The London Eye and The London Aquarium

The best thing that I have learned to do since being in Europe  is stepping out of my comfort zone when traveling, realizing every place I travel to is unique and incomparable and going with the flow of things. During my trip to London, I had the opportunity to remind myself of the lessons I have learned over this semester about not being afraid to step out of my comfort zone. London is a place I always dreamed of traveling to since I was younger; I dreamed of peeking my head out of a quaint, red telephone booth and being surrounded by British accents. From my visit, I was able to live my dream and also be faced with a few realities that come along with traveling such as rainy days and changing plans.

My first day in London was jam-packed with tourist locations, sightseeing, and yummy food. Arriving in London, I expected to be surrounded by thick British accents while standing across from the Elizabeth Tower, commonly known as Big Ben. What I did see and hear was slightly different from what I expected: Big Ben was completely covered in metal ladders and construction equipment, and the British accents I heard were nearly what I thought they would be (they were the usually more diverse accents of tourists). Even though I was not able to see Big Benin its full glory, I did see the London Eye, Parliament and Parliament Square, and take my cliché picture in a telephone booth. It was also exciting to visit the Buckingham Palace and see the British flag flying high above the palace, indicating the Queen was home. The best part about the first day was going to Chinatown! I walked under the little red lanterns that decorated the sky, and saw Asian cuisine and shops and live street performances. That first night, I was able to see London come alive at night. Another fun thing that I did that night was going to M&M World! Even though I am not much of a chocolate person, I could not resist creating my personal multi-colored M&M goodie bag.

Buckingham Palace (the Queen was home!)

When visiting London, I was able to eat delicious food and experience the best that the city has to offer. Some of the most relaxing and interesting places to visit were: Hyde Park and Speaker’s Corner; seeing Harry Potter fans walk around with glee at Platform 9 3/4; visiting an exhibition on women’s suffrage in Parliament; browsing through Liberty, the shopping center that inspired Oscar Wilde; seeing infamous artwork in the National Gallery; and strolling in Piccadilly Circus. While I was there, I ate food from different cuisines; I had sweet and sour chicken at a highly rated Chinese restaurant, a traditional flavored infused Sri Lankan lunch, and breakfast in a modern café near Leicester Square.

Chinatown

Liberty Shopping Center

When traveling to different places, I highly recommend finding hidden gems in the city and not being afraid to ask locals what to do! The second day of my trip in London started out gloomy, rainy and slightly disappointing as the places I visited either were booked, expensive, or obstructed from a good view with the rain. Here is where going with the flow and exploring different activities comes in with traveling! That morning after regrouping with coffee, I decided to break away from the group I was traveling with for an hour to visit Leadenhall Market. As I walked under the overhang of the closed market, I was in awe at the beautiful architecture of the market, photographers taking advantage of its emptiness, and embraced the peace of the market. While I was there, I able to get a picture of myself taken by young filmmakers and photographers, and also get advice from them on the best things to do in London from a local perspective. As a result of having a 10-minute conversation with some people and asking for a picture, I was able to figure out what to do for the rest of the day in London!

While London is known for royalty, Winston Churchill, and landmarks like Big Ben, it has a lot more to offer than just that. This trip was good for me because it reminded me to not compare places that I travel to on a ranking scale. Every place, culture, and experience is different and that is what makes traveling such a great experience! At the end of my adventures in London, I was able to realize this and overall look at the experience as something unique on its own.