Posts Tagged ‘tower bridge’

The Tower and the Eye

Originally posted mid-October

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For all of September, I was nervous about going out into the city on my own. Although I have walked around cities on my own before, London is far bigger than what I’m used to. However, after talking with a friend about what he does on his own, I decided to try venturing out myself. I started on a Sunday with a trip to the Tower of London. London has a great program of walking tours that you can simply show up at and pay for. For the tour of the Tower of London, I was in a large group with a tour guide who spoke a lot louder than I was expecting. One minute he was quietly discussing tickets with an elderly couple, and the next thing I know, I hear “ALRIGHT THEN. IS EVERYBODY HERE? GOOD, WE CAN BEGIN.”

Anyway, despite his voice, the guide himself was very good and I learned a lot about the Tower. After the tour ended, we were free to see the many cool things in the Tower itself, most famous of which being the crown jewels (also the one with the longest line). The crown jewels themselves were really cool. There were a lot of golden plates and spoons. The really valuable things, like the large diamonds, were displayed on a conveyer belt.   I just rolled right past them.

One of the more underrated attractions at the Tower are the ravens. Apparently if all the ravens are gone from the Tower, the kingdom will collapse, so they keep a few around. They are like crows, but they are huge.

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After the Tower, I decided to walk five minutes over to Tower Bridge. Tickets for the bridge are really cheap and totally worth the view.

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Of course, walking around the city alone can be fun, but sometimes you want to do stuff with friends. While harder to schedule, this is usually worthwhile. Almost a week after my little trip to the Tower of London, I got a group of friends together and we headed to the London Eye.

It was a sunny day, perfect for seeing the entire city. We all got our tickets ready and headed onto the moving capsule. While the views were incredible, I remembered about a quarter of the way up that I have a slight fear of heights. But I didn’t let that bother me and got a bunch of awesome pictures!  The only other problem was that the sun was in the way of Big Ben, so a lot of my pictures were dark or I had to crop around my hand, which was shading the camera.

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After our fun, we walked around the area for a bit before heading to a pub for some food and then back the University.

In conclusion, while having friends to go places is a lot of fun, also don’t be afraid to do things on your own. You may not enjoy it as much as being with friends, but you will still have fun, and it’s a lot easier to schedule.

London Markets

There’s a reason we all love the weekend. It’s time for sleeping in, reading that book you bought ages ago, or (for the more lively, younger crowd) going out dancing. For many study abroad students (or “associate students” as they are known here), it’s even a time to travel outside of the country. As for me? The weekend means markets.

Perhaps I have an old soul or the energy level of a grandma, but for me the markets are the place to be on the weekend. There are so many sights, tastes, noises, and smells (pleasant ones I assure you) to experience when going to a market and you can go to a different one each weekend. I’ve gone to plenty of markets since being here, but there are still so many to explore. Here is the lowdown on the ones I’ve been to so far:

 

White Chapel Market

One of the closest markets near campus (I’d say a 25 minute walk) that has really cheap produce, blankets, clothes, and oddities. I can’t say I’m a fan. I passed through during my first week being in London and found it a bit chaotic. However, if you want something cheap, you’ll definitely find it here. The quality of clothes and shoes aren’t the best, hence the low prices. One of my flat mates buys veggies here and splits them with a friend (because vendors sell a lot of produce in bulk) to save money.

Portobello Market

If you want spend hours at a market, Portobello is the place to go! It is a famous market (a big thanks to Notting Hill) so there are a lot of people. The street of stalls is so wonderfully long. The market is divided into sections: antiques, food, and clothes. I recommend first walking the entire length of the market to see what’s out there before making a purchase (so you get the best deal). Now, this market isn’t cheap but it’s reasonably priced and there are many things you can find here that you can’t find anywhere else (like awesome vintage cameras). Take your time to peruse. Also, the buildings nearby are colorful and quaint and there are also nice, permanent cafes and shops in the area.

Columbia Road Flower Market

Do you like flowers? ‘Cause I do! The Columbia Flower Market is a really small market for people who like plants. There are so many different kinds of flowers and it’s really fun hearing vendors shouting about discounts. The selection of flowers is probably better in the spring. This market opens and closes early (8 am – 3 pm) on Sundays, so you have to wake up early (or at least earlier than you would expect on a Sunday).

Borough Market

I have to admit, this is my favorite market so far. Why? Because of all the FOOD. Just across the street from Tower Bridge’s tube stop, this little gem is packed with yummy stalls. There are all types of different food you can sample (yay free stuff!) and buy. I went on a food crawl (in case you didn’t know, it’s basically eating and enjoying as much as you can in an area) with a friend and ended up having a beef empanada, sirloin steak sandwich, raclette, pear-apple-elderflower cider and goat’s milk rum raisin ice cream. I was satisfied to say the least (and I only spent about £15 which is a deal for all the food I ate). The prices are pretty decent. Depending on how popular a stall is (long queues) will most likely determine the price it charges. I plan to go back multiple times in the future.

Broadway Market

Another close market to Mile End (in case you were worried that everything is located in central London)! This is a small market with lots of character. Sadly, I went near closing time (the market is only open on Saturdays from 9 am – 5 pm), but it seems promising and I plan to return. Also there are adorable cafes and bookshops nearby.

Brick Lane Market

Enclosed in a building, this is a fun market full of food and vintage clothes. Unlike Borough Market, Brick Lane has a lot more different ethnic foods. I had Ethiopian, Chinese, Thai and Mexican food during one visit. Brick Lane is also semi-close to campus (it’s about a 30 minute stroll, a bit past White Chapel Market). Although there are a lot of fun funky clothes here, it isn’t cheap.

Well, that’s enough of me for now. One last thing: if you’re going to any market, make sure to check when it is open. Some are only open or closed on specific days. For instance, Borough Market is closed on Sunday, but open the rest of the week. There’s nothing worse than getting excited about going somewhere to only find out that that place is not open (I know it all too well).

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