University of Wisconsin–Madison

Across the Pond

The last five days of our Winter Vacation, we took a hop, skip, and a plane ride to the neighboring island in the United Kingdom, England. Like Ireland, we stopped in two cities, Manchester and London.

This is the part of the trip that was not so “picture perfect”. We decided to go to Manchester for a couple reasons, but the main one was that it was the cheapest place to fly—makes sense. But Manchester was less than we expected—an industrial city that resembled Detroit and not the best place to be walking around. We struggled to find things to do, and our “highly ranked” hostel was in the best sense, creepy. I’m not so sure if the ease and cost of stopping in Manchester made up for the time spent there. It was a good lesson to really look into the places one travels before buying the plane tickets. Because of that less-than-desired experience, this post will really be about London.

A complete 180 from Manchester, London was a fantastic experience. We were there for 3 days and squeezed as much as we could into that time. My favorite part about London is the history. England has produced so many people who have influenced history that it’s hard to count. We casually stopped where Winston Churchill worked, saw the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I, and we stood where Prince William and Kate Middleton were married. It was so impactful to walk down streets and realize immortalized monarchs, authors and revolutionaries were once there.
One of the best discoveries we made were free walking tours. Many big tourist cities offer tours by students who are fun, energetic, and work for tips. They don’t often go into establishments, but they give history and fun facts while walking around the city. This allowed us time to decide what we wanted to go back and actually see since admission into many attractions can get expensive.

We took the time to go into the National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museums to see the country’s greatest collections of paintings and art; plus all the museums are free! We then went to Westminster Abbey where England’s monarchs have been married and crowned for centuries. There are buried individuals such as Mary Queen of Scots, Issac Newton, Charles Darwin, William Shakespear, Geiorge Frideric Handel, and so many more. The Tower of London was a great stop where we saw the scaffold where England’s royal armories, crown jewels, and beheadings were all located. A fun place that is not always talked about is Borough’s Market. It was a covered, outdoor farmer’s market that provided crowds with a variety of crafted and unique cuisine. Our last big attraction was the London Eye. It provides a half-hour of one of the greatest views of the city. And since we went at twilight, we got to see London light up for our last evening there. The easiest way we found to get around was the Underground, which is the system of trains and subways; unlike the other cities, London was too big to walk, so buying a day pass was beneficial for hopping from one side of the city to the other.

Our trip could be considered a “tourist-y” vacation, but there is so much to see and learn that we were eventually proud to be tourists. From taking the Tube around town to finding the best fish n’ chips, the trip was a success and just a lot of fun. I feel incredibly blessed for the experience.

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Photos from top to bottom:
*Parliament Square where you can see Big Ben and the London Eye*Classic London telephone booth*Tower of London Bridge*Big Ben and Houses of Parliament*Westminster Abbey*Buckingham Palace*streets of London*St. James Palace*guard of Tower of London*Soho’s China Town*Victoria and Albert Museum*White Tower in the Tower of London*London Eye