As I sit in my favorite cafe trying to organize my thoughts, I realize I have absolutely no idea how to begin this blog post. This past week in the UK has been a whirlwind, and I’m still reeling from all of the amazing things I experienced. The easiest way to do this, I think, is a day-by-day breakdown, so here goes!
On Sunday, we arrived at the airport around 6 AM ready (or as ready as I’ll ever be at 6AM) to depart for London. After two croissants and a huge cup of coffee, I made it onto the plane and proceeded to stay awake for the entire two hour flight (big mistake, I later learned when I crashed at 7 PM). When we landed, we went straight to the hotel to drop off our bags before lunch.
Lunch was at this place called The Champion, which, turns out, is where Freddie Mercury *wrote* a lot of “We Are the Champions”! (I use the word *wrote* here loosely, as I don’t actually know the full accuracy of this claim). Regardless, it was cool to sit in the same basement that Freddie Mercury once sat in, especially after watching the movie Bohemian Rhapsody this summer and having more of an appreciation for him and Queen.
After lunch, I was crashing hard. This didn’t bode well for me, because we then had scheduled a two hour walking tour of Notting Hill (which looking back was actually a good thing because I devoured some fish and chips and needed to walk it off). Last time I visited London, I actually hadn’t gone to Notting Hill, so this worked out really well. We got to see an original Banksy a bunch of film spots, and, on a more morbid note, the hotel where Jimi Hendrix overdosed. By the end of it I was ready for a five hour nap, but I’m really glad we got to see some of Notting Hill and it was a great way to keep us moving on that first day.
To wrap up an exciting and exhausting day, my friends and I journeyed to Chinatown for dinner. Again, I’d been to this area last January, but it still took my breath away. We settled for a quick meal at a random Chinese restaurant, where my friend Justin ~convinced~ us all to try rice wine (spoiler alert: it tastes like watered down vodka). And thus, I returned home and fell into bed.
Monday brought a visit to the Museum of Brands, which I did not realize was a thing…? Nonetheless it was really cool. Robert Opie, the founder, was a collector who realized that we can learn a ton about society just from packaging. The “Time Tunnel” is the main feature of the museum and has over 12,000 original items like toys, posters, letters, packaging, etc. that date all the way back to the Victorian era. I could have spent the whole day in there reading the little plaques, but sadly we only had an hour for lunch .
Therefore, we hustled over to Borough Market to grab some food before our visit to QBE that afternoon. Guess what I got, Dad? A burger! I’m a little mad at myself for going to a street food market and not getting something ~authentic~ but whatevs, can’t go wrong with a good medium-rare burger (well-done people don’t @ me). That afternoon, we did a visit to the global insurance company, QBE. While I have absolutely no desire to work in insurance (haha can you imagine me working in insurance?) it was surprisingly interesting to hear about all of the various experiences that led to our presenters working at QBE. They also touched a bit on internal vs. external communications and the differences between working for a free-lance company vs. a company that has its own interior structures.
At this point, it was now rainy and grey outside, which meant…another walking tour! I can’t be mad though because this was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip – a street art tour of East Shoreditch. Here’s some pictures:
Living in a city, I think it’s easy to brush off all street art as “graffiti” or vandalism, which I’ll admit I’ve often fell prey to. However, looking at it through the lens of our tour guide – a street artist herself – I really saw how this is its own entire culture and says a lot about our current society and how people feel. Definitely a highlight of this trip!
On Tuesday, we shoveled down breakfast and boarded the bus for…Oxford! I was so excited to return to Oxford – I absolutely love the vibe of the city and how different it is from any other college town I’ve experienced. But first, we stopped for a few hours at Windsor Castle, where we got to explore the Estate Rooms and Cathedral, and saw (and almost got run over by) a live changing of the guard.
In Oxford, we took a walking tour (surprise, surprise!) and then had an hour or so to explore. Some friends and I scoped out the local Waterstones (also surprise, surprise) and bought books to read on the way home. Our tour guide was an Oxford-native and former student, so he had some really fun insights into campus culture and told us all about Oxfordian (is that a word?) traditions, like the rivalries between different colleges. Overall very pleasant day that we enjoyed a ton. (Note: the bottom picture is of a library where some Harry Potter scenes were filmed, including the infirmary and the restricted section of the library, how neat! The middle picture is Meg and I being idiots outside of it, of course.)
We had been told on Wednesday that we’d have free time in the afternoon and evening, so I was ready to get on with the day and have some time to explore London sans-class. But first, we had a visit to Wimbledon! Honestly, I didn’t expect much going into this visit (anyone who even relatively knows me knows that I have .01 athletic bones in my body). But in true DIS-fashion, this visit also proved to be one of my unexpected favorites.
We learned about Wimbledon as a brand, with our guide breaking down the common stereotypes of the organization while also explaining how they’re used to secure the image of Wimbledon. He said that the entire brand is built on three things: tennis, white uniforms, and grass. When you think of Wimbledon, this is what they want to come to mind. He said that Wimbledon will protect this at all costs, and is really careful about curating great experiences for every type visitor to avoid negative PR. I also learned that they count every single piece of grass growing on the courts (centre court has over 64 million pieces!).
After this, we had time to ourselves for the rest of the afternoon, so my friend Dana and I walked around Covent Garden for a bit. Around 5 PM we had DIS-provided tickets to the London Eye, so we met up with the rest of the squad and did that. This time it was still light outside, so it was fun to pick out landmarks and see London from so high up!
Thursday morning brought us back to reality with the fact that it was our last day in London. In the morning, we visited the Churchill War Rooms, which I admittedly knew nothing about. It blew past my expectations – I’m not super interested in military history, but I think this exhibit did a really great job of incorporating factual information with recreated scenes from the tunnels. I’ve also discovered I’m a big fan of audio guides – you know you’re an adult when you enjoy audio guides. Below is a compilation of my friend Meg, who’s a political science major and was overwhelmingly excited to visit the war rooms (can’t you tell?).
We then had another few hours for lunch and to explore before we had our concluding dinner and went to the theatre. Some friends and I decided to return to Covent Garden and had crepes (yum!) and do a bit of thrift shopping with our guru Madi. Afterwards, we headed to the National Cafe for a delicious final meal (and a few glasses of wine, also delicious!) before we went to see the Book of Mormon (!!!). I saw this last November in Chicago with my brother Jake, but it was more fun this time because I could pick out the songs after extensively listening to the soundtrack this past year.
Friday was bittersweet, as I had to say goodbye to London and to traveling with my awesome friends (this is where you say *awh*). We had high tea at Fortnum and Mason, which was an experience, let me tell you. We basically each had our own tea pots and were then given an unlimited supply of finger sandwiches, scones, and other various pastries, along with an assortment of cake that seemed to never end. Even I got worn out on sugar!
And that’s a wrap on my week in London! I then headed on to a solo trip to Edinburgh for the weekend, but I’m going to do an entirely separate blog post on that adventure (spoiler: amazing). I hope you enjoyed reading this extensive blog post about my trip, and while I’m sad to leave one of my favorite cities on the planet, returning to Copenhagen felt like a warm hug, even if it was raining when I emerged from Nørreport. 😉