A Stroll through Notting Hill & Camden

30 January 2017

Day 24 in London

As we had to stay in London this weekend for our day trip to Oxford on Saturday, I had my Friday off and decided to do some more exploring in London. The next borough to explore was Notting Hill and I went with a bunch of girls from my flat.

We took the tube to Notting Hill and decided to walk to Portobello Road which also just so happens to be where the Portobello Market is. I’m not usually one for markets as they tend to be way too crowded, but Portobello Market was quite cute and not too busy!

We came from Notting Hill Gate tube station, so we worked our way north up Portobello Road. There were both little permanent shops on the street with tables set up in front of them, as well as pop-up carts set up on the streets. There were little shops with books, jewelry, antiques, fruit, crepes, basically anything you could want.

We stopped in a little bakery where everything smelled amazing and then continued on our walk. It was so cool to stop and look at everything.

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I was so surprised at how bright and colorful Notting Hill was. Very different from the pristine white buildings I’m used to in Kensington.

We walked up almost the entire street and then decided to go back to the tube station and make our way to Camden for the last few hours of daylight we had.

Camden was…very very different and not quite what I had expected it to be. It was mainly full of young people with tattoos, piercings and individuals who looked pretty goth. There were open shops lining the main street, and once we crossed over a bridge, we entered a covered market area.

The one thing we had planned on doing in Camden was going to Chin Chin Lab. Prior to coming to London, someone had posted in our UW Facebook group page about Chin Chin Lab. They are known for their hot chocolate that has marshmallow fluff on the top.

The shop was packed, but we waited in line and made our way to the front. I’m not the biggest fan of marshmallow as it tends to give me sugar headaches, so I decided to go with their warm brownie-cookie with ice cream on it. It was amazing.

After Chin Chin Lab, we continued to walk through the covered market and wandered through different shops. I had read about the Cereal Killer Cafe online, and we stopped in just to take a couple cool pics of the cereal box lined walls. Its about 2.75 for one small bowl of cereal, so we weren’t interested in buying a bowl as you could get almost a whole box for the same amount.

We were exhausted at this point as it had been a long day of walking and exploring so we decided to head home. We didn’t spend much time in Camden, so I will definitely have to go back in the future and explore some more!

Harry Potter & Football

27 January 2017

Day 18 in London

I woke up and went for a run in Hyde Park and then came back to pay for and join the Women’s Football Club at Imperial College! The organization through which my program is organized by, FIE (Foundation for International Education), has an affiliation with Imperial College. Because of this, we are able to join any clubs or organizations at Imperial. I joined the football club team not only to play some “footy” but also to get out of my American bubble and meet some students that are actually from the UK.

I then took the tube to Soho to meet Sophia at the House of Minalima. The House of Minalima is a pop-up Harry Potter shop featuring graphic art from the Harry Potter films and other works by Minalima. Minalima is an artist duo of Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima. There were four floors, some featuring works from Harry Potter and other floors featured work from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The store is only open until mid February so we knew it was a place we had to check out before it was gone!

The ground floor was the dedicated gift shop containing prints, books, postcards and posters all things Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts. The first floor then contained the graphic art from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Sadly, I hadn’t seen that movie yet, so the floor didn’t mean as much to me as the Harry Potter floors did (don’t worry though, we went back and watched Fantastic Beasts with the flat later that night). Floors two and three were my favorite floors as they held all the graphic art from Harry Potter. From prints of the Daily Prophet newspaper to wanted posters of Bellatrix Lestrange to Sirius Black, I was in Harry Potter heaven!

The house even had some props from the actually Harry Potter movies on loan from the Warner Brothers Studios. Some of these props included original spell books used in the films.

On one floor, there was a fireplace that replicated the scene where Harry receives his acceptance letters form Hogwarts. The fireplace was filled with letters addressed to “Harry Potter 4 Privet Drive Little Whinging, Surrey” on them. AMAZING.

Before we left, I ended up buying a “Harry Potter, Undesirable No. 1” poster. I cannot wait to hang it up once I go home. I was between that or a Sirius Black poster, but I think I’d prefer to wake up everyday and see Harry’s face rather than the photo they chose of Sirius…

Day 19 in London

On Sunday morning, I woke up and walked to Beit Quad at Imperial College to meet the Women’s Football Club. Today was the first day of games that I could make and I was also very excited to meet some non-Americans!

While I hadn’t brought any of my soccer stuff with me, one girl who couldn’t play loaned me her cleats and I was able to borrow shin guards.

We drove in a van to the game which was a 35 minute drive away to north-east London. Not only was it interesting to finally see London from above ground and maneuver in the traffic, but it was also really fun to talk with the girls. They were all very talkative and welcoming.

We only had eight girls from Imperial to play in the 11v11 sided game…Luckily, they don’t have a regular goalkeeper so they were extremely happy when I told them that was my normal position. It was so cool to be playing on a pitch in England (despite it being on turf that ripped up my legs). Because the game was still in the city, the complex we were at had lots of little fields in what they called “cages,” and then also two larger fields with a bit more space around them. It was a very different setting than what I was used to but still a really cool place for some “football.”

We ended up losing the game, but for only having eight players, I think we did pretty well and it just felt so good to be out playing again!

Other Updates!

  1. I finally received my placement for my internship for later this semester! I will be working at a music magazine in Brixton called “Songlines.” The music they cover there is less well-known, but it looks like a quality magazine and is also connected to the music world in London so I am very very VERY excited about this placement! I have a confirmation interview with Songlines in mid-February and hopefully I will learn more about what my day-to-day tasks will be then. In the email I received, it mentioned maintaining their online presence (yay for social media), music research, editing and possibly writing articles, as well as other day-to-day tasks. I’m so excited to start the internship now! It should be a very unique experience and I cannot wait to dive deeper into the music world of London!
  2. My parents sent me a package a while ago and I have anxiously been awaiting its arrival until yesterday! It actually made it to the UK a few days ago, but they hold all packages at customs until the recipient pays a tax on it (price is dependent upon the worth of the contents ugh) and then they release it and ship it to you. The box was basically a Mary Poppins bag as I still have no idea how my mom fit everything that she did into it. She shipped my soccer gear (cleats, shin guards, socks, keeper gloves), a warmer jacket (I’ve been freezing over here in London in just my rain jacket), my beloved Skippy Natural Creamy Peanut Butter, ranch dressing (so I can finally make some spinach salads here), Dove Chocolate (FAV), and of course, I’ve been missing out on my Baked Cheetos and Quakes, which were also somehow squeezed into the box. It was amazing and the greatest early birthday present. Thanks mom and dad!!!

 

Winter Lights & Lord Henry Dashwood

22 January, 2016

Day 16 in London

After class on Thursday, I went with five other UW students from my flat to Canary Wharf where the Winter Lights Festival was being held. Some of our friends had gone to the festival the night before and the photos from it looked amazing so of course we had to go check it out ourselves.

When we walked out of the tube station, we immediately looked around for the lights and didn’t see anything so we turned left and walked until we saw the cutest ice skating rink, filled with lights and blasting pop music. There, we also found a man who was handing out a map for where all of the light exhibits were located.

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There were a few light exhibits that we knew we wanted to see because our friends had seen them the night before, the only problem was that we didn’t know what they were called. So we were off to walk and wander aimlessly until we found them all.

There ended up being lights everywhere, both inside and outside and we took so many photos. It was fantastic.

When we found the lights upstairs in one of the buildings, we also found a tropical garden area. It was such a random find but also really pretty with all the lights.

Day 17 in London

I don’t have class on Fridays, and as I stayed in London this weekend, a few girls from my flat and I decided to go out and explore London. We took the tube to Tower Bridge and then walked across the bridge. I had been there once before during the night and it was a completely different experience during the day. It also had quite the view from the viewing platform in the middle of the bridge. You could see down the Thames on both sides.

We then exited the bridge and took the stairs down to the walking path. We first passed the Tower of London which was filled with people walking around inside the grounds.

We continued on along the river until we came to the Southward Bridge. The Globe Theatre was across the river, so we crossed back over on the bridge. When we reached the Globe Theatre, we waled around it for a bit and then went inside to look through the gift shop. I of course ended up getting a little notebook with a quote from Hamlet on it.

After the Globe Theatre, we walked across the bridge that I was most excited for, Millennium Bridge.

One of my all time favorite movies is What a Girl Wants starring Amanda Bynes. In the movie, she comes to London and walks across the Millennium Bridge in one scene. St. Paul’s Cathedral is in the back and it just looks amazing. Since then, (aka since 2003 when the movie came out), I’ve always wanted to walk where Daphne Reynolds had walked. Specifically across Millennium Bridge. And so we did.

Don’t worry, it lived up to all my hopes and dreams. Now I’m just waiting to run into Lord Henry Dashwood on the streets of London…

Until that happens, you can find me roaming the streets of London for the next four months!

Live from the BBC

20 January, 2016

Day 14 in London

So, if you know anything about Britain, you know that there’s this woman who rules the country called the Queen of England and then this organization that does a thing where it covers the news called the British Broadcasting Corporation.

If you know anything, you should know those two things. And if you didn’t already, well, now you do.

My only class on Tuesdays is Media in Britain, and luckily, I don’t have it until six o’clock each day. But this Tuesday was particularly special because our teacher was taking us to the BBC studios for a short tour and then to see one of their shows produced live.

The BBC Broadcasting House serves as the worldwide headquarters for the BBC and is located in the heart of London just a couple minutes walk from the Oxford Circus tube stop.

Our class met in the coffee shop inside the BBC center and then made our way to the main building and through the doors under the large, lit up letters that spelled out B B C.

Once inside the building, we went through airport-esque security and then collected our visitors badges and wristbands for the live taping of the BBC One Show. After going through security, there was another coffee bar and gift shop. I bought a BBC Radio 1 mug (I love Radio 1, its great) to add to my collection of mugs for coffee that I do not drink…hah

In the coffee bar area, there is a counter that has windows overlooking the large, fantastic, amazing newsroom of the BBC. Our guide told us that the BBC prides themselves in having the largest newsroom in the world (besides China, but that is only because they won’t share information about how large their newsrooms are, so we will let the BBC call themselves the largest newsroom in the world).

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Before going to the studio where the BBC One Show is filmed, we were taken down the twisting stairs to the main floor of the newsroom. The 6 p.m. news was currently broadcasting live, and while we snaked through the newsroom, those watching the news were probably able to see us in the background!

We were then taken downstairs to see where the producers directed and produced the shows. That was really cool to see as well.

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Next, we went back upstairs and then outside into the main courtyard area. There was a gated area surrounding the entrance to the One Show and we put our bags in a locked locker outside then were ushered into the studio. It was a really small studio and we had to stand for the entire thirty minute show. The time flew by though because the BBC is a public broadcasting service and therefore does not have commercials. A big difference between the U.K.’s media system and that of the U.S.’s.

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The show was an interesting mix of entertainment and some soft news. The guest on the show was Sanjeev Bhaskar, a British comedian, actor and broadcaster. He was pretty funny and got along well the hosts  Matt Baker and Michelle Ackerley. It was really interesting to see how they interacted between the pre-recorded clips that played during the show.

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When the show was over, we took a photo with both of the hosts and then picked up our things out of the locker outside. Overall, it was a really amazing experience. My favorite part though would have to be when we walked through the newsroom. It was gigantic and the atmosphere was so cool just because people were working everywhere plus you could see the live broadcast of the news going on and wow just wow. Such an amazing experience!

The Craic was 90 in Ireland

16 January, 2016

Day 9 in London/Dublin, Ireland

My last class of the day ended at 5 p.m. and as soon as it was over, I ran to the tube with my packed backpack, ready to start my journey to Dublin, Ireland.

I took the tube to Victoria Station and from there sped walked my way to where the trains to the airports and surrounding cities left from. I boarded the Gatwick Express at 5:30 p.m. bound for the Gatwick Airport. On the way I was stressing out about making my flight, it was scheduled to depart at 7 p.m. and the gates were supposed to close at 6:30. I would have to sprint through the unfamiliar airport in order to make my flight in time.

The Gatwick Express pulled into the airport at 6:05 and from there, I was off. I first had to get my boarding pass stamped and my visa checked at the baggage drop off, then I flew through security. Almost every other person around me got stopped.

I made it to my gate by 6:25 p.m. I still have no idea how I managed that.

Then, I sat. And sat.

7 p.m. came and went. Then 7:30 p.m. Finally, an announcement was made that due to the snow, (yes, it was snowing in London, very lightly, but there was snow), the plane we were scheduled to leave on still had not landed. Once it did finally land at 8 p.m., we were allowed to board but were told that the plane needed to be de-iced so we wouldn’t be leaving for another 20-25 minutes. Great.

Well, 25 minutes later, we were still sitting in the plane  and no one had come to de-ice yet. At 9 p.m., still no one was there to de-ice. The pilot came on to tell us they would be there soon. Soon did not come soon enough. We sat on the plane until 10:30 and then finally took off for Dublin.

I landed in Dublin, Ireland just before midnight. From there, I made my way to the taxi stand and soon was on my way to the hostel.

My taxi driver was a nice middle-aged Irish man and we had a great conversation about politics both in Ireland and the United States. He told me about his concerns over the state of the U.S., especially his fears of what is to come when Trump becomes president. Friends and family of his had immigrated to the U.S. a few years earlier and he, as well as other Irish citizens, are worried for those in the U.S.

The taxi driver also went on to tell me about the presidents from the U.S. that the Irish people really appreciated. He mentioned John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and President Obama as three presidents that the people of Ireland truly appreciated. He said despite the “poor choices” Bill Clinton made concerning Monica Lewinsky, he made a lasting impact with the people of Ireland in 1995. He helped to bring peace and stop the fighting between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

I really enjoyed talking with him on the way from the airport to the Generator Hostel. I’ve been abroad for just over a week, but in that time I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a couple of individuals from both England and Ireland and see what an outsiders perspective of the state of the United States is.

In under 30 minutes, we made it to the hostel and I checked in, met Annie and Allie, (two girls from my flat that I would be traveling with), found our room and promptly went to bed.

Day 10 in Dublin

Woke up bright and early (not so bright but very early) at 5:45 a.m. We left but 6:20 to walk a mile to where we were getting picked up for our bus tour! We had a day trip planned to travel across the country to Galway, Ireland and then make our way through the countryside of Ireland to our final destination of the Cliffs of Moher.

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We were riding in a nice coach bus and made a pit-stop in Galway, which was about a two hour drive from Dublin, before heading through the narrow country roads through the hills to the Cliffs of Moher. Our tour guide Aman talked almost the entire time. He told us about the places we were passing, some of the history of Ireland and many old Irish stories. Many of these stories involved the Irish belief of fairies and magic.

He pointed out circles of trees that we passed called fairy Hawthorn trees that are illegal to dig up, move or build buildings or roads through in Ireland. They believe that anyone who chooses to disrupt the trees will have bad luck and so the circles of fairy Hawthorn trees, as well as any single fairy Hawthorn trees are protected in Ireland. It was so interesting to learn about these beliefs and how seriously the people of Ireland take these beliefs to this day.

The night before, it had both snowed and rained in Dublin, so every time we made a stop to get out, take photos and explore, Aman warned us to be careful and watch our step so we didn’t twist an ankle before making it to the cliffs.

Along the way to the cliffs, we stopped at a castle and were able to get out and walk around it to take photos. We also stopped at a small graveyard that had a really old church in it. It was cool to explore the old building associated with Ireland’s history.

We stopped in the small city of Doolin for lunch. There, we went to a small pub where the members of our tour bus greatly outnumbered the locals. It was evident that the locals were always at the pub though, as the two women working the bar area and taking orders served the locals first and called them by name.

After lunch, it was back to the bus and then we were headed for our final stop, the Cliffs of Moher!

As we were pulling in to the parking lot of the Cliffs of Moher, it was raining, but luckily it stopped just as we were getting off the bus. As we made our way up the path to the cliffs, it consistently got windier and windier. It was really a struggle to walk up the steep incline against the wind, but eventually we made it to the top. And it was absolutely beautiful.

If you ever happen to find yourself in Ireland, it is completely worth it to make the three hour drive from Dublin to the Cliffs. You will not regret it.

As soon as we left the cliffs, it started raining. What are the odds. The luck of the Irish was really with us that day.

It was another three hour drive back, and we took a different road back that allowed us drive along the coast. It was so cool to see the cows grazing in the fields right next to the ocean. We were even able to get out at one point and walk right to the edge of the cliffs and look down at the ocean. It was kinda freaky but amazing at the same time.

Then we began the drive back and luckily I was able to sleep most of the way back. We were getting up early again the next day to go explore downtown Dublin.

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Day 11 in Dublin

We left the hostel by 9 a.m., went across the street to a small cafe for breakfast, and then made our way across the river to Dublin’s City Hall. We were meeting in a square near the hall for a free walking tour of Dublin provided by Sandemans. For a free tour, the tour guides were so enthusiastic and provided really good information.

Sadly, it was freezing outside during our tour and our guide, while very nice, liked to talk A LOT and not move much. So after an hour and a half of being on the tour, we hadn’t move very far from City Hall and Dublin Castle so we decided to leave the tour and walked through the Temple Bar area by ourselves.

The Temple Bar area of Dublin has a pub every 50 ft. and is a great place to find shops for touristy gifts. We spent a while just walking through the streets and then we stopped into some stores to do some shopping. I ended up buying a Dublin sweatshirt mainly because I was freezing in my thin rain jacket and needed another layer. I put the sweatshirt on right away! I also ended up getting a cute purple scarf made of aran wool. I also put that on right away and started to warm up right away.

We wandered back across the river and found a cute little baking supply shop. It literally had every color fondant you could ever wanted and every baking supply ever created. Needless to say, it was heaven to me.

After lunch in a cute little restaurant, we walked through Trinity College. I used to think that UW-Madison had old buildings on its campus until I walked through Trinity. Each building looked so old yet beautiful. The grass of each quad was so perfectly green even though it was the middle of winter. It was such a cool campus.

We then walked through the streets of Dublin to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. By this time, it was dark out and the gates of the cathedral were locked. We were still able to see it though and it looked very pretty at night.

On our way back to the hostel, we stopped at a little shop for ice cream. The owners were very nice and their shop was the cutest!

 

In order to catch our flight the next morning, we needed to get to sleep early so we headed back to the hostel and had a quick dinner then went to sleep in order to be out the door by 5 a.m. the next morning.

The next morning, we made it out of bed, out the door and made it to the airport by 6 a.m. Our flight was on time so we left by 7:35 am and made it back to our flat in London by about 11 a.m. It was a great trip, but also incredibly exhausting. To say I slept well on Sunday night was an understatement!

While my two days in Ireland were great and I saw so much, there was so much more I could have seen and would love to go back some day in the future.

Oh hey, there’s school too?

Day 5 in London

This was a sad, sad day.

I was uploading photos from my camera to my computer and bumped my camera off the couch. It fell. The lens bent. There were tears.

Luckily, as my mom says, “all things are replaceable.” And so I ordered a new lens. A new expensive lens. Yay for being a klutz.

To clear my head, I went for a run through Hyde Park. I guess I didn’t realize how big the park was before because as much as I tried not to get lost, I did.

I found myself running through zig-zagging paths, never really sure which side of the path I should be running on. I’m still confused about which side of the sidewalk to walk on here. People walk on both the left and right and there seems to be no correct direction. What a confusing place to be.

Anyways, I eventually found myself at a river that goes through the park. While it was kind of a dreary day, it was still very pretty. Birds were swimming in it and people were still out and about everywhere. I attempted to make my way back out of the park and passed a memorial to Princess Diana on the way out. There is always something more to discover in Hyde Park!

I quickly showered at the flat and then put on the nicest dress I brought with me then made my way back up to High Street and to the Royal Garden Hotel which is neighbors with, you guessed it, Prince William and Duchess Kate who tend to reside at Kensington Palace.

While I am not a tea drinker, the experience was still pretty cool. It was quite posh and all of us felt pretty out of place at the super fancy hotel. They served cute finger sandwiches that I heard were good, some little cakes, macaroons, tarts and such for dessert and lots of tea. I had apple juice. It was great!

During our time at tea, we also had to sign up for excursions offered through FIE at subsidized prices. The site crashed due to so much traffic to it, but luckily I am happy to say that I will be going to see The Lion King, Wicked and wait for it…HARRY POTTER WORLD! I cannot wait!

Day 6 in London

The first day of classes. Oh joy.

Really though, I’m one of those weird people that actually enjoys school and having class meant more structure to my days so I was actually pretty excited for school to begin!

I went in early to Foundation House to see about switching my Media in Britain class from one time to another. I currently have that class on a Friday, (there are only TWO classes offered on Fridays and I somehow was lucky enough to get it). No one else in my flat had a Friday class and therefore everyone was able to start booking weekend trips to other countries and I could not. So I would not be able to travel. More on that story to come.

My first class of the day was Infiltrating the Art World. Local artist Faisal Abdu’Allah came in to talk to us about his art. Abdu’Allah has also taught classes at UW-Madison and has had his artwork featured in the Chazen Museum. You can check out his work here. Abdu’Allah then took us on a field trip to the London Print Studio.

There, we met an artist who works there named John Phillips. He told us a lot about the history of art in London and the impact that the London Print Studio has had within the city and especially within its surrounding neighborhoods.

While the field trip was cool, what wasn’t cool was almost being late to my second class of the day. There was a tube strike on this day, so the tube wasn’t running and we had to take one of the double-decker city busses to get there. It was about a 30 minute drive plus there was traffic and a 15 minute walk back to Foundation House after we got off the bus. Not ideal. Luckily, I made it back with five minutes to spare. Thank goodness I’ve basically become an Olympic speed walker from my short time here in London.

My next class was British Life and Cultures and my professor was a cute old British man. He had a very sarcastic sense of humor and liked to joke with all of us, mainly at our own expenses. The class seems like it is going to be really interesting though and we are going to go on many field trips in the class as well.

So far, classes were good. On to the next day…

Day 7 in London

So. I woke up early this morning to go into Foundation House AGAIN to talk to the woman in charge of scheduling to change my classes. Granted, I had already emailed her once about it, to which she didn’t respond, and had gone in the day before as well to see her.

I walked upstairs to see her, and just my luck, she was not going to be in today because she was sick.

Great.

The other woman in the office took down my information and my schedule change requests and said she would email Zehra about it.

So I went home.

Once back at the flat, I decided I was going to start booking flights and trains and hostels for the weekend in Dublin, Ireland despite not being able to change my schedule yet. The night before, everyone had booked their trips for the upcoming weekend and I decided I was going to as well.

She will get my email and she will change my schedule is what I kept telling myself. I will go to Dublin and all will be fine.

I ended up emailing Zehra again myself as she didn’t seem to get the other woman’s email and contact me after two hours. So I emailed her myself.

Another hour later, still no response. The class I was trying to switch was in less than two hours.

So I ended up calling the FIE office. They said they would attempt to contact her.

More time went by so I called again. I needed a response and it was becoming ridiculous. I was told that she would not be coming in, but would be working from home and responding to emails. Not mine I guess.

I left for class early and stopped in the front office, the receptionist finally got her on the phone. I think I had finally gotten across to her how badly I needed my classes changed so she put me in the classes I needed.

THANK GOODNESS.

So I went home again, this time to change my outgoing flight on Thursday, as I was now in the Media in Britain class I needed that goes until 5 p.m. on Thursdays. Luckily, I was able to change the flight for a small fee, but now everything is straightened out and I couldn’t be happier! My stress levels have definitely dropped.

At 6 p.m., I headed back to the Foundation House for my Media in Britain class. The professor is from Australia and she seems quite quirky but passionate about all things media in Britain. We learned a lot about the British Broadcasting Corporation today. The media system in the U.K. is nothing like that of the system in the U.S. so it makes it really interesting to learn about.

After class, I went with my friend Sophia to London Bridge. It was about 9:30 p.m. so the whole river was lit up and very pretty. I love taking night trips to the heart of the city and I don’t think I will ever get tired of it!

Another day of classes tomorrow and I believe I am going to explore more of Hyde Park before class at two. Until then!

 

 

 

Exploring (Part) of Hyde Park and Bus Tour of London

Day 3 in London

We had orientation part two at Imperial College at 10 a.m. on Saturday. While at orientation, they told us more about our classes and internships that we would be taking part in during our time in London.

The academic expectations were primarily the same as they are back home which will hopefully make for an easy transition studying abroad. Meanwhile, our classes are each three hours long which will be quite different from home. Luckily, they told us that instructors will use London as a classroom and there will be many in-class field trips where we will go out in London for half of our class instead of being stuck in a room for three hours.

We can expect to be notified about our internship placement anytime from now until about February 18th which is quite a long time away. Then, there are two days set aside in February as our mandatory internship interview days that we are not allowed to make any travel plans for.

After the orientation, I walked to Hyde Park with my new friends Annie and Allie to explore. Hyde Park is about a 15 minute walk from where I’m living in Manson Place, and is a huge, beautiful space to go to to escape the city. There are so many pathways, dogs are allowed off leash and run freely,and there are birds everywhere near the water. The birds aren’t afraid of humans, and I’m not fond of them, so I won’t be going near the ponds again anytime soon…

We mainly stayed to the southwest side of Hyde Park and made our way over to Kensington Palace where Prince William and Duchess Kate live. It is absolutely beautiful. They have a very pretty walkway on the side of the palace facing Hyde Park and inside is a gift shop, cafe and an area where they regularly give tours of the palace. We walked through the gift shop and cafe which were both very busy.

We continued walking through Hyde Park for a bit, then headed out toward High Street to walk through some shops and then took the tube back home.

Later that evening, we had the FIE welcome dinner at 6 p.m. at Imperial College. They served food and drinks and had a few tables set up for clubs and activities for us to join while studying here. They didn’t have anything too exciting though which was a bit disappointing.

After making a quick stop at home, Allie and I left to go on a quick little adventure. Most of our flat was either going out to the pubs and clubs later that night or staying in, and we didn’t want to do either, so we took the tube from Gloucester Station to Westminster. After walking out of the station, we were immediately greeted by a huge, glowing Big-Ben. It looked incredible lit up at night. We walked on and found ourselves on a bridge over the River Thames. Looking across, we were able to see the London Eye brightly lit up as well as the County Hotel. It was really pretty. It had begun to rain so we made our way back to the tube and back home. It was a fun spontaneous adventure to end our day!

Day 4 in London

At 10 a.m. on Saturday, everyone in our flat got up to take a coach bus tour of London. It was really cool to finally see more of London above ground and have a tour guide telling us more about the history of everything we saw as we drove by buildings and monuments.

Our first actual stop on the bus was at Buckingham Palace. The driver gave us a little bit of time to get out and walk to the front gates. We saw some of the guards and the giant ornate doors at the front of the palace. We didn’t have much time so we snapped a few photos then headed back to the bus.

The next stop was made at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It. Was. Huge. There is a shopping mall across from the cathedral and our driver told us to go to the top floor via the lift in the shopping center for a great view. We did and we were not disappointed. The roof of the building gave a spectacular view of the cathedral as well as the entire skyline of London. It was amazing.

We then continued on the bus tour until eventually the driver dropped us off in Westminster near Big Ben. Later in the day, we were scheduled for a tour of the Houses Parliament, but we had time to walk around a bit and get some lunch before then.

We were walking through Westminster looking at all the buildings and shops. As we were doing so, we passed the building where the Prime Minister lives which is guarded by two guards on horses which drew a big crowd. We continued on until we found a cute little pub to have lunch at. As we were in a highly touristy area, the pub looked like it catered to Americans but also seemed pretty British so it drew us in.

After lunch, we only had a bit more time so we kept walking to Trafalgar Square. A lot of people were out taking photos and exploring the square like us. We spent some time doing that, then headed back down the road we had come down and headed toward the Houses of Parliament for our 3 p.m. tour.

We went through security and then picked up our headphones and audio players for our unguided audio tour of the Houses of Parliament. The trip was required for one of our key courses, British Life and Cultures, so despite it being an audio tour, we really had to pay attention. I wish it had been a real guide who took us through though. The halls and rooms were extremely grand, but also incredibly cold. It was cool to learn more about the history of England’s government though!

We left the Houses of Parliament after the tour and took the tube back to Manson Place. I was exhausted from the day. Most people were hanging around looking to plan trips to other countries for the weekends, looking at the excursions FIE offers that will open up today to sign up for and taking photos off their cameras.

Later in the night, I went to Imperial College Bar with some people from my flat. The bar was pretty nice and I got a lemonade. It wasn’t what I was expecting though as they seem to really like their fizzy drinks here, I think it was made with sparkling water…Guess I will just have to stick to water now. We met some other students there that were also from FIE which was cool. It was interesting to look around though as regular Imperial College students were also at the bar. Being that most of the FIE students are American, it was easy to pick them out as we seem to be much louder and more obnoxious than the Brits here.

After that it was back home to Manson Place for me as I was exhausted from an extremely long day.