Over the summer, I had the amazing opportunity to spend 6 weeks in London for a study abroad program. This post is the first in an 8-week series of travel posts, where I’ll be sharing everything from my favorite places in London to my adventures in other parts of Europe (5 countries + Scotland) to my travel tips and hacks.
In this post, I’ll be talking about my first three weeks in and around London, as well as my classroom experience at Imperial College London! Want to read about my other weekend trips? Check out my posts for London Part 2, Dublin, Scotland, and Switzerland!
The first few days in London, we mainly just walked around and tried to get a lay of the land and a feel for British culture (as well as recover from some serious jet lag!). This photo was taken from the Jubilee Bridge. I loved the awesome views of the Eye and Big Ben!
Next, we went to this really cool food market (Southbank Centre Market, open only on the weekends) just on the other side of the Thames river. I didn’t know it at the time, but markets would soon become one of my favorite parts of not just London but Europe in general – there’s so much variety, and you know that the food is fresh because it’s usually prepared right in front of your eyes! Below is the view from the steps of the market. I got a delicious ham and cheese crepe.
It was my birthday a few days into the trip, so I decided to #treatmyself and walk around Harrod’s, which is London’s most famous department store. I can’t even describe to you how ornate and posh this store is – along with the classic showrooms of Fendi, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton, there’s also showrooms for things I didn’t even know you could buy (£275,000 lapis lazuli piano or £2,000 mini desk globe anybody?).
Thank goodness that I casually stumbled upon the Godiva cafe, where I mentioned to the waitress that it was my birthday when she asked if I was there for any special occasion. When my brownie a la mode came out, the whole staff sang to me and presented me with this BEAUTIFUL brownie (those flecks along the plate are edible gold foil). It was quite the way to spend a birthday afternoon!
Later that night, a few friends and I went to Pizza Palace. Pizza Palace kind of makes it seem tourist-y and mediocre, but this was honestly one of my favorite restaurants in London! The crust is perfectly chewy, and the fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce is to die for. I don’t think I’ve had a better pizza anywhere else, except for maybe in Naples, Italy! This is the only restaurant that I went to twice in London because it was THAT GOOD.
Our next big London event was WIMBLEDON. I was so excited to go to Wimbledon because I love watching all the pros on TV. Plus, how often do you get to say that you went to a Grand Slam tournament? Because we got to Wimbledon in the early afternoon, there was no queue and we were easily able to get grounds tickets. (Grounds tickets let you sit in any of the smaller courts, as well as on the famous “hill” where you can watch Centre Court matches on the big screen.)
After watching two doubles matches on Court No. 2, I was about ready to leave (sunburn, anybody?). Luckily someone in my group knew that Venus and Serena were scheduled to play doubles on this very court! I knew I could bear the sun a little longer to watch these two amazing women play. Serena and Venus eventually won the Ladies’ Doubles title, and Serena won the Ladies’ Singles title.
Windsor, Bath, and Stonehenge
Our trip to Windsor, Bath, and Stonehenge was included in the price of our summer program. It was great to see the UK as a whole group, since most of us traveled on the weekends in smaller groups. Our first stop, Windsor Castle, included a visit to the Queen’s state apartments. I didn’t take a ton of pictures here, since you can’t take pictures inside the apartments or inside the chapel. Next we went to Bath, home of the famous Roman Baths.
I was surprised to find that the baths are green, and the algae in the water makes it unsafe to drink from or bathe in. I was also really surprised to find out that the water is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit when it comes up from the Earth’s crust. Totally makes sense why the Romans chose this spot for their public baths! They had a small fountain in the museum where you could taste the filtered geothermal water. It’s super metal-y, and super weird to be drinking warm tap water. But nonetheless, it was an awesome experience!
We ended the day at Stonehenge. Sorry to be a party pooper, but I though Stonehenge was super underwhelming! I thought the rocks were going to be bigger and more spread apart. That being said, I can only imagine how much each stone weighs, so I definitely appreciated it as a feat of engineering.
Imperial College London
While in London, I took two classes at Imperial College – Chemical Engineering Lab and Plant Operations. Imperial has a state of the art “Pilot Plant”, which is modeled on industrial-sized plants that extract carbon from the atmosphere for long-term storage. Here’s the first and second floors of the plant (there’s 4 total!).
Some days, we spent doing small-scale labs, and some days, we actually got to run the pilot plant! It was super stressful with lots of buttons to press and valves to turn, not to mention crazy alarms going off in the control room. However, it was an amazing hands-on experience that I will definitely be able to apply in the future.
Being in London is hard work, okay??