October 14-18, 2015
Saying goodbye to my family was bittersweet – I was saying goodbye but also saying hello to a new adventure. It was exciting to be in London because we had extra time to ourselves.
I’ve been to London before but I had missed some of the little things I’d wanted to see like Platform 9 and ¾ and Abbey Road.
Heads up for all of the Harry Potter fans – Platform 9 and ¾ is not actually on the platform. Like every other tourist trap there’s a line, with a gift shop. There’s a man who gets paid to stand there and when you get to the front he’ll ask you what house you’re in (just in case you were wondering why every single person who posts a picture magically has a scarf with them). There’s also a camera-man who tells the first man “SCARF” and it magically looks like it’s flying. Tourist attraction #1 complete.
Finding our way to our hotel was simple – but my parents didn’t seem to think so. The Tube is super easy to navigate in London, and even more simple when Google Maps tells you exactly which stations to take. It’s not so easy if your mom accidentally grabs a bus map of the system and starts to second guess every move you choose to make. If we were a married couple we’d be in trouble.
The timing of my trip was bittersweet. Sweet – Eurotrip. Bitter – Jays made the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. Luckily my neighbour from Mississauga, Asma, is studying in London and we met up with her at the Canadian bar, “The Maple Leaf.” The bartender almost didn’t let me in because I look like I’m 16… The bar is completely adorned with Canadian sports’ team memorabilia and typically Canadian items. There are twonies and loonies taped to the wall and the bar serves Molson Canadian. On the menu are “traditional Canadian dishes” like poutine (no complaints). To be honest, Europe was amazing, but this night was one of my favourites out of the whole trip. Words can’t describe the feeling you get being in a foreign country surrounded by fellow Canadians all cheering as Bautista hits a home run during Game 5.
Our first mission as tourists in London was obviously to eat at the canteen at the Malaysian Consulate across the street. (My parents are Malaysian and we coincidentally booked a hotel across the street – my dad was super happy).
Second, sign up for the Big Bus to take us all over London. Traffic in London is crazy. Especially with hundreds of Big Buses travelling across the city. The tour took us 3 hours and we hadn’t fully finished the trip. It’s crazy that such a small city can have so many landmarks and history to see and learn about. One of the cool and nerdy things I got to experience was seeing Van Gogh’s Sunflowers at the National Gallery. Most of our day was spent on the bus because we were still jet lagged and exhausted.
Day 3 in London was exciting because I got to meet another aunt! My dad’s cousin, Michelle, met up with us and spent the day doing touristy things with us. I feel like people in general don’t really go to tourist attractions unless family comes to town – I can’t remember the last time I went up the CN Tower. We finally made it to Abbey Road – what would we do without Google Maps… It’s so weird to think that to tourists Abbey Road is this amazing place where we all cross and try and take a photo with, but to residents it’s a nuisance because it’s too difficult to drive in the area. It was really surreal to see Abbey Road Studios where some of the best songs were recorded.
The day was a little bit of a flashback – we went to the Tower of London like I did in high school, ate at the same restaurant, Wagamama – except I was missing all of my friends. Mom and I also went to Kensington Palace where we had tea just to say we had tea in a palace.
In London I passed as a 15-year-old at several tourist attractions. In London, 15-year-olds are considered a child and get free admission. Sometimes it benefits me that I look young.
Our last full day in London was the start of our trip with Trafalgar. The first thing we did in the morning was get on a bus at the crack of dawn to have a walking tour around London. Our guide, Michael, was well versed in his history and tidbits he’d learned throughout the years as a tour guide. He knew exactly where to stand to watch the Changing of the Guards and where they were going to trample us. I also couldn’t help but notice the huge amount of people fencing near Buckingham Palace placed there for the Prime Minster of China (I don’t like people fencing…) Michael sent us to a quaint little pub to get our London-fix of fish and chips.
Having some ale at an English pub.
The bane of my existence…
Mom and I headed to the London Eye. Sorry, the COCA-COLA London Eye. Normally I’m a fan of Coca-Cola’s marketing but it was overkill at the Eye.
“How many Coca-Cola cans does it take to get to the top of the London Eye?” “This moment brought to you by Coke.” “Happiness starts here…COKE COKE COKE.” The London Eye has a pretty view from the top, but to be honest it’s just another tourist attraction. (I sound super ungrateful but I swear I’m not.)
After the tourist trap I got to meet my cousin, Oscar. It’s amazing the things kid are curious about. I think the very first question Oscar asked me was “so what do you guys eat around here?” I wish I could’ve spent more time with him and my aunt. My aunt is one of the nicest ladies and Oscar is just plain adorable. Living halfway across the world from your family really sucks sometimes. But it’s also a great excuse to travel.
My aunt’s partner, Nigel, gave us a real tour of the wharf. We walked along the River, had hot chocolate and rum at a cute little rooftop patio and headed towards the Tate Modern where I got to see some of Andy Warhol’s works and some of Lichtenstein. The World of Pop exhibit was going on as well – an exhibit primarily focused on feminism, consumerism and racism so you can imagine how interesting that is through modern art (lots of boobs).
Being my dad and craving Chinese food, we went to Chinatown to find some grub. But first, we had to cross the Millenium Bridge (aka, the bridge in Harry Potter).
Again, in preparation for the Chinese Prime Minister, Chinatown was decked out to the nines. The last time I was there I don’t ever remember it being that fancy.
4:30am wake up. At least I get to sleep on the way to Paris…
We made it to the White Cliffs of Dover only to get on a ferry to travel to Paris. I never get sea-sick but for some reason I could not stay horizontal until I found some meds. The duty free shop on board also provided me with my brand new FauxPro (it’s actually called a KitVision but I like my term better). I was excited to use it for the remainder of my Eurotrip…