Excursion #1 ‘Mind the Gap’

So, we’ve been in Barcelona for approximately two weeks and what do we decide to do? Travel! None of us would have opted to spend a full semester abroad if we hadn’t been bitten by the wanderlust bug, so, naturally, about half of our 12-person group traveled to Lisbon, Portugal and the other half (including myself) flew to London this past weekend.

Ever since I cracked open my very first Harry Potter book in second grade, I’ve been enchanted by London – its accents, its history and its culture. You can read my previous blog post about my obsession below! Some other journalism students from Mizzou are studying there this semester, so that was enough reason for six of us to make the journey north.

 

After flight booking stress, we couldn’t wait to get there. We flew out on a Thursday night so we would have two full days to explore. This was actually my first time independently booking an international flight and figuring out all the details on my own, so it was definitely a learning experience. We didn’t think about how we would get from the airport to our hostel ahead of time, but luckily one of the girls sat next to a local on the flight who told her where we should go. We were able to take a train, which dropped us within 10 minutes walking distance from the hostel. However, we also didn’t exactly know where to go from there so we asked some kind British police officers.

 

You should also know that this was my first hostel experience. I like to think of myself as a somewhat flexible person, but, to be honest, I’m pretty Type A. Although our hostel was relatively clean and safe and had helpful personnel, I still didn’t love the idea of sleeping in a room with six strangers.

 

Once we got settled and securely locked our belongings, we made our way down to a pub attached to the building. It was definitely an older crowd, but it was nice to have our first taste of the London nightlife. Most of us crashed early so we could be well rested for our first full day.

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A word of advice: look for hostels that have free tours in your area! Ours did and it was a godsend. We were able to see Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square and more and learn some history along the way for free. All of that sightseeing would have taken us much longer than two hours to organize. After the tour, we were all sufficiently obsessed with the city (despite the rain) and we decided to get some classic pub food. We went to a bar called The George and I got fish n’ chips (when in Rome, am I right?). It was so good. Really. I didn’t know battered cod could be flavorful.

 

Before our tour we had to buy what the British call “Oyster cards,” which are basically their metro passes. Even though everything was in English in England, we still struggled for longer than we should have. Also, the tube (British version of the metro) moves WAY faster than the metro does in Barcelona. We’re talking you need to push to get in or you’re left behind on the platform.

 

Next, we made our way to Piccadilly Circus and were dazzled by the bright lights, enormous storefronts and theatres. We wandered for about an hour before we headed back to the hostel for our scheduled pub crawl (another service offered by the company).

 

Although there are plenty of bar crawls offered in Columbia, I’ve never done one before, so I figured why not start in a foreign country? I felt like I was being herded a little bit the entire time, but all in all I thought it was a good deal. We met people from Germany, Canada, Wales and Australia along the way too!

 

My one regret about our trip was how little time we had to do everything we wanted to do. On our second day we were able to visit Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tower Bridge and tour the Tower of London (where I was astonished to view the entirety of the crown jewels and sit in a room with Anne Boleyn’s tomb). We also went back up to Camden, where our pub crawl had been the night before, to grab dinner with our J-school friends. I guess I just have to go back!

 

London was very different from Barcelona, but personally I felt I could identify more with the Brits’ culture. Commuters were fast-paced but most people were still very kind, and the city was rich with history tied closely to our own. However, I was extremely excited to step off the plane in Barcelona to weather that was at least a dozen degrees (Fahrenheit) warmer.

 

Lessons learned:

  • Speaking the same language as someone does not guarantee you will know what he or she is saying to you
  • Southwark is not pronounced “South-work”
  • Never trust online schedules for public transportation
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