“Sometimes it’s time to get away from it all and experience things in a completely different way.” -Kim Mance
Another destination and another adventure = complete! Last Thursday, I spent an unpleasant night in the Madrid airport before taking a 6am flight to London. I was able to cross off most of my dream to-do list for the trip which was very exciting! Unfortunately, Kate Middleton was a little too busy being a new mom and a Duchess to meet with us. Maybe next time…
When we finally arrived in London, our first stop was Buckingham Palace. We initially didn’t even realize it was the palace because it’s very different from the elaborate castles and palaces that we’ve become accustomed to seeing in Spain. There is a beautiful park near the palace that we walked through before going to Big Ben. I was thrilled to get my dream phone booth picture with Big Ben in the background. We saw Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey before having a traditional English meal for lunch near the Abbey.
Exhausted from a sleepless night in the airport, we didn’t do much more sightseeing in the afternoon and what we did was by bus. That night, I met my friend Nara at an Italian restaurant for dinner. One of my favorite memories from the trip was seeing her for the first time on the sidewalk near my hostel and running towards each other for a big hug! I loved seeing a friend from back home and hearing all about her study abroad experience in London. Before we know it, we will be back to working at Silverwood together and seeing each other on campus.
The next day, we took a double-decker bus to the Knightsbridge neighborhood. Before going to London, I didn’t realize that the iconic red double-decker buses were in fact city buses! We took them frequently and it was a great way to see a lot of the city for a cheap price. In Knightsbridge, we saw the house from The Parent Trap, one of my all time favorite movies. We also saw Harrod’s Department Store, which was beautifully decorated for Christmas.
After seeing a little of Knightsbridge, we boarded another bus back to the center of London to tour the Tower of London. Expecting to wait in line for most of the morning, we got there early. Surprisingly, we walked right in and never had to wait in line! It was interesting to hear about all of the history in the Tower of London that was the royal palace and fortress for many years. For many centuries, it was also a prison and a place where many people we tortured. We heard stories of beheadings and other horrible tortures that happened to those who betrayed the Crown in past centuries.
The Tower is situated right along the Thames River, very close to London Bridge. We also learned about all of the wild animals that once lived there, including lions, monkeys, elephants, and polar bears who would swim in the river! One highlight of the tour was seeing all of the Crown Jewels, mostly crowns worn by royalty past and present.
After the tour, we walked across the London Bridge and then had lunch at a cute bistro near a marina on the river. Our next stop was the London Eye. Unfortunately, we did not take a spin on the Eye like I had hoped, but we did get to see it up close! Near the London Eye was a Christmas market with lots of food and gifts for sale. It was our first Christmas related activity of the semester, so we were excited to feel in the holiday spirit! The nice thing about not celebrating Thanksgiving in Europe is getting to skip ahead to Christmas and having it be completely acceptable. My friend Bri even got to meet “Father Christmas”.
The main highlight of the Christmas market was finding our favorite Czech dessert! In London, they were called “Chimney Cakes” and weren’t quite as delicious as the real thing in Prague, but a close second. After leaving the Christmas market, we went to Winter Wonderland, a winter fair that occurs in Hyde Park each year. There are many rides, shops, and food tents. We tried some mulled apple cider and then spent most of the evening in the Bavarian Village where we ate German foods and drank German beer while listening to fun live music and staying out of the cold!
The next morning, we traveled back to Toledo. I would call our trip to London a great success! Even though it felt very cold to us, we lucked out and had a relatively warm and sunny weekend for London standards. I throughly enjoyed hearing so much English and being able to communicate with everyone with ease (although I will admit that some people had such strong accents, I could have used a translator!). I hope to return one day and complete my to-do list, but until then I am satisfied with my short and sweet London experience!
This weekend is my final trip with my friends. We are leaving for Paris on Friday morning. I’m excited for Paris, but also very ready to take a break from traveling. I have loved every trip, but it is exhausting to experience a city in one weekend. I am also excited to be done with hostels and days spent in airports.
School is quickly winding down, only two more weeks of classes before finals week. I can’t believe how fast this semester has gone! I am still one of the few students who has little desire to go home (sorry friends and family, it’s nothing against you!). I have told many of my friends that in a perfect world, I would go home for Christmas and winter break, but then return for another semester in late January. Unfortunately, that’s not very practical financially, but I know one day I will return again, even if it’s not for 3.5 months.
Until next time…