In my final week in London, there was no longer time to waste. With a looser academic schedule, it was essential to fill free time with checking things off my London bucket list. There were so many places I had yet to discover and things I was yet to do. I refused to laze away from last minute adventure, even if it meant getting a little lost along the way.
With time to spare until a final night at the theatre, my day began at Speedy’s Cafe for a traditional English breakfast. I for one enjoyed the atypical combination of beans, eggs, and meat to send me off tastefully full to the National Gallery. However, the first work of art I saw was Trafalgar Square. One of the funniest things about London is that I will be at one place in awe and not know that just around the corner is another stunning area. Trafalgar Square gleamed with its sparkling turquoise water fountains, Nelson’s Column reaching into the sky, and unique sculptures in the open courtyard. The leisure space was refreshing amidst the busy streets and Big Ben stood unexpectedly close in the distance.
In my list of places to go, mostly containing art galleries, the National Gallery was the most essential. From room to room I was stunned not only by the masterpieces but by the immaculate conservation of the pieces. Paintings from the 1500’s bursted with saturated color. There were several paintings and artists straight out of my art history textbooks right before my face and shining brighter than ever. I saw the nuances I have been lectured about and recognized artist’s works without even seeing the labels beside their works.
I had went to the gallery with my roommate, however she had to leave early, leaving me to my own devices, including my dying cellphone. I soaked up Trafalgar once more before heading back toward my station. Then I was lured away by a pathway of restaurants leading to the heart of Leicester Square, a gorgeous park area surrounded by stores, restaurants, and theaters. I roamed through the atmosphere of head spinning and singing street performers, strolled through M&M World and the world’s largest Lego store. Then just around the corner I ran into the colorful archway into Chinatown, filled with ridiculously stylish pedestrians and delicious five pound all-you-can-pack-in-a-container to-go meals.
Amidst my fawning over the fashion surrounding me, my phone and source of navigation died. I knew it would and for some reason, I decided that I did not want to go to the nearest tube station, I wanted to walk back to my flat. Thankfully, I am blessed with a sense of direction and grew accustomed to some London areas as well as the tube stations. By connecting tube stations, using the BT tower as my northern star, and getting a bit lost trying to avoid the bustle of Oxford Street, I successfully and safely navigated my way back to my flat. That surely gave me a star point in becoming a true Londoner.
Following a final visit to the National Theatre to view Rutherford & Son, my group embarked on our last journey outside of London and to the historic city of Bath. In the midst of most of our days abroad dwindling down, we woke with the birds and headed to Paddington Station for a train ride to the destination. Bath greeted us with amazing architecture, lovely street singers, and delicious pasties (not pastries). We trekked through the city on a tour, my camera in hand to capture too many pictures of the beautiful views of the peaceful area. In between touring and exploring Bath, we of course went to the Roman Bath’s themselves. Even with the weirdly green water, surrounded by statues and simple roman architecture, as well as the Bath Abbey standing just beyond, the baths evoked a naturally calming aura.
After a wonderful day exploring Bath, my academic schedule abroad came to a close with two full days for last minute wanderlust fulfillment. So, a couple of my flatmates and I planned a walking trip across central London to cram in must see places that we had yet to venture to. It is a wonder that the trio of us had yet to be lured to the main attraction area of Covent Garden. In truth, we had been very near it quite often. Nevertheless, we discovered new gems of architecture and decor on the way to the luxury of Covent Garden and our travels only got richer on the way.
Following asides through Trafalgar and Leicester Square, as well as Piccadilly Circus, we intended on aiming straight to Buckingham Palace, but were caught by surprise several times along the way. We first drifted when we crossed a place called Burlington Arcade and I innocently wondered if the world’s most amazing gaming arcade was behind the facade. So, we explored the inside of zero Pacman machines, but a bunch of very expensive fashion and jewelry stores. Once we made it through the small shopping hall, we went onto to the street and turned back west for our destination only to be met again by a street packed with luxury fashion. Gucci, Prada, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, and more lined the way as we casually stumbled upon Old Bond Street. We tried to casually ogle the blinding glows of jewels beaming through window displays as front door security glared at us and our evident lack of worthiness to go inside. The gorgeous window displays definitely made me want to see what more was behind them though.
Finally, we reached Green Park and went toward the gold embellished gates of Buckingham Palace. Though surrounded by tourists, the Queen’s home stood big and bold in its exclusive courtyard with a mounting monument of Queen Anne and glistening fountains. This was a place where we one-thousand percent could not even get a glimpse at the unimaginable luxury behind the dozens of windows. So, we made way to our final destination, an epicenter of London’s high fashion and expensive; Harrod’s.
Harrod’s was like Old Bond Street times ten. Dozens of the highest fashion labels surrounded me, but they were almost to close for comfort, especially with the unwelcoming workers who I am not sure would even want me to touch the Balenciaga and Gucci shoes I fawn over. Really, all of the fashion that normal people find absurd and horrid filled Harrod’s with the style that intrigues and inspires me as an artist and photographer. Sure I could not afford any of the pieces I admire from afar, but I loved being up close and person with them as if they were artistic masterpieces. From the insane interior design to the interior contents of Harrod’s, it was the final whelm that my knees and I could handle on this long day of adventure.
In my final hurrah on my last full day in the wonderful city of London, I took a tube just bit outside of the central busyness and to Arsenal station. Better late than never, I decided that I could not leave this city without touring the stadium of one of its prime soccer teams, Arsenal FC. A visceral calm and joy washed over me as my eyes met the amazing Emirates Stadium and toured from its luxurious seating to the field side seats that dozens of amazing players have sat in. I sat in the locker room seats of some of the greatest soccer players in the world and walked through the tunnel to the pitch almost wanting to cry like I did as a kid when I saw my athlete heroes under the lights of a massive stadium. Whenever I return to London, I will have to during Premier League season so that I can join in with the wild culture of intense football fans.
To end the torture on my knees, I made last minute stops for souvenirs and exchanges and completely exhausted myself to the point where I could go back to my flat and satisfyingly say, I am finished. My time in London had been fulfilled. I gave London the last of my energy and London gave me more than I could have ever dreamt of or imagined. After nearly a month, it became another home. It was not all pretty, but I found comfort in waking up to leave my flat and become more and more of a Londoner with each step I took down the street, with each underground train I got on, and every breath of life I took. I cannot wait to go back.