Parole: Londra (London), torre (tower), fiume (river)
Spring Break 2011 will be a time that I will remember for the rest of my life. I visited many countries and met up with other friends studying abroad around Northern Europe. At one point during my journey, I realized that I was in 4 countries and 3 time zones within 3 days. How awesome is that? My destinations included London, Uppsala & Stockholm, Sweden, Helsinki, Finland, and Tallinn, Estonia. By far, my favorite city was Tallinn. I would say that London was a close second place.
So let’s get down to business. I will be posting over the next few days so that I don’t overwhelm you! On a sidenote, the work experience part of our program will be starting Monday, so two of us will be staying at Federico’s farm and working at a nearby caseificio and two of us will be staying in the apartment to work on a large fattoria per la produzione di latte.
Arrivederci Parma. Hello London.
On Sunday, April 18th I was the only one left in the apartment. So, I went to Federico’s farm for the evening and came back on Monday. I had a lot of fun. While I was there, I helped him and his father work on many little, random projects around his farm and house, both of which are in the process of being renovated. I was the only American there, so obviously, English was not the dominate language. I feel like I learned a lot of Italian and improved my speaking abilities significantly by being alone with a family of Italians. I hope that I get this opportunity again. Even Federico’s three-year old son was teaching me Italian. At dinner, he would say a word (usually complicated ones like Italian names for dinosaurs) and then I would have to repeat it. After I would repeat the word (or at least try to) we would all laugh at me (I can’t pronounce words correctly in my own language, let alone in Italian!). In return, I did the same thing to him with English words. I was nice and said simple words like “water” and “plate”, as opposed to things like “ippopotamo” (hippopotamus…in Italian it is a lot harder to say than you think!)
Monday, I headed to the Parma airport for my cheap RyanAir flight to London. I had so many thoughts running through my head. The most common ones where Keys? Wallet? Phone? Passport? Tickets? Electircal tape? (hey, you never know). I must have looked funny patting myself down every few minutes to make sure that I still had all of the essentials. The London airport that I flew into is a 40 minute train ride outside of London, so I got to my hostel around 6:30 that evening. I took a walk around the city. It was really peaceful because the tourists were all back at their hotels or at dinner for the evening. This meant that I was able to observe a lot of native Londoners. It appears to be a very physically active city. The bikers and joggers wore reflective gear, which is not something you see in Italy. The bikers also were wearing helmets, and their bikes had headlights, also a rareity in Italy. Something I did not figure out is why 96.475% (just an estimate) of all runners that I saw were wearing backpacks. They were not even backpacks with waterbladders in them. Most of them were just regular backpacks! Anyway, Parliament and Big Ben were pretty all lit up in the evening. I also noticed that the water level on the River Thames seemed to be pretty low. One former boat is now a bar/resturant, and it was sitting on pieces of wood holding it up off from the shore! There was also some sort of rig that had a platform and some small cranes, and it was near the riverbank, and it was about 15 feet above the water level, and there was no water underneath it on once side.
Wandering around, it was difficult to cross the road. Why? It is so hard to figure out which way to look when crossing the road. The whole “left hand” driving thing is still so trange to me. For the tourists, most of the intersections had signs on them that said “look left” or “look right”, just to lessen the chance of us getting hit because we didn’t check for cars while J-Walking (read that as cross walks weren’t always used anyway).
The next morning I got up early and headed to Buckingham Palace, some memorials, and some parks. Because the time was one hour later than what I was used to, it was no problem for me to get up early, grab a quick breakfast, and be on my merry way.
It is amazing how peaceful a city is at 8:30 in the morning. There was less than 20 people around Buckingham Palace. I walked some more and explored Hyde Park (500+ acres, has beautiful gardens, a pond, a resturant), Green Park, and Saint James Park. While I was in Hyde Park, about 200 guards on horses went by. Following the calvary was a trailer that said “HORSE AMBULENCE” and a street cleaner. They clearly have a system. There were also a few people riding their horses around on dirt paths in Hyde Park.
By 11:30, there were literally hundreds and hundreds of people outside of Buckingham. In the afternoon I went to the London Aquarium. Ironically, there is a sushi bar located on top of it. Then, I met up with Katie Grandle, a Cornell student spending the year studying at Durham University, and we went on the London Eye. The London Eye had a great view. For those of you who don’t know, it is a giant ferris wheel with 32 “pods” that hold around 30 people. Now, it only has 31 pods. Number 13 was removed because the Britis are very superstitious people.
A majority of the day Wednesday I spent on one of the famous “The Origional Tour” open top bus tours. I learned a lot about London, and found some sights that I really wanted to see. Best of all, my ticket was good for 24 hours, so I could use it to get on and off the bus to go around the city. I also did some more wondering around the actual City of London, and walked around St. Paul’s Cathederal, walked over the Thames on the millineium bridge, and walked around Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. A final destination Wednesday was the Royal Mews, where the Golden Carraiage is loacted. The carriage weighs 4 tons and there is 1 man for every two horses in the team of horses that pull it.
If I ever get the chance to return to London, I have a few more places that I would like to visit. I would like to visit the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and the Britian at War museum. Westminster Abbey was closed when I wanted to tour it because of a Holy Week service. I did walk around the outside of it a few times. It was also being prepared for the Royal Wedding.
Fun Facts about London
- “Big Ben” refers to the 13.2 ton bell that rings every hour, not the tower itself.
- The actual city of London is only about 1 square mile. It is the business center. It contains the oldest and the newest structures in London. They are working on digging up ancient Roman ruins there. It is amazing how the Romans were all the way up there, and actually founded London.
- The city of London was completely destroyed in 1666 with the great fire that started at the Kings Bakery on Pudding Lane. If the memorial tower to the fire is set on its side, the tip will land at the source of the fire.
- The great fire destroyed the entire city but only killed 4 people. The plague killed hundreds of thousands of people. The fire is believed to end the plague, because it killed the rats and the pathogen-carrying fleas that were on them.
- St. Paul’s Cathedral was destroyed in the London Fire. The builder of the new Cathedral, Christopher Wren, also designed a pub just down the street from the Cathedral. Which was built first? Yep, the pub. The tour guide said he is the “best boss ever” because is workers could take a break, “drink a pint, and go back to work!”
- The narrowest pub in London is “Ye Olde Cock Tavern”, at 9.5 feet wide.
- “Alfred’s Pub” had a bell in it for when a vote was about to happen in Parliament, so the councilmen could get back in time to make a decision.
- The Brits are very superstitious, as I mentioned about the number 13 pod on the London Eye. They say the country is in danger if the “Lions drink”, referring to the lion statues on the edge of the Thames. The Thames is a tidal river, and while I was there, they lions almost got rid of their thirst, because the water level fluctuated greater than 10 feet daily. The floating restaurant I mentioned earlier was actually floating during the day, and the rig I talked about only had a few feet in between the water level and the platform during the day. Further, Ravens are kept in the Tower of London. If they disappear, the monarch is in danger. Many of these Ravens died during WWII. As a result, they had to repopulate the tower with Ravens, just so that the Brits wouldn’t freak out.
- Winston Churchill was a wise, brilliant, and a funny man. A guide on the Original Tour told us some quotes. Someone once said to him “if you were my husband, I would poison you.” He responded with “If you were my wife, I would drink it!” Another evening, Churchill was drunk at a bar, and a woman said “you’re drunk.” Mr. Churchill responded with “and in the morning, I won’t be. In the morning, you will still be ugly.” Like I said, he was a very smart man.
Thanks for sticking with me. Part two will be posted soon!
Tags : airplane, London, Parma, Righi Family, Spring Break
Categories : Trips