Monday, February 2, 2015

Brighton: London by the Sea

Today I day tripped to Brighton! But, more on that later as I must catch you up to speed on the most current happenings in my life.

The last thing you heard from me was that I attended an Art History in the Pub talk, and that I had just purchased Paris chunnel tickets for Caitlin and myself. Unfortunately, we still have yet to find a place to stay while we are in Paris, but that should be resolved shortly (within the week, or better yet, next few days).

Don't worry, just a few quick things I did this weekend to catch you up to my adventure today!

Austin (my friend from high school studying at Cambridge), was in London with the availability to hang out on Friday morning. After I found out that he had never been to the Shard (seriously, that is basically a criminal offense here), I made reservations for us to eat breakfast there. Since I have eaten breakfast at the Shard twice now, I will share with you what little bit of knowledge I have gleaned from these experiences.

1. Make the reservation in advance. I made our reservation for Friday two weeks in advance and the latest time they had for two was 8:30 (it was a really early morning).
2. Eat BREAKFAST at the Shard. After looking at the menu, breakfast is the cheapest meal by far to eat at the Aqua Shard restaurant, brunch and lunch and dinner are all extremely expensive. Austin and I scooted out of there with paying just 9 or 10 pounds each.
3. Eating breakfast at the Aqua Shard is insanely cheaper than buying a ticket to the lookout deck at the Shard. Austin and I looked up the price for a ticket to the lookout deck while we were eating breakfast. It was something around the price range of 25 pounds for an adult, you also have to make a reservation for the lookout deck as well. The lookout point it somewhere around 80 floors above London, the Aqua Shard restaurant sits on level 31, which is honestly the perfect height above the city.
4. Making a reservation for 2 basically guarantees a window table. The restaurant is laid out so that the tables at the windows are for two people, the next row in from the windows are tables for 4, and further and further back hold more and more people. The first time there I was with two other girls, this ensured us a four person table behind the two person tables at the windows. The view was still amazing, but having the window seat is just so much better!
5. You can walk around the restaurant and take pictures. They only use a portion of the restaurant for breakfast, making the spaces that aren't being used good spots to wander through and take pictures of different parts of the city.
6. You want to use the restroom. The restroom is pretty awesome, they too have floor to ceiling window views, the ladies can wash their hands while looking over London while the guys, as Austin so delicately shared with me, can use the urinals while facing the city.

English Breakfast Tea with a view!
The first 10 minutes we were at the Shard Austin continuously took photos, I can't take him anywhere ;)
Our table was right next to a mirror, so from my seat it looked like I could see a panoramic view of the city, but if you actually focused on it, you saw what is pictured below.

Part of the view from my seat by the mirror
After eating at the Shard, Austin and I went to Tower Bridge where we went on the glass walkway!! It was actually a really fun tour. With your ticket you get to learn how the design of the bridge came to be (in a city-wide competition), see examples of other famous and iconic bridges in the world, tour the engine rooms, and most importantly, walk over the street beneath the bridge!

Who knew the top of the red double decker buses in London were white?!
I love heights and stuff like this so it wasn't a big deal for Austin and I to do this kind of a thing. However, if you are afraid of heights and looking at this photo freaks you out, there is area to walk around the glass floor in the hallway above the bridge, so you aren't forced to face your fears entirely.

We concluded our time together grabbing lunch at Borough Market. If you are in this area of London during lunch time, especially on a weekend, you are doing yourself (and your wallet) a HUGE disservice by not eating at the Borough market! It's a great experience AND relatively cheaper than getting lunch anywhere else in the city.

Friday was a busy day for me. After saying bye to Austin I curled up in my bed with some netflix (my feet and legs were exhausted, we did a lot of walking and I woke up extremely early) until I headed of to our second Drink and Draw!

This past Friday our Drink and Draw artists were Mondrian and Pollack.

This is my Mondrian replica/influenced piece! I love it!
I am really excited that Drink and Draw is a thing we decided to do this term. It's nice to get my creative juices flowing since I'm not a current practicing artist. I've found myself throughout the week sketching and coloring as a result and it is very relaxing and reflective for me!

Saturday night was fun too! I met up with Adrienne (my Londoner friend), and went bowling with a group of her friends from church. I've met quite a few of these people a handful of times and it was good to see friendly and familiar faces again! I also was reminded how awful I am at bowling, but how much fun it is to bowl!

My mom said I have good form, apparently its my aim I need to work on...
FINALLY, to end off my long weekend slash start my week, a group of us went to Brighton today!

Street art on the beach
Brighton was seriously so much fun today! It always does my soul good to escape the busy cramped city of London, and it always does my heart good to see the ocean!

We got on a one hour train to Brighton this morning, and right when we arrived (at 12noon) we headed straight to the beach!

Four American girls on a deserted beach can only mean one thing, loads of candid photos!! It was so much fun taking crazy pics with these girls, and some of them actually came out really great!

That awkward moment when.....
Selfie on the beach! (Tara, Nini, Maddy, me)
We got quite a workout in, doing back bends and hand stands...

...and taking about a billion jumping pics trying to get one right! (me, Tara, and Nini)
Me and Brighton Pier, reminded me a lot of Galveston, TX!
We didn't necessarily show up to Brighton with an itinerary, just a plan of the sights we wanted to see. Amazingly, once to the beach we could see Brighton Pier not too far away, maybe a 7-10 minute leisurely stroll.

View from the pier
View from the pier
Brighton Pier was also relatively stranded, I mean, it is February, which is the PERFECT time to tour Europe if you ask me. All the kids were entertained with the arcade games, which were inside a large heated room on the pier. The weather actually wasn't that bad either. It wasn't windy, it didn't rain, and we weren't cold until after the sun went down! Pretty successful for February!

All along the pier were cut outs, we legit have 5 or 6 different pictures of us in cutouts like this one! It was hilarious and made for great memories on the pier! (Maddy and Tara)
After taking our sweet time soaking in the abandoned pier, we went to high tea! Tara found a place called Blackbird Tea Rooms online and it was only a 10-15 minute walk from the pier! They had really big portions, a quaint and cosy interior, and yummy treats! I was too caught up in all the goodness to take any pictures of the great experience! And, since we weren't in London, it was actually "cheap" compared to London High Teas!

The other thing on our list was the Royal Pavilion. We actually saw it in passing when going to the Blackbird Tea Room, so it was an easy 3-5 minute walk back to the Pavilion. We paid 9 pounds for entrance fees (thanks student discount!) and took a tour of the Oriental Gothic structure that has been a sight of controversy in Brighton since its conception.

I mean seriously, that architecture
Audio guides are included in the entrance fee, and I would recommend grabbing one even if you don't plan to use it. There aren't many info panels in the Pavilion, so the audio guide eventually comes in handy.

Once again, no pictures were allowed in the Pavilion, but don't worry, I couldn't let you down. I once again used my amazing creeper photo taking skills and snapped a picture of this INCREDIBLE dining hall. Seriously, it is the second or third room you see upon entering the Pavilion and it makes the admission fee completely worth it. Unfortunately, the magnificence and splendor of this room is not at all portrayed in this low quality image, but you get the idea.

The Royal Pavilion is pretty awesome. The outside architecture is Indian inspired and the inside design is Chinese in inspiration. There is really nothing like it in the rest of England.

Just look at that big onion dome!
After touring the Pavilion we went walking through the Lanes (an iconic part of town with narrow streets and cute boutique shops!) where we did some shopping. After shopping, we found a Chinese restaurant to eat dinner at on our way back to the station. Our train out of Brighton was at 7:20, so we had 7 hours in the city and we never felt rushed or hurried to get anything done, it was the perfect amount of time.

It was amazing to have the unique city of Brighton all to ourselves on a day like today, I can only imagine how this place fills up with tourists during the warmer months. Personally, I prefer the colder climate and empty city to the warmer weather and mobs of tourists!

I'm really hoping to keep this weekly Monday adventure going until I'm too overwhelmed with school that I physically can not mark an item off my time abroad list! Which means you'll just have to stay tuned for more of my travels and experiences coming soon!

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