Greetings friends! This post is going to be a recap of my trip I took this past week, first starting with London! I wrote a little bit everyday on my phone, but wasn’t able to post because I did not bring my laptop. So grab yourself some food and coffee, because this is going to be a long one.
As I am writing this, I am officially on my first trip outside of Scotland! This week, the University of Edinburgh has its “Flexible Learning Week”, in which there are no classes and the school organizes a bunch of fun, educational events. Although some students stay during the week, most students, especially study abroad students, take it as an opportunity to travel. One of my friends I met at Edinburgh and I have been planning a trip during this break for a while, and after a lot of back and forth and changing our minds, we decided on London and Dublin! This was my first time ever planning a trip and I gotta say, I’m pretty proud of myself. Leading up to the trip, I spent countless hours creating a daily schedule for the trip with times, all our reservation/ticket information, the exact tube stops we needed to get on and off at for London, etc.. And so far, so good!
Our trip began with a 4 hour train ride on Friday, 2/17 from Edinburgh to London Kings Cross. Originally, we wanted to fly because we presumed it would be cheaper than taking the train, turns out, it was around the same price and we figured taking the train a) would be way less stressful (although, we almost missed out train because we figured out 5 minutes before that we were on the wrong platform) and b) would allow us to see the beautiful views! The train ride was very relaxing and we indeed were able to see some beautiful views of rural England.
After arriving at Kings Crosd Station at around 1:40 PM, of course the first thing we did was wait in the line to take a picture at Platform 9 3/4. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, so even though the line was massive and we had to wait around 45 mins, I thought it was totally worth it. They provided you with a wand and a scarf, and there was a professional photographer to take your picture (you could also use your own phone) and a professional scarf flicker, who would flick your scarf ever so gently every time a picture was taken so it would look like your scarf was just blowing in the wind.
Luckily, my friend has a family friend in London so we were able to stay with them while we were there. Once we got to the house, we were extremely tired and spent the rest of the evening hanging out with the family we were staying with, who very graciously cooked us steak 😀
First up on our schedule (2/18), the Tower of London! We arrived at around 11 AM and ended up not leaving until around 3:30 PM. There was just so much to do! When looking up top attractions in London, the Tower of London came up time and time again. I had personally never heard of it, but I’m so glad we decided to visit because it was extremely interesting. When you enter Tower of London, it’s almost like a little colonial town, with different buildings within the wall that were used for different purposes. The buildings within the tower were used as torture chambers, prisons (it’s where Anne Boleyn was imprisoned, Henry VII’s third wife), living spaces for the royalty, to house the Crown Jewels, as the home of the ravens, etc. It was amazing to be able to walk around a place with so much history. One of the most interesting parts of the Tower, I thought, was the ravens. Legend says that the tower and the kingdom of England would fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the tower. Charles II was the first to demand that the ravens at the Tower be protected.
In the evening, I was lucky enough to be able to met up with some camp friends who live around the London area, some that I haven’t seen in 2.5 years! We went out to dinner at a Korean restaurant, and spent the rest of the night (literally) catching up. It’s so amazing how so many years can go by, yet some things still feels the same.
On Sunday, 2/19, I signed us up for a free, three hour walking tour with Strawberry Tours. I did a ton of free walking tours when I visited Spain, and I loved them. It’s a great way to learn the history of a city in an interacting, affordable way. At the end of the tour, you just tip the tour guide how much you think the tour was worth. Our tour stopped at places such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and more. Our guide was super funny and told us some very memorable stories relating to the history of London. Of them, included an explanation of all of Henry VII’s wives (divorced, behaved, died, divorced, beheaded, survived). Although we originally planned on visiting the Victoria and Albert later in the day, we ended up spending too much time taking pictures by Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the London Eye. Check out some of the photos below!
The next day (2/20), we went on a day tour with Evan Evans to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. We got picked up at 8:20 AM and got home around 8 PM. It was a tiring, but also very rewarding day. Because these three places are all far in distance from one another (and from London), the day felt kinda rushed, but in all honestly, there’s no way to do it in a way that wouldn’t feel rushed. We had around 2 hours to explore Windsor Castle, 1 hour and 15 minutes to explore Stonehenge, and a little over an hour to explore the Roman Baths and Bath. We happened to pick a good day for the tour because Windsor was beautiful! The sun was shining and the skies were the bluest I’ve seen in the U.K. yet. The castle has been used as the home of kings and queens for over 1,000 years, and is said to be Queen Elizabeth’s favorite residence. Our guide explained the way to tell if the Queen was there is by the flag that stands at the top of the Castle. If it is a British flag, she is not present, but if it is the Royal Standard, she is. Lo and behold, when we visited , she was there! We didn’t get to hang out with dear Lizzie unfortunately. We did, however, get to visit the state apartments, Queen Victoria’s Doll House, and St. George’s Chapel, which is where Henry VII and his favorite wife, Jane Seymour, are buried.
Next up was Stonehenge, a group of rocks in the middle of no where that, to this day, their function is unknown. Some say they were used for human sacrifice or served some religious purpose, others say it was used as a calendar for the solstice system. Either way, it was cool to be able to see something that is so famous up close!
Last but not least were the Roman Baths. Although we didn’t have much time to explore the museum, we did have a chance to see the actual baths. The Romans treated the Baths as more of a place of social gathering than just a place to get clean. It was a place to see and be seen. Being a big Roman history guru, I love being able to see Roman architecture in real life. Near the exit, they had a fresh water spring fountain that you could actually drink from! I took a sip, and it tasted anything but fresh. In fact, it tasted a little salty and metal-ly. According to our tour guide, that’s because the water is chalk full of different minerals that are suppose to be good for you.
On Tuesday, 2/21, we visited the inside of Westminster Abbey, where notable people like Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Charles Dickens are buried! The abbey had grand ceilings and spectacular stained glass windows. It was just big enough that we ended up spending around 2 hours there, but not big enough that it was overwhelming.
Later that day, we visited the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is home of everything decorative art and design. Our guide explained it as anything that “has a function”. We were able to see items from places such as India, Persia, Japan, Italy, etc. There was even a history of underwear exhibit called “Undressed”, unfortunately, we didn’t go see it because there was an entrance fee. After lunch, I went to the Science Museum. Being a tech loving person, I was super excited to check this museum out. Just like the V & A, it was free (thank goodness, my wallet enjoyed the break). The museum had things like a Big Data exhibit, which had all these cool activities that showed you how big data is used in society, like in the tube system or Facebook, and a space exhibit, which showed you the life of an astronaut in space!
Phew, so that’s my recap of my London trip. Stay tuned for my next post about my Dublin trip!
Check out my London vlog below!