I apologize for my delay in blogging; the past week and a half has been the most wonderful whirlwind I have ever experienced. To kick off my study abroad adventure, AIFS (the program I am participating in) set up a two day excursion in London. As the first city I had ever seen in Europe, I can confidently say it set the bar high for the rest of the trip. In addition, I was glad to start off in a country whose culture seems quite similar to my own.
We spent most of our days on guided walking and bus tours, seeing some of the most famous locations in the world. Our first day was both exhilarating and exhausting; we could barely keep our eyes open after an overnight flight that left us completely jet-lagged, but we refused to let our sleepiness prevent us from seeing as much of London as possible. Immediately some friends and I set out to learn to navigate the “tube” and get to Abbey Road, the location of one of the iconic Beatles album covers. We then traveled to the location of London that contained Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye. Unfortunately, both Big Ben and the London Eye were closed for renovation, but it was still incredible to be in the presence of such astonishing landmarks. Our last stop of the day was Camden Market, an incredible location bustling with shops and eateries that reminded me so much of the Strip District back home in Pittsburgh.
Our second day was a bus tour that took us around the entirety of the city of London. We first stopped at Buckingham Palace, home of the Queen! It was absolutely breathtaking, and I must say that I would not mind living there myself. Since it was raining for the entirety of our trip, we were unable to see the infamous “changing of the guard” at Buckingham Palace, which was just about the only disappointing part of our trip. We then stopped at Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral, and drove over the London Bridge to end our tour at Convent Gardens. Not fully satisfied, we made our way over to the National Gallery, and were able to see some stunning works of art before stopping at a local pub for authentic British fish and chips. After our late lunch, we headed over to Regent Street, which I personally believe could confidently be called the “Fifth Avenue of London,” and went window shopping at some beautiful high-end designer stores. We passed time browsing the many shops until 5:30 pm, when the annual Lumiere festival began, and various spots around the city were lit up with beautiful light displays. After taking in the sights and picking up some tourist memorabilia, we headed back to our hotel for dinner and a long night’s rest before departing for our next city, Rome!
Despite the cold and rainy weather, we kept our heads high and managed to squeeze in an astounding amount of activities and see many of the most famous sites in London. I am so glad that I was able to begin this incredible journey with some of my closest friends, and cannot wait to see what lies ahead for me throughout the rest of the semester.