I’ve completed the first leg of my two month exploration of European capitals, a very busy 6 day visit to London. I’m not sure where exactly to start because I experienced so much in so little time, but the trip was extremely worth while. Luckily, the weather remained cool and cloudy without ever being rainy which made for great conditions to get around and see the sights; the people I spent time with made it an even more special trip.
On my first day in town, the Wednesday after arriving on Tuesday the 15th, I decided to join some friends from the trumpet section of the USC marching band as we hit up major London landmarks. In just the first day we saw parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, and Harrods; in addition, we finished off our day with a pub crawl funded by the USC Alumni Association of London (thanks guys!). We got lunch at what I think was my favorite pub from my time in London, a place called Waxy O’Connor’s in Piccadilly Circus (for lunch I shared a steak and Guinness pie and a bacon, brie, and cranberry sandwich with a friend alongside a couple brews to get us through the long day).
On day two we took the tube to Wimbledon to see the famed lawn courts. After getting distracted by some odd geese in a beautiful park near the stadiums, we made it to the courts just in time to take our pictures, see the gift shop, and jump back on the tube for a tour of the London 2012 Olympic Village. There we saw the stadiums and land that will be used for the Olympics, an impressive sight. Following this we booked it back to the tube for our first performance, a gig in the middle of a large square in the financial area of Canary Wharf. It took the crowd a little while to understand what watching an American marching band was like but in the end they thoroughly enjoyed the performance.
Friday was a busy day of more tube traveling (I guess that’s what happens when the trip planner gives us a hotel in Zone 4 near Harrow), seeing the London Tower and Tower Bridge, and a performance at Potter’s Field Park (directly across the Thames from the London Tower). I really enjoyed the London Tower experience because of extent of its history and the amazing artifacts and architecture at the location. The crown jewels were stunning and a tour by a Beefeater provided a massive insight to the history of the tower.
A day off from performances, we had Saturday entirely to ourselves. A scheduled tour of the parliament building proved to be a huge eye-opening experience into the history and tradition of the nation; I don’t believe I’ve ever been more impressed by the interior of a building (though I have yet to make it to Italy for the churches) and again I found the historical background to the traditions of the location to be wonderful. The rest of the day included a visit to the Tate Britain (one of my lesser favorite locations I visited) and then one of the most exciting nights of sports viewing I’ve participated in. Saturday was the UEFA Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea, and what better place is there to watch the match than a packed bar in Chelsea? Being a part of that crowd was exhilarating and to win the match in penalties made it even more memorable.
Our final day of exploration was Sunday, which also included our biggest performance of the trip: an hour long gig on the steps of Trafalgar Square leading up to the National Gallery. The morning began with a tour of the National Gallery which contained awe-inspiring masterpieces from all over Europe. I don’t believe there was a room that did not impress me but, as usual, the French impressionists struck me the most and the medieval altarpieces and Renaissance paintings stood out as well. Following the performance, I continued to visit new areas in London including the eclectic Covet Gardens where I finished off the night visiting a few pubs to celebrate a successful trip to London.
It’s currently 1am and I’m now in Paris ready to really kick off the second part of my summer travels. I’ve already had time to get some of the most amazing food I’ve ever had (baguette panini’s, dessert crepes, and a chocolat mousse dessert called a Bolero, I believe), and tomorrow I pick up my museum pass in order to see as much as I can in my short time here. I’ll post updates as I continue from Paris to Berlin, my final destination where I will be for the following six weeks. I look forward to writing again about my amazing cultural experiences across Europe!