Wednesday July 12th
Wednesday began my last week abroad.
My parents had arrived in London after traveling around France so I met up with them at the British Museum in the morning. I had wandered around the museum once before by myself, but checking out some of the exhibits with them was a fun start to the day. I then checked a quintessential item off myLondon bucketlist: afternoon tea! We finally organized a group of ten to walk down the road to an adorable bakery. The tea was really good and we were provided with tons of sandwiches, scones, and other pastries to enjoy. I somehow ended up taking all of the boxes filled with everyone’s leftovers so I continued to enjoy the goodies for the next few days. I’m so glad we were able to find a cute, relatively inexpensive place to go where we were able to relax and reminisce about our trip as it came to an end. Later that evening I met up with my parents and showed them around one of my favorite areas in London, Covent Garden. We stopped at a pub for a light dinner and then I showed them around the Seven Dials and Neal’s Yard.
Thursday July 13th
The next morning I checked another thing off my London bucket list, eating at My Old Dutch, a really trendy restaurant near the house that specializes in pancakes.All of the decor was super bright and colorful and my pancake with banana, nuts, chocolate sauce, powdered sugar, and ice cream was definitely enjoyable (although I felt a little guilty considering it breakfast instead of dessert).After breakfast I did a little bit of souvenier shopping around our house with a few other girls to pick up some gifts for my friends, family, and of course myself. That afternoon I ventured to Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea with one of my friends. We had passed the gallery while exploring Chelsea before, but after a few other students’ went and raved about it we decided we needed to go back to see what it was all about (and I’m so glad we did). The entire gallery was filled with really interesting works, a lot of them focused on media which was especially intriguing to us. There was a whole room that had a projection of videos from around the world which was especially incredible. Another display that we thought was incredible was a motion sensor piece that reflected your movements on a display of large cotton-ball type things. It was by far my favorite gallery/museum I visited in London.That evening we had our final banquet. All of the students and many of the faculty members met at a fancy restaurant for an incredible three course meal. We all talked, watched a video with pictures and videos from our trip and reflected on our time abroad. Our two faculty members made speeches that made everyone emotional and we were given out paper plate awards (I got the award for best eyelashes haha). That night everyone went out and celebrated and my friends and I went to our beloved O’Neils one last time.
Friday July 14th
Friday was my Mom’s birthday! I had bought her surprise tickets to see The Book of Mormon, a show she’d been dying to see, so most of the morning was spent trying to keep her occupied until the matinee started. After getting breakfast at the cafe in Russel Square we headed to Carnaby Street. I had never been there before and it was right near the theatre so I thought it was the perfect place to buy us some time. We stopped in a few of the shops and unintentionally went into Choccywoccydoodah, a shop that makes incredible things out of chocolate. I had really wanted to check out one of the locations, so it was pretty cool just randomly coming across it as I was attempting to waste time any way I could. All of these dogs are made completely of chocolate. Then I took my parents to Hamley’s Toy Store. My dad had fun looking at the countless toys and even trying out some colorful hair chalk (on his eyebrows, that is, since he doesn’t have much hair left to try it out on). We still had a few hours before the show started, but I had run out of things to do so we headed towards the theatre. We passed the theatre and I expected my mom to say something about wanting to see the show or at least catching on to my plan, but she stayed silent and just looked at me. We saw the Kingdom of Sweets across the street so I decided to make one last stop there to see if she was going to mention anything about the show. We wandered around for a few minutes looking at all the sugary treats, but she still said nothing.Finally we walked right by the theatre and as we passed by a sign with a few of the shows I had seen for class I pointed them out to my mom. I then asked her if she could see any show while in London which one it would be, she replied The Book of Mormon, so I said “okay, let’s go pick-up our tickets then.” My mom was thoroughly surprised and super happy. We still had an hour before the show started so we walked around Chinatown. I was shocked to see that BubbleWrap Waffle had no line! I told my parents the time I went the line was 45 minutes and the fact that there were only two people in line now meant we had to get one. My mom isn’t a huge dessert person, so the delicious waffle acted as a birthday cake for her. Then we finally got to see the show! I thought all of the actors were incredible, especially the woman who played Nabulungi. The show was far more crude than I was expecting and I honestly felt bad laughing at some of the jokes made. After the show we went to Camden Market since my parents hadn’t been there yet. We then got some delicious Indian food for dinner near their hotel. That night everyone in the program met up at the Musuem Tavern to say our last goodbyes since people had super early flight in the morning. I asked my parents if they wanted to come get a drink and meet some of my friends. I also got my mom to celebrate her birthday with a glass of loopy juice (coolest mom ever!). It was a great night celebrating my mom’s birthday and then celebrating the end of my study abroad program with my friends.
Saturday July 15th
The next morning I had to move out of Madison House. I said my last goodbyes and then moved all of my stuff over to my parents’ hotel. Shoutout to my dad for lugging my huge suitcase down the street!
I hadn’t experienced a completely free weekend in London yet so I decided to make the most of my last few days there. We started by going to the Portobello Road Market. I thought the market was big when I had gone on a weekday before, but on Saturdays the market is absolutely ginormous. There were people and stands everywhere filled with clothing, antiques, and of course, food. After spending a good amount of time weighing our lunch options my dad and I decided on some gyro pitas with french fries in them! They were really yummy and I just love how much Londoners embrace chips with all their meals. My mom opted for an Arepa sandwich which looked tasty as well. After lunch we went to Hyde Park. I had only been to the park for the movie night, so I was really excited to see all of the flowers and lake areas. We found a really cool tree with branches that dropped to the ground so you were actually somewhat enclosed in the tree.
Then my parents enjoyed some drinks, while I opted for ice cream by the lake. All of the ducks came right up to us while we were sitting. Then we went to the Italian Gardens within the park, which were especially beautiful.
Sunday July 16th
Sunday morning we went to the Columbia Road Flower Market. This was my first completely free Sunday in the city (the only day the flower market is open) so I was so glad I was able to see it. The street was completely lined with flowers of all shapes, sizes, and colors. There were people walking down the street with their arms full of various bouquets. It was really beautiful.
After the market we went to the Victoria & Albert Museum. I had only been there to look at one exhibit for class, so I was happy to have more time to look at some of the other exhibits that afternoon. Then we walked to Harrods to get some souvenirs for our neighbors.That evening we went to the Shard, a 95-story skyscraper. Instead of paying to go to the observation deck we opted to get drinks at the hotel bar (travel tip: entrance to the bar is free and you don’t need reservations, just go to the hotel lobby). Of course the drinks were pretty pricey, but they were also very cool. They were all named after movies and their directors. My mom got a drink called Tea with Daisy, a Great Gatsby themed drink inspired by Baz Luhrman that lit up and changed colors. I got a drink called Fear the Jungle that was inspired by Steven Spielberg and came with a scorpion on top of it , WHICH I ATE! It actually didn’t taste that bad, it was just really crunchy. But my mom has said that me eating an actual scorpion and seeing my reaction was one of her favorite parts of the entire trip.
The view from the top was amazing. We saw a rainbow across the sky and were able to see the sunset from the hotel lobby. Then we went to a pub across the street and had Sunday Roast for the first time on our last Sunday in London.
Monday July 17th
We got a late start on Monday.
After having a jam packed day on Sunday we decided to sleep in a bit before starting our day. My mom and I went for afternoon tea at the Kingsway Hall Hotel. We got 25% off by booking with Open Table. The scones were really tasty and we each got our own kettle of loose tea. While we were at tea my dad did some exploring at the Tate Modern and along the Thames on his own.
He then texted the two of us asking if we wanted to go on a boat ride along the Thames. It was a pretty hot day, but getting to see all the iconic London landmarks one last time made sitting in the hot sun for half an hour completely worth it. This is the last real thing we did in London and I thought it was the perfect note to end on. That night we took the Tube to a hotel right by the airport since we had a super early flight home the next morning. My dad had read about a pub right near the airport called The Green Man, pretty much the only thing in the area besides the hotel. So we went to it for dinner. The pub was situated right near where all the planes were taking off which was a very cool site to see as I ate my final meal (of fish and chips) in London. This was one of the highlights of the trip for my dad. We had to pass a small farm to get back to our hotel. There were horses and donkeys that came right up to us as we were walking back. This was very different from the cityscape I had experienced the last two months.
Tuesday July 18th
We got on a bus to the airport right before 5am the next morning. I was sad to leave, but we were all pretty tired and ready to get home. We landed back in the States and I slept the entire next day.
My time abroad was nothing short of incredible and I want to thank everyone that has been keeping up with my journey by reading these blog posts.
My thank you to the incredible city I was so fortunate to call my home for the majority of this summer. I’m so thankful to my parents, JMU, and everyone that was a part of this life-changing experience.