Wednesday June 14
On this beautiful Wednesday we journeyed to Notting Hill.
We of course had to stop by the locations where the movie Notting Hill, starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, was filmed. This included the Travel Bookshop, which is now an overpriced, overcrowded gift-shop, and the house with the blue door. Since we went on a Wednesday the Portobello Antique Market wasn’t in full-force. So after browsing the shops along the street for a while we continued to wander around the beautiful neighborhoods with all of the brightly colored houses. Sadly, that morning the Grenfell Tower fire had occurred not too far from Notting Hill. We were actually able to see the remains of the tower along with small flames and the huge cloud of smoke from where we were at some points. But, it was heartwarming to see many storefronts and doors with signs saying that they were drop off locations for donations for the victims.
Thursday June 15
On Thursday I went on my own little adventure.I took the Tube all the way out to Stratford to visit La Gelatiera, where they were giving out free brown ale flavored gelato to celebrate Britain’s national beer day. I have to say I didn’t love the flavor, but it was cool to try something so out of the ordinary (especially for free). After enjoying my Gelato I wandered around the ginormous Westfield shopping center. I wandered into many different stores, both ones that I shop at in the U.S. and any unfamiliar ones that caught my eye. As I was leaving I was stopped by some people that were promoting a brand of bread, who to my delight gave me a whole loaf for free. So with two free food items I’d say my outing to Stratford was a success. Once I got back to the house I decided to finally make my way to the British Museum. It’s less than a five minute walk away and I had been saying I needed to go since the first week we got here, so I’m glad I finally made it happen. At the museum I saw the Rosetta Stone and wandered around some of the free exhibits before heading out to buy some postcards to send to friends and family. That evening I ventured to see the London Eye and big Ben lit up with two friends from my flat. Seeing all of the lights as we walked along the pier was beautiful.
Friday June 16
On Friday we had a group trip to Oxford. We went on a walking tour of the city and learned about the University. We also saw a room where scenes from Harry Potter was filmed. Although it was cool to see a college town there really wasn’t much to do except browse gift shops in the few spare hours we had after the tour. After leaving Oxford we went to Blenheim Palace. Our group received a tour of the inside of the palace and learned about all of the extravagant artwork and decor that is inside.
Saturday June 17
Saturday was the Trooping of the Colour, also referred to as the Queen’s Birthday Celebration, despite her birthday actually being in April. Although I couldn’t see much during the parade, as I was stuck standing behind some incredibly tall people, I had a great view of the Royal Family once they were on the Buckingham Palace balcony. You can see Kate Middleton in the pink in the center of the balcony.
My favorite part of the celebration was the incredible airshow. The sky was bright blue and there were all types of planes flying over the crowd and the palace. A news-crew for B.B.C. was actually right next to us the entire ceremony and we were all joking about possibly being interviewed, sadly it didn’t happen for any of us. The weather was incredible all day, so I grabbed dinner from a local Mexican restaurant with some of the girls and ate at a nearby park before heading out for a fun night of dancing.
Sunday June 18
On Sunday we went to Harry Potter World!
I’ll be honest, I’m not a Harry Potter super-fan, but the studio tour was absolutely one of my favorite things I’ve done on this trip so far. Seeing all of the behind the scenes sets, costumes, props, blueprints, and so much more was so incredibly cool to me. There was so much information about how the films were made and how they were able to bring this magical world from words on a book to life on the big screen. We of course had to stop to get butter beer ice cream (we heard it was far better than the drink and I was not disappointed with it). One of the final parts of the tour was a complete model of Hogwarts, all designed to scale. This served as a tool to the film makes to make sure the locations of the shots were consistent and it was stunningly intricate and beautiful. We all left the tour wanting to binge watch the films and reread the books.
Monday June 19
During my media and politics class on Monday morning we had a former member of parliament come and speak to us about the election process and his job responsibilities. This was really interesting as he told us about his views as a member of the Conservative party and what he thought went wrong for him in the most recent election (that took place about two weeks ago) that caused him, along with many other Conservative Members of Parliament to lose their seats. After that we went to Old Bailey where we sat in a hot room and watched a trial (that we knew nothing about) take place. We were all falling asleep.
For my theatre outing we went to Shakespeare’s Globe. This iconic theatre is designed to be just like the theatres back in Shakespeare’s time were like. This included a large area for theatre goers to stand to watch the plays and limited technology use, especially in regard to lighting and sound.We saw Tristan & Yseult, directed by Emma Rice, who has left the Globe due to her controversial use of microphones, neon lights, and recorded sound in the traditional theatre. Despite not having a good view of the stage the first act of the show (due to the fact that we arrived to the theatre a little late because of jammed packed Tubes) I liked the show. Standing for almost 2 and a half hours was exhausting but the actors brought a huge amount of energy to the stage, even in the excruciating heat. All of the actors had a chance to show off their musical abilities, despite it being a straight-play, as there was live music incorporated into the show, which I really enjoyed.
Tuesday June 20
On our class outing Tuesday Morning we went to the Jewish Museum in Camden. We were not allowed to take pictures here, but the artifacts were really beautiful and hearing about all of the Orthodox Jewish traditions was interesting. I think everyone’s favorite part of the museum was the Amy Winehouse exhibit. The exhibit included many things from her childhood, as well as many letters about how she dreamed of one day being famous and singing for sold out arenas.
My second class outing was to St. Paul’s Cathedral. We toured the inside of the Cathedral and saw the tombs of countless people who’s work made a major impact on the nation. We then climbed 528 steps to the top of the Cathedral dome where we were awarded with this incredible view. That evening, our program went on a river cruise. We got free champagne and spent the evening singing along with the guitarist/singer. All of the families on the boats probably hated how obnoxious all of us American college kids were being, but we were all just having an incredibly fun time.
Here’s the group posing with the captain who put up with all of our craziness (bonus points if you can find my head peeking out). Another night that made me realize how incredibly lucky I am to be on this adventure of a lifetime with this fabulous group of people.