Monday, May 10, 2010

Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner.

Briana and I made it to London on Wednesday without much trouble. At least without much trouble until we got to customs where we had to wait for over an hour just to get to the front of the line. We passed the time by looking at Sue Sylvester quotes from Glee, our favorite television program, and reliving our hilarious experiences in Spain. When we finally made it through customs, Briana went to meet her mom and I got on the underground to go meet my dad. I got off at the Holborn stop and found my dad, then went to the hotel to put down my bags and get ready for dinner. We stayed at the Marriot Chancery Court Hotel, and I loved every second of it. Everyone was incredibly helpful and our rooms were so comfortable. For our first dinner in London, my dad and I went to About Thyme, which was recommended by my dad's favorite website: It was so nice to see my dad again and tell him all about Spain over some fabulous food. I had delicious french onion soup for an appetizer followed by chicken stuffed with ricotta and spinach for my main course. We spent a long time at dinner just looking through my pictures from my travels and catching up. By the time we were finished, we were both really tired and decided to go back to the hotel to pass out early in preparation for a big day of touring on Thursday.

Me and my dad at About Thyme

In the morning, my dad and I woke up fairly early to meet our tour guide, Glen. We met right outside of Big Ben to begin our tour. We spent the day listening to Glen talk about Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, 10 Downing Street, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and even saw the changing of the guards. Surprisingly, we saw all of this before lunch time, so we went to the National Portrait Gallery Portrait Restaurant at the top of the museum, where we ate lunch with amazing views of Trafalgar Square. After lunch, we looked around the museum for a while to see Paul McCartney's and Princess Diana's portraits. By the time we had done that, we were both exhausted and decided to take a little afternoon nap. When we had rested up, we got ready for dinner and then went to the London Eye. Although it was my second time on the London Eye, it was still incredible. It is so cool to see the city of London from the Eye because you get a 360 degree view. After the London Eye, my dad and I got in a cab to go to Central Fish for dinner. It was another TripAdvisor recommendation and it did not let us down. I had mussels to start and then had halibut as my main dish. My dad had the fish and chips, which he loved. After a long day, we headed back to the hotel for the night.

Me and my dad playing around in London

At Buckingham Palace

Goofing off with the guards

Westminster Abbey

My dad and me in the London Eye

On Friday, we woke up, had breakfast at our hotel and then made our way to Churchill's Cabinet War Rooms, which were left exactly the way they were when WWII was over. We could have spent days in that museum, there was so much interesting information about the war and about Churchill. I would definitely recommend it to anyone and plan on going back in the future. After the war rooms, we headed towards St. Paul's Cathedral. Before we went into the cathedral, we got lunch at Pod, a fast food thai restaurant with excellent curry. When we were done with that, we went into St. Paul's, where we climbed up to the Whispering Gallery to look over the entire church. It is called the Whispering Gallery because if you whisper into the wall, anyone at any point around the gallery can hear it. There were tons of parents and children whispering things to one another, seeing if they really could hear each other from across the dome. My dad wanted to try it to, but, having the maturity level of a 15 year old boy, he kept whispering "whispering eye." If you don't understand this reference, you should really watch Role Models with Paul Rudd, Sean William Scott and Jane Lynch.

At the Churchill Cabinet War Rooms

After St. Paul's Cathedral, we walked across the Thames to the Design Museum. We saw a very cool exhibit that included a BMW that was made from materials that can change shapes according to the owner's preferences. We had a long day of walking, and my feet were killing me, so we didn't spend much time at the Design Museum. We did stop by the gift shop on the way out, where my dad found a really cool poster of the museum. When we left, we walked along the the Thames for a little bit, but then decided to get a cab back to the hotel because I had blisters on practically all of my toes. That night, we went to a play, Dirty Dancing, which I absolutely loved. It was very close to the movie and the last scene had incredible dancing. Since we hadn't gone to dinner before the play, we went to Fire and Stone after the play was over. My dad and I ordered unusual pizzas, but they were amazing. Mine had a ton of veggies on it, and I absolutely inhaled it. After dinner, we just went back to the hotel and fell asleep around midnight.

We woke up around 8 on Saturday to go find a Foot Locker so that I could get tennis shoes that wouldn't make my feet feel like they were falling off. We walked around for a little bit and had to wait for Foot Locker to open, but when it did, it was totally worth it. I got some cute new tennis shoes that made me feel like I was walking on air. After that, we went to the Portobello Market, which is a street just filled with booths upon booths of antiques. It was insanely crowded, so my dad and I walked around for a little bit and then got out of there as fast as possible. We tried to go to Pod for lunch again, since we had enjoyed it so much the day before, but were disappointed to find that it is closed on weekends. We ended up just fine because we found a place called Paul, where we enjoyed sandwiches and the best blueberry torte we've ever eaten.

After lunch, we went back to the hotel to get ready for the football game we were going to. I put on my new tennis shoes and a warm sweatshirt and we made our way to the West Ham football stadium. Thanks to the concierge at our hotel, we had great seats and got to see an amazing game. West Ham won, 1 - 0. When the game was over, we went to the gift shop to look around and found some souvenirs for my brother. Then we tried to walk back to the underground to get back to our hotel. However, the line to get back on the train wound around the corner and would have taken almost an hour to wait in, so we decided to go look for a drink. Unfortunately, we were completely unsuccessful and ended up just walking back to the underground station, where they had opened up another door, making it really easy for us to get back on the train. The train was obnoxiously crowded, but we made it back just fine and got ready for a nice dinner at CÔTE, a restaurant that I went to with my mom and sister when we were in London in March. Here we enjoyed a long dinner of mussels and coq au vin, then went back to the hotel to rest up for our next day of touring with Glen.

Me and my dad at the West Ham football game

Me and dad outside CÔTE

On Sunday, we woke up early again to meet Glen for our second tour with him. We started this tour outside St. Paul's Cathedral, but since my dad and I had already gone inside, we didn't go in this time. Then we went to the Millennium Bridge and the Tower of London. We did a lot of the same stuff that I had done at the Tower of London when I went with my mom and sister, but this time we also got to see the armory. It was really interesting to see all the different suits of armor from the royal family throughout the years. After this, we went to The Monument, where Glen told us about the fire of London in 1666. Then Glen walked us over to the South Bank, where we saw the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which I loved since I am a Harry Potter fanatic.

The Leaky Cauldron

Nugget Armor at the Tower of London

Me and my dad in front of Tower Bridge

We had lunch at The Anchor, and enjoyed a huge order of traditional fish and chips, as well as mushy peas. Then we walked over to the Tate Modern and spent some time looking at works by Jackson Pollock, Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol. We were both pretty exhausted from a long day and a very busy trip, so we went back to the hotel to rest before dinner. We had dinner at Matsuri Sushi and then headed to the hotel early to pack our bags for our next leg of the trip: Paris!

In the morning, we woke up early and made our way to the train station to catch the Chunnel, the train that goes from London to Paris under the English Channel. It is the longest undersea tunnel in the world. It only took about two hours to reach Paris, and in that time we were served a delicious breakfast and planned what sights we wanted to see in Paris, where we would meet up with my friend, Laura, for a few days.

Follow the Blue Wiener...

After a long night at Dubliner's in Madrid, Briana and I were not exactly in cheerful moods when it came time to get on the metro and go to the airport to make our flight to Barcelona. The flight wasn't bad, but once we arrived at the airport in Barcelona things took a turn for the worse. We had to take an hour long bus ride from Gironas (the airport we flew into) to the city center in Barcelona. This wouldn't have been bad had a satanic child not been on our same bus, just one row in front of us. At first, this child seemed adorable: chubby cheeks, curly hair, smiley. Lesson learned: never judge a book by its cover. As soon as the wheels started moving this child would not shut up. Screaming, crying and throwing his toy trucks were common occurrences. I think it's safe to say that as soon as the bus pulled into Barcelona, Briana and I were running to get off and away from that kid.

We navigated our way to Holly's apartment, where Ryan, Holly's hilarious gay roommate, buzzed us in. Holly, Michael and Peter were still on spring break and wouldn't be back until the next day, so Ryan showed us around the apartment and we made ourselves at home. Briana and I quickly realized we were starving, probably due to the immense amount of energy we spent trying to block out the annoying child we were seated next to on the bus. It was Easter Sunday, so we were worried about restaurants being open, but we had no trouble at all. We found a cute sidewalk cafe and ordered some delicious chicken sandwiches followed by a Spanish tradition: churros. We sat in the sun and enjoyed the weather and absence of screaming children. On the way back to Holly's, we stopped at an alimentación to grab some pasta for dinner and a couple bottles of cava, which is Spanish sparkling wine that the area of Catalonia is famous for. We practically sprinted home from the alimentación because it was about to storm. We made it back to Holly's just before it started pouring and unpacked, cleaned up and showered before figuring out how to meet up with Laura and her roommate from Boston College, Sarah.

Laura and Sarah eventually cabbed over to Holly's apartment and we just relaxed for the night with a giant pot of pasta and a few too many glasses of cava. Ryan, Holly's roommate, came back from a long dinner and entertained us with some hilarious stories of his time abroad. We could have listened to him all night, but we were all fighting heavy eyelids and decided it was time for bed instead. We made up the futon and all passed out until the next morning.

Since Sarah and Laura had been in Barcelona for a few days already, they had done most of the touristy things that Briana and I were planning to do, so Briana and I decided to push back our really touristy day and spent the day with Laura and Sarah in Park Güell, a famous park in Spain designed by Antoni Gaudí, who designed many buildings in Barcelona. The park looks like a mix between Alice in Wonderland and Candyland, all set on a huge hill in Barcelona. It is an absolutely incredible place full of mosaics and tons of stone. The park has many levels, and we hiked up near the top for some breathtaking views of the city. We could even see the blue wiener, which is actually the Agbar Tower, that we would always use as a landmark to make our way back to Holly's apartment. We also had some gorgeous views of the ocean.

Me and Briana at Park Güell

View of the Blue Wiener from Park Güell

Laura and Me in front of the house in Park Güell

Briana and Me in the entrance to Park Güell

When we were through with Park Güell, we decided it was time for a siesta by the water. We made our way to the pier, bought some Ben and Jerry's ice cream and sat in the sun, just relaxing. Michael, one of my oldest and best friends from St. Louis, decided to meet us at the pier to hang out for a little while. After a little confusion about our location, we finally tracked him down. He told us all about his spring break trips with Holly and Peter to the Canary Islands, Prague and Amsterdam and then told us about the plan for the night: Loco Lunes at a club called Otto Zutz. We had heard that the nightlife in Barcelona was crazy, so we were eager to gain first hand experience in that area. The pier started to get a little chilly, so we decided to end our siesta and go back to Holly's to get some dinner and get ready for a wild night.

View from the pier

All of us were in the mood for some comfort food, so we chose to forgo the traditional Spanish paellas and opted for the Hard Rock Cafe instead. The wait for a table was over an hour, so we went to the bar area and found a table there. About ten minutes after we sat down, we were joined by a surprise guest: Ryan, Holly's roommate. While we scarfed down our chicken fingers and mac & cheese, Ryan picked at his salad and told us all about his life. Our quick dinner turned into a two hour meal as we all nearly peed our pants laughing at Ryan's stories. By the time we finally made it back to Holly's, it was around 10:30 and we were rushing to get ready. Luckily, we were in Spain, where nights don't begin until 1 am, so we had no trouble getting ready to go and drinking our cava before making our way to Otto Zutz.

Sarah, Briana, Ryan, Me and Laura before Loco Lunes

Holly and Me before Otto Zutz

We walked into the club around 2 am and were greeted by huge hugs and shots from Michael. After graciously accepting both, we immediately headed to the dance floor, which was crowded with tons of people. I don't think we stopped dancing from the time we first stepped onto the dance floor until the lights came on in the club. We did, however, run into many different people from St. Louis, from Glasgow, and also from BC. The rumors about Barcelona nightlife were true. We had an insanely good time just drinking and dancing the night away. We finally got back to Holly's around 5:30 or 6 in the morning and were absolutely exhausted. Laura and Sarah were flying to Madrid the next morning, so they had to wake up around 8:30 to finish packing and leave for the airport. It was not a pretty morning, to say the least.

Me, Ryan and Holly at Otto Zutz

Michael and Me at Otto Zutz

Briana and I dragged ourselves out of bed around 11, when we got up, changed clothes and walked to Starbucks to get much needed caffeine into our systems. After waking ourselves up a little bit, Briana and I started on our tourist day. We began at La Pedrera, an apartment building designed by Antoni Gaudí, the same architect who designed Park Güell. Gaudí was very interested in organic shapes and gothic architecture. The outside of La Pedrera (which means "The Quarry" in Spanish) consists of tons of swirling and curvy stone, pretty much unlike anything I've ever seen. Briana and I waited our turn to go in the actual apartment and then to the rooftop of the building. The interior of the apartment was cool, but the rooftop was beyond amazing. I have no words to describe it, so the pictures will have to speak for me.

View of the Blue Wiener from La Pedrera

The rooftop of La Pedrera

Me with the rooftop

Exterior of La Pedrera

After La Pedrera, we walked to Sagrada Família, a Roman Catholic church designed by Gaudí. Sagrada Família has been under construction since 1882 and they don't expect it to be finished until at least 2026, which is the 100th anniversary of Gaudí's death. The church is incredibly intricate and detailed. There are carvings all over the facade. Just like the rooftop of La Pedrera, it is unbelievably difficult to try and put Sagrada Família into words. It is beautiful and so hard to describe. Briana and I waited in the hour-long line to take an elevator to the top of one of the towers, where we had views of all of Barcelona. There are 18 towers of different heights in the church that represent the 12 apostles, Jesus, Mary and the four evangelists. I am not sure which tower we went in, but it was gorgeous. We got some views of the interior of the church as well. Unfortunately, the interior is under massive construction, so it was difficult to imagine what it might look like when it is finished.

View from the top of Sagrada Família

Interior of Sagrada Família

Me at Sagrada Família

Exterior of Sagrada Família

When we were finished at Sagrada Família, Briana and I headed to La Rambla, which is a pedestrian mall full of little kiosks and stands selling everything you can imagine from tourist souvenirs to live chickens. The street was insanely crowded, so Briana and I found La Boqueria, a public market full of different food, where we stopped for some treats. They had fresh food of all kinds, including the most delicious looking fruit I have ever laid eyes on. Briana and I got individual servings of strawberries and enjoyed them as we walked around the market. Right as we were leaving the market we came across a stand we simply could not pass up: the chocolate stand. They had chocolates of all shapes, sizes and flavors. We spent a while picking out which chocolates we wanted and then handed them over to the woman running the stand to weigh. I'm not sure how much our sweets weighed, but I will admit that we ended up spending €22. Yikes!

La Boqueria

La Rambla

We were exhausted after little sleep and a long day of touring, so Briana and I walked back to Holly's. After Loco Lunes, we weren't exactly in the mood (or physical state) to be partying until 6 in the morning again, so we decided to have a low key night with Holly. Holly took me and Briana to Pim Pam Burger for dinner, where we sat and talked for a long time, probably reminiscing about high school a little too much, but it was a great night. When we got back to Holly's apartment, we packed and attempted to watch Summer Heights High. Unfortunately, we were all too tired to keep our eyes open through more than one episode, so Briana and I retreated to our bed and fell asleep.

In the morning, Briana and I woke up early, said bye to Holly and took the metro to where we thought we could pick up the bus to the airport. It was a little more trouble than we had anticipated to actually locate the bus and we were a little short on time, so we just grabbed a cab and took it to the airport, where we got on our flight to London, where I was meeting my dad and Briana was meeting her mom. We were sad to be leaving such a great country, but we were also ready for a more relaxed break than the one we had been having in Spain. Plus, we were excited to finally see our parents!