The first semester at Harvard over (phew), I have been thoroughly enjoying my winter break. I cheekily booked two and a half weeks away without asking for permission, since I figured that I’m a newbie and am likely to be able to get away with it now, whereas in future I will have to have shorter holidays like a proper grown-up.
On Christmas eve in Boston I made my way to the airport to take the red-eye to London Heathrow for my Christmas break. On arrival in London at 6.45am Christmas day, I managed to locate my pre-booked taxi driver (no public transport on Christmas day) and then spent a rather uncomfortable hour trying to steer the conversation away from my personal life and failing miserably. My Sri Lankan taxi driver was in an unhappy arranged marriage, and was whinging about how he couldn’t go clubbing with his mates any more because his wife was a drag, or something. The WHOLE DAMN TIME he kept asking me about boyfriends, why I didn’t have a boyfriend, and whether I’ve ever been with black men, or asian men. I dodged most of them but stopped short of telling him to mind his own business, because I’d already paid for the cab and just really had to get to Katie’s flat. Anyway I got there safely, obviously, and now that public transport is back to normal I will never have to have an awkward taxi conversation again. Thank goodness.
Katie and I have been exploring London on the cheap, since we are both short of cash. And contrary to what I’ve heard previously, it’s actually very easy to get a fantastic experience without spending more than £10 per day. We buy a £36 seven-day public transport ticket, which gives us unlimited travel on zones 1-3 (all you would really ever need to see the majority of London!). We’ve mostly been eating at home, and occasionally buying coffee, hot chocolate, or fries to stave off hunger while we’re out.
On Christmas day we watched British telly and had a roast chook. It was great. On boxing day we ventured into the city and had a browse around while there weren’t too many tourists about:
The following day, I caught up with my friend Nick, who by chance was in London for a few days on a travelling adventure before he moves to Dublin to work as a doctor. Being nerdy types we went to the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum. It was frightfully busy and the museums are huge, so it was hard to get good photos (too many children spoiling the shots) and we didn’t get through all the exhibits (too exhausted). I hope to head back to the Natural History museum before I leave, because it’s gorgeous and I’m sure I missed loads. Both of these museums are free, so a lot of entertainment for no money (just don’t buy food from the in-house cafes).
The next day Katie and I were too tired to leave the house so we slept a ridiculous number of hours and watched even more telly. After such a lazy day we were able to get up early the next day and go to Borough Market, which was operating at half-capacity but was still magical and fun and I loved the place. I did kind of regret not being able to afford the beautiful cheeses and veges on display, but we treated ourselves to a hot spiced apple cider and sat outside the Southwark Cathedral.
More strolling through Southwark led us to The Clink Prison Museum, which wasn’t free but was worth a wee look anyway. We were supposed to get photographs in chains at the end but the camera mechanism wasn’t working so we didn’t quite get our money’s worth, but I was having too much fun to be bothered.
I have family near London who I had never met before – My Aunt Sarah had moved to London when I was a kid and I had never met her husband and three children. On the 30th of Dec I travelled out of town to spend the day with them, and I had such a lovely time. Sarah cooked me the most spectacular roast dinner (I reckon she could rival my mum in the roast-dinner-with-yorkshire-pudding skill, and that’s saying something). I was so glad to meet her family, and also sad that my own family couldn’t be there too, but hopefully I can drag Mum and Jess over here some time and go and visit together :). Sarah has the nice family photos of us so sadly I don’t have any to post right now. The train trip to their place (at Southend-on-Sea) took about an hour from Central London and on the way I spotted Hadleigh Castle – although we were travelling too fast for me to take a picture.
On New Year’s Eve we decided to forego the crazy partying in the city and stayed at home, since Katie lives at the base off the tallest hill in London. So we enjoyed some nice ciders and at about 11.45pm we ventured up the hill and watched the central city fireworks display from there.
more to come….