Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Megan's Visit Part One

Readers, it has been a fun-filled, adventurous five days! I have journeyed through England and seen many cool (and some very weird) things. I want to tell you everything, but due to my verboseness, I'll break it up for you. Without further ado, days one and two:

DAY ONE: Modern Art, the E.R., and Pub Creepers

I woke up on Skype at 4 a.m. No, seriously... my friends Stuart and Courtney video-called me and I apparently responded to it like an alarm clock and, still asleep, got up and hit "answer with video." The first thing I remember is Stuart saying, "Isn't it 4 a.m. where you are?" I sincerely hope there was not more before that point. If there was... Stuart and Courtney, I'm sorry. Anyway, while I could have gone back to bed, I elected to stay up and chat with them- I knew that if I went back to bed, I'd oversleep past 6:30 (for which my real alarms were set.) After S & C signed off, I finished getting ready and was on the tube before seven. After getting on the wrong train, I switched and got to King's Cross/St. Pancras around 7:15. Megan wasn't getting in 'til eight, so I wandered around. Not much was open, which was unfortunate, since one of the reasons I was so early was to get Adrienne (who was feeling very ill) some medicine.
After getting some hot chocolate, I found where I needed to wait for Megan and stood there in the cold. The thing I've realised about the major transportation centers in London is that they do not appreciate the warmth that a closed door brings. They prop them open or simply don't have them, and it was very cold outside that morning, so the station wasn't much better.
So many people came out of the doors once Megan's Eurostar train arrived that I climbed up onto a barrier so I could actually see over the crowd. Megan was in the last group to come out and one of the first things she said was, "I can speak English here!" (she's been living in France since August.) We headed straight for Platform 9 3/4 to see if we could make it to Hogwarts. Sadly, it seems the platform is fake :( (:p)

After she exchanged her money and got a weekly tube pass, I picked up Adrienne's medicine and we headed back to QMUL so we could drop off her stuff and get something to eat before heading out for the day. We were determined to get to the half-price ticket booth to get tickets to Billy Elliot. When we got there, there was a HUGE line- longer than I've ever seen, and longer than it's really been ever, as the workers kept saying. We had seen online that there weren't any Billy Elliot tickets left, but we decided to pretend we didn't know this and ask anyway. We did decide on a back-up show, though, just in case. When we got up front and asked about BE, we were informed that the seats were only selling for their full price of eighty-eight pounds.
I love theatre and I love Billy Elliot, but neither of us was willing to pay that much, so we asked about our back-up show, The Jersey Boys. The tickets were more reasonably priced than BE, so we went with that, getting seats for the 3 pm matinee on Sunday.

London was apparently determined to prove itself to Megan by being quintessentially London- though the weather reports had predicted good weather, it was raining. But we had planned to spend two days exploring London, and doggone it, we were going to do it! So we went to the Tate Modern, since Megan actually knows a thing or two about art (I just stare at the works and hope that some meaning penetrates my brain. It usually doesn't happen.) Though I'd been there before, I hadn't gone through the entire (free) thing, but Megan and I did. Again, I nodded in a way I hope was wisely at things I didn't understand.

As we were walking to the Tate Modern, my phone rang. It was Adrienne. The first thing she said to me after I answered was, "Does our insurance cover going to the emergency room?" I stopped in the middle of the puddle-covered sidewalk and said, "Do you need me to come back?" I knew she had been feeling really terrible for the past few days, but I hadn't expected this. She said no, but I could tell she was upset. I told her to call me if she needed me to come back; luckily, though most of our flatmates had gone home, one was still around and was able to take her. It was probably better that our flatmate took her, since she's been going to school in England for a bit (even though she's Romanian) and knew what to expect from the ER. Thankfully, it turns out that it was just a strain of the flu, which has been going around campus. And while this didn't necessarily make Adrienne feel better physically, she was up and off to Scotland the next morning. A trooper, that girl.

After the museum, we got lunch and then decided that we wanted to go see Buckingham Palace and have a photoshoot with Big Ben and his buddies, Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Finding it was the tricky part. We looked at our map and figured out where we needed to get off. We walked through St. James' Park, which is very pretty, though not as much when it's rain-soaked. We made it to the palace and took some photos and tried to figure out how to get to Big Ben. We could see it, but we weren't close enough that any map would show us where it was. But by walking in its direction, we finally found it and took lots of photos.

Adrienne, thankfully out of the emergency room, texted me and asked if we wanted to get Chinese food, so we went back to the dorm and ordered in. Because of how they serve my favorite dish, sweet and sour chicken, back home, I forgot that some places (like Chicago and, apparently, London) serve it soaked in the sauce, which I hate. But I ate it without making too many faces, and the fried rice was quite good.

Megan wanted to know what there was to do at night in London after 7:30 p.m. and I had to think long and hard about this. I asked Adrienne. I asked Laura. I thought long and hard again. Because, since pretty much all the stores in the nation close at between four and six p.m, there was only one true answer, and that answer was going to a pub.

Londoners are really good at going to pubs. I fail at this aspect of being a Londoner. So the best thing I could do was bring Megan to Covent Garden, which has a lot of pubs to choose from. We ended up going to one called the Roundhouse and thus began our evening adventure. First of all, it was really crowded. The (outdated) music was really loud; we had to shout to hear each other and to order our drinks.
We were standing around, sipping our drinks and talking, when I noticed this guy staring at us. I quickly looked back at Megan. A few seconds later, she said, "Uh... there's a guy checking us out." This might sound like the very beginning of a romantic story, but... yeah, no. A few more seconds later, the guy and his friend approached us. These were not cute guys our age. These were two quite drunk guys in their forties. The guy who had been staring at us didn't say anything (we found out later that he was deaf), but animatedly encouraged us to dance to the undanceable music. We did not. The other guy started talking and unfortunately didn't know how to stop. He asked us our names, where we were from, how long we were in England, where we were staying, etc, which we answered with a mixture of short truths and lies. He observed the brand of beer Megan was drinking and noted my pint of Coke, after which point he apparently labelled me the uptight best friend who wouldn't give him what he wanted (kind of the story of my life :p) While Megan wasn't the girl to give him what he wanted either, whatever that something might be, he continued to ask her questions (he asked her long she was in London about ten times, and I'm not exaggerating.) Finally, he realised how short the answers we were giving him (well, that Megan was giving him; I mostly supplied close-mouthed smiles and weak laughter), he left.
But not for long. No, apparently he thought we were catches. He came back over and handed Megan his card, saying that he and his friend were going out for pizza right then, if we wanted to come along. He also gave her his horse-racing tag thingy, which he hung on a strategically-placed button on her coat. He kept hinting that he and his friend were leaving for pizza now... right this minute... they were about to walk out the door... but finally got that we were not going to accompany them and left us alone. Soon after, I finished my drink, Megan put the rest of hers on the bar, and we left, looking over our shoulders and hoping not to run into our creepers (we did not.)

DAY TWO: WWII Bunkers, Victoria & Albert, and Starring in an Action Movie

Day two was the day many things went wrong. We had bought tickets for the Eye the night before, for 6:30 p.m. I planned to print them out before we left, along with our tickets for the tour the next day. But when we went to go do so at 9:15 a.m, the library was closed... during reading week! We found out that it would open at one p.m. Okay... well, we weren't going to wait around for more than four hours to print out some papers. We decided to do the first part of our day, then come back, print the tickets out, and then go to the show.
Because it was the weekend, a lot of the tube lines were closed. Then we got on a train and as soon as we sat down, there was an announcement that that line, too, was being closed. We changed lines, and it took a lot more changing to get to our first stop, Churchill's War Rooms. This museum was pretty cool, all about Churchill's offices and other spaces below ground during WWII with lots of pictures, audio, and room restoration. I really enjoyed it, and so did Megan.

We got out of there in good time and headed to our next stop- the Victoria & Albert Museum. We knew we wouldn't be able to see nearly everything, so we picked a few specific things to look at- the photography, American and European art/other things from the featured era, and the theatre and performance display. I really liked this museum and will definitely be going back. Unfortunately, I liked the theatre display a little too much and when I came out of it, Megan glanced at the time and looked panicked- it was already 1:30. We raced to the tube, which took FOREVER to come and then even longer to get to our final stop... and then we had to walk back to school. Then the printers were acting up. Then we had to walk to the tube again. The show was at three and the tube chose that time to be super-slow. We both sat there bouncing our legs up and down and muttering under our breath. We had to change lines at the very end, but as I pored over the map and Megan continued to check the time (I averted my eyes every time- I knew I would only panic more if I saw the time), we both knew we didn't even have time to be on this line, let alone waiting for another train and then finding the theatre (which, if you're a regular reader, you know is always a problem for me.)
We decided that we would skip changing lines. We would get off where we needed to on that line and then run to the theatre from the further tube station. We did this, and in hindsight, despite getting turned around (only once), we made good time. I felt like I was in an action movie, sprinting through the crowded streets of London, shouting the street names over my shoulder to Megan, who was running with the map in front of her and telling me where we needed to turn.

We finally made it to the theatre about fifteen minutes late. I felt terrible-I hate when people are late to shows, I didn't like that we were those people, and I didn't want to have missed any of the show. However, we didn't miss too much- the first narration bit was still going on. We both sat in our seats trying to pant quietly, not daring to take off our coats and be more annoying, despite the fact that we were hot from the dash through the city.

The show was awesome! I've always been interested in it, but I know that if I didn't see it that day, I probably never would have- it would always have been pushed aside in favor of another show. I'm glad it didn't this time- I loved it! The show tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons who, admittedly, I knew little about. I've heard their music my whole life, but I didn't know it was theirs. It was really cool to hear it again, though, as I have very distinct memories connected to a number of them.
The performers were incredible- I got the Broadway cast recording when I got back to my room and I have to say that while the OBC is good, our cast was better. The actor playing Frankie had an incredible voice (the OBC one is much more nasal), and I loved the guy playing Bobby (the composer, not the gay Bobby, though he was good, too.) The show was funny and a little sad and the songs were wonderfully sung. I was totally taken away by it and I would willingly see it again.
Once the show was over, we had an hour to get to the Eye for our 6:30 "flight." We stopped to get some Cadbury Eggs to recover from the panic of our dash to the theatre and were at the Eye in plenty of time. I had booked us at night on purpose, since when I went on it two years ago in the afternoon, the glare made for some not-so-great pictures. We got much better ones that night!

After the ride, we went back to the dorm and I made dinner 'cause I'm domestic like that :p

Tomorrow, I'll tell you about the three days we spent exploring the non-London parts of England!


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