London Calling

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. –Samuel Johnson

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After years of watching loads of BBC (Doctor Who, Sherlock, Top Gear, etc.) and obsessing over the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch and Matt Smith, I finally fulfilled my dream of going to London. This trip was a way for Klara and I to celebrate completing the Vienna half-marathon but really we just wanted an excuse to go to London. We stayed with a dear friend of mine from DePauw, Laura Neel, who moved to London so she could kick butt in Grad School after leaving good old DePauw. Her adorable flat is in Swiss Cottage, a northern neighborhood of London, where we had easy access to a Tube station and a choice selection of coffee shops and pubs. After arriving late Thursday night in the boonies of London, AKA Gatwick, we paid through the nose for a taxi to Laura’s because the Tube was closed. After a late night of catching up over tea, Laura helped us plan our weekend and the next morning we began our adventure with coffee and croissants at Loft, quite possibly the cutest coffee shop I’ve ever seen.

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Klara and I hopped on the tube toward Westminster and after taking a few cliché, touristy photos walked to the National Gallery. One of my favorite things about London: all of the museums are free. I’m sure this doesn’t appeal to every 20-something traveling Europe, but any museum junky would’ve enjoyed our Friday morning strolling through halls filled with the likes of Raphael and Da Vinci. After 3 hours of this, we met up with Laura at Fortnum & Mason for another dream of mine: afternoon tea. Yes, it lived up to expectations, even though my poor college budget only allowed for tea and scones. Ice cream in the parlour and a purchase in the massive “tea shop” (1 of the 4 floors of F&M) are a must, and pair nicely with a long walk through one of London’s great parks. And because God continues to abundantly bless my travels, we got to meet up with my awesome Brazilian friends (from hiking the Camino de Santiago) and spent the rest of the day wandering around Hyde Park, Covent Garden and SoHo after stopping by Laura’s parents’ house for more tea. Klara and I had dinner with my sweet friend and sorority sister, Katie, and then sat around Laura’s apartment laughing with a bunch of sarcastic Brits, delirious from finishing up closing night of their show. Talk about a perfect day in London Town ❤

The next morning, Laura took us on a tour of Borough Market (a must for any foodie), where I ate my weight in samples, and then left us to explore Camden Market with yet another amazing friend, the one and only Trish Preuss. Despite how insanely crowded and overwhelming Camdem Market felt, I couldn’t imagine a trip to London without experiencing the “punk/alternative” centre of town. We spent the latter part of the afternoon back in Covent Garden, where I spent a solid 45 minutes enthralled by the most captivating street performers I’ve ever seen, a sextet of 2 violins, a viola, a cello, and a flautist who somehow managed to actually dance while playing…#talent. Laura took us to a tasty Indian place for curry and then to “Ye Old Swiss Cottage,” literally a trip back in time where we listened to old British men singing out of key with their beers sloshing onto the old carpet floor of this ancient pub. A friend of Laura’s invited us to their house for wine and chocolate cake balls (totally sealed the deal) where I fell in love with more of London’s quirky theatrical residents, managing one degree of separation with Maggie Smith – translation: one of Laura’s friends casually “ran into” Maggie Smith outside before his show and she casually wished him good luck. #casual

Klara and I enjoyed one final morning in London, stopping by 221 Baker Street to find my future husband (kidding…sorta), taking more cliché pictures, and glancing through the V&A (Victoria and Albert) museum, to which I will assuredly be returning. And because every trip is not complete without some painful “learning experience,” the airport bus I was supposed to take to Gatwick left 10 minutes early, leaving me to translate between a Spanish couple and a grumpy cab driver so we could barely get to Gatwick in time to run to our gates. Talk about “growing up fast.” Regardless, my short 3 days in London left me with an insatiable desire to return, next time for more than one weekend. Several posts coming soon to wrap up my semester abroad – stay tuned!

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