What a whirlwind weekend. It seems like everything that could have gone right in London did go right. London was also my last international trip until I go home, and the only city that made me wish I studied abroad there (*important note: not instead of Madrid, maybe in addition to though…). I went with the Madrid girls in my sorority (minus Anna and Rachel) Allison, Eliza, Morgan, and Alexa, and I even ran into my friend Vic from high school and my sister’s boyfriend David!
I flew into London Gatwick airport late at night, but had to rush through customs (only other passport stamp I’ve needed to get disappointingly), withdraw some pounds (feeling that exchange rate, thanks Econ), buy a ticket to Victoria Station in downtown London and change two metro lines all before public transportation closed at 12:30 am. At least these people speak English! London was the first time I’ve been in a native English-speaking country since August. That’s crazy.
After so many
close calls lucky breaks, Morgan, Eliza and I arrived at Palmers Lodge Hostel in Swiss Cottage, which was nice, clean, conveniently located, and appeared to be a renovated mansion. We were with Allison and Alexa in a room of three rows of three bunk beds which we affectionately called “The Treehouse.” We ate the most delicious croissants and toast at the included breakfast, and set off to Abbey Road. We also met up briefly with our friend Sarah who is studying in London, but she was off to Scotland that weekend.
After narrowly avoiding some traffic incidents trying to take this picture (Abbey Road is indeed an actual road), we explored Baker Street (The Great Mouse Detective anyone?!) and ate lunch
in Heaven at Chipotle before heading off to ok now I mean Heaven Harry Potter World (!!!!!!!).
Harry Potter World is the movie set compound for all eight movies and is unlike any other place I’ve ever been. I can still remember my Auntie Elise giving my sister Michelle and I our first copies of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and how Harry, Ron and Hermione’s coming of age paralleled my own. I was one of those kids lucky enough to get into Harry Potter at a young age, but even as I’ve grown up I have continued to re-read the stories and get lost in the, well, magic of it all. J.K. Rowling is an inspirational storytelling visionary, and people of all ages can take something away from reading her stories, even the Muggles.
When it was time to leave Harry Potter World, we went back to central London, explored the Oxford Circus Station metro area decorated for Christmastime and had dinner and hard cider (YUM) at Garfunkel’s before catching the metro back to Swiss Cottage. The London Underground, or “Tube” took a little getting used to because rides are more expensive, tickets need to be checked at the entrance and exit, and the lines are named instead of just going by the stops (“Jubilee” was our lucky line). It wasn’t the most confusing metro I’ve been in, but it was different to have cushioned seats and not have people staring at you like they do in Madrid.
The next morning, we caught a FREE walking tour from our hostel around London from a
struggling British actor Eddie (how Study Abroad/European is that?!).
London Walking Tour:
- Green Park where we saw people training and fathers playing with babies.
- Caught the Changing of the Guard in front of Buckingham Palace (LOOK WHO I WAS STANDING NEXT TO).
- Big Ben/Houses of Parliament/St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Westminster Abbey
- London Bridge
- Tower Bridge (with David!)
- Camden Pub Crawl (7:30pm- 1am. In Madrid we go 11:30pm-6 am)
Sunday morning, Morgan and I got up a little earlier and went back to Westminster Abbey to walk around the monastery and surrounding gardens (we couldn’t go inside because we didn’t have time to stay for the whole mass). We also got another view of the London Eye before meeting up with the others at King’s Cross Station to take the famous “Platform 9 3/4” photograph that all Harry Potter fans will recognize. We took a train out of the station back to the airport, and I spent my last few remaining pounds on a sandwich, a UK version of Cosmopolitan magazine, and some candy in the Gatwick airport.
Overall, I was enamored by London. The jolly yet refined accents, the helpful and stylish people, the cosmopolitan and clean look and feel of the city itself, and the overwhelming amount of history in such a large place made me feel like I’d need at least a week to even cover the basics. I definitely need to go back to London. The city is so big that transportation to and fro requires so much time, money, and energy, but I feel like I was able to cover a lot in the weekend I had there, and it was definitely a top weekend of the semester with my friends. The lifestyle and daily routine is SO different from Madrid, but as my new friend from the Pub Crawl pointed out, “traveling to new cities is what makes you cultured“.