate and studied for a time with tea and scones in their tearoom that overlooks the Thames. What a wonderful place to study. The view – six stories up – is simply breathtaking. We also finally did the research to determine exactly which bridge in London was the bridge that death eaters blew up in Pt. 1 of the Deathly Hallows. It was, in fact, the bridge laid out right below us. Watching that scene with Saint Paul’s Cathedral in the back and then looking out across the actual scene in front of us was so incredibly awesome.

I returned to The Press for studying (since I work best at coffee shops with ambient noise), while Ricardo returned to the library (since he studies best at the library). We studied for several more hours in town before returning back home for further studying.

Tuesday, August 1st
Early Tuesday morning, Ricardo left for the library since his paper was due that evening. I studied at home for a while for our Corporations final that afternoon and then eventually left for Café Nero, my typical haunt.

After our Corporations final (multiple choice and so much harder because of it), I walked to the National Gallery in Tralfagar Square since I’d never been. Ricardo had to work on his paper for the rest of the evening so I had the day to wander around. In Tralfagar Square, before I entered the museum, there was a classical guitarist playing music. He was incredible. His name was Tom Ward and he really knew what he was doing. He introduced every song he played with some classical music history. The street artists in London are truly amazing. They are all trained musicians and you know they know what they’re doing. Oh, he was wonderful. It took me a good ten minutes to even leave the crowd listening to him and get to the museum. The National Gallery was incredible, but to be terribly honest, I’d seen so many art museums and museums in general over the past month that I more or less walked through a lot of it without spending too much time in any particular gallery. I did get a lovely snack in the café and got a bit of time to catch up on correspondence with some of my dear friends that I haven’t had a chance to talk to all month.

When the National Gallery closed, I walked down towards Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, got a sandwich at one of the local coffee chains, and spent some time just watching the Thames and taking artsy pictures of the London Eye. I took a photo for some tourists and they all thought I was a London native, which was pretty cool. On the way towards the library, I stopped for a bit in a park and ended up talking to this 17-year-old girl who was going through some issues. I think she honestly just wanted to talk to someone. So we talked for a good 20 or 30 minutes before I headed out again. I talked to Ricardo for a bit at the library and then headed on home to read books.

Wednesday, August 2nd
We got up fairly early and spent a majority of the morning packing. It’s amazing how much you can take over a flat by living there for a month. The thing that was hardest to pack was honestly all the books. I probably had bought at least 10 books myself over the course of the month. Regardless, I’m so glad we spent the time packing then.

As it was our last afternoon in London, we set out for Greenwich and took a tube into a part of the city we had never visited before. It’s a pity we waited so long to venture that direction, because it was really a lovely part of the city. Once we disembarked at the Greenwich station, we found our way to the Greenwich pier, were there was a magnificent ship on land and next to it stood a sweet carousel. The pier itself had flower beds everywhere, including flower beds of mountain flowers from Skyrim. Or at least flowers that looked remarkably like mountain flowers in Skyrim. There was a pub there called the Gipsy Moth, and while we loved the name, they served mainly burgers and it didn’t feel right to eat burgers the last day in London. We headed towards the Greenwich park and found a place called the Spanish Galleon; this was ironic because the Spanish Galleon was apparently the oldest English brewery in the area. We had lovely chicken and leek pies there and it was the best last day feast.

By then it had started to rain. We hurried towards Greenwich park and saw the little church where Henry VIII had been baptized. By the time we got to the park it was pouring rain, so we made our way to the National Maritime Museum on the north end of the park. A giant ship in a bottle stood at the entrance. Inside the museum there were actual figureheads that had really seen history, stories of people sailing to the poles of the earth, and replicas of the White Cliffs of Dover. The gift shop’s selection of books covered so many subjects that I’m fascinated by that I could have easily bought half the books there. But being as we were already out of room for any more books, I had to resist.

We left the National Maritime Museum, picked up our luggage at our flat, and said goodbye to our flat in Whitechapel forever. I am relieved to never have to go back to that particular area of London. I love London and it is my favorite city in the world, but Whitechapel is far from my favorite neighborhood. After leaving Whitechapel, Ricardo and I took a train down south to the Gatwick airport and made our way to Spain!

 

 

17. The London Chronicles: Part VI – Dover

Alright. So here’s the special edition on Dover.

Background on Dover. Ricardo and I had already planned to go to Paris. That was the only trip outside of London that we had planned for when we initially got to London. At some point along the way we decided to go to Dover and booked train tickets and a little bed and breakfast place. So the last weekend before exams found us in Dover. I will definitely admit that it was very nice to stay in some small town in the English countryside at least once during our trip.

Friday, July 28th
I left off the last blog post at King’s Cross and getting on the train to Dover. The train ride to Dover was very nice and not too long. It took us maybe an hour and a half to get there? As soon as we exited the train at the station, the cool sea breeze and the low-lying fog on all sides hit us and it was magical. I love the ocean, and I could sense the ocean was near.

We started walking towards the bed and breakfast place we’d booked at and on the way hardly nothing was open for food. We passed one open gas station and one pub that had stopped serving food an hour or two before. And mind you, it was only 8:00pm there. When we were getting close to our destination, we finally found this Italian restaurant that was warming and welcoming. We got red wine and spaghetti with shellfish and it was one of the best meals I have had in a very long time. Admittedly, we did smell of garlic for a day afterwards. But hey, at least we were protected from vampires!

We finally got to our b&b right before the check-in time ended. It was a lovely house two houses down from a local tattoo parlour that was also in a lovely house. The hostess was this very sweet older woman who had just finished getting a teaching degree and had been running this whole b&b business for some time. We had the garden room, which was this cozy sweet room that overlooked the beautiful garden in the backyard and had a whole dining table and chairs and baskets for tea and coffee tucked away in the corner. I slept so well that night.

Saturday, July 29th
Saturday began bright and not-too-early with delicious English breakfasts brought straight to our room. Warm toast with butter and jam and eggs and beans and tomatoes and mushrooms and ham and so much goodness all contained so well. We were told that it was supposed to start raining around 2pm, so we decided to try to walk to the top of the White Cliffs of Dover first and then head to the castle. Well we started walking and on the map it showed that we were over 3 miles away. People kept telling us we could walk but the road we were supposed to take had no sidewalk. People in front of us kept walking and people behind us passed us but there really just didn’t seem to be a good way to get up there. We did follow a path and ended up at a “cliff edge” that was hidden by a great deal of foliage. So while we didn’t get to see the actual cliffs, we did get to find a hidden faerie glade in the middle of the woods outside of Dover.

On the way up to the “cliffs”, we passed the Dover Castle and a whole bunch of sheep that were grazing! They were so funny. I’ve never seen so many sheep up close like that before. Of course I would get to see sheep in the English countryside. After we get back from our mini hiking trek, we headed straight down the road to the castle. There were more sheep on the way there, but for the most part they’d disappeared from the main road where we had first seen them.

The castle itself was amazing. We’d already seen the Tower of London in London, but the Tower is a fortress, not a true castle. This was a true castle. (I’ve seen one other true castle in Edinburgh over two years ago.) We arrived at the castle just after they had opened so there weren’t many people yet. The day we were there happened to be a “Peasant Life” day or somewhat of the sort, so there were people dressed up in middle ages garb going about their respective jobs in the castle. We talked to the executioner right towards the entrance of the castle who laughed that the place we came from didn’t exist yet. He wasn’t wrong.

The first thing we did in the castle was go on a tour of the hospital tunnels. So something I didn’t know about the Dover Castle is it was also an important base during WWI. The movie Dunkirk (which recently came out and which I have not seen yet) was around the area. So within the walls and caverns around the castle they had built bunkers for the soldiers and an underground military hospital. There were two tours possible: a tour of the underground bunkers and a tour of the military hospital. The tour for the bunkers took twice as long as the tour for the hospital and had a much longer line. It was already 11:00am and at noon there was going to be a presentation by the same executioner we had run into that Ricardo wanted to go to, so we did the hospital tour. It was intriguing. The thought of people living down there in the dark with spotty electricity (due to the ongoing air raids) was powerful. It really did take you back to the time of WWI and at least get a slight bit of an idea of what life was like back then. After we finished that tour we found the military outpost where the military kept a lookout for foreign ships on the horizon.

At noon, we went to the executioner’s show. After that, we explored the central castle, complete with room replicas everywhere. The kitchens looked almost exactly like something you would find in Skyrim. There was a cauldron set up over a fire, baskets of fruits and vegetables, and barrels of food. Ricardo and I sat in the throne room upon the thrones set up there and gazed out above the land and sea from windows high up in the castle. After we explored the medieval castle, we went to the restaurant within the castle grounds that contained a giant cannon. We had delicious chicken and leek pies with potatoes and beans. English food really is amazing.

By the time we had finished eating, it had begun to pour down rain outside. It was almost 2:00pm on the dot, so the weather predictions in Dover really are excellent. By that time, we’d seen everything in the castle that we were interested in (aka we saw all the medieval castle stuff and had seen all either of us cared to see of WWI relics). So Ricardo and I headed home in the beautiful British rain. We passed spiderwebs in blankets of ivy along stone walls and outposts of the castle that looked almost as wonderfully magical and medieval as the castle itself had. Luckily our b&b was almost a straight shot down the road so we didn’t get lost on the way down. We were very drenched when we finally got back to our room though so we curled up in lots of layers of warm clothes and took a nice long nap.

We spent the rest of the afternoon studying. The landlady had recommended the pub across the street to us as the oldest pub in Dover and said it was really worth going to. So come evening, we headed over to the White Horse and discovered that this pub was actually the famous pub of the Channel Swimmers. All the walls and ceiling of the place were covered in markered-in names of swimmers who had swum across the English Channel. Most of the signatures included details, such as time of the swim, what date the swim had taken place on, the location of the swimmer, and other such quirks. It was really something to see. Almost as soon as we sat down at a little table in the corner I spotted a channel swimmer signature from a swimmer from Albuquerque, New Mexico. I swear, New Mexico really does follow you around.

For all of the White Horse’s charms, it didn’t have any food, so Ricardo and I set out in the direction of the Burger King that was supposedly open. It was dark outside and we got to see the White Cliffs of Dover – at least the ones that look across the town – from below. The stars were beautiful. And suddenly I heard the sound of waves crashing upon the beach. There, to our right, was the beach we had looked upon by day from the seat of the Dover Castle. Me being me, of course I had to get closer to the ocean. There was a flight of concrete stairs leading down to the beach, so I started to walk down them. About four stairs down suddenly the steps became unbearably slippery with seaweed underfoot. The moment I realized this was the moment I first stepped on a slippery step and my foot went flying out from underneath me. I fell down that step on my butt and continued thumping down a good half dozen steps before I could finally stop myself. Ricardo, who was a step behind me, called out to me to be careful the moment I slipped and within another moment was thumping down beside me. Luckily neither of us was hurt (R.I.P. technology). We spent some time out on the rocky beach staring out at the beautiful ocean. It was so beautiful. There’s something so peaceful and strong and absolutely transfixing to me about the crashing of waves onto the shore. Afterwards, I still had to walk back up the stairs barefoot because it was too slippery to traverse in shoes. I learned my lesson that night. Don’t go running down to the ocean on stairs in the middle of the night if you don’t know whether or not there’s seaweed there. Or at least don’t do so if you care about not falling.

And when we got home we discovered the seats of our pants were completely green with seaweed and moss.

Sunday, July 30th
Our breakfast started at a somewhat bright but definitely early 7:30 in the form of the same delicious breakfast as the day before. We packed up and checked out and walked right back to the ocean that had so taunted us the night before. The shore by day in Dover is at least as beautiful as the shore by night. Oh, I could watch that beautiful, sparkling ocean forever, if given the choice.

We walked back to Dover Priory (the train station) and from there took a train back to the Blackfrier Station in London.  Thus ends Dover. It was lovely.