My 5 month European vacation is beginning with me sitting in JFK watching the Pats vs Broncos playoff game at an airport restaurant. Can’t complain right? I checked my one suitcase in at 47 pounds and made my way through security with a hefty backpack and my one “additional” item. Packing is half the battle of this trip, but I’m glad it’s all done for now! I enjoyed my last NJ pizza this afternoon and now I’m anxiously awaiting my flight to London with a quick stopover in none other than Iceland.
I’ll be greeted over the pond by my best friend from high school. I am thrilled that Jen and I were able to work out this little get together, so casual right? I’ll be in London from tomorrow (Monday) morning until Wednesday morning when I proceed onwards to my final destination in Brussels.
Sitting here it’s really difficult to describe how I’m feeling. This trip has been in the making since I began college in 2011. I’m happy, anxious, excited, anxious, hyper, anxious, and so lucky. I found out that I would be studying in Louvain La Neuve, Belgium last August and I’ve been anxiously awaiting my departure date ever since. So much of the excitement is not knowing what it’ll be like in Europe and anticipating all of the amazing adventures I’ll be taking in the next few months. I am incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity and I plan on making the most of it, although my bank account is already starting to hate me. Whooooops. It’s also very reassuring that about 95% of my friends from school will be in Europe as well.
Well now I’m going to sit back and relax, Iceland is coming quick!
I’ve had an amazing past day and a half in England! So here’s my recap: the flight in was pretty tiring although I slept almost the entire way. After lots of blood sweat and tears with all of my heavy luggage I finally made it from Heathrow airport to the train station in downtown London where I met up with Jen. The hotel she’s staying in (with her friends Lauren, who is studying here, and her England native boyfriend Mike) is only a few minute walk from “the tube” so I was able to drop off my luggage and start the day since it was close to 1:30 by the time I arrived.
I had lunch and my first legal drink in Europe with Jen and Lauren and we eventually met up with Mike too. Lauren had a surprise for us and we ended up taking the tube up one stop to none other than Kings Cross Station (aka platform 9 3/4)!!!!!!!!!!!! Jen, Mike and I, all die hard Harry Potter fans, were absolutely giddy. We took dorky pictures with the trolley going into the platform wall and spent an embarrassing amount of time in the souvenir shop but walked out on cloud nine. After some shopping on Oxford Street, we went out to dinner and then met up with some of Lauren’s classmates at a club called Tiger Tiger. It was a great time to people watch and dance to good music. When we got home we had a big sleepover in Jen’s room and barely got any sleep, but it was such a treat to be laughing until my stomach hurt with some great friends.
Jen and I woke up early on Tuesday and got on a city bus tour around London. It was a great system because there were about 25-30 stops and you have the freedom to get on and off whichever stops you please and get back on a different bus to continue the tour. When we first started at 9:00 it was really foggy but nothing could stop us two from sitting on the second level of the famous London city bus and being absolute tourists. After passing a few famous landmarks (including the building that is Gringotts in HP) we got to the stop with the Eye, Big Ben, Parliament square, and Westminster Abbey. We got off the bus and took some time to walk around the area. The architecture is absolutely stunning; such intricate gold structures that sparkle in the light. They each lived up to the grand expectation and it was a gorgeous view. We then bussed to Buckingham Palace where we arrived as the guards dressed in red on their horses were marching into the entrance. There was formal music being played and people were all crowded around the outside of the gates. Jen and I talked about how crazy it is for the Queen to have hundreds of people outside her home every single day, meaning no chance of her walking around naked with the blinds open haha! We came into a bit of a time crunch due to our schedule for our afternoon plans, so we cut the bus tour a little short to meet up with Mike and go to the……… WARNER BROTHERS STUDIO SET OF THE HARRY POTTER FILMS!!!!
After a train ride to the suburbs and a shuttle to the set location we arrived at the most incredible museum I have ever seen. I really cannot describe the joy we experienced as Harry Potter fans and how absolutely incredible the studio is. The tour began with a short film and the door entrance to The Great Hall was revealed from behind a curtain. Jen and I were the only enthusiastic fans who volunteered to come to the front of the line and have the PRIVILEGE of opening the doors ourselves. Seriously if you aren’t a HP fan this is entire rant is useless but OH MY GOSH. So we pushed open the doors to enter The Great Hall and began the best 3 hours ever. I’ll try not to completely nerd out here but basically after passing through the hall we were led into am enormous studio with hundreds of props, costumes, and pieces from the movies. My pictures say more than I ever could, but basically we spent all afternoon in awe over the movie sets, riding in the flying car and broomstick in a green room, dueling with wands, admiring 4 Privet Drive, drinking Butterbeer, and WORSHIPPING a gorgeous model of Hogwarts. Fun fact: Hagrid has a robotic head in some scenes, who knew? It was the best money I’ve spent in a long long time and I had the time of my life. Mike, with his British accent, has us in tears from laughing and when we got back on the shuttle we were completely exhausted but even more content. What a great day. We wrapped the night up casually with some dinner and tv, and I packed myself up to get ready for Brussels bright and early. My first city has been the greatest time and I am even more excited to see what else is coming up! And of course, shout out to Lauren for being an incredible hostess in her hotel and giving me such a fabulous 2 day trip 🙂