#tbt Travel Diaries - London Calling
Welcome to a new series for The Wandering Pro, the #tbt Travel Diaries series. As some of you know or do not know, during my Junior year of college I got the amazing opportunity to study abroad in England. And somehow I got so lucky that I only had classes on Mondays which meant six day weekends, no homework or tests and a three week (which was really four weeks if you add the six day weekend to the front of it) long spring break which meant lots of time to travel England and the rest of Europe. And because of this I had started a blog to recount my adventures for my family and friends back home (the inspiration for starting this website up). So I thought it would be fun to bring over my original blog posts from my study abroad site and share those adventures here (slightly reimagined as I did not care too much about editing, adding specific details and making the posts look nice back then). I am going to try and post them around the same time that I did back then since it was exactly 8 years ago now that I was on this adventure of a lifetime (in case you were wondering why the photos are not the best quality, I mean the iPhone 5 only just came out before I left). One of the first trips I did, was a weekend trip down to London. So hopefully you guys enjoy coming down memory lane with me:
Original Blog Post posted January 22, 2013:
This past weekend I got to experience a quick trip to London. London really is an incredible city, and the weather was perfect (at least as far as good weather in the winter goes), with so much to explore that I will definitely have to go back to find the stuff we weren’t able to see or tour. Most of what we did on this trip was go around and see all of the tourist attractions but not explore inside any of them. We arrived right before dinner just as the sun was setting. I met my friends at the bus station (cheapest travel option), as I took the train in (at that time about double to triple the cost of the bus so still reasonably priced especially compared to train costs in America, and half the travel time of a bus, with the added benefit of bathrooms and bar cars), and we went in search of our hostel, the Astor Victoria Hostel. Hostels are certainly an interesting experience. Definitely not my cup of tea, but it was cheaper then a hotel room ($10/night) and we only really needed it for a bed. My roommates were kind of weird and a lot of the people at the hostel were too but we did not have any problems with each other so that was at least good. To give you guys some perspective, my room was four beds, two singles and a bunk bed in a tiny space. That was it. No storage, no privacy screens, no outside lockers, no private bathroom. So this was quite a culture shock compared to my usual private hotel rooms I am use to, I was definitely very exposed here. So pretty much not a lot of sleep was happening with the roommates coming and going at random times as well as fear of my personal belongings. Safe to say I learned that this was what you would get for going with the cheapest hostel and planned this part a bit better for future trips. (Although looking at this place in todays times, they seemed to have updated a lot of it). This was the quaint street the hostel was on in the Victoria neighborhood.
Seeing as how we were not familiar with the city we did not want to go crazy exploring the first night. We kept it simple and took the tube over to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. The tube is legit the easiest thing to get around the city and pretty much has stops for wherever you need to go with very frequent trains. The bridge is a gorgeous piece of architecture.
We then took the tube over to London Eye and Big Ben and strolled down the path that meandered along the River Thames.
At this point most of us were tired as my friends had to get up early that day for their 5-6 hour bus ride, so we headed back to the hostel and checked out a neighboring pub (I think it was called The Constitution) for some drinks (my first legal drink at a bar since I was not 21 yet) before calling it a night.
The next day we got up early to get breakfast (for those that do not know, hostel breakfasts are pretty much just the most plain cereal ever and bread, sometimes at the better ones they will have a few pastry options, fruit and yogurt but pretty much bare bones) and to pick up two more members of our group from the train station. We met up with a classmate of theirs at University of Central Lancashire (I was studying at the University of Bolton), Jeremy, who was originally from London, to help guide us around the city and its attractions. We first went back to Big Ben and the London Eye to see it during the day. Again easy tube ride.
We then started our walking tour of the city and popped over quick to take photos and marvel at Westminster Abbey while we were in the area as it is located just around the corner.
We then rushed over to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards but ended up only catching them as they were walking down The Mall. Buckingham Palace was huge and definitely a huge tourist trap as there were so many people there.
After checking out the Palace, we then made our way down the Princess Diana Memorial Walk (connects Buckingham Palace to Hyde Park) and to the Wellington Arch.
Heading north along the eastern edge of Hyde Park brought us to one of the main shopping streets where you can find pretty much any European store imaginable, Oxford. Just a short walk off of Oxford was Piccadilly Circus, which was another crowded area in a similar fashion to Times Square (just much smaller) with lots of bright signs, tourist traps and more stores and restaurants, and Trafalgars Square which was just an open plaza with some fountains and statues situated throughout.
At this point we headed back to the Hostel to get some rest, this is when a hotel would have been better because it would have gave us a better more private, resting place. After a quick nap we got ready to go out for the night. Despite it raining we went to a really neat place called Belushi's (RIP this location) in a really cool part of the city called Covent Garden, we weren’t able to get back there the next day but hopefully another day. The night life was very lively, it was also Australia Day apparently so everyone was out for that. It was a cool atmosphere although the drinks everywhere we went were pretty expensive (for a poor college student that is).
The next day we went out exploring by ourselves hitting all the tourist attractions we missed the day before. We started out late heading to Millennium Bridge to see St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Globe Theater since they were located on opposite sides of the bridge from each other.
Since the Globe Theater was just down the river from the Tower, trekked that way to see Tower Bridge and Tower of London during the day. Bridge still beautiful. Tower still fort-y.
A quick tube trip took us to Kings Cross so the big Harry Potter fans could get a picture at “Platform 9 3/4”. It was literally just a half luggage carry nailed to a random brick wall in the Kings Cross Train Station with a sign above it stating 'Platform 9-3/4'. All I got to say about that...
And to finish off the day before we parted ways, so my friends could catch their bus back to their school and I could catch my train, we hopped back on the tube to make a stop at Abbey Road to see the studios and take pictures on the crosswalk made famous by The Beatles. This was an interesting experience as people were constantly trying to take photos walking across it to mimic The Beatles album cover (which we epically failed at) even though it was still a functioning and very busy street.
All in all the weekend was really enjoyable and it was amazing to see all that stuff with such beautiful weather.
I hope you enjoyed taking a walk down memory lane and what a day in the life of my travels while studying in England for a semester. Although this trip was not the most exciting as it was just dipping my feet in what was to come. What are some of your favorite spots in London, did I visit any of them? Let me know in the comments.
So be on the lookout for future adventures I went on in Europe in this #tbt Travel Diaries series. Maybe some of my reminiscing of these times will inspire you to get out to Europe hopefully in the near future.
-The Wandering Pro