This Thursday will mark three years since I’ve studied abroad (started on May 18th and ended June, 27th). So to commemorate, I’m going to write posts about the different cities I visited while studying abroad in Madrid. Before I arrived to take summer courses, I flew to London to visit some of my college friends as they were wrapping up their spring semester in London. I stayed with them at the University of Westminster and let them show me around the place they called home for 5 months!
I arrived in London Heathrow around 9am and was picked up by two of my friends. We took the tube and eventually made it to the University of Westminster to drop off my belongings and meet up with the rest of the group. After freshening up, we headed out to explore and enjoy the London weather – it was almost 80° F outside!
Things to do:
- Regent’s Park – We walked to a local grocery store where we bought snacks and alcohol so we could have a picnic at Regent’s Park. Regent’s Park is large and provides different activities for people of all ages; it was nice catching up, meeting new friends, people-watching and eating & drinking for a few hours.
- Buckingham Palace & the Changing of the Guards – We took the tube and about 20 minutes later, we made it to Buckingham Palace where the queen resides. After taking many pictures, we began walking down Birdcage Walk where we stumbled upon the Changing of the Guards. The Changing of the Guards is when new guards take over military responsibility and protection of Buckingham Palace from the old guards. We didn’t actually plan to watch this ceremony, but walking to our next destination gave us a front row view of guards marching down the street.
- Big Ben, Westminster Bridge & The London Eye – After walking less than 20 minutes, we made it to the Palace of Westminster where we saw the Elizabeth Tower (aka Big Ben). You can’t come to London and not see Big Ben, the Westminster Bridge and the London Eye, mainly because they’re relatively close to each other (roughly a 7 minute walk). I shamelessly took tons of photos in front of a red telephone booth and with Big Ben in the background.
- The Shakespeare Globe Theatre– Having bought tickets to a play ahead of time (Antony & Cleopatra),we walked alongside the River Thames from the London Eye to get to The Shakespeare Globe Theatre. The tickets that we bought were only £5, but they were for “yard standing” which means that you have to stand during the play. In hindsight, buying those tickets were probably not the best idea as we had walked a lot throughout the day, and having to stand for a long period of time (roughly 3 hours) made our feet sore. The play itself was good from what I can remember (I say that because I ended up falling asleep briefly while leaning on the stage, jet-lag really caught me slipping ).
Since I was a broke college student, and so were my friends, we decided that we’d cook everything on the first day. For dinner we decided to go to a grocery store and buy things we could all cook and share among each other.
Things To Do:
- Portobello Market – One of the most famous street markets in London, (besides Camden Market) Portobello Market offers souvenir shops, food stands, antiques & collectibles, clothes and more. This street is filled with many vendors, shops, a lively environment and beautiful architecture. I bought souvenirs and few pieces of clothing that were being sold at discounted prices.
- The London Cocktail Club – If you’re looking for a night out, I would highly recommend this cocktail bar – which has a few locations in London (we went to the one off of Oxford Street since it was a 5 minute walk from the University of Westminster). It may feel like a dark and dingy place when you first walk downstairs – but once you sit down, the vibe totally changes! There was hip-hop, funk and old school tunes playing in the background and the bartenders were extremely friendly. We were able to find seats at the bar and quickly became friends with the bartenders, who would offer us popcorn and fruit throughout the night. The atmosphere was so relaxed and fun, we found ourselves doing karaoke with the bartenders and other people sitting at the bar. My friends had come to this place often because of their daily happy hour specials; the day we went was ladies night, so we were able to buy one drink and get a second drink for free the entire night. The cocktails were delicious, I remember getting the Jam-Jar daiquiri (basically a strawberry daiquiri) and another drink that they lit up before handing off to us. We were having so much fun that we stayed at the bar until it closed.
Where to eat:
- The Metropolitan Bar – A pub not too far from Regent’s Park, the Metropolitan Bar offers a traditional menu (e.g. burger & chips, fish & chips, nachos, chicken, salads and more) and cheap drinks. I really liked this place because although it’s a pub, there are people of all ages who come here – including kids. If you dine here, you can order your food and include an alcoholic beverage with your order – which is only a couple of pounds extra to substitute from a soft drink.
Because of my early flight to Madrid the next morning, we went back to the dorms after leaving the bar and made some food before falling asleep. I’m not sure how I managed to wake and sober up in time for my flight, but I was pretty determined to get to Madrid .