Adventure 5, Part 1: Toussaints in London

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Salut tout le monde! This post is coming faster on the heels of the last one. Maybe I’m finally getting my act together… We can only hope.

So this post is all about fall break. For about every six weeks of school here, there are two weeks of break: we have a fall break, Christmas break, a break in February, and a spring break in April. So while students here have been in school since September, after only two weeks of us assistants “officially” working, we had our first break. It’s called Toussaints, which literally means “all saints” – tous saints.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (this summer in the US), Breanna called me up with an urgent question: Do you want to go see Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch on fall break?? Of course I said yes! Not only going to London, but going to see Hamlet in London. Not only seeing Hamlet in London, but seeing it starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Everything I’ve ever hoped and dreamed. The tickets had been sold out for ages, but Breanna had been watching online for tickets to be returned, and when she called me she had two tickets on hold. So we spent a ridiculous amount of money on the tickets and started planning a trip to London!

We also added another member to our clan before we actually took off – when Joan and I met on our training day, we really hit it off. I had mentioned that Breanna and I were going to England for Toussaints, and she didn’t have any plans yet, so she asked if she could join. It was so much fun with the three of us together; our personalities really meshed well and we helped each other stay de-stressed and laughing through all the mishaps! So here we go… Get ready for a TON of pictures (credit goes to Breanna for most of the actual pictures of our faces)!

We decided to meet in Paris and from there take an overnight bus to London, since that was the cheapest way and we also wouldn’t have to pay for a hotel room that night. Because of various setbacks, including Joan’s train leaving early without her on it and my ride leaving later than expected, we all got to Paris pretty late at night, rather than early afternoon. We got on the megabus – yes, it exists in Europe too! – around 10pm and set off.

We made it to the ferry dock in the middle of the night and everyone had to get off to go through border control. It was freezing outside and inside the tiny building where the officers looked at our papers. When we got back on the bus, we sat there for quite a while, so we were wondering what was going on. After a long time, the bus driver came over the intercom and informed us that somehow we had missed our ferry, and so the bus was going to be a couple hours late getting into London. We tried not to panic at this point, because we had booked a tour for the day that left an hour after our bus was supposed to get in. There was nothing we could do, so we just sat there on the bus for another long while until we finally drove onto the next ferry. On the ferry, we all got off the bus and headed up. You’re probably aware that I really don’t like deep water, so I was slightly freaking out as we could feel the ferry rocking a bit underneath us. I kept myself calm by just putting my head down on the table and going to sleep, which worked because it was like 4am.

Breanna caught a picture of me and Joan dead to the world on the ferry ride haha. I don’t know if I’ve ever slept better than I did on that table!!

After about an hour’s crossing, we trudged back onto the bus and set off on English soil to make our way to London!

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My very first look at Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament from the megabus window!!
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My very first double-decker red bus sighting!!

In a miraculous and still-not-understood turn of events, our bus arrived at its stop in London only 30 minutes after the scheduled time, so as soon as the bus’ wheels stopped turning, we flew off the bus and started walking. At this point, it was 8am, so we had half an hour to get to our stop where the tour bus was going to pick us up.

We made it on time, and we were SO excited. I couldn’t believe that we’d actually made it. The tour day was amazing! We had debated on trying to go out and see places like Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon on our own, but it was going to be very complicated and not necessarily cheaper than having a tour. And let’s be honest, I’m enough of a nerd that having a guided tour sounds like a fun activity to me! We’d booked the Stratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, and Oxford tour, and it was a lovely, lovely day.

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Some first looks at the English countryside, ft. the bus’ emergency exit sign.

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It was a beautiful day!

We slept for the first almost two hours we were on that bus as we made our way out, and we were even able to get some Starbucks for breakfast at a rest stop. Truly amazing.

Our first stop was Stratford-upon-Avon! Yes, Shakespeare!!

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First we saw the church where Shakespeare is buried.
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There were graves all around the front of the church.

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There were some beautifully carved pipes on the inside!

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And here it is! The bones of ol William himself. I only freaked out a little.

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Hey, John Hall! Maybe we’re distantly related!
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The bust that is apparently the most accurate one out of representations of Shakespeare.
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The font where Shakespeare is believed to have been baptized.

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So this is really cool. During the Reformation, most icons and carvings of Jesus, etc. in England were destroyed. However, this carving of Jesus up in the top of the little nook was missed. You can see it in the mirror.
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Everything I said, but fancier and more reliable.
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It was really a perfect time for us to visit, with the fall leaves and the good weather.

Seeing that church was super cool. Our tour guide was really knowledgeable, and he was really funny too, so he was able to give us so much information throughout the whole trip! Next we walked through the town and eventually ended up at Shakespeare’s birthplace.

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These types of buildings were everywhere, and you can see our tour guide Ian in the bottom left corner!
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Shakespeare’s school. They were doing renovations, thus the “keep out!”
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These kinds of buildings are also typical in Normandy, so it felt familiar to see them all along the road!

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The English majors!

Then we got to Shakespeare’s home and were let loose to explore!

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Headed inside!
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The actual bedroom where Shakespeare was born!!
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Also in the parents’ bedroom
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A window that people used to sign when they came to visit this house – there are some pretty famous signatures on there!

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They had it set up all old-timey, of course.

In one of the rooms, we talked to the guide person in there for like half an hour; he was a sweet older man who’s been working in there for years! He was hilarious, and he knew so much information just off the top of his head. He also recited several things for us, which was cool.

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The back of the house.
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In the little museum beside the house.
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They have these statues all over town representing characters from different Shakespeare plays!
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Another angle of the house.

Seeing all of that was so amazing. Next, we got back on the bus and headed out into the Cotswolds, which is basically the English countryside. Bear with a couple of blurry pictures here!

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Sheep everywhere!

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Beautiful countryside
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A church in a little village we stopped and walked around in.
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Traditional thatched roof houses

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After we had lovely stroll through a few villages, we rode off to Oxford! Y’all… Oxford was magical.

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Like what even kind of building is this?? A magic one.

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Inside Oxford’s cathedral
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Also inside the cathedral.
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The Radcliffe Camera
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And here we are in front of it! England weather started living up to its reputation at this point in the day, haha.
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The outside of the most amazing library that unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to go into because we’re not students. (Yet!!)

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We had some real afternoon tea in one of the cafes in Oxford! It was heavenly.
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Here’s Joan and I being silly. We were so slap-happy this whole trip; it was amazing.
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More laughing in front of a museum!

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We didn’t have nearly enough time to explore Oxford like I wanted to, but it was great to see what we did see. And afternoon tea was the bomb.

After we made it back to London, we went out in search of our hostel. It was pretty easy to find, and situated perfectly – right next to St. Paul’s Cathedral!

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These pictures were taken the next day; we didn’t get to our hostel till the evening on Sunday!

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Absolutely gorgeous.

It cost a bit too much money for us to actually go inside, but it’s incredibly beautiful!

We had burgers at a restaurant that was open late, after a failed attempt to get into Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, one of the oldest pubs in London. At this point, we were just incredibly slap-happy. All I really remember from that meal was the excessive laughing that we did. After basically staying up all night on the bus and then going all day, we were so tired!!

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So we were really glad to get to the hostel. None of us had stayed in a hostel before, but it was cheap and we were excited to check it out. The rooms were unisex, with eight people in each. The first night, it was just us and one other really nice girl in our room. The beds were very oddly positioned, but we were tired enough that nothing could’ve kept us from sleeping at that point!

Can you believe all of that happened and that was just the first day? We woke up the next morning and went out for a London breakfast. Then this day was Hamlet day! Because Joan didn’t have a ticket, we decided to go to the Barbican theatre and see if they had any returns. We were told that there was a high probability that she could get a ticket if she waited in line, and so that’s what we decided to do!

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Our queue selfie! We felt very British, as apparently Brits take queuing very seriously.

We waited for a while, then Breanna graciously volunteered to save her spot in line while Joan and I went and visited the Tower of London. Breanna had already been to the Tower of London, so she wasn’t going to pay to go in again anyway. She was a trooper for sitting there for hours!!

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Random Roman ruins we saw in the middle of the city. No big deal.

After getting slightly lost and taking several construction detours, Joan and I got to the Tower!

me at the tower of london!

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Tower Bridge!
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And our selfie in front of it from the Tower wall!

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The tower in the middle
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Prisoners carved a ton of things into the walls when imprisoned in the Tower.

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Headed in to see the Crown Jewels. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in there, unfortunately, but it was super interesting to see! It does give me a better perspective on revolts against monarchies, though (yikes).
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We had some fun inside the armory..
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The torture room!!

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The torture room from the top of the stairs. I felt like I was going into the Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang torture room!
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Tower ravens
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Prisoners’ entrance

Joan and I had so much fun wandering around the Tower and seeing everything. After we’d gotten our fill, we went back to the Barbican and Joan took her place in line while Breanna and I went back to our hostel to change outfits for the play! When we got back, Joan had a ticket!! We were so excited and so glad she ended up getting one!

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Before the play!

So we grabbed a sandwich for dinner from the cafe inside the theatre and sat on some steps eating it. I decided to go to the bathroom before the play started, and while I was headed there, I saw someone who looked familiar. I didn’t think about it for a second, then I was like wait, why does he look familiar? And I realized it was Andrew Scott!! And then I freaked out. But he went into the bathroom and also I didn’t want to be weird, so I didn’t say anything to him. But I definitely freaked out.

The play was amazing. I know I’m using that word a lot. But it’s true. Our seats were phenomenal. And like I know Benedict Cumberbatch is a great actor, but seeing it live right in front of my eyes was incredible. He was so good at delivering the funny lines, the serious lines, the epic lines; he delivered every type of line so skillfully. And the whole entire cast did a fabulous job!! Seriously, I was blown away. Ophelia especially was really good. I also loved how the director interpreted the play overall; I thought its direction and staging was interesting and different, but at the same time didn’t compromise the integrity of the original script. It was just… Ugh. Amazing. Basically the highlight of my life.

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Our selfie afterward. You can see how elated I am! Haha it was definitely a high.

After much debate, we decided to wait outside the stage doors. It was a really interesting experience, and it was actually really fun! We weren’t up at the very front, but Breanna with her height and long arms got some good pictures!

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Andrew Scott! I knew it was him!!
And Benedict!! Looking so soft with his “jumper” and glasses. Wow. I still can’t believe I was so close. 

Man. I’m feeling excited again just writing about this play experience haha. It was such a highlight. Well worth the ridiculous amount of money we spent on seats.

Our night at the hostel Monday night was much more interesting than the night before – every bed in the room (besides ours, of course) was filled with someone sleeping when we got home from Hamlet! So it was a quiet and dark scramble to get ready for bed, but boy were we ready to sleep.

What I’ve written about so far is only about half of our trip!! We packed so much into the four-ish days we were there. So since this post is already about 2500 words, I think I’m going to divide the trip into two posts. Be looking for part two soon! As always, thanks for reading!! You all are the best. Till London part two –

à bientôt xx






One thought on “Adventure 5, Part 1: Toussaints in London

    leahtravelstheearth said:
    7 December 2015 at 2:15 am

    How cool Kalee!! This was a fun read! Thanks for all the pictures! I’m so jealous you got to see Benedict live in person!! Looks like it was an awesome trip! 😀


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