After graduating college and taking a summer off to have fun in the sun at home, I was going to move to London. Only thing is, I couldn’t find a job. I had a visa and everything, but no Brit’s wanted to hire an American, so I just decided to travel around Europe alone for 6 weeks before heading home. I only had a one-way ticket to London purchased, so I needed to look at a map of Europe and see which cities I wanted to visit and what would be the best route.
Transportation by Train
I bought a EuroRail pass, which was a lifesaver. I had one month to make 12 stops and didn’t have to choose the exact dates and times of those stops when I bought the pass. Some legs of my trip did recommend or require reservations, so I just booked those a few days in advance when needed, though it was nice to have a seat secured. What I found a little nerve wrecking was trying to find the right car to get on with only the allotted time the train would be at the stop. If it was a big enough city, the train was usually at the beginning or end of it’s route, so it was no problem, but when I was making connections through some other cities, it was a quick stop and you had to be ready to get on and off when the train arrived or else you’d be waiting for the next train to come through. It took a little getting used to and planning ahead, but I figured it out without missing a single train during my trip.
I’m lucky enough to have been to England many times in my life because of having family there, but I love it so much it never gets old. Especially London. This time, my mum was coming with me to help me move in, but since that didn’t happen, we just did some exploring for a few days before we met up with her friends, who had never been to Europe before and were going to Barcelona around the same time of my trip. Before they popped up to see us, my mum and I visited some of the more rare tourists spots before hitting the typical sites with her friends later.
First, we went to the Wimbledon stadium, and it was just after Andy Murray became the first man from England to win Wimbledon after 77 years on the 7th of July. And they say sevens are only lucky in Vegas… Anyways, we toured the many different courts and the gorgeous landscaping before heading into the champion’s arena. While I’m not a tennis fan, I can appreciate what this facility means to those who play. I didn’t know that the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge have their own reserved seats for every match. Whether they show or not, those are their seats, which makes sense because they’re royalty, but it is still fascinating how they are treated everywhere they go. We also toured Wembley Stadium and it was MASSIVE! When designing this facility, they kept in mind that they wanted it to be the location of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2012 Olympics as well as a multi-use facility afterward. It hosts concerts as well as bigger events like American NFL games and hopefully the World Cup. While there, we were able to tour the England locker room, which was also huge, but more importantly it was completely decked out in their colors, which I’m sure is quite intimidating to any other team using the locker room. After visiting Wembley, we made our way over to Greenwich to check out the Meridian Line, the point where time is based off. Every time zone is + or – hours from this point, which for some reason just blows my mind, but it was a really cool site to see that also has a great view!
When my mum’s friends got to town, we hopped onto a double-decker tour bus because they are my favorite way to easily see a city. The buses are a flat fee, you can hop on and off all day, and the bus is your transportation from site to site! We saw the usual sites like the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square before we went to Piccadilly Circus to see The Book of Mormon at the theater. The play was absolutely hilarious and such a great way to spend our final night all together.
The next day, we all went to the train station, but my mum and her friends headed west to the airport and I headed east to the National Portrait Gallery because it was the one place I did have to see before catching my train to Brussels. They had just released the first official portrait of Princess Kate and I don’t know one woman in her early 20s that wouldn’t want to see the beautiful Princess Kate in any way possible. It was a great way to wrap up my time in London, but I was off to Brussels that afternoon.
Next stop, Brussels!