London Called Again!

The past three weeks have been a wild ride, to say the least! Between my trip to London, my graduation ceremony, and a choir concert, I have finally found the time to settle down and take a break. It is for this reason that it took me this long to publish this post on my trip but here it is!!

I initially thought of a really witty title for this blogpost but I did not note it down and now can’t remember it. Typical. That being said, make sure you click on the pictures to see them in a bigger size and read the captions

On May 31st, I got on a plane headed to London with a layover in Paris. Nothing too fancy about this other than the fact that my layover was so short my luggage did not make it on the second plane. So where I arrived to London, I was only a little bit surprised by the fact that my suitcase was stuck in Paris and I would not get it til the following morning. Cue filling out paperwork and calling my parents to tell them I arrived before hoping on the tube and heading to King’s Cross Station, which was only about a 5 minute walk from my hostel for the first three nights.

I have to say that my first day was extremely frustrating simply because I did not have my luggage. It was then that I realized travelling with just my purse as a carry-on is not as smart as I thought it was. It might have saved me time while going through security checks but it doesn’t change the fact that I did not have my pyjama for the first night. After waiting until noon for my luggage to arrive and realizing that was probably not going to happen, I decided to just go along with my program and call the hostel later during the day to see if my suitcase had been delivered.

After a nice lunch at a mexican place down the street from my hostel, I headed over to the British Library. I have to say that I was a tiny bit disappointed because I could not access the reading rooms. However, I did get to see an interesting, to say the least, rendition of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette being performed with brooms. Considering this year marks Shakespeare’s 400th death anniversary, there were exhibits, performances, and a store completely dedicated to his works.  There was also an exhibit on the history of Punk Rock in London which I thought was really cool. Unfortunately I was not allowed to take pictures of the artifacts displayed.

After the British Library, I headed to Victoria station where I met up with Nabila, one of my friends from college, before we set out for a long walk. We went around Westminster and then crossed Westminster Bridge. We then walked around the South side of the river before crossing over the river throught the Golden Jubilee Bridges and heading to Trafalger Square and the National Gallery. Our last stop was Oxford Street where we spent a good amount of time shopping before we split our separate ways.

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Big Ben, House of Parliament, and Westminster Bridge from the Golden Jubilee Bridge.

After saying goodbye to Nabila, I met up with Sarah, another friend from college and my guide during my previous visit to London. We stopped by my hostel to see if I got my luggage (I did not) before going to Sarah’s friend’s place where we were invited to diner. After diner we went to a Beyonce themed party that was loads of fun and the perfect way to end my day.

Day 2 of my trip to London was probably one of the best days I have had in a very long time. I spent the entire day walking around the city alone. In fact, I was reminded of my last day in New York at the end of my exchange program in 2014. I started by hopping on a bus and going to Baker Street because I HAD to take a picture of 221B Baker Street. I then walked around to Hyde Park where I had my lunch and then went to Buckingham Palace. My walk from Hyde Park to Buckingham Palace was punctuated by a number of war memorials. From there I headed over to Westminster to catch the tube. It was around this time that I witnessed a helicopter landing near the palace. I still giggle every time I think that a helicopter landed across the street from me and I am not quite sure why.

After that monumental walk, I believe it was about 3 hours long, I headed over to Liverpool Street where I had coffee before heading over to Millenium Bridge. I crossed over to the Southbank which turned out to be my absolute favorite part of London. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to go inside the Tate or Shakespeare’s Globe, but I did manage to get lost in the tiny streets that were just too adorable! I also lost the only good picture I had of Shakespeare’s Globe because my phone decided to randomly destroy some pictures but oh well!

My last stop of the day was all the way in Hackney, in the North East of London where I went to attend a Sofar Sounds concert. The Sofar Sounds concerts are intimate gigs in random places, such as coffee shops or backyards, where mainly independent and rising artists perform. The way it works is you get your ticket ahead of time only knowing the neighbourhood. The exact address is only released the day before the concert while the performances are kept a secret until you show up.

The concert I attended took place in a vodka micro-distillery that is situated underneath the Hackney Downs train station. I have to admit that I got lost on my way to the Our/London distillery. The concert was made up of three acts. The first performer was a singer-songwriter named Gizmo Varillas. The second act was spoken work poetry and anyone that knows me can already guess what my reaction was to this. Jolade Olusanya was absolutely mesmerising and I loved the way his poetry was paced with the trains going above us every few minutes. While it was a coincidence, it still elevated the raw and engaging performance in interesting ways. The third and last act was a band called Sympathiser. You can see some pictures from the concert over here.

This was probably the highlight of my trip since it’s not every day that you get to attend a concert underneath a train station!

On my third day in London, I woke up early and headed to Oxford Street where I did a bit of shopping and went for a walk that ended with me getting lost for a little while between the pedestrian streets. I somehow I ended up in Grosvenor Square where I sat down to enjoy my coffee and take some selfies. I then headed back in a random direction until I found a subway station and headed back to my hostel to check out since I needed to go to the Amnesty International Secretariat. It was time to go to the conference center for an intense 3 days of work!

We stayed at the Easthampstead Park Conference Center which was a rather historical mansion in Berkshire about two hours outside London. As always with any Amnesty International conference or workshop, I walk away at awe of the amount of work we produced. I also am forever amused by how covered in papers and post-its all the walls end up. Despite being sick on the second day of the distillation and drafting workshop, this has been my most effective Amnesty International trip out of the four I have been on.

 

After the extremely intense three days of work, I headed back to London for a final night that I spent walking around, yet again. I first headed to Covent Square but I was there well after 8:00PM so everything was closed. I ended up walking from there to Leicester Square and then Trafalgar Square before deciding on finally getting dinner at a Thai restaurant. The next morning I walked to King’s Cross where I did some more shopping and spent a ridiculous amount of time and money in Paperchase. I then headed back to my hotel, finished up my packing and went to the airport to catch my flight. Thankfully, this time my luggage did not get stuck in Paris!!

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