We landed around 7:30 p.m. in London, England, coming a bit late from Berlin because of some slight winds in our destination city but arrived with an extra hour because we crossed a time zone. We connected to the airport wifi to let our families know we had arrived. During this process, we learned our hostel somehow lost our reservation, and there was no more vacancy for that night. We also learned there had been a bar fight outside our hostel the night before, and ten people had been stabbed during the squabble. So, we exited the main terminal and sat at a cafe in the airport, emailing back and forth with the hostel. We expressed our safety concerns and sent a copy of our original reservation. Finally, after about an hour of sending, receiving and waiting for messages, the hostel ensured us the violence was extremely abnormal for the area and did not involve anyone at the hostel, and they somehow were able to give us the original room we reserved. We bought an Oyster card for the Underground (metro/subway system), which allowed us many trips on the tube and sped off on a train under London to find our hostel.    After one transfer, walking a few blocks and asking for directions in a Subway sandwich shop, we arrived at our hostel at about 10:30 p.m. It was a stereotypical hostel experience – lots of young people, music playing and lively. The rooms in the hostel ranged from private two-person dorms to public, 25-person, co-ed dorms. Obviously, we opted for the private two-person dorm. We checked-in and received our keys. Then the receptionist started to explain the bathroom situation, which is when we learned private bathrooms did not exist in this residence. It came as quite a shock but rather than dwelling on this catastrophe we decided to go find our room. It was in the back corner of the first floor. We had to twist and turn down hallways and go up and down mini flights of stairs.  Along our way we got a lot of hellos and were invited to join people to go out to bars. Finally, after passing the 25-person room, we went through a door to a little area with three single bathrooms with showers and our room. We opened the door to find a bunk bed and not much else. Both Katie and I just started laughing, gagging and tearing up. We plopped our belongings and headed out to grab dinner because we were famished.    After entering about three establishments to learn they had already stopped serving food, we ended up eating the meal that is always guaranteed to be available in Europe – a kebab. We ate quite quickly and returned to the hostel to one, discuss if we wanted to stay in the establishment and two, create a plan for our short time in London. We decided to buck up and embrace the hostel experience, organized a jam-packed day and went to sleep in our bunk beds. I was on the top bunk wearing socks, a sweatshirt and leggings in attempt to touch as little as possible. I didn’t shower the whole time, albeit was only two nights, but if you hear of a baby wipe shortage in London anytime soon, you know the proprietor.    We woke up at 9 a.m. the next morning, a little later than desired, but were out and exploring by 9:45 a.m. We started with breakfast right by our hostel at the Borough Street Market. We walked around and enjoyed samples from the vendors who were open. Then, we grabbed coffees and shared a meat pie with mash and gravy for breakfast (super British). It was delicious!    After breakfast, we jumped on the tube and headed for Westminster. We exited the Underground to be greeted by Big Ben, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square. We explored that area, took all of the important, cliché London photos and walked towards Buckingham Palace.  Along our way we stopped at some street vendors and shops.    We arrived at Buckingham Palace and spent way too much time looking around the gift shop and special themed tea patterns of the Queen. Unfortunately, the guards didn’t recognize me because I wasn’t wearing my usual princess crown (tried to downplay it to show some respect to Q. Elizabeth) so they didn’t invite me into the Palace for tea – maybe next time.  After spending some time around Buckingham Palace, we walked to Hyde Park, and then hopped on the Underground again to explore Piccadilly Circus, an area we found super fun. We shared a lunch of fish and chips and bought tickets to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical (the London theatre scene is known for being one of the best in the world). We then got back on the tube to go meet Katie’s friend for high tea near St. Paul’s Cathedral.    We sat down for tea at 4 p.m. and the experience was splendid. I had jasmine tea. We were served three different types of sandwiches (ham and cheese, goat cheese and arugula, and mozzarella and caramelized onions), cupcakes, scones, meringues, homemade marshmallows and brownie bites. Suffice it to say, it was delectable, and we were stuffed to the brim.    After tea, we tubed back to the hostel, dropped our shopping bags, changed clothes and ran out towards Covent Garden to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  We had to make a transfer on the Underground, and then got off at Piccadilly Circus because the person at the ticket booth told us the theatre was very near to the stop. It was quite the contrary, and we walked for about 30 minutes, asking directions three times, before reaching the theatre. Unfortunately, we spent the first half of the musical watching it on a television in the theatre’s bar because they wouldn’t let us enter late. However, the second half of the musical was very good and we are really happy we chose to see a show.    After Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, we went to a Japanese restaurant near London’s Chinatown for a late dinner. We had pot stickers, ramen and steamed bun sandwiches – all of which were very good and filled with refreshing Asian flavor, which we hadn’t tasted for a long while. After dinner we met up with some of Katie’s friends at a bar called the Roxy, which was really neat and hip.  We were I.D.’d (drinking age is 18), and they took our photos before we entered for a facial recognition machine to ensure it matched our I.D. photo. It was a short night out, especially compared to Spanish nights, and we were back at the hostel by 2 a.m.    We woke up on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., packed our bags, put them in a locker at the hostel, grabbed a quick breakfast and headed out for our last few hours in London.  We walked across the London Bridge to the Tower Bridge and Tower of London. After walking around that area a bit, we jumped on the tube to go to Harrod’s, an incredible shopping institution.    Harrod’s was like nothing I have ever experienced. It was pure luxury – every single designer brand consolidated in one place, high-end food, beverage, grocery, trendy restaurants and cafes – it was fabulous. We walked around for over two hours and didn’t even make it to the third and fourth floors before we had to leave to catch our train to Paris. We said goodbye to Harrod’s, knowing one day we would have to return.    We took the Underground back to the hostel, grabbed some snacks and our bags, then jumped back on the tube to the international terminal to Chunnel (high-speed train) to Paris.    We arrived at the station, went through French customs and went to board the train when we realized we failed to book our seats together.  I was on coach five while Katie was on coach 16.  So, we went to ask the train manager if there was any possibility of rearranging. He told me to ask the person sitting next to me if they would trade seats with Katie. We did this and the man was very willing to change seats but when we learned he was moving away from sitting with his family. The train manager said it was alright, we would move onto “plan b” and told Katie and me to wait in the dining car. The train started moving and about five minutes into the trip, the manager told us his iPad was broken so he couldn’t see the empty seats that were available. He proceeded to tell us to hang tight. Five minutes later, he returned and told us, “You know how sometimes the concierge of a hotel will tell you that you’ve been upgraded to a suite? Well, that’s kind of this situation – follow me.” We followed him about three cars down. He led us to a private train suite with two chairs facing each other, a table in between and magazines displayed on a bench.  He told us to enjoy and closed the door. We spent the train ride eating a cheese plate, sleeping and discussing how ridiculously cool our lives were at that moment.    We arrived safely from London, England, to Paris, France, and we did so in style.
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