The following week of visiting Keukenhof was really easy because Wednesday, April 27 was a national Dutch holiday, Koningsdag, or King’s Day! It is the King’s birthday, so the entire country shuts down and holds a national party. My friend Degen and I went to stay with Amy in Utrecht the night before, then we went into Amsterdam to celebrate for the day, decked out in orange. We were welcomed by a parade of four brass instruments that escorted us to Dam Square…it was amazing! So many people took pictures of us, it felt like we were famous.
The carnival (kermus in Dutch, thank you, Amy) in Dam Square was still in full swing when we arrived, so naturally we had to go on the Ferris wheel and get a bird’s eye view of the festivities.
The next day, Amy came back to Maastricht with us and I had to rush to class straight from the train, not to mention I had a presentation. Pre-Europe Maddie probably never would have done that. After class, Amy and I started getting our trip to London in order, as we would be leaving the next day. We ended up leaving earlier than we needed to so that we could spend some time in Brussels before, as that was where our train left from. We wanted to get some Hot Chocolate, so we went into a bar where some Belgian dudes started chatting us up. After about 15 minutes of trying to persuade us to let them buy us drinks, they spilled 3 glasses of beer on us and our luggage…a word to the wise: starting a trip/day of traveling smelling like a keg of beer is not the best option, and I wouldn’t recommend it.
In any case, we made a quick exit after that incident and headed to the train station, where we boarded our train to London by way of the CHUNNEL. Yes, the chunnel. Riveting stuff, people! It was cool but as you can imagine, pretty anti-climactic, and pretty dark, if you can imagine. 😉
We arrived in London and headed to our AirBNB which ended up being absolutely perfect, our host made us tea as soon as we got there, we settled in, then went to dinner at Piccadilly Circus where we had REALLY yummy food.
Saturday was a busy day, but luckily the weather was amazing! We started the day with hunting down the Dunkin Donuts in London, even though I knew I’d be going home to Dunks pretty soon, it was perfect. A little sub-par, but still great to have a piece of home. Then we went to Buckingham Palace. We accidentally got there at the exact time of the changing of the guards ceremony, which everyone recommends NOT to do because of the crowds…well, they were right. And now I will advise you, it isn’t worth it to go because you won’t be able to see anything! Buckingham was still really great to see, even if I only caught glimpses in the spaces between the heads of the people in front of me. I couldn’t even count how many selfie sticks there were…
After the Palace, we got on our first double decker red bus and went over to Big Ben! We had a little snack in the park next to the famous clock tower before heading to Camden Market. Camden Market is SO COOL and hip, I definitely recommend it! I had the best macaroni and cheese of my life (I’ve had a lot in my day, so this is saying a lot, and I am a diehard Annie’s white cheddar shells fan).
Next, we went to the Globe Theatre (which we didn’t get go into…we’re bad tourists), then walked along the South Bank. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip, as this area was so lively and full of street performers. London felt so ALIVE and vibrant, it was such a pleasant place to just walk around or sit in a park.
Note: yes, in the U.K. and Ireland, they. Drive. Backwards. The city of London is very aware of the fact that there are many tourists that are not used to this concept, so they are kind enough to include this at almost every crosswalk:
That night, Amy and I were pretty full from our lunch at Camden, so we went to a pub and got Magner’s ciders–a must if you visit London! Then we took the underground/tube back to the AirBNB for the night.
On Sunday morning we stopped at Abbey Road and did the infamous crossing…it was a dream come true! I didn’t really think of the fact that it is still a real road, with actual cars and bikes, so crossing was a little challenging but we got it on film. Next, went right over to the London Eye in the hopes that we would beat the line…but it wasn’t enough. We met a really nice and interesting Australian marathon runner in line and chatted with him, so that made it a lot more bearable. The views from the top were beautiful, but it definitely isn’t worth the money…so if you go to London, it is not a must!
We went to the Tower Bridge after and had lunch right under it. The weather was absolutely perfect–75* and sunny, not exactly what you’d expect in London! We went to Notting Hill next, something on Amy’s bucket list. This was without a doubt the prettiest part of London, and I would live there in a heartbeat.
Piccadilly had a lot of options for dinner so we decided to back there for dinner Sunday night. We went to a famous chef’s restaurant…but I forget who it was. My mom would be jealous, that’s all I remember. After that we went back to the AirBNB and slept. We were pooped from doing so much walking. Monday morning we went to a little cafe for breakfast then went to the National Gallery right in Trafalgar Square, where I had to find a few pieces for my Dutch Art History course.
We realized that Buckingham is right by the National Gallery, and since we had barely any views of the palace earlier we decided to visit it again! We had a much better view this time, and we got some ice cream and lounged around in the park after while we waited for our train back to Brussels.
Our final stop was King’s Cross Station, as it was right next to St. Pancras, where our train left from. We got to see the spot where people pretend to push a cart into the wall like in Harry Potter. You had to pay (as if you were getting on a train…of course! Didn’t think of that hehe) to get into platform 9-10, so I didn’t get to see the exact spot but it was still great to go there.
London was one of my favorite destinations thus far–which is crazy because I did not at all have any desire to go there as I don’t love big cities. I ended up loving it because the city felt so alive. I’ll be back, London–