This past weekend, I traveled outside of Ireland for the first time (besides going to Northern Ireland that is). Four other girls and I headed to London for the weekend. We were only there for about 48 hours, but we were able to cram a ton in to that short amount of time. I was pretty nervous leading up to the trip, as it was our first solo one, and I had organized a big part of it. I just wanted everything to go smoothly!
We flew RyanAir, which is by far the cheapest way to fly in Europe. It kind of amazes me that we don’t have anything like this in the States yet. It’s super efficient: no frills or fuss, but they get you from point A to B. They do have a certain reputation for their fees though… they will literally charge you for whatever they can think of. Choosing your seat, checking a bag, having your carry-on be too big or too heavy. Everything costs extra. If you’re careful though, you’ll get through fine, and it’s actually pretty easy. The funny thing is, though, that they try and sell you hotel rooms, rental cars, and even yachts when you’re buying your ticket. If I had enough money to buy a yacht, there’s no way I would be flying a budget airline. Also, they try and sell you lottery tickets on the flight which is kind of hilarious as well.
Thankfully all of our buses and flights were on time and went smoothly. We woke up at 3:45 a.m. to leave, so that was a little rough to say the least, but completely worth it. We caught a bus to the airport, the plane to London, a bus from the airport to central London, and a taxi from the bus station to our hostel. Then we hit the ground running, going on a walking tour and seeing Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, and more. Our tour guide’s name was Eddie, and he was a drama student. He was theatrical and a great guide and told us a lot of extra stories about the stops that were fascinating, such as the one about the man in the 80s that was so inebriated that he decided he wanted to visit the queen. He somehow made it past all the guards at Buckingham (he tripped all the alarms, so they just thought the system was malfunctioning) and then proceeded to climb up a drain pipe. Then, by some miracle, he located the queen’s bedroom. She was sleeping, and he sat on the bed and started having a conversation with her. The queen chatted with him for a few minutes until he asked for a cigarette, which was when she called the guards and said, “The man in my bedroom would like a cigarette, please.” The queen is a clever one, I’ll give her that. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that story, that’s for sure. We also got to Kings Cross Station that day and geeked out at Platform 9 ¾ (for all those not invested in the world of Harry Potter, this is the way that they get to Hogwarts). We used the tube to get around to most of these places, but still ended up walking around 15 miles. London is a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be, but thankfully the public transportation is great and was really easy to navigate.
The next day we did another walking tour and were in the East End of London. We saw the sites of the Jack the Ripper murders, the amazing street art, and Old Spitalfields Market (which had the best, gosh-darn goat cheese and spinach flat wrap that I will ever have the pleasure of eating). After the tour we headed to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London and the street where they filmed the scenes for Diagon Alley (also another Harry Potter reference). It’s safe to say after these two full days we never wanted to stand again. We woke up at about 3 a.m. again early on Monday morning, and headed back to Dublin.
It was a great first experience traveling on our own, and I’m so relieved it all went smoothly. It was great to be able to take advantage of how inexpensive and easy traveling between countries is over here in Europe, and I’m looking forward to doing more of it soon! But maybe with a little more time and not as much walking…