Loving London

Cheers! So the Ireland crew just got back from their fun excursions across Europe. We had students go to Scotland, Spain, stay in Ireland, and the ever-so-posh London. All of us that went to London flew into the London Heathrow airport (which may or may not be the airport that One Direction flies into) in about mid-afternoon. We all purchased Oyster Passes which was our way to get on and off the famous London tube system. We stayed at the Radison Blu hotel in Kensington which conveniently was down the street from a french bakery called Paul which quickly became our go to breakfast/snack stop. That night some of our students, Seth and Ashley went to see an Arsenal soccer (or as the Europeans call it…football) game and thankfully they won!

The first full day in the city was cold, very cold, but that didn’t stop us from going out to enjoy the famous city. We went to Buckingham Palace and happened to be there in time to see the changing of the guards which involved a parade, some horses and a bunch of American students (us) trying to get the attention of the guards to make them laugh. We failed. They are tough eggs to crack. Apparently it is said that if the flag is flying at the palace, the queen is there. And lucky for us, it was flying! But unfortunately she didn’t come out to greet us. I didn’t get to cross “chest bump the queen” off my bucket list. I’ll save that for another day. The next stop on our adventure was Big Ben and the London Eye. They were doing some construction right outside Big Ben so that diminished the magnificence of it a bit. The London Eye was a sight to see! Although it was a landmark, it was pretty pricey so none of us decided to ride it. At that point most of our group broke up and some went to explore the local markets and others went to the Churchill War Rooms Museum which was focused on WWII. That night, one of our students *raises hand* got her debit card stolen at an ATM, so that added some excitement to our trip!

On Thursday, our group split up and most everyone explored the shopping areas within London. There is a store called Harrods that is famous in London for being the hotspot for all your shopping needs. We were blown away with the number of stores that one small area could contain. Also, for all of your who have read the Harry Potter series, there were a few of us who went to discover King’s Cross Station and find the well known Platform 9 3/4 so we could get our picture taken with it. We are still waiting for our letters from Hogwarts…stiiiiiill waiting.

    On our last full day, most of us went to the London Tower and spent the morning exploring the fort and then we had the opportunity to see the crown jewels and then we got to try the queen’s crown on! (Kidding. We wish.) It was so interesting learning about and seeing first hand the history of London. A conversation that a few of us had was about how the history of London and the history of America differs. England is a country that is obviously run by monarchs. Those people were automatically given power and had the opportunity to abuse it. But America is a country that focuses on bettering itself. Nobody was just given power. They had to work for it and prove to others that they wanted to make our country the best that it could be. That afternoon a few of us were able to go to have high tea at Fortnum and Masons which is the finest place in the world to have tea. We all agreed that it fit every British stereotype that could ever exist.

Saturday was the day that we flew back to Ireland but we had most of the day to fit in any last minute exploring that we wanted to do. Some went to Westminster Abbey which was one of the most interesting things that we had ever done. It contains the graves of C.S. Lewis, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, all the Bronte sisters, a number of kings and queens, and hundreds of others. While some were there, others went to Kensington Palace, which is where Kate and William live. Some lucky students got to see Kate walking by and stopping at a window! In the last few hours that we had in London, some of us squeezed in going to Abbey Road (THE Abbey Road) and obviously had to reenact the famous Beatles album cover. Then we went to Baker Street and got to go into Sherlock Holmes apartment at 221B Baker Street.

Overall, we had a fantastic time in London. We got to see some famous sites, eat some new foods, and ride lots of trains. But we are happy to be back in the Manor in Belfast and are ready to see what these last two weeks have in store for us!

-Riley Jackson