Our final stop on the European Study Tour was London. This vibrant city was bustling and busy and very easy to get swept up in!
1. I loved the neighborhood that our hotel was nestled in. We came into town on a charter bus from Hades with no air conditioning and a very talkative bus driver. So we would have been eager to hop off regardless of where he stopped, but luckily he stopped on a quiet little street in Kinsington. To help create a mental image, just picture the street that Lindsay Lohan’s mom lived on in the newest Parent Trap movie. In fact the house they used for filmiing the movie was just a few blocks from our hotel! It was a very residential area and located by lots of good restaurants. One of which was Gourmet Burger Market, one of my new favorite places to eat in the world! The lobby of our hotel became a good gather location for our group as we planned our days and the super market down the street was the most convenient. I liked this hotel, as opposed to a hotel chain located downtown, because it really gave us the impression that we were seeing what it felt like to live in London. In the mornings when we made our way to the metro (called the tube) all of our neighbors were headed to work and taking their precious little British children to school. It was a very great location!
2. The talkative bus driver that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time did have a few good suggestions of sights to see. One of which was Hamley’s Toy Store, the biggest toy store in Europe. (So he claimed) A few of us girls went one afternoon and it was so neat! There were four floors dedicated to Barbies, Legos, stuffed animals, and so much more! It was a child’s dream come true. They even had barbies of Princess Kate and Prince William! What was most impressive was the collection of lifesized lego replicas of the royal family. I’m not sure how one goes about becoming a professional lego construction worker, but I want that job. It was just a fun stop on a schedule that was full of serious museums and things like the Tower of London. It made me want to be eight years old so I could justify an excessive amount of spending on the Barbie floor!
3. The timing for our stop in London could not have been planned any better. We arrived three days before the Diamond Jubilee and got to enjoy all of the decorations, excitement, and set up for the festivities without enduring the influx of tourists who were coming for the week. The streets were lined with British flags and they stretched across major intersections. When we walked past Buckingham Palace we got to see the set up for the huge concert they were holding in the Queen’s honor. The timing was also keen because of the upcoming Olympics which are also being held in London. On our last day in London a group of us took the train out to Olympic Village and got to see where all of the excitement will be taking place! Having seen all of these locations in person made watching the news coverage of the Diamond Jubilee so much more meaningful and I can only imagine that the Olympics will be the same way! I cannot wait!
The olympic countdown clock in Trafalger square and decorations for the Queen’s Diamon jubilee.
4. The most long lasting impression that I think I left London with was a new found love for the Royal family. I didn’t have much interest in them before we went to the United Kingdom, but even from our arrival in Canterbury I began to become more and more intrigued. The royal family holds the attention of citizens all across Britain, they possess a class and elegance (and scandalous past) that is not replicated anywhere else in the world. We had several encounters with royalty while in London and this only served to solidify by new interest in these men and women. As we were taking a walking tour of London we passed by Buckingham Palace right as the guests were entering the gates for Kate’s first garden party! The ladies and little girls all wore lovely sundresses and fancy hats and the men were in the sharpest suits I have ever seen. As neat as this was to witness it couldn’t compete with what we saw later that afternoon. As we were walking to the National Gallery we turned the corner and saw a huge mass of people. Someone informed us that Charles and Camilla were about to arrive for a church service honoring miliary heros. We waiting anxiously and snapped pictures that even the most experience paparazzi couldn’t compete with. I’m not sure what was so special about those two. They were just people, and not even people with exceptional morals or character, and yet they were so captivating! I caught Royal Family fever when we were in London and am happy to say that I still have it!