The whole BYU Centre is a bit on edge today... we were all supposed to leave tomorrow but with the Icelandic volcano eruption that doesn't seem possible. The eruption created a giant ash cloud that's blocking the airspace above the UK, so all flights are still grounded, indefinitely. The worst part is not knowing when planes will be back up... As of tonight they keep canceling flights every few hours. I guess I'm not flying to Lisbon tomorrow... Haha you never really think of England as an island until you're stranded on it!
But on a happier note I had a great day today. This morning Ali and I went to see the Changing of the Guards (finally!) at Buckingham Palace. It was a beautiful sunny day (never any sign of ash) and so warm! I loved seeing the Royal British guards in uniform with the great marching band and formality and all... British patriotism in full force. As soon as I got home I started packing! It took me hours and hours... I barely fit everything in to my 2 suitcases! I was literally jumping on a suitcase. I didn't realize how many souvenirs and clothing I'd bought here! A lot of girls are mailing things home and leaving stuff here... but I can't seem to part with anything haha.
This evening I got to see Melinda and her family! They've been traveling on holiday and have been in southern England recently, and came by today to pick up mine and Ali's luggage, to hold it for us while we go backpacking for a month... so helpful! It was so fun seeing them!! They came to the Centre and I even brought Clara all the way up to my dorm. She said it was very messy, which is an understatement. It's a disaster area of half-packed suitcases and giant mess piles. With everyones' flights canceled, no one has finished packing. That and our room is always a pigsty anyway.
We packed the luggage into Melinda's car and went to dinner at Nando's together. Delicious. Her kids are adorable! We went back to the Centre and Melinda gave me a huge box full of Easter candy! Chocolate and candy and 5 packages of digestives!! I was thrilled to say the least. I do happen to like British candy... :) There were doubles of everything so Ali had a share of the love too :) I love you guys!
Well... no chance of catching a flight to Portugal today. My backpacking trip is delayed indefinitely. There have been panicked overblown rumors flying around that the Centre was kicking us out on monday (the program ended today) so this morning we had a program meeting, and our director Macfarlane assured us (with a message from BYU) that we would be taken care of here. We can stay at the Centre until we find a way home, and if necessary they'll put us up in hostels. Still though, everyone's going a little mad. People are stressed about getting home (for some people it's urgent... they could miss weddings, graduation, the start of spring semester, etc). And of course the mice have now taken over my room. They're not afraid of us anymore! They come out at night, leaping over our mess and looking for food that (hopefully..) doesn't even exist in our room! It's disgusting. And I'm feeling stranded and kind of trapped here! Normally I would love extra days in London, but I'm anxious to start my backpacking trip! I don't want to miss out on anything we've planned. Although... London is a great place to be stranded in. :) This isn't a natural disaster or anything dangerous, so I'm lucky that I have shelter and everything I need to wait out the ash cloud. I'm just waiting in limbo...
Today Ali and I went to Portobello Road for the last time (haha my third time saying that) and it was a lovely spring day. Ash-free of course. I got a famous Hummingbird Bakery cupcake and a chocolate crepe. We spent the rest of the day looking for an escape route to the continent (much easier than trying to get to America!). We're getting creative. The Chunnel (the underwater train to France/Belgium) has been insane the last couple days (I saw pictures on the news... Overcrowded chaos). We've been looking into ferries, the ferry to Spain in 24 hours long (woo!) and if it lets us get through we'll book that. We rescheduled our Lisbon flight for tomorrow night but who knows...
PS and tonight Cam, Ali Calvin, Katie, Jake and I went out to dinner at a great Italian restaurant on Queensway. It's amazing that I've lived so close to it but never went! Yay for second chances. :)
AND tonight a group of us watched the original BBC 6-hour-long Pride and Prejudice! It was fun but I almost didn't last... we started it at 9 pm haha.
PSS and technically today was my first day of backpacking! I will be wearing the same 4 t-shirts, 1 long sleeve shirt, 2 pairs of jeans, and 1 black (boys') jacket for the next month or so. I've got 1 pair of sneakers, not really any jewelry, limited make-up, 1 little micro-fiber towel, and a bar of shampoo-conditioner. Yay for my new backpacking-grunge style! I kinda miss my colorful cardigans already haha. But this is an adventure. :)
Another day of escape-planning and watching movies. Our flight tonight was canceled, of course. The ferries are booked through next week. But by some miracle we found a Chunnel to Brussels on Wednesday, for an almost normal price of £75! Chunnel prices for the next couple days have skyrocketed to like £400. We booked the Chunnel immediately... I feel so relieved that we have a way to the continent! We're just going to delay our backpacking trip a few days, but not cut out anything. :) Haha and since we are getting to Belgium (where we had planned to end our trip) we are doing the entire trip backwards! We have to reschedule some fights and hostel bookings, but it'll be fine.
Today we had our last Centre dinner (again haha) and for my crew, kitchen duty was reinstated. Yuck. People ditched out, again, but it wasn't so bad because other people helped.
Today was fabulous! I slept in and then spent the rest of the day out enjoying London, which I haven't been able to do in over a week (since before finals). Haha and we were supposed to be out of the Centre today since they're starting clean-up and construction work inside. Ali and I topped up our Tube passes and went to Piccadilly Circus. We'd planned to go to the Rail Europe office to book much-needed train reservations, but there were hundreds of people in line! Literally, the line stretched around the corner, down the block, around the corner, down the block, and on. We decided to return tomorrow morning, and instead got lunch at Eat. I will miss these cute places! We enjoyed walking around for awhile, and ended up in front of the new musical Hair, which we bought tickets to see tonight, on a whim.
Next we took the tube over to Tate Britain, which I hadn't seen much of. It wasn't as great as 'd expected... apparently the only room I had seen before (on a class field trip) was the best room in the museum. There was some dumb modern art, medieval Christian art, and some good 18th and 19th century art. Afterwards we went to Westminster, my favorite place in London! I saw Big Ben, the London Eye, and Parliament for the last time. We took lots of London-y pictures of Big Ben and red telephone booths and other things I love here. :) I also got my favorite Tesco chocolates there. We walked to Trafalgar Square and spent some time in the National Gallery, one of my favorite museums. We got dinner at Little Frankie's, a cute little American-Italian diner nearby, and then walked to Piccadily Circus. I freaking love London! We wandered around, people-watching, and then we saw the show Hair. It was.. wow. Definitely an experience haha. It's all about hippies, sex, and drugs. I didn't love it at first, because it was kind of repetitive and there wasn't really a plot. Right before intermission the whole cast stripped naked in seconds! It happened so fast I was shocked haha. Kind of disturbing. I liked the second half much better though. The show was about hippies in the 60s (free love and wacked-out drugs) and the Vietnam War. Throughout the show the actors got involved with the audience by climbing on top of chairs and passing out daisies and fliers. It was fun and at the end everyone was dancing... some of the audience got on stage to dance, and Ali decided to do it and tried to bring me with her, which I stubbornly refused. I usually avoid stages haha. And I'm not that coordinated. :) So she ran on stage and danced with everyone... by the time he came back I already regretted not going up there with her! It looked so fun! Bummer. Next time I get a chance to do something like that, I will!
My last day in London! Sad. Ali and I woke up early to get to the Rail Europe office before it opened... good thing we did! We were #88 in line, and they only see 145 people a day. We waited in line 4 and a half hours! We met some interesting people; two (Boston University) study abroad students-turned-backpackers (like us) a cute old Scottish couple. We finally reached the front of the queue and the cranky stressed-out manager turned us away and said that we were just trying to go on holiday and they were only helping emergencies, and that we couldn't get our rail pass-holder discount! We panicked, because we can't go backpacking without making train reservations and this office is the only way to do it, until the guy at our desk said it'd be fine. We were able to book every train we needed reservations for, and other big ones we needed in case the trains were overcrowded. By the time we left we'd spent over 5 hours at the Rail Europe office!
Our next stop was lunch, and then we took the tube home. We spent awhile wandering Kensington Gardens... which was gorgeous. Spring is finally in full bloom, so the trees and flowers were all green and colorful and pretty, and everyone was out with their dog or kids. And we met our first celebrity! Haha although we didn't know it... His dog jumped on us and he was apologizing, and then some teenagers behind us freaked out and asked for a picture with him, and we heard that his name was Alan. Later we googled him and recognized him as the British comedian/actor Alan Carr. I finally saw a celebrity in London. Pretty cool. :)
We spent the rest of the day in the Centre, hanging out with people and having our last program devotional. Ali, Cam, Calvin and I got dinner at Tuk Tuk Thai, and afterwards I enjoyed one last Magnum ice cream bar. Ali and I booked all of our hostels for April, packed our big backpacks, and said goodbye to everyone. It was sad... I'm going to miss so many of the amazing people that I've met here! London study abroad has pretty much been the best (and the coolest) experience of my life. This has been the most fun, busy, thrilling, new, exciting semester of my life here in London, and I have seen and experienced so many amazing things! If I didn’t have so many journal entries and thousands of pictures I don’t know if I’d believe it all. And my adventures get to continue for another month! I am so lucky and blessed and I am so grateful to my parents for helping me get this far and keep going. I most definitely couldn’t have done any of this without them. I love you guys so much! I can’t wait to see you all in May. I have lots of stories and pictures and presents for you. :) Traveling through Europe is fulfilling my biggest dream and I am so thrilled to continue my adventures!
PS Update: the ash cloud cleared enough wednesday 4/21 for planes to fly! Nice timing :)
PPS. Ali and I are backpacking through Europe for 1 month, and we are visiting...
Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Florence (on my birthday! a dream come true...), Siena, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon! Then back to London and then home to California! Woo! :)
Blog: to be continued....