Length of the stay: 3 days
Cumulated time spent in a bus: 12h
Shared nachos plates: 7
# of people I shared the room with: 13
Hours of sleep: 10
It had not been planned at the beginning of the year, but when I learned that 3 of my friends (Florence, Kyr and Marion) were having a trip to England to visit a friend in London, I discretely talked about the possibility of joining them. They planned to come on what was the February break in France, so it meant I would have to miss 2 days of class. Surmountable.
First day: the plan was to take an early bus Sunday morning, arrive at London around 2 p.m., head to the Hostel and make plans for the stay. After 6 hours on the bus, I arrived at Victoria coach station with the challenge of finding my way to the hostel. But signs are pretty well done so I quickly found the tube station, Victoria. This is huge. I had to be quick to find the underground as I was unreachable (dead battery) but, unfortunately, the people are as relaxed as those in the Parisian subway (that us to say, not at all!).
Once in the Hostel, I discovered my beautiful 14 bed bedroom for between £9 and £11 a night. And I was also pleased to see that a third of the inhabitants were made up of French school-kids.
I already knew that there were a lot of French people in London, but, I came to realise, there are actually even more than I first imagined. It literally only took 5 minutes before hearing French: two young girls with a lot of shopping bags (classic French in London).
The first day is pretty calm: we met our Londoner friend at Piccadilly Circus and got some food at O’Neills. The first meeting with the holy Nachos !
We came back to the hostel at around 1 (some of us really tired). The girls got ready to wake up at 8 to be on time for the opening of Primark.
Second day: Relaxed day, as the only two activities planned is shopping on Oxford street and Camden Town.I skipped Primark and woke up later than the girls, and found my way from Russell Square to Marble Arch. Of course I got lost and finished extremely far off where I’m supposed to go. But I started to understand why there is so much shoppers: Oxford Street is 2.5km long, with a lot of shops I had never heard about, and those which do exist in France are usually 3 times bigger here. And I’m very surprised to see that a Bershka store displays their adverts with what I assume to be the number of views and likes on Youtube.
Camden town in the afternoon was a great surprise. We only visited High Camden Street and the market, but I was struck by the “cheapness” of the place: almost all the shops sell bad quality jewelery, pop culture clothes and Poppers. And you can see from the photo that the front of the shops are amazingly decorated.
After we got food from one of the hundred of street food seller, we got into the market to spend at least 2h inside. It’s a bit of a shame that we arrived so late as we could only see half of it. But it was enough time to get a good idea of this strange place: an aggregate of cheap shops, with some jewellers and specialized stores, and the very particular Cyberdog. As the evening began, we got some nachos and beer at Wetherspoons, where a nice waiter recommended a venue called Joe’s to pass the night in. After a 15 minute long walk, we got into this nice, small bar playing 60′s and 70′s music. At the beginning the place was pretty empty, but as the night went on, more and more people arrived, to dance to Buddy Holly or what sounded like an English version of Françoise Hardy. The people inside are very different, from some tattooed/biker guys and workmen to a lonely 30 years old girl who lost her engagement ring on the dance floor. We stayed until 3am before taking a long bus back.
Third day: We woke up at 8. We got back at 4am the night before, so yes it was hard! Florence and I decided to walk to the Tate Modern. This walk gave me a chance to see the very impressive and grey river Thames. We also had a look at London Bridge. After the walk we met Kyr and Marion and went to see the free collection of the gallery. There were, among others pieces, Tree of 12 Metres, two stunning sculptures made from “industrially-sawn beams”, where the artist scraped away the wood to reveal its internal structure of narrow core and developing branches.
For the rest of the day we made the walk to Westminster, trying on our way to find the biggest shopping center in Europe. A place that doesn’t actually exist. But it was an opportunity for us to see the London Eye and have a quick look at Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. And to think a bit about The Doctor. We took a bus that drops us at Hyde Park. And it’s huge: one of the place I want to spend time in if I go back to London for a longer period. We finally arrived to the Natural History Museum, the last step of my stay. It must be because we only visited the part of the museum which is free, but I was a bit surprised by the age of the collection presented. A lot of the interactive activities proposed looks 10 years old, with very old monitor and 90’s looking people. But otherwise the Museum seems huge, and the history of it is passionating. E.g., the 180 years old body of the turtle Charles Darwin adopted as a pet on the Beagle Voyage that was lost until 2012. Stunning.
I came back to the Hostel for the end of my trip: I packed my very small bag, negotiated with the porter to stay inside after I checked out, and at 22 I left for the station. I said goodbye to my friends, bought another of those very expensive tube tickets (£4.70), and got ready for my 6 hours bus trip back. I was lucky to arrive at the bus station 30mn early, just enough to take some very bad quality pictures of myself in front of Buckingham palace All this to be back at York at 4, with 2 days of class to catch back up, and very pleased.