Days 64-69: London – Look Left, Look Right, Look Down

Aside: SO sorry for the delay in this post! I’m currently back Stateside, and the jetlag recovery has been, well, a doozy. Between being sick and handling all of my responsibilities at home, I haven’t had much time to write. Also, sadly enough, none of my photos will upload to WordPress, but I’ve uploaded them all to Google Photos so feel free to follow along there. Anyhow, time to finish this last chapter.

The last full week of the summer. It’s crazy how fast it passed by. I remember giving my heartfelt goodbyes at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport just ten short weeks ago. Now, with exams completed and the last report due after the end of the program, I had nothing to do but to enjoy my last weekend in Europe.

 

Day 64

No classes? No problem. I spent one of my last full days in Lyon traversing through the Vieux Lyon sector, enjoying the breeze from the Saône River and the beauty of La Basilique de Notre-Dame de Fourvière. I picked up the last few souvenirs for loved ones back home, which brought me to silk and soap shops alike. I even took one last traboule through the heart of Lyon. The door was open, so why not walk through?

Unfortunately for me, my body decided to revolt against me. Worried I might have pink eye, I frantically try to snag a doctor’s appointment before leaving for London. Even more unfortunate was the arrival of Bastille Day; not because of the holiday itself (I actually quite like July 14th), but that every institution in France will close two to three days before and after the holiday. So no, I didn’t get to a doctor. This could be a very interesting weekend in England.

 

Day 65

I awoke this morning to a slightly improved eye state. I discarded my eye makeup and used cold compresses, which seemed to help a great deal. Regardless of my state, I was still planning to travel.

After proctoring the Synthesis Laboratory final exam (yes, a laboratory does have a written final exam), I grabbed a quick panini at the cafeteria and headed out for the airport. No hitches, no glitches, no spontaneous Rhône Express malfunctions made for smooth sailing out of Lyon. A quick layover in the Zurich airport was the only delay, and before I knew it I was in the heart of London. Even at night, in the rain, under the clouds, London is one of my favorite cities to visit. I stayed in the Victoria Astor Hostel, just off of the Pimlico Underground stop. It was a very nice hostel, complete with a £1 charity breakfast, free lockers, hairdryers, and more. I settled in well for the night after a long day of travelling.

To aid in the improvement of my eyes, I found a late-night store with allergy medication. It may not be perfect, but it was better than nothing.

 

Day 66

Today, I got an early start to in order to see a few sights before meeting up with my cousin, Sara, for lunch. I grabbed a quick breakfast and headed out into the Westminster district. First on my list of things to see was the Westminster Cathedral (not to be confused with Westminster Abbey). It is a beautiful cathedral, and one of the less-tourist-infested sights to see while in London.

From there, it was but a short walk towards Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, and the Thames River. I visited Westminster Abbey last year, so I didn’t make a point to see it again. It was nice to see all of these again and acquire some updated photos, especially since the sky was a true London grey. I managed to get a stunning shot of the London Eye against a stormy Thames.

Heading north, I walked toward London’s West End. This is where the heart of the theatre scene is located: many of these theatres have shown classic shows for decades, including The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre and, more applicable to my trip, Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre. A fan of both, but with only enough funds for one, I decided early in the summer to reserve a seat for Les Mis for this evening. I heard nothing but wonderful things about the live show, so I was beyond excited to pick up my tickets at the box office that morning. I snapped a few shots of the West End, and was off to Trafalgar Square.

For lunch, Sara and I tried a restaurant new to both of us: Cinnamon Bazaar. The national dish of England is curry – due in part to a large Indian population that resides there – so it was imperative that I sample some delicious Indian cuisine. And man, were all three courses delicious. To drink, we had a pot of Indian Masala Chai tea, served always with milk (don’t you dare serve it plain). For my courses, I started with the crab and beetroot Bonda, followed it up with the double-cooked pork belly “Koorg” style with curried yoghurt, and chased it down with their popular dark chocolate and walnut cake with Malacca coffee ice cream. The main course was served with tasty blackdal and fresh naan. *mouth waters*

No trip to London would be complete without a visit to Fortnum and Mason (F&M). It is the Mecca for all high-tea lovers, the Neiman Marcus for all things English, sweet, and savory. Some girls need Tiffany and Co., and some need Ben and Jerry’s, but yours truly will be just fine with a little teal bag from F&M. (Sorry Cameron, your love has expensive taste.)

I purchased one large box of their delectable Earl Grey tea, along with a large sampler box of their fruit-flavored black teas. How much was it, you may be wondering? Probably more than I could normally afford. Do I regret my purchases? Absolutely not. How DARE you think such things.

After meandering back to the hostel, I spruced myself up for a delicious Scottish steak pie dinner before heading back to the West End. Sara knows how much I love them, so she brought me two small pies to have for dinner (along with some English toffee, which was equally delectable). It was enough to make the other hostel residents salivate.

I then took the Underground up to Piccadilly Circus and made my way back to the Queen’s Theatre. Les Mis premiered here in 1985, and it’s been performed in this theatre ever since. It’s one of the longest-running and most popular shows; and after experiencing the phenomenon myself, I now understand why. The show was incredible: each performer poured their soul into the character, and the music nearly brought me to tears. If you ever have the opportunity to see Les Mis perform live, I highly recommend it.

 

Day 67

Today was a travel day, heading from London to Lyon with a brief layover in Zurich. I was sad to leave London, because I knew it would mean that the end of the summer was near.

 

Day 68

A long day spent packing, cleaning, and checking students out of their apartments. Despite the full schedule, some of the TAs and I managed to find the time for one last nice meal in Vieux Lyon. As per my traditional pallet, I went with the Lyon specialties: Salade Lyonnaise, pike quenelle, and tarte à la pralines. As always, it was incredible.

 

Day 69

The day had arrived. The day I journeyed home. I knew this day would be tough for me emotionally, since I love France and didn’t want to leave. I knew I would be happy to see my family at the airport in Atlanta.

I didn’t know, however, that today would be full of interesting surprises. I also didn’t know that I would be awake for approximately twenty-four hours, either.

6:00am CET – I wake up and start to check students out of their dorms. Although official check-out doesn’t start until 9:00am, many students (including myself) need to leave at or before that time.

9:00am CET – I hand over my keys to my apartment to the staff, grab my bags, and head off to the airport. Fortunately, there were no hitches in getting to the airport (see also: Rhône Express from Prague disaster) nor with checking in. My checked bag was also under the twenty-three kilogram weight limit…which I later found out included my cell phone, that I slipped in the outside pocket without thinking. How was I supposed to contact my parents now?

Fortunately for me, I had my laptop in my backpack and there were a few students on my flight that let me borrow their phone. I guess when I turned in my key, I also turned in my ability to function as a responsible TA. Ha.

12:15pm CET – Our plane leaves from Lyon to Paris pretty much on time; and other than me forgetting what seat I’m supposed to occupy (responsible TA?) and flying into the wake of an Airbus A380 (the moment when the plane suddenly banks to the left), there were no issues.

1:25pm CET – We land at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, with what seemed to be little time to spare. Charles de Gaulle airport is notoriously bad for, well, everything from security to connections. We were lucky enough to need the next terminal over, and not have to sprint across the airport. One bus transfer and passport checkpoint later, we were at our gate well before boarding.

3:40pm CET – The anticipated departure time of our plane.

3:40pm CET – The new boarding time for our flight.

In reality, a thirty-minute delay isn’t the worst thing to happen. Of course, that wouldn’t be the end of it.

Our flight ended up delaying departure for over an hour. Remember how I mentioned that Charles de Gaulle airport is notoriously bad? Apparently, security was inundated with people, so it was taking twice as long for people to pass through. Delta was nice enough to give their passengers extra time to get to the gate, but that meant a much longer delay for everyone else that was on time. It didn’t matter much to me, considering Atlanta was my final destination, but I wasn’t looking forward to delaying an already long flight.

I can’t tell you what time we departed, but it was much later than 4:10pm CET

7:24pm EST – Our anticipated arrival time prior to the delays at CDG

7:46pm EST – Our estimated arrival time, including the delay at CDG (with optimistic flight crew hoping to make good time across the Atlantic)

Approx. 8:45pm EST – Probably the time we landed, considering there were thunderstorms in Atlanta when we arrived, and they held us in the air for another forty minutes. The turbulence in the air was bad enough that they almost diverted us to Huntsville, Alabama to land. I, along with everyone else on the plane, was ready to get onto the ground.

All of that said, it was still wonderful to see my family at the airport. Cameron even ran past the little line they tell you not to cross (which was probably good, considering I was about to fall over from fatigue).

Approx. 12:00am EST – the time I fell on my bed and went to sleep

And just like that, my Europe days was over. I hope you all enjoyed reading my blog as much as I enjoyed writing it! I’m not sure where life will take me next, but I guarantee that I will capture it with words and photos along the way.

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