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Sep 14 2013

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London Update – 2013

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Well, it has been almost a week since I touched back down here in the United States after what I can only describe as a much needed and much enjoying trip back to the United Kingdom and London specifically. To start off the week, it was simply some of the best weather I could have ever asked for. Temperatures was in the upper 70’s and 80’s and the sun was out for almost the entire time with only one morning of rain the entire trip. I honestly cannot complain about it at all considering the last time I was in London, it was the middle of winter in January 2004.

IMG_20130902_143211This trip was a much needed return to the city I had grown to love over three enjoyable Winter Terms at Eckerd College with some really great friends. For those that have been following my blog and website for a while, you will know about my previous London updates. My past visits and extended stays in London have allowed me to experience a lot of amazing and exciting museums around London and the United Kingdom. This trip though, I wanted to do something different. I made it a goal to visit some great friends that I have made over the years and to do some activities that I haven’t done before or something that might not be the usual must do in London.

IMG_20130901_175914Where do I start? Well, the first day I was pretty jet lagged having not been able to get much rest on the plane over. For those that don’t know, I have never been able to sleep well on a plane. I know I travel a lot but, I just can’t do it. So I basically stayed up for the entire day and just hit the ground running. First stop of the trip, visiting Startford Centre to get my SIM card for my mobile. One cannot be a local with out a local phone number right? Joking aside, this was actually fun to do while waiting for my hotel to open up. I got a chance for a quick peek at the Olympic Park and some of the local shops. Next was a quick stop at the hotel to clean up and then it was off to Spitalfields Market, Old Spitalfields Market Market and Brick Lane. I did this on recommendation of a friend as a chance to see what the typical East Ender does on a Sunday. All I can say is wow. Sensory overload! So much going on here but, it really was a neat experience and lots of little things to buy and experience. After this, it was near dinner time so I figured I would hit my all time favorite in London, Nando’s. I can’t say enough about how amazing this chain is. Mark this is stop 1 of 4 for the trip. By this point, I had been up for almost 36 hours so it was time to head back to crash before one of my most looked forward to tours of the trip.

IMG_20130902_092605So Monday arrived and I was up bright and early, armed with my Costa Coffee and off to the BBC to tour the BBC Broadcasting House. This is a newer tour as the BBC just moved the last of it’s operations out of Television Centre and in to Broadcasting House to complete the modernization of the networks. This was a pretty cool tour. I would actually go to say it was probably better than the CNN tour I did in February when I went to Atlanta. It was cool to see one of the world’s largest newsrooms in action and then to see where the BBC Radio teams broadcast across the world. Another bonus was seeing Lady Gaga in passing. The only thing I would have loved to do on the tour would be to tour Radio 1 which I listen to all the time but unfortunately, that isn’t offered at this time. Maybe next trip. The rest of the day was spent bouncing around the town and walking through some great high street shops where I managed to find some nice new outfits from Topman. Full day overall with lots of exploring including a nice surprise meet up with my friend Vitor from the Disney Magic.

IMG_20130903_103314Tuesday was equally as full as Monday with a morning tour of the Buckingham Palace State Rooms, the Churchill War Rooms, and more general exploring before meeting up with Dave and Kevin for drinks and dinner. Let’s start with Buckingham Palace. I feel like I’m about to make a Doctor Who comment but, it really is bigger on the inside. The view from outside really only gives your a glimpse at how massive this place is. This is the first time I had ever toured the State Rooms as in the past, HRH Queen Elizabeth has been in residence so it was not open to the public. The history inside the walls and the special displays on The Queen’s Coronation were actually really interesting to read and see. The amount of tradition that continues through the centuries is really something amazing. It’s really amazing to see that protocol is still followed after all these years. After the Palace, it was off to the Churchill War Rooms and British Museum again and then by the time I was able to relax, it was time for drinks and dinner with Kevin and Dave. I don’t think I could have packed more in to this day.

IMG_20130904_124324Wednesday marked the last of the pre-planned days I had this trip. I slept in a little bit and then headed north to Startford where I did a walking tour of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the town itself. While the Olympic venues are still in the process of being converted from the 2012 Olympic Games, parts of the park were already open to the public. What was neat about the particular tour I did was that it really focused on the impact of the Olympic Games had on the transformation of London’s East End in to a new up and coming community. It was also really neat to walk along some of the canals that go to the Thames and to see some of the more unique living locations on canal boats and some really cool loft looking flats. The transformation will do a lot for the community and is really neat to see. After the tour, I headed over to Greenwich using the Emirates Air Line and then exploring the National Maritime Museum before having Nando’s again and then heading to walk along the Thames at sunset and enjoy the night life.

Thursday, my friend Ben came up from Brighton for the morning which was fun. We explored Hyde Park and then walked Oxford Street and looked at some tradition London High Street shops like Harrods’s and Selfridges. After Ben headed back to Brighton, I went to see the real MI6 and then headed to Westfield Stratford to see the One Direction movie, This is Us. I will be honest, this was actually much better than I expected it to be. Just some more exploring the town before heading to the hotel to crash.

IMG_20130906_181415Friday was the only day of rain I had the entire trip. And luckily for me, it only lasted for the morning. I took the time to explore Tate Modern and The London Transport Museum before heading back to Canary Wharf and visiting the Museum of London Docklands which is something new for me. By this point, the sun had come out and the clouds cleared so I took the advice of Kevin and headed to The Shard and took in the View from The Shard. The Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe and offers sweeping views of London from over 1,000 feet up. If you are visiting London and have a clear day, this is a must do. I spent a good hour up here just taking in the view.

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At this point, I was in to the home stretch of my trip and decided to head back to the great Upper Deck SE1 that was suggested by Kevin for Tuesday night and enjoy another great night and a few pints along the Thames reflecting on the amazing week I had back in London. Once the sun finally set over the Thames, I headed back to Canary Wharf one last time and had a great Japanese dinner at Wagamama which has got to be my second top dine in chain in England behind Nando’s. This was the perfect evening to end the trip on with great temperatures and clear sky.

So as you can tell, it was a full trip packed in to 6 full days in London. I am so happy that I made the trip back and I am already planning my return for Spring 2014. Thanks again to all my good friends that made it a great trip. Sorry we couldn’t see each other more and for those that I missed, there will be time in the Spring. See you all again soon across the pond!

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