By Troy Stiles, ISA Marketing Communications Manager
I arrived at Stansted Airport early, jumped on the train with all the regular commuters and headed to the ISA flat to drop off my stuff.
It was still breakfast time and I was starving, so, first thing first, I went on the hunt for food. I noticed on my map that there seemed to be a few restaurants/cafes just a few blocks away from the ISA flat, so I headed that direction. Turns out there’s a really cool street called Portobello Road just two blocks from the flat. I had never heard of it before, but it’s home to the world’s largest antiques market! I wasn’t in the market for antiques though, I wanted breakfast, and I found it. After spending sometime on one of the benches outside the bakery, I decided to head to the downtown area to explore.
I jumped on the Underground and got off at the Tower Hill stop. From there I was literally steps away from the Tower of London, which is home to the Crown Jewels. I’m not much of a jewelry guy, so I bypassed this and headed straight for the Tower Bridge, crossed and was granted with a great view of downtown London.
I wandered along the Thames, past the city hall and crossing back to the downtown area on the London Bridge.
When people say London is an international city, they truly mean it’s an international city. As I was crossing the bridge, I heard no less than 5 languages being spoken! People from all around the world come to London for vacation, for business, for any number of reasons. I had already fallen in love with the city, but that experience helped me realize how incredible the city really is.
I continued my journey past the Monument to the Great Fire of London and learned that a major fire in late 1666 swept through the city and the tower stands in the location where the fire was thought to have started.
From there, I walked to St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was part of the major reconstruction of the city after the Great Fire. The cathedral is perched on the highest point in the entire city and was the tallest building in London for over 200 years, from the early 1700’s until 1967.
A straight shot south from St. Paul’s Cathedral towards the river lies the Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Thames, and ends near Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern Museum.
I headed west from here, however, toward Trafalgar Square.
The place was packed. People hanging out, taking pictures, having picnics, people watching… there was a lot of activity and really had an energy.
On the north side of the square is the National Gallery which displays art from the 13th to 19th centuries and it’s FREE to get in! I’d been wandering for hours, so I took a break from walking and looking at buildings to standing and looking at paintings. I would highly recommend a stop.
Picadilly Circus is just a short walk from Trafalgar Square, as is King’s College of London (one of the places ISA students can study in London), so I thought I’d check that out. There were lot’s of billboards and lots of people and lots of traffic. I wasn’t feeling it, so I only stayed for a short while.
The afternoon was getting on and I was getting hungry, so I wanted to head back to the Westminster area that I’d been to briefly on my first night in London. On my way, I was hoping to stop by the Churchill War Rooms and 10 Downing Street (where the British Prime Minister lives). Before getting to these, I came across the Household Calvary Museum and it was so British looking I just had to take a picture.
It turned out that the Churchill War Room was closed by the time I arrived and my stomach was getting the best of me, so a visit to 10 Downing Street will have to wait for another time.
I wandered around the Westminster area for a little while longer taking in the sites and sounds and Big Ben (once again) before hoping on the Underground back to Notting Hill.
I ventured back to Portobello Road in Notting Hill to find some dinner and plopped down in a cool looking pub for my last meat pie of my journey. It was a local place, with people having dinner and co-workers stopping by for a pint after their day of work. I sat back in my chair and had a look around, smiled, and thought about my trip.
I’d been on the road for only 14 days and only spent a day or two in each place I’d visited. I never studied abroad (or even thought about studying abroad) until I was in grad school, but it changed my life in such a positive way. As I sat there with all the Londoner locals, I couldn’t help but think about all the students who choose to study abroad and what a positive, life-changing experience they’ll have, the cultural awareness… the skills and understanding that you can’t necessarily quantify they’ll gain and it made me happy.
I had a great trip exploring some of ISA’s locations in northern Europe and I tried to portray each place I stopped as best as I could, but there’s so much more to each of these locations and the only way to really understand them is to see them for yourself.
If you’d like more information about any of the locations I traveled to, feel free to fill out the form below and request more information.