It's coming up on one year since I spent a month studying abroad in London, England with my two best friends and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't wish I was still there. I'm most happy when I get to talk about my trip and how amazing London is, so here are the top five things that made it so special to me. There are so much more, but I do not have nearly enough time to put them all into words.
1. Parks, parks, parks. The weather is getting warmer here in the states and all I can think about it how deeply I wish I was strolling through Hyde Park in the sunshine. I’d give anything to be back there sitting on a bench and watching all the handsome British businessmen take their dogs out for their evening walks. Or laughing at the awkward couples out paddle boating on the lake. Or running through the groups of swans eating breadcrumbs off of the pathway. Please, someone get me back to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain so I can take off my shoes and walk the length of the stream while my best friend rambles on and on about how perfect Diana was. And if only I can rent a Barclay’s bike and cruise through Kensington Park and casually ride by Kate Middleton’s house. But of course, the night wouldn’t be complete without stopping to watch a group of Australian guys play cricket, and then maybe joining in for a round or two. And all of this magic is only a ten minute walk from our house, perfect for a daily routine. Mother Nature cures all sadness and seeing the majesty of these Royal Parks day after day is sure to foster positivity and happiness!
2. One word: Tube. Would you like to casually take a ride underground and end up face to face with the most iconic building in London? Yes, you would, because it’s amazing. One of the first Tube rides we took was to get to where our photography class was meeting and as we walked up the stairs, Big Ben was right in front of us. Like I’m not joking, you walk out of the station and good ol’ Ben is staring at you saying, “Welcome to London, everything is better here.” The fact that we could get on the Tube and go anywhere we wanted within minutes was awesome. Want to have lunch on the Thames River today? No problem, fill up your Oyster Card and you’re on your way. As expected, the ride itself was always entertaining as well. We quickly learned that during “rush hour”, we would feel like sardines all squished into the smallest, hottest, sweatiest space possible, but we’d somehow be alright with it. Oh, there’s a hot British guy next to you? It’s no big deal if you ‘accidentally’ bump into him as the train comes to a stop and hope to make small talk as you stare into each other’s eyes and he’ll invite you to live happily ever after with him and his European Greyhound. But usually it just resulted in creepers asking us if we were Americans and then explaining in great detail about how much they love Canada. On the occasions when the cars weren’t packed, then there was plenty of room to spread out, find a seat, and enjoy the lovely British voice repeat, “mind the gap” over and over again.
3. The yummiest food. This is not a drill. Some of the food I ate while in London was the best I’ve ever had (and probably ever will). First and foremost, I so desperately miss the weekly trip my friends and I took to eat gluten-free fish and chips at a lovely place called Oliver’s. We would take the Tube about 45 minutes, switching trains twice along the way. And after arriving at our stop, we’d walk another 25 minutes through some random neighborhood before we reached our destination. The first time we set out on this adventure, we had to huddle outside of a closed Starbucks to use their free Wi-Fi to access the GPS on our phones. But during the second and third trips, I’m sure anyone of the streets would have assumed we were locals (that’s if our loud and obnoxious American accents didn’t give it away). Regardless, it was all worth it because that celiac-friendly authentic British food made your mouth water and we craved it on the daily. Not to mention they also had [gluten-free] deep-friend Mars bars on the dessert menu.
Which brings me to the next thing that I miss oh so much; Mars bars. Seriously, this candy bar is heaven in your mouth. Apparently they used to be sold here in the states, but I haven’t been able to find them. There was nothing like a late-night stroll down the street to the convenience store to grab a Mars bar, or a frozen Mars bar, the perfect treat in our non-air conditioned dorm room. Thirdly, I will still wake up in the morning craving one of these so badly, and I am well aware that I can make it myself, but it will never be the same as arriving to class early in order to stop at the café and grab a tomato and cream cheese bagel sandwich. Yes, cream cheese with tomatoes on top. Don’t knock it till you try it because those Europeans really know what they’re doing when it comes to breakfast.
Another prime example- crepes bigger than your head, for only 5 pounds. Another weekly tradition that my friends and I shared was walking to My Old Dutch to indulge ourselves in, what were actually large, thin pancakes on American terms. Pick anything you want and they offered it on a crepe; Nutella, peaches, cheese, chicken, ice cream, spinach, and the list goes on. Bonus points for offering gluten-free crepes for my glutard of a best friend to enjoy! Really, I could probably write an entirely separate post simply of the cuisine in London. No wonder I gained weight while I was there…
4. History is everywhere. This is pretty self-explanatory. Everywhere you turn there is history to be learned about this magnificent city. During our month there, we made sure to do all the touristy things and took multiple tours through the must-see places such as Westminster Abbey, Shakespeare's Globe Theater, and the Tower of London, and we even traveled to see the Roman Baths (which were so cool!) We took a bus tour the second day we were there and our kind and hilarious tour guide showed us Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, and so much more. The architecture everywhere you turned was phenomenal. I’m sorry, but you just don’t see beauty like that in the US. And the museums! We were lucky enough to walk through the Tate Modern, the V&A, and the National Gallery and last time I checked there weren’t any Van Gogh or Picasso pieces in any museums around here. I just felt like it was impossible to go anywhere and not learn something new and fascinating about London, and maybe it was solely because we were tourists, but I never wanted it to stop. In addition, I also forced my friends to go on a ghost tour with me, which was also super neat!! (Our room was haunted anyway, so we really didn’t need to go looking for the paranormal)
As if that wasn’t enough history, Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge was born while we were there and we got to watch William and Kate bring him out of the hospital!
5. Dream cars, everywhere. Now anyone who truly knows me would occasionally describe me as a dude, and that side of me definitely came out in London. I mean, how was I supposed to contain myself when we walked right by a jet black Ferrari everyday while walking to class? I could sit on our balcony and wouldn’t be able to count the dream sports cars that passed on one hand. Granted, we were living in Kensington, the richest borough in London, but I was still taken aback every time I saw (or heard) one of these drive by. One of my fondest and favorite memories from the entire trip was going to the Aston Martin Centennial Celebration at Kensington Park. Aston Martin was celebrating 100 years and they had a car on display from each and every year from 1913 to 2013. There were also race cars and cars from the James Bond movies too! Everyone there was in fancy clothes, trotting about the grass with champagne in hand. Of course, my friends decided to be super girly that day and didn’t want to go with me, so I went alone. Again, anyone who really knows me would know that I don’t go places alone, but I wanted to see those cars so badly, and I’m so glad that I did. I must have spent close to two hours wandering around and marveling at the cars that I’ll never be able to afford as the men behind me discussed payment plans and transportation arrangements. It was great to ride the London Eye and do all of the London-y things, but this celebration was a once in a lifetime chance and easily one of the coolest things I’ve ever been too!
Pretty much the moral of the story is that I need to get back to London, ASAP.
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