Playing Tour Guide, Stonehenge & Bath

Its been just over a week since I last wrote a blog post, but so much has happened in that span of time! With only eight full days left in London, everything seems to be going at lighting speed around here. Let me catch you up.

First off, my family came to visit last week! I picked them up from Heathrow on Friday morning and threw them right into the mix as we took the tube into the center of London. They brought four suitcases with them, but we were able to “easily” manage lugging them up the tube stairs! (Really, we did!)

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With them here, I was back in tour-guide mode. Soon after dropping their bags at the hotel, we headed outside (literally out the back door as the hotel was on the London Eye Pier) to the London Eye! Luckily, we had pre-booked tickets and the line was pretty short so we were on the Eye in no time!

While the London Eye is definitely a really cool experience to take advantage of while in London, I’ve learned its not the only place to get great views of the city. For much less, or for free, you can visit other locations in London to get a sky high view. Two of my favorite vantage points include the top floor of the Switch House at the Tate Modern and the Sky Garden. Both are free to the public and great alternatives to the London Eye. If you are interested in going to the Sky Garden though, be sure to keep checking their website up to two weeks in advance in order to reserve spots.

After the London Eye, we walked around the South Bank for a while and then made our way over to Covent Garden. There, we went to a Three Phone store to get SIM cards for my mom and brother. For only 20 pounds, they were able to get a SIM card with 12 gigabytes of data on it to use for their week here. Later in the week, my family was leaving to travel to Ireland where their phone would also be usable. If you are staying in London for longer than a week or will be traveling in surrounding cities, getting an international SIM card is a great option rather than paying the outrageous data packages offered in the states for international travel.

On Saturday, I took my family on one of my favorite walking trips to see my favorite part of London! We took the tube from Westminster to Ladbroke Grove in Notting Hill. We started at the end of Portobello Road Market (my absolute favorite market London has to offer), and made our way all the way down until we reached Notting Hill High Street. From there we walked to the north entrance to Holland Park, a new favorite park of mine. In Holland Park, you can find the Kyoto Gardens, a Japanese garden complete with koi fish and peacocks! What more could you ask for?

We then made a pit stop at the Design Museum on Kensington High Street. This is my favorite museum in all of London as it focuses on both old and modern design of all types including furniture, electronics and logos just to name a few topics. The stop at the Design Museum was also a good break from all the walking we had already done.

From there, we walked to Hyde Park and visited Kensington Palace and the Kensington Gardens which were in full bloom. Everyone was getting hungry, so we made our way to Nando’s in South Ken for lunch!

Post lunch, we made a stop at Harrod’s, the worlds largest and most expensive department store, for my dad. It was quite the interesting place, with a large food court (fancy!), and tons of boutique stores inside (fancy! think Dolce Gabbana and Versace). Quite the day.

On Sunday morning, we got up early to take a train from Waterloo Station to Windsor. We were visiting one of Her Majesty the Queen’s royal residence’s, Windsor Castle. We were able to get there right as they began letting people in and didn’t have to wait in line for long. We toured the grounds, which were beautiful, and then went inside the State Apartments. The coolest part about the visit was that the Queen was actually there at the same time as we were! She spends Easter at Windsor Castle every year, so it was really cool to see her “standard,” aka her flag, outside signaling she was there!

On Tuesday after class, I took my family to Victoria Train Station where they took the Gatwick Express to the airport. They were off for Ireland for the next few days! It was so great to finally see them after being apart for almost four months! Only a week till I see them again, this time at home!

Today (Friday), I took a day trip to both Stonehenge and Bath with two friends from the flat across from mine. Abby, Brooke and I enjoyed having a photo shoot in front of the infamous rocks. They were big. Apart from that, there wasn’t much to Stonehenge apart from the beautiful rolling green and yellow hills. SO PRETTY. The English countryside is stunning in the spring!

We then boarded our bus again and traveled to the Roman City of Bath. Because it was a Bank Holiday, Bath was incredibly crowded. We had about three and a half hours in the city, but an hour and a half was devoted to touring the ancient Roman Baths. The Baths were really cool, but also really gross. The water was a bright green color and you could see filth floating around in it. We were specifically told not to touch the water as you were highly likely to get sick if you did. It was amazing how many people you could see ignoring these simple instructions and touching the hot, germ-infested, bath water. Why people, why?

As I write this post, I’m currently waiting for my laundry to be done so I can pack for my final trip abroad. Tomorrow I leave bright and early for Glasgow, Scotland! I’m taking the train and can’t wait to see Scotland! Apart from that, I also can’t wait to see Ed (again)! Until then!

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Because I had to include this photo.

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!