So What Have I Actually Been Doing in London?
Well for one thing, it’s sure been a lot!
For two weekends in a row now I’ve been able to relax and actually enjoy London a little bit. I’ve been pretty dedicated to knocking things off my to-see/do list and am proud to say that I put quite a dent in it! Here’s what I’ve been up to.
That’s right, I know it must be shocking to some of you (I’m looking at you, mom), but I actually have been spending a lot of time focusing on my studies here. I have felt newly inspired to delve deeper into my studies because of how my classes are structured here. We’re able to go on a bunch of tours or museum visits, which have led me to really see how important first-hand sources are. My course load is definitely lighter than a normal semester, but I am determined to do well!
A secret/childhood dream of mine was being a chef and the good amount of time I’ve had here in London has let me explore my culinary inklings even more. From making fried rice to baking bread, I make sure that every week I’m trying a different, healthy recipe. Minus the bread…
If you haven’t noticed a common theme yet, I think I’m pretty much eating my way through Europe. Hence the healthy eating when I’m in London! Well, for the most part. In the past few weeks I’ve been to Borough Market, which is located on the Southbank about a ten minute walk from the Millennium Bridge. It hosts a myriad of stalls from egg sellers to fishmongers to pie stalls to one that sells exotic meat ranging from Alligator to Zebra. I can’t say I’ll be eating there anytime soon! The first time I went I got some fresh gnocchi in pesto sauce from La Tua Pasta and the second time, I ended up at Pieminister and ended up with the Chicken of Aragon pie. I wanted one of their steak and ale pies, but they were all sold out! Both dishes were amazing, but I definitely preferred the La Tua’s gnocchi. It was light and the pesto was probably the best I’ve had! There’s just something about fresh pasta that really speaks to me.
As I’ve said before, just walking around is the best way to discover a city. I’ve been lucky that lots of my classes include walking tours, so I’ve been all around Fleet Street, the South Bank all along the Thames, Shoreditch, and recreated the steps of Virginia Woolf’s infamous character Clarissa Dalloway from “Mrs. Dalloway”. Each nook and cranny of the city is so vastly different than the previous and it’s made me really feel like a Londoner.
Museums: The Courtauld Gallery, The Photographers’ Gallery, The Victoria & Albert Museum
The Courtauld Gallery:
I now am considering this one of London’s most underrated gems. Located within the beautiful Somerset House, the gallery is the collection of the prestigious Courtauld Institute of Art and is most known for it’s amazing collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. For such a small gallery, there are some big names such as Seurat, Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Botticelli, and Cézanne. If you have the time and want to visit an absolutely gorgeous gallery (seriously, the actually rooms are as beautiful as the artwork), then it’s a great place to stop by if you’re near St. Paul’s
The Photographer’s Gallery:
Another hidden gem of London located about three minutes away from Oxford Circus, this gallery is a unique collection of photography and history. Its exhibitions are always rotating out, so we saw the work of Saul Leiter, a pioneer in color photography (who I fell in love with), some pieces by Rosângela Rennó, and then a collection of photographs and other mementos from the 1916 Easter Rising. If you’re wondering what the Easter Rising was, check out my blog post on my visit to Dublin, Ireland! It was a bit small, but overall an enjoyable afternoon
The Victoria & Albert Museum:
Possibly my favorite in London??? This museum is so huge and so eclectic. From Broadway costumes to Renaissance sculptures, this museum really does have something for everybody. It’s a museum where you shouldn’t get a map: Just wander. There are so many different rooms, each more unique and enticing than the last. An absolute must see if you are in London!!
Potpourri: Festivals, Parks, and Cemeteries?
So the last kinda “category” of things that I’ve been up to is, for lack of a better word, the leftovers. Amazing, delicious, well-heated up leftovers
St. Patrick’s Day Festival:
Since St. Patty’s day is such a big holiday and most people want to celebrate it, London, like most other cities, hosts their festivities during the weekend before St. Patrick’s day. The main events of the day are the parade that runs through central London and ends at Trafalgar square, which hosts a festival all day. This festival includes food, music, and of course, lots and lots of beer! All for a price, of course. I had gone with my mom last year to the parade and festival, so this year I ended up just going to the festival for a little. I saw the Craicheads (pronounced just as you think) perform and many of the crowd getting very into it! Definitely a good bit of holiday fun.
A beautiful, beautiful, muddy park. Actually, it’s an ancient park because its first mention dates all the way back to 968. Yes, there is no “1” in front of 968. Because of this, the park has been virtually untouched and has parts of its territory protected by law, such as the view from the park’s acclaimed Parliament Hill. It’s very hilly, so another good walk, and also very muddy! I didn’t do proper research before we went and ended up stepping in some mud… Not a cute look… But besides that, definitely great! A beautiful walk with tons of dogs.
Tied with the V&A, this is one of my favorite things that I have done (on this list. And in general). I got the recommendation by my Uncle Rob to come check it out and I was not disappointed. London was struggling to keep up with the amount of dead the city was producing due to the influx of populations during the Industrial Revolution, so seven grand cemeteries were built on the outskirts of London in order to accommodate the public’s needs. It is stunning.
Beautiful gothic tombs and buildings are scattered along the West Side of the cemetery with its main feature being the Circle of Lebanon: A circular path of tombs and vaults that in the middle showcases a huge Cedar of Lebanon. In order to access the West Side, one must pay a £12 admission fee for the one-hour tour. It’s worth it. The whole place looks like a movie set, all of the graves perfectly decayed, vines growing about, the sort of beautiful, macabre cemetery that Tim Burton must fantasize over.
Our tour guide was super friendly and gave us great information about some of the cemeteries, as she put it, “permanent residents”. On the East Side of the cemetery is perhaps the most famous of those residents, Karl Marx. The East Side I believe cost £4 to enter on its own, but if you do the West side tour, it’s included in the ticket. Although it doesn’t have the same architecture and sense of grandeur, it is still a beautiful place to visit, especially to see Karl Marx’s grave. Another fun fact- Highgate is still a working cemetery! We didn’t see anybody getting buried, though. Phew.
Well there you have it, folks! There are a few other things that I’ve been up to, but these are the highlights. I’ll be heading off to Edinburgh, Scotland later today where I shall be meeting up with a foreign exchange student that my family and I hosted when I was a freshman in highschool. I don’t even want to think about how long ago that was.
We look like infants.
Until next post, see you later!