I came to London several days before Queen Mary opened for the semester for the sole purpose of watching the fireworks at the London Eye. Not knowing anybody in London, I stayed at a youth hostel for a few days, and went to Westminster bridge with a few people I met at the hostel. The firework show was excellent, and the view from the bridge was excellent!
The London Eye four hours before the big show.
The London Eye in the midst of the fireworks.
To any students considering a spring semester study abroad at Queen Mary, I would suggest coming to see the fireworks unless you have some specific New Years plans. It was a great cultural experience as well as a wonderful show. The days between the fireworks and Queen Mary opening offer a prime time to explore London — visiting Bond/Oxford street in time for the tail-end of the Christmas displays. It also gives you time to learn how to travel London — and if you follow Melanie’s three-part guide to London’s public transit, you will be set for the rest of your time here.
A great thing about wandering through London is the sheer number of museums, art galleries, and locations of historical significance you pass through. When my friend and I embarked from Waterloo on a quest to find Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a wonderfully historic pub on Fleet Street, we ended up passing all sorts of sights — including Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey to name a few. I honestly cannot extol the virtues of wandering through London enough, it is one of the best ways to get to see the city as a whole rather than visiting only specific sites and missing the big-picture view of the city.
As a last note, if you are interested in a truly unique and historical dining experience, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a magnificent place to visit. It was first built in 1538, and rebuilt after the Great Fire in 1666. The premises have not been modernized in the way most old pubs have, so it has many small bar areas over several floors, low ceilings, and somewhat cramped quarters. However, it is a great taste of a pub experience in the 16th or 17th century.
-S. Quinlan Arlington, 14 March 2013