The past weeks I have not been able to publish any posts here, but for good reason. I have been travelling to London, Bath, Munich, Salzburg, back to Munich, and to Aalten (a small town on the border between the Netherlands and Germany), to celebrate graduating from LSE (London and Bath), and Christmas with my girlfriend’s family (Munich and Salzburg) and with my family (Aalten). This post will be about the trip to England.
On December 16, my mum, my aunt, and I took the ferry from Hoek van Holland. Travelling from the Netherlands to the U.K. by ferry is definitely recommendable if you are not on a tight time schedule. The passage takes about 6 hours, but there are many upsides. It is quite cheap. You need not worry about the weight of and liquids in your luggage, as you would have to when travelling by plane. Perhaps most notably: it is very relaxed. To see why, check out the pictures below.
Arriving in Harwich, one can get off the ship in minutes, and get on a train that will bring you directly to Liverpool Street Station in London. Unfortunately, we arrived at a Sunday at which maintenance was planned for the railways, so part of the journey from Harwich to London we were on a bus. Nevertheless, the journey to London went pretty smooth, and around 11pm we checked in our London hotel: the Apex City of London Hotel. Opening the door of the hotel room I would be staying in for 4 nights, I was delighted to see my girlfriend again after 2 months of being separated by a big mass of water. Of course, we had stayed in contact via mail, Facebook, and Skype – but I have to say that I was a little nervous nonetheless.
The next day, we (mum, aunt, girlfriend, and I) took an early train from London Paddington to Bath. Bath is a lovely, picturesque city in South West England, with a history going back two millennia. Unfortunately, we picked a wrong day: it was pouring. After warming up with bigs cups of coffee, we headed for Bath’s pride: the Roman Baths. Being informed by electronic tour guides, we admired the baths for almost two hours.
For thousands of years, hot water has been bubbling up at the exact location of the Roman Baths. To enjoy this natural source of hot water, the Romans constructed a bathing complex right above it. What makes the Baths special, is that they have a religious character; the baths also house a temple. The water bubbles up in a big, first pool of water. The Roman dug little canals, so that from here the water flows through a number of baths, before it ends up in the River Avon. The baths are extremely elegantly built, and were believed to have healing powers. It is not hard to imagine it to have been a place of great importance not so long ago. I wish I could have jumped right in.
Having visited the baths, we strolled through the town, admiring its sceneries. We walked across the Pulteney Bridge – one of the few remaining bridges with houses and shops on the bridge itself. We took a relatively early train back to London, and had pizza at the Pizza Express on Great Tower Street. You can get perfectly nice pizzas at Pizza Express (I can particularly recommend the thin crust ones, and then especially the one with goat’s cheese) at a good price. Do not expect good service, though. I have been to several of their branches, and each time the waiters were rude, slow, and lacking an adequate command of the English language, but still dared to ask for a tip. This time, my leather gloves, that I got from my mum only a day earlier, were stolen. Nobody saw anything.
The next day was December 18: graduation day. We got up quite early to run some errands. My girlfriend and I were both graduating from LSE this day. We had to collect our gowns before our ceremonies. A gown, nowadays, is a formal dress for both men and women to wear at certain occasions. For both my girlfriend and me, our graduation ceremonies would be held at the Peacock Theatre, after which receptions would take place in the Shaw Library. This is an elegant and classy room, housed in the 6th floor of the Old Building on the LSE campus – but which cannot really be called a library, given the relatively small amount of books.
Firstly, we visited my girlfriend’s ceremony, and the subsequent reception. Then, it was my turn. The graduation ceremonies were not very special. They were, foremost, pretty long. The receptions had more to them. The Shaw Library proved to be an excellent location, offering wine and fancy snacks, and a cosy yet somehow academic atmosphere, with portraits of serious people looking down at us. Professors that had been teaching us all year showed up, and talked to us and our families (actually saying nice things about us). LSE is a very diverse university. Especially it’s Master programmes attract students from all parts of the world. It is also for this reason that you don’t really get to see the family of your student friends – because they are not really around during the year. It was therefore nice to be able to introduce my mum and aunt to many of the friends I made during my LSE-year, but also to meet my friends’ families.
The reception was over before I knew it, and we had to get ready for the party (without parents) that would follow. An indispensable part of a good party-preparation is eating well and enough. We went to Ping Pong, one of the few hidden restaurants closest to the Tower Bridge on its north side, overlooking St Katharine’s Docks, in which some of the largest, most gorgeous, but also most gaudy London-based yachts lie. Ping Pong is a chain of dim sum restaurants. We did not bother choosing the several bite-sized portions of food ourselves, but rather chose a set menu – a good choice, yummie! Contrary to earlier experiences, it was plenty, too!
Having changed out of our more formal graduation clothing, we headed for the party, which was already in full swing at Dirty Martini. This club is located in the middle of Covent Garden. When we arrived we had to wait, despite being on the guest list – the club was, literally, full. Two of our friends had taken the initiative to this party, but since other programmes did not have such plans, their students showed up anyway – unfortunately, many did before we did. After waiting for 45 minutes, we got in. The rest of the night was great. Perhaps it is better if I leave most of it undescribed. Writing this from a train in a greyish Holland, I already miss everyone who was there that night.
December 19 was our final day in London. We slept in and ran some additional errands. We bought some books at a second-hand book sale in an old church we came across. In the afternoon, we brought my mum and aunt to the train, since they would take the overnight ferry back to the Netherlands. It was nice to have them around, and especially to show them something more of LSE than just its buildings. In the evening we had dinner at Ye Olde Cock Tavern with one of Sarah’s (and I guess now also my) American friends. I thought it to be appropriate for a last dinner in London to eat ‘properly English’, so I ordered ‘bangers and mash‘. Generally not a fan of mashed potatoes and gravy, I found it surprisingly delicious!
All things come to an end, and I guess that, sadly, my London-experience was about to end. But, there were (at least) two lights on the horizon. First, both my girlfriend and I have become enamoured with London to such an extent, that if there is any chance to some day return, we will take it. Second, on a shorter term, we were leaving London to celebrate Christmas with Sarah’s family in Munich and Salzburg – two cities I had not visited before. I hope I can publish a post on the experiences obtained there soon!