Last time you heard from me I was stressing over my lost luggage, taking pictures of pretzels in the aisles of the Tesco supermarket, and attempting to figure out how the tube works. Well, a lot has happened in the two weeks since my last post and I’m happy to say that I have become quite skilled at crossing the busy London streets and finding my way by Tube (with help from the lifesaving app CityMapper). That’s not all that I’ve accomplished though! I’ve tasted some amazing food, explored vibrant markets (London is full of them), seen some beautiful sights, and enjoyed many once-in-a-lifetime experiences! Here are just some of the incredible things that I have been able to experience in the past two weeks:
Iconic sights of London!
Before classes began, we traveled through London by bus (the city is gigantic…about 610 square miles) and drove by the famous landmarks that I have only seen on postcards and in photographs. We drove right next to Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, The Houses of Parliament, and even drove by the site where the entrance into Diagon Alley was filmed for the Harry Potter movies. Our bus made a stop in front of Buckingham Palace where we all were able to walk around and admire the Queen’s humble abode. The bus also came to a halt in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral (which was extremely beautiful with its ornate architecture) and we walked across the Millennium Bridge (another Harry Potter film site). Not only were we able to see these sights from the bus, but we were also able to see them from 443 feet in the air as we rode the London Eye (the giant wheel situated on the Thames River). This was one of my favorite experiences so far because when you are up so high in the air, you can really see how gigantic London is and how many amazing things that it has to offer. We could even see our residence hall (located near King’s Cross) from the London Eye!
Markets, Markets, and more Markets
I didn’t know much about the types of food that I would find in London...aside from fish n’ chips…but I was definitely not expecting to find so many markets with so many different flavors and varieties of foods and hand crafted clothes, jewelry, and souvenirs. Each market has a very different feel to it—its own personality. The Brick Lane Market had every kind of food imaginable. Name any country and I’m sure there will be a vendor selling its food! Having to go through the difficult process of choosing what to eat is the only downside to this place. After much deliberation, I decided on a Turkish dish called gözleme—a flatbread filled with different toppings and cooked over a griddle. It was incredibly delicious. Although the Camden Market is slightly similar in that they have an overwhelming amount of choices for food (I chose Jerk Chicken/Plantains which was also incredible delicious), the vibe of the market is completely different. The Camden Market has a more artsy/bohemian feel to it (the smell of incense was extremely strong and could be smelled everywhere) and the shops and stalls in the area were all very unique. We went into a store called CyberDog, which was definitely the most interesting shop in the market. It’s hard to describe the store—it’s something that you have to see for yourself—but I felt like I was in Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century (Disney Channel throwback).
Pub Quizzes and Plays
One thing I love about London is the Pub culture. On any given day, you can walk by a pub at 11 o’clock in the morning and see a group of people enjoying a pint and having a laugh. People study in pubs, people have business meetings in pubs, and people just hang out with friends in pubs. One Tuesday evening, my friends and I decided that we would try our luck at a pub quiz. For the pub quiz, you get into a team and have to answer different questions about sports, politics, pop culture, music, and so many other things. Although some of the questions are relatively easy (the quiz master played “Call Me Maybe” and we all knew immediately what song It was…), some of them are extremely difficult (when the quiz master asks everyone to name a certain county in England…we always just wrote down Manchester even though I’m pretty sure that’s not even a county…). We always have a ton of fun though and designated Tuesdays to be our pub quiz days. In addition to pubs, theatre is a huge part of the culture here in London. As a part of my Introduction to Theatre in London class, I get to attend shows every Thursday night and even though I wouldn’t normally see some of the shows that we are assigned to go see in class, it fuels the theater nerd inside of me. So far I have seen A Song from Far Away (a one man show written by the same playwright who wrote The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime), The Beax’ Stratagem (a hilarious play—which was accompanied by an incredible backstage tour of the National Theatre), and Sunny Afternoon (a musical based on the Mod band The Kinks (I sat in the THIRD ROW)). Although all three of these shows are extremely different, they were all extremely incredible in their own way and hopefully I will be able to keep adding to this list of incredible shows.
It’s hard to believe that I have been here for two weeks and have already experienced so much. Although I still have to use Google Maps, from time to time I like to put away my map and just get lost in London and see what amazing surroundings I come upon. I know that this city has so much more in store and I can’t wait to add onto the list of amazing experiences and sights that I have found here. Here's hoping that the typical London rain stays away and I'm able to spend plenty more sunny afternoons exploring the city!
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<p>Natalie Walden is a Junior at Penn State University, majoring in Public Relations and minoring in International Studies and Vocal Performance. On any given day, you can find her around campus singing with her a cappella group or drinking Jamba Juice at one of the HUB tables. She is a brother of Phi Sigma Pi honors fraternity and one of the THON chairs of the Oriana Singers and Glee Club THON organization. Her talents include impersonating Britney Spears/Shakira and binge watching shows on Netflix (which she will not be doing much of while abroad...). Natalie has never been to Europe before and can't wait to share all of her amazing adventures across the pond!</p>