London was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had this fascination with London, thanks to the stories of Mary Kate & Ashley, Amanda Bynes, the Cheetah girls, and of course, Harry Potter. These classic childhood movies were all I knew about London, and while through these lenses I caught a glimpse of the city, they obviously couldn’t begin to portray how truly amazing this historic and world capital actually was. The trip was planned at the perfect time; after being abroad for a little over a month, it was about time for a little reunion. Alex and I went to go visit our fellow roomie Nicole, and it felt like we were back in our apartment at PC all living together. Nicole was the perfect guide, and with her help, we got to learned how to “win London” first-hand and we got to see so much of what this city has to offer. I’m only going to mention a few of the highlights of the trip that we got to see because we did so much!
I flew out of Sevilla after my last class Thursday afternoon. This was my first trip traveling outside of Spain! I thought I would be flying by myself, but ironically enough, I discovered that my friend Jake and I were both going to London on the same flight. It was definitely nice to have a travel buddy to accompany me! After three hours, we landed in London-Gatwick airport, where we took a train to Kings Cross Station to meet up with Nicole and Alex, who had arrived earlier that morning. It was so nice seeing them waiting for me to arrive at the station, and we were all so excited to be reunited that we ended up spending an hour at the station catching up with one another. By that point, it was pretty late, so we went back to Nicole’s dorm to drop off my stuff, and then we found this pub close by that was still open to continue sharing our stories about our travels thus far. The pub was definitely an interesting place to be. We walked downstairs to what seemed like a personal birthday party. Everyone was dressed in a very unique style (apparently, this is very typical of London fashion), and everyone was dancing to old pop songs from the 90s. Nicole, Alex, and I just found a booth in the back and ordered some mojitos that were 2-for-1, which is definitely a deal considering how horrible the pound is. I’m pretty sure my bank account hated me after this weekend, but when in London, right?
We woke up early Friday morning to get ready for a jam-packed day. Nicole was so nice enough to plan our whole weekend, and it was great having our own personal tour guide to help us navigate this huge city!
Our first stop of the day was to go to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards. This is a long-lasting tradition that is apparently extremely popular to see because the square was absolutely packed. Buckingham Palace is where the British monarchs reside, and the guards take shifts on protecting the grounds for the Queen. The changing of the guard happens every other day, and the guards march on up, some on horseback and some on foot playing in a band. It was tough seeing the whole thing, but fortunately, I was able to snag a picture of the guards inside the gate.
It wouldn’t be a trip to London without going to see the big clock tower that the city is so well known for. Big Ben is actually just a nickname for the tower, and it’s officially known as the Elizabeth Tower. Apparently, it is the second largest four-faced chiming clock in the world! The street that leads up to Big Ben is lined with the classic red telephone booths. It was so funny because everyone had seemed to think that this one particular telephone booth would make for the best photo, so there was a bit of a line to get your picture taken, but we still managed to get a pretty good shot!
This was probably one of my favorite places in London. We kept walking past Big Ben, down a couple of streets, and then walked up to this beautiful, vast square that was filled with people and activity. The square was absolutely beautiful, filled with fountains and giant lion statues. Alex wanted to climb on top of the lion, but getting up onto the statue was a struggle in it of itself. In the center of the square is a monument called Nelson’s Column, commemorating Horatio Nelson, a British flag officer in the Navy who fought in the Napoleonic Wars. The interesting thing about this officer is that when he died in the Battle of Trafalgar, his body was put in a cask of brandy to be sent back to England for the funeral, but on its trip back, the sailors drank out of the casket. How gross is that! I’m not really sure how they couldn’t have known what their cargo was. We walked into the National History Museum for a bit, as well as the National Portrait Museum. The cool thing about London is that all of the museums have free entrance fees! My favorite piece was probably the video of David Beckham sleeping. Granted, I can’t explain why this was in the museum’s display, but I’m not complaining.
London is filled with bridges! I couldn’t believe how many there are. There are 33 bridges across the River Thames! We walked along the whole passed all the different bridges, each with their own unique architectural style. We definitely got confused while we were trying to find the Black Friars Bridge (obviously, we had to go there…go friars!) Of course, we had to stop by Tower Bridge for a little photo shoot. This bridge is the iconic spot that was used to showcase the Olympic rings during the London 2012 Olympics.
Saturday was a much more relaxing day. Nicole was going to a rugby game, so Alex and I were going to explore the city on our own…or try to. We successfully made it to Kensington Palace and the gardens, where Prince Harry among other royal family members reside. From there, we were a little confused and lost. We walked for what seemed like hours around Hyde Park not knowing what direction to turn. It doesn’t seem like it would be easy to get lost in a park, but trust me, it’s easier than you think!
Thanks for a magical time, London...cheers!