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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Watkins

London Calling

Updated: Jan 16, 2020

Any of my friends could tell you I'm an Anglophile. I will jump at any opportunity to watch The Crown or attend high tea for absolutely no reason. I may or may not also have the BBC adaptation of Sherlock's theme song as my ringtone...

But that's beside the point! Because this blog's purpose is to express my passion for traveling and learning about new places and cultures, I thought the city that I am most passionate about would be an appropriate subject for my first blog post.

I've always been captivated by London, ever since I was a little girl. My father used to tell me about his adventures of living in London by himself when he was 18 years old, and I've wanted to follow in his footsteps ever since.

In fact, I hope to intern in London next spring, as part of the MU School of Journalism's Global Programs. I couldn't be more excited to spend a semester exploring everything the city has to offer, especially considering I hope to report there after graduation.

When I first went to London when I was 15 years old. I remember our journey from Heathrow Airport to our hotel, the Sofitel London St. James, which was walking distance from Buckingham Palace.

I remember peering out my window, playing "London Calling" by The Clash on repeat (cheesy, I know), and seeing Trafalgar Square and Big Ben for the first time. It felt like I was in a scene straight out of The Parent Trap, when Hallie travels to London to stay with her mom.

And as a 15-year-old with only my dad's stories and the recollection of movies like The Parent Trap and the Bond movies as a point of reference, London was quite literally calling my name—to learn more about its history and its people.

On our way to the hotel, we got a perspective of a Londoner—our cabby— of some of the best places to visit during our stay. I can still remember how sophisticated I thought he was, between his British accent and extensive knowledge of the city.

In fact, did you know that becoming a cabby in London is actually a pretty difficult task? Drivers have to pass a test called The Knowledge, which requires all cabbies to memorize the city’s 25,000 streets , in addition to any major landmarks or businesses near them! I'm going off on a slight tangent here, but The New York Times did a great feature piece on this. It's pretty incredible!

Anyways, he had a lot of great suggestions of where to go and what to see. As someone who has now been to London, I've adapted his list, and added a few of my personal recommendations of where to go the next time you touch down in London town.

Without further ado, let's get started!

One of the first things that come to mind when I think of London is the London Eye. However, what I find perhaps even more intriguing is the amusement ride close by, Staryflyer, at London's South Bank. Something about a massive flying swing ride overlooking the River Thames sounds pretty intriguing to me. Unfortunately, because I am an only child, my mom and dad were not too eager on getting on the swings with me, so we skipped the line and I instead dragged my mom on the London Eye! If you get the change to get on Starflyer, however, you are bound to get a unique aerial view of the city.

Wow, what a throwback photo of me! If you can look past the awkward length of my bangs in this photo, you can see lovely Hyde Park behind me. One of my favorite aspects of London is that the city has no shortage of beautiful, manicured parks, teeming with colorful flowers and shimmering ponds. Especially in the summer, parks can be a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a nice paddleboat ride on the water or a soft serve ice cream cone and a stroll with a friend.

A bit cliché, I know, but you can't go to London without seeing Piccadilly Circus (shown above) or Big Ben. Piccadilly Circus is akin to Times Square in New York City, but I'd say it's a bit less crowded and has a few less skyscrapers. I loved people watching in the Circus and seeing how London's historic buildings blend in with the new, eye-catching digital billboards that are scattered throughout this section of London.

My visit to Abbey Road will always be a fond memory. If you are a Beatles fan, Abbey Road is a must. The photo above was taken after I signed by name on one of the walls outside Abbey Road Studios, near the road that was the inspiration for the eleventh album that the Beatles recorded. The album's recording sessions were also the last in which all four members of the Beatles participated. You definitely need to get a photo on Abbey Road (which I would show you, but I look a bit shambly in the photo), but prepare to take at least an hour to get the perfect shot. Taking a photo on the iconic road is not as easy as it looks, considering dozens of tourists will most likely be there at the same time, trying to get the exact same photo. It's also difficult considering the road has a significant number of cars passing through, especially during rush hour. However, if you don't want to spend at least an hour getting the perfect pic for Insta, here' s a pro-tip: have a friend at home take a photo of you walking the road on Earth Cam. If you are willing to sacrifice some of the resolution of the image, it's a great solution for a tourist to get the shot in a time crunch.

Every time I look at this photo, I drool just a little bit. For quality farmers market food and thrift shopping, definitely take a tube ride to Notting Hill on the weekend to experience the Portobello Road Market. Albeit the streets can be flooded with tourists, if you are willing to transform yourself into a packaged sardine for the day, the trip is totally worth it. Buy local produce to take back to your hotel room or take colorful photos for your next desktop screensaver! Explore the local shops and visit some of the places in the neighborhood that has made an appearance on the Silver Screen (hello, the bookstore in Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts)! Coming from first-hand experience, I fell in love with the bohemian town, and it's hard for anyone not to.

Speaking of shops, Stumper & Fielding was my favorite store in Notting Hill, even though it was a men's store. If an Oxford Man were to be embodied in a shop, this would be the store. My dad and I had a ball trying on top hats and pretending we were way more sophisticated than we actually were. Well, except in this photo...

Last but not least, you can't beat Carnaby Street. For the wackiest shops in all of London, this is the best place to be; you can also score some FIRE Indian food at some of the local Indian restaurants nearby. If you have a passion for fashion and are shoo-in for some quality shoes, check out Irregular Choice. They have the wildest shoes I have ever seen and I heavily regret not buying a pair—even if I would have never had the guts to wear them in public! For bold fashionistas, head street to Carnaby Street. Or, if you are a fan of Austin Powers...(I hope you get the reference)!

Those are some of my (and my cabby's) picks! For some other obvious (and not so obvious) London pit stops, here's a continuation of my list:

1. Westminster Abbey

2. Buckingham Palace

3. Harrod's

4. Harvey Nichols

6. Natural History Museum

7. Tate Modern

8. Tower of London

9. Trafalgar Square

10. Thames Market

All photos are my own.


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