As I mentioned in my last post, I was fortunate enough to spend six weeks of my summer studying across the pond. I lived in London but outside of the city. I was in zone four, in the borough of Barnet. My classes were in South Kensington and my internship was in Holborn, so I was able to spend my time in a pretty extensive patch of the city. It was a long trip, but I’ll highlight as much as I can in this post and definitely revisit points in others.
If you’ve read some of my other posts, it might be obvious that I’m a bit of a theater buff. London was AMAZING when it came to live performances. I ended up seeing five shows: Phantom of the Opera (twice), Les Miserables, Dr. Faustus, and Romeo and Juliet. The most I paid for a show was the fifty pounds for Dr. Faustus, which was about $70. I was there during Brexit and these tickets were purchased before, so the conversion differs a bit now. For the musicals, I only paid about thirty pounds, which would be about $45 or less, I think. Mind you, these shows are Broadway level, and possibly even better. That is absolutely insane when you think of how much you pay for some Broadway shows! The level of skill in the performances was absolutely incredible and it was unbelievable to see Phantom in the theater where it opened thirty years ago.
There were specific reasons I saw Faustus and Romeo and Juliet. I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan, and Kit Harrington was Dr. Faustus and Richard Madden was Romeo. In addition, Lily James was Juliet. I was so fortunate to be able to see all of them live, in person, and I waited at the stage door afterwards. I was able to get autographs from Richard and Lily but I wasn’t close enough to Kit. Either way, it was such a great experience to see them live, on stage!
I know that the musicals I went to seem pretty basic but I really wanted to see them as they were originally, in the environment where they originated. I was not disappointed in the slightest. If you have the chance, see Phantom on the West End. Seriously. Ben Forster is the Phantom at the moment. He’s no Ramin Karimloo, but he is amazing. The entire production is absolutely incredible.
The Tube and Getting Around
I’ve been on a handful of public transportation systems and none of them run as smoothly as the Tube. Yes, it isn’t air conditioned and sometimes it feels like the pits of hell. Yes, there are delays. But there are stops pretty much everywhere and if there is an issue, there are ways to take a detour. While the Tube was great, I did prefer walking if it was only three or four stops, depending on where I was going. It took a while longer but I was able to get a better grasp on the city. I’d recommend just picking up a map and trying to navigate the streets, or looking at the maps outside of tube stations instead of using a phone GPS. This way, you’re actually observing your surroundings and in London, you never know what you’re going to see.
As I mentioned, I was in London for Brexit. I arrived on May 17th and I left on July 2nd, so I saw a good deal of the build up and a bit of the aftermath. To me, the entire event was crazy. Most people in London were so certain that the UK would vote to stay. When the vote didn’t go that way, it felt like the entire city was in shock. I went into work that day, and the Tube was dramatically less crowded during rush hour. It was as if people just stayed home. When I got to work, we didn’t do much. Everyone just wanted to talk about this and what it meant for the economy and the future – and it was scary to admit that nobody actually knows what is going to happen. The entire day, it just felt like the city was frozen.
Scotland. Is. Beautiful. I traveled a bit while I was in London, and I spent a long weekend on a trip to Scotland. I went to Edinburgh, Loch Ness, Pitlochry, Inverness, and all over the Highlands. I honestly cannot say enough about how incredible it was. Sadly, I came down with a nasty bout of food poisoning on the first night I was there, so I can’t say much about the food as I didn’t eat any of it.
Our guide was from Edinburgh and was very knowledgeable about the culture and landscape. As an anthro major interested in different cultures, this was great for me. We visited the Clansmen Center in Loch Ness and watched a presentation on Scottish clans. I thought it was fascinating (and that’s not only because I’ve recently become obsessed with Outlander). Scotland might be my new favorite place in the world, and I didn’t even get to eat anything there. That’s saying something.
Basically, studying abroad was the best decision I’ve made so far, and I’ve learned so much in my adventures. I think I’m going to try to go back to London or Scotland for graduate school. Either way, I’m prepared for new adventures in traveling, and this trip has awakened quite a bit of wanderlust.