After plans fell through to visit Valencia, Spain one weekend I was left wondering what to do. I considered Croatia, Germany, Switzerland and other eastern European countries that I had not yet visited, but unfortunately flights were ridiculously expensive. Feeling a bit discouraged I decided to check skyscanner.com one last time to see if any cheap flights had become available for the weekend. It was fate when I encountered a relatively cheap direct flight from Seville to London, UK! Conveniently, I also had a friend studying abroad in London who offered an air mattress and to be a personal tour guide (Thanks Kerry!!). No doubt, London was calling.
I will admit, my trip to London consisted more of relaxing, and catching up with friends than it did formal touring. However, Kerry showed me all of the city’s hotspots and most iconic buildings/monuments (we just didn’t pay to go in them). We toured the city on foot mostly, starting with the London Eye then working our way around the outsides of Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and surrounding Parliament buildings, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square. For lunch we stopped at a casual pub and got our fill of fish and chips- a London food favorite.
(Left to right: London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben/Parliament Building, Buckingham Palace)
In the afternoon we took the tube (London’s subway system) to Camden, which is a hipster-like borough in northern London that’s famous for it’s eclectic market. It’s also home to Cereal Killer Café- a café specializing in cereal concoctions that has become a bit of a social media sensation thanks to foody instagrammers. (Their creations are pretty photogenic). I ordered a peanut butter hot chocolate that was an absolute chocolate overload, but no regrets here. It was indeed tasty and “Instagrammable.”
We had a late start on Saturday but began our day with a nice brunch at The Breakfast Club, a popular and trendy brunch destination. From there, we made our way to a more modern part of the city and “toured” Picadilly Circus and Regent Street. And by toured i mean shopped. Both are very nice areas for shopping and eating. Here, you’ll find stores all the way from Burberry and Louis Vuitton to H&M.
That night we went to the UNC Honors College Dorm to watch UNC play Notre Dame in the final four game. As you probably already know, we won this game… but the next wasn’t so fortunate. I’d rather not talk about it though… still a touchy subject.
It was on this day that we treated ourselves. Specifically, we treated ourselves to the Bloomsbury afternoon tea at the Charlotte Street Hotel. It was a classy affair that included an assortment of fancy teas, finger sandwiches, chestnut macaroons, scones, and various tarts and pastries. It was all so delicious! The price was a bit steep at £30 but it was worth every penny. After all, you can’t go to London and not do tea.
After tea, I took it upon myself to do some solo exploring of the city. I started in Hyde Park- the largest park in the city that connects to the Kensington Palace (Will and Kate’s home). It was a sunny day, which is a rarity for London, so I was pretty lucky. After walking through the park I made my way to Harrod’s- the iconic seven story department store of London. It is basically Nordstrom X1000 and a bit more expensive. I decided not to break the bank and only walked out with a £10 bag of Harrod’s tea.
I really enjoyed London. Even though I didn’t make it inside every major building and museum, I really felt like I gained a big appreciation for the city. London is HUGE. After all, it’s the largest city in the world. In the US it’s most comparable to New York not just because of its size but also because it’s home to a mix of many different people and lifestyles. I really appreciated that. I originally didn’t plan on coming to London during my time in Europe this semester, but I am so glad I did. It turned out to be one of my favorite places thus far and I know that I will surely return one day!