Before Contiki: From New York to London Part 1
After 8 months of booking my trip and carefully researching, packing, unpacking and repacking my suitcase, it was finally time for me to jet off to London! But maybe I should back up a bit....
Ever since my trip to Hawaii, I was itching for another big adventure, however, somewhat low on funds I needed something that I could afford, so I went back to the Contiki website and perused the vacations that were within my price range. Low and behold it didn't take long before I found and decided on the perfect place to go, the United Kingdom! Now I know most people would say, "Really? The United Kingdom? Why not go someplace tropical or deeper into Europe? Italy or France perhaps!" Well, I've already been there,when I was a lot younger and with family, so I decided to go to United Kingdom (most excitedly, the Scotland portion of the trip is what got me super stoked for it), after all I am a BBC America and British film junkie and I would finally get to see the Scottish Highlands for myself. So last December, with the help of my amazing travel agent MaryEllen, we set to work booking the trip of a lifetime.
This time around I would end up traveling with my cousin who was spending his summer at a Polish school in Poland and meeting up in London.
Now to cut a long back story short and fast forward to after my Metro North train ride into the city....
After excitedly arriving and perusing my London travel guide I made my way to the E train on the subway and stood on the platform, with my bags in tow and waited. And then I waited some more, then I remember to check the service advisory and lucky me, the E train was not running through a large section of Manhattan, and not wanting to drag my heavy luggage up and down many flights of stairs once more, I went up top, hailed a cab to the nearest F train, hopped on and finally found my way to the E and eventually the Air Train to JFK (which costs roughly $5 to ride).
Gliding through airport security went fairly fast and I then proceeded to my terminal, popped open my laptop, watched an episode of Drunk History and the first part of Dave Grohl's documentary Sound City (really good by the way), and before I knew it, it was time to board the plane.
Landing and going through customs was easy enough, and much to my surprise navigating the Tube was even easier. I arrived at the Imperial Hotel at Russell Square in London, however I ended up getting there a few hours earlier than my allowed check-in time, so off I went to another area in the hotel lobby, moved some things around in my suitcase, packed a day bag and went back to the front desk for them to hold my luggage so I could make the best of my first day in London to explore.
First on my list of things to see while in London was Highgate Cemetery, followed by a trip through the Camden Lock Market, and hopefully, if I wasn't too tired, I'd go on the London Eye. I had done the research and knew all I had to do was hop on the Tube and make one transfer to the Northern Line, although it seems that public transit and I just don't get along because naturally the day I was there and needed it, that entire line was out of service. Yay. So since I was nearby I decided to stop at Kings Cross Station, quickly see the Harry Potter 9 3/4 Platform, then hopefully find my way to Highgate via the bus.
Might I add that I was walking through on a Sunday and I think it was the day before vacation ended for kids, so there a HUGE line of Potterheads, some dressed up, some not, waiting to get their photo taken. I decided not to stick around but instead get a quick bite to eat and make my way to the bus stop.
After grabbing a quick bite at Pret-A-Manger I found the bus stop that I needed, however, as two buses rolled by completely full, not even stopping, I was advised by a local man that they were jammed with tourists going to Camden Market since the Northern Line on the tube was closed. After a wee rant from the otherwise nice gentleman on how there were other and better markets to visit than Camden, I decided to walk. I inadvertently ended walking past a crowd of people lined up for a Lady Gaga concert with quite a few of her monsters -aka Gaga fans- dressed as various iterations of her, so that was entertaining.
A few highlights of my walk to Camden:
Looking back now I really wished I went back to Camden after my tour of Highgate Cemtery, it's a really cool area, kind of like the village in NYC, but dare I say filled with more wonderful little shops and unique oddities.
I picked up a few buttons for myself, walked through some of the actual market and kept making my way towards Highgate.
The next post will feature the second half of my first day in London, featuring Highgate Cemetery and the London Eye.