Remember that time I said I was going to write a series of blog posts about my study abroad adventure over the summer and then proceeded to write zero posts about my study abroad adventure over the summer? Yeah, me too.
Aside from Oxford, where I stayed, London was the place I explored the most. It was so easy to hop on the train to Paddington after class and spend the afternoon in London. I saw all the typical touristy things like Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, and the National Gallery. I watched a play in the West End and toured the Tower of London. Incidentally, my favorite places I visited in London were places I visited on the same day. One Saturday, some of my friends and I headed into London and spent the entire day climbing to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral, browsing Tate Modern, wandering around Shoreditch, fighting the crowds at Camden Market, and visiting the Arsenal Stadium in Islington.
St. Paul’s Cathedral. To begin the day, our program director paid for us to tour St. Paul’s Cathedral. I saw a ton (and I mean a ton) of churches over the course of the trip, and after Canterbury Cathedral, St. Paul’s was my favorite. The architecture and intricate detail were so incredible. Photography wasn’t allowed inside the cathedral, but part of what makes it so memorable is the view from the top. According to the internet there are 528 steps (approximately 365 feet) to the Dome, and climbing them is hard work. If you’re claustrophobic or very scared of heights, I would not recommend climbing to the top, because many of the staircases are winding or extremely narrow. If you’re only slightly scared of heights, like me, definitely do it. From the very top, you get a breathtaking view of London. Warning: after you climb back down the stairs, your legs will be shaking for a while (even if you’re in good shape), but it’s so worth it.
Tate Modern. As we walked across the Millennial Bridge to Tate Modern, the first thing I noticed was the live music being played along the Thames. One of my favorite things about England is that admission to museums is free. There are so many great museums in London, but Tate Modern is definitely my favorite. I love modern art, and seeing so many amazing works of art throughout the course of my trip may or may not have provided the impetus to my adding the art history minor I had been considering for a while. I saw some of my favorite works at Tate Modern, including Lichtenstein’s Whaam! and Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych.
Shoreditch. After leaving Tate Modern, we took the Tube to Liverpool Street and walked to Shoreditch. As soon as we reached Shoreditch High Street, there was no doubt that this was the trendiest place we had visited so far. There is amazing street art everywhere. I live in a place that does not allow displays of public art (which is tragic), so it was really cool to see the colorful buildings and fun murals. We even saw a Banksy. In addition to ogling over the art, we ducked into a vintage shop and tried on the most ridiculous outfits we could find. If I could offer one bit of advice about shopping in England, it would be to shop in vintage shops. They’re a little pricier than charity shops, but some of my favorite clothing finds – a green faux-leather midi skirt and men’s denim Ralph Lauren polo shirt that had been tailored into an empire baby doll top – were from vintage clothing shops. Afterwards, we asked a local where we should eat lunch and ended up trying Turkish food for the first time. Also, Shoreditch is home to the famous Brick Lane Market.
I don’t have any photos of the last two places we explored. If I had to describe Camden Town in two words, I would choose crazy and stressful. It was so crowded I could hardly move around. However, there were some really cool stalls in the market where we picked up some souvenirs. Finally, we went to Islington to see the Arsenal Stadium. When we got off the Tube, I was confused for a moment. Islington was so calm and quiet, I didn’t think we were in London anymore. We walked around the stadium for a while before grabbing dinner at a sushi restaurant. Tip for American travelers: when you pay for your food in cash, pay with exact change, because lots of places assume any extra cash is a tip, and trust me, it’s really awkward to explain to the waiter that you weren’t actually tipping them and that you want that money back.
Clearly, this day was a busy one, but on the bright side, we got to see some really amazing places and got really good at navigating the Tube. The train pulled into Oxford late that night, and by the time I made it back to my room, I was dead on my feet. Regardless, this day was one of my favorites of the entire trip.
Stay tuned for more posts about my trip!