Destination London: A Young Traveller’s View

by Imara Renaud-Krutulis on July 18, 2014

in Behind the Scenes, Education, Museum Issues, Travel and Tourism

Part of the ShopforMuseums.com Armchair Travel with Us Through Europe series.

London Eye Ferris Wheel
The London Eye, the world’s tallest ferris wheel, on the banks of the Thames River

Sunset is the best time to get on the London Eye, the giant ferris wheel overlooking the Thames River. The lines are practically nonexistent and the view as the sun is going down is beautiful. The golden rays of the days light touches the buildings for the last few minutes as you get to see most of London, England’s most famous buildings (while riding on one)! It makes for stunning pictures, and, quite frankly, a beautiful memory in London.

London Eye Ferris Wheel at Sunset
Riding the London Eye at sunset is magnificent!

London, England, for me, was a bit over hyped. I love the city, don’t get me wrong, it’s just I wasn’t as crazy about it as I thought I would be. Maybe it was me getting an ear infection so I couldn’t explore as much, or maybe it was how expensive everything was. Who knows, all I know is that I was the most excited for it before I even left the States, but now, out of the three countries I’ve been to thus far, Portugal is winning my love.

The pace of London is a lot like New York, the only difference is the people. The people in London are much friendlier to tourists and way more helpful. All you have to do is be struggling with a huge rolling duffel trying to lug them up or down the stairs of the Underground and someone will eventually help (this happened to me about three times), or you could ask them directions and they’ll typically be happy to help. This is common in Europe; most Europeans are proud to be from wherever they’re from. They actually want you to like their country too! The concept is astounding, I know.

(In America we tend to have this thought process as “we are the best of the best!” I know my friends and I joke about it home in the US, but going abroad is a completely different story. A girl I’m friends with on the Semester at Sea (SAS) ship says she’s from Canada when she’s out and about in ports.)

London Kensington Gardens
An afternoon in Kensington Gardens is worth the walk!

That being said, the gardens and parks I got to see were great. People were all over the place enjoying the rare sunshine (it was sunny the whole time I was there) with their friends. A lot of little picnics were going on, it was really nice. It was also about lunch time when I went to St. James’s Park, some official buildings and shops were around the area, so quite a few people were on lunch break there with coworkers. The sound of the fountains going and birds squawking and flying about was prevalent and actually pretty calming compared to all the traffic noise. It definitely smelled better too! There were these flowers near this little house that had bees buzzing about it. I almost took a nap under a tree since it was so nice out. I didn’t because A) I was alone in the city, and B) I didn’t want to be up all night and extremely tired the next day when I actually met up with a fellow SASer. I was lucky as my will of not being exhausted for the next day won out!

The Walrus Hostel in London
I spotted my hostel, The Walrus, from the London Eye. The hostel’s location is central to several tourist attractions and close to an Underground station.

I was able to walk from my hostel, The Walrus Bar & Hostel, past the Eye, Big Ben, Westminster/Trafalgar Square, to the park, and back within the morning/afternoon I had been there. Everything in central London is pretty close together, but if it’s not the Underground (get the Oyster cards) and the buses are a great way to get around. Just be aware of which line you’re going on. I got mixed up a couple of times before I got the hang of it. And even though Oyster cards work for the Over-ground (trains), it’s only for Central London. (If you’re going to the Harry Potter, Warner Bros Studio Tour, which if you are a Harry Potter lover you should definitely do as it had all the props, costuming, concept art, and some of the sets, you’ll be set with an Oyster card.) If you get on and need to go to Southampton…buy a ticket.

Harry Potter Potions Lab at Warner Brothers Tour, London
If you are a big Harry Potter fan, the Warner Brothers set tour is amazing! Pictured here is the Potions Lab set.

This is something I learned the hard way. Luckily for me a very nice man on his way to work, Luka, had offered a helping hand with my bag (I was huffing and puffing from trying to sprint with a 51 pound wheeled bag behind me) before the train left, and happily listened to me go on a spiel about my summer plans. When the kind of snappy ticket master came over to us I learned that my Oyster card wasn’t enough, and he said “How did you even get on here” to me.

I had thought I would be able to pay with a debit card or something at first, but the guy looked at me like I was an idiot and then started belittling me just a bit, not even bothering to stop talking when I was trying to tell him I couldn’t really hear what he was saying since he was talking too softly. That’s when Luka took pity on me and paid for my ticket, which is incredibly expensive: almost 40 pounds (70-80 USD) from Waterloo to Southampton. He wanted nothing back, just for me to have a great summer and to get to where I needed to go safely. He was by far the nicest man I have ever met, and it gave me hope for the world.

Imara Renaud Krutulis, Semester at Sea 2014
Imara Renaud-Krutulis is taking part in the Semester at Sea 2014 Summer program. She is taking college classes aboard The MV Explorer cruise ship and travelling through 10 European countries while sharing her adventures with us. Imara is a sophomore at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) and aspires to be a travel writer.

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