My last trip of the semester concluded on Sunday with a weekend to London!
And what a difference it was to be in an English-speaking country and eating actual eggs, sausage, and pancakes for breakfast (as opposed to the typical Italian croissant and Nutella). I almost felt like I was home!
The U.K. is an hour behind Italy, and Thursday morning’s flight had us up at an early start. Once we arrived at the Stansted Airport at around 9 a.m., we then had to take a 40 minute shuttle ride to Hyde Park. As opposed to the wonderful hostel experience I had in Barcelona, the hostel we booked for London was a little different…to say the least. There were 12 people to a very narrow and small room, with two stacks of three bunk beds! There was no room for my suitcase anywhere on the floor, so I had to sleep with it at the foot of my bed. But I guess that just further motivated us to stay outdoors and enjoy the city as much as possible, even if the weather was slightly chillier and cloudier than Rome. (At least it didn’t rain though, right?)
On our first full day in London, we set out on a bus tour that looped around the main sites of the city. You could jump on and off at any of the sites as you pleased and our ticket included a free boat tour up the Thames River. One of the first places we saw was Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the U.K. parliament, the Palace of Westminster. Apparently, however, “Big Ben” is just the nickname for the bell that resides inside the Elizabeth Tower clock, so you can’t really see Big Ben…you can only hear it. The tower holds the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world!
The boat tour’s destination was Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress, or more commonly known as the Tower of London, and we passed below a number of bridges on the Thames to reach it. Two of the most notable were the London Bridge and the Tower Bridge, which most people confuse for the other. The Tower Bridge is the iconic bridge of London, and displayed the olympic rings during the 2012 Olympics. We also passed under the Millennium Bridge, which I recognized from the Harry Potter movies, so I was excited about that. Other attractions visible from the river tour included the London Eye, which is like a ferris wheel that yields spectacular views of the city, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater (a replica with the original construction of the thatched roof), and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
After our day of tourist attractions, we spent the rest of the trip walking through Paddington and Oxford Street. We ate at a couple of pubs and my roommate even ordered an authentic English dinner of bangers and mash. Of course we each had to stop and take pictures inside the iconic telephone booths. And even though I failed to see any of my favorite British celebrities, aka Harry Styles of One Direction, I still had a great time in London! The city was very eclectic and modern, but never lost its quaint, old English royal feel. Most of the buildings were white marble and white cherry blossoms lined the streets. Every empty space was filled with flowers and greenery, not to mention the dozens of parks that broke up the city. I can definitely see myself traveling back.