I had originally planned to write about my London trip three weeks ago, soon after it happened. Unfortunately, I was only home in Copenhagen for like two days before I flew to Paris and I ended up getting a journal assignment that was due that weekend. Plus, I attended the dinner the exchange committee at my dorm had for the exchange students. And I still had to go to class and stay on top of my readings. Needless to say, blogging was very low on my list of priorities. Now that I’m back in Copenhagen for the foreseeable future, I’ve just been really lazy about writing but I finally have time to update you guys on my travels.
I hadn’t originally planned to visit London so soon and so briefly. Don’t get me wrong, I was (and probably still am) planning on spending a long weekend in the city but it was supposed to be a longer, more well thought out trip. That all changed when a friend whose artistic opinions I trust very much let me know about an interesting production of Little Shop of Horrors that was playing in London. Little Shop is one of my favorite musicals so I was very tempted to fly to the UK just to see the production. I gave in once I realized I could get a round trip flight for around $40. I hastily booked travel, purchased theatre tickets, and counted down the days to my flight. And so began my last-minute, whirlwind trip to London.
My flight to London was very early as I was beholden to the cheap flights. I had tickets to see the musical that evening so I also wanted to ensure that I made it to the city with plenty of time to make it in case of delays. Of course, this provided me with a minor dilemma: what to do with the time between landing and check-in time? After some extensive pre-trip googling, I decided to sign up for a free walking tour of western London. I just had to make it to the meeting spot on time. There were about two and a half hours between landing time and tour time, which I assumed would be plenty. But we all know what happens when you assume. After a slow-as-molasses passport check line, one train ride, and two Tube lines later, I made it with mere minutes to spare.
Free walking tours are one of my favorite things to do when arriving in a new city. They’re generally more informal than a paid tour but they’re also generally more fun and definitely cheaper. Although free tours don’t go inside any attractions, they’re great for getting acclimated to the city and learning some super fun facts. For example, did you know that each of the fuzzy hats worn by the guards at Buckingham Palace is made from an entire, real, Canadian bear? They are! I don’t know why, but that’s my favorite thing that I learned.
On my walking tour I walked past/through Trafalgar Square, the Admiralty Arch, Buckingham Palace, St. James Palace, Westminster Abbey, and the pile of scaffolding formerly known as Big Ben. I also met a girl from Australia who used to work at Epcot during the time I was working at Disney which just goes to show that it is indeed a small world after all. While I had a great time walking around and seeing everything, I was pretty darn exhausted by the end of the tour. It was ridiculously hot outside, I was wearing a wool skirt and a cardigan, and I was still schlepping my bag all around the city. Needless to say, I was thrilled when it was finally time to check into the hotel.
I stayed in the eastern part of the city near the London Docklands. It was a bit far away from the center of the city, but it wasn’t a huge problem because the transportation situation was generally quite good (and definitely reasonably priced). I was a short walk away from a DLR station which would allow me to transfer to the Tube and travel anywhere I needed or wanted to go. The hotel was very new, very clean, and offered free breakfast so what more could I ask for?
After settling in at the hotel and a failed attempt at a nap, it was finally time to venture back out for the reason that I even flew to London in the first place. I headed out to Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and picked up my ticket at the box office. To say I was excited is an understatement. I absolutely love Little Shop of Horrors and this production didn’t disappoint. As much as I’d love to, I’m not going to go on a tangent and turn this entire blog post into an in-depth theatre review. Instead, I’ll keep it short and sweet and the expression of my opinions to a single paragraph.
The production made some interesting choices that made me very happy. For example, instead of an elaborate Audrey II puppet, the actual plant mechanism was fairly simple (and really only used for eating people) while a drag queen played the plant personified. This setup worked so much better than I could’ve imagined. It allowed Audrey II to be expressive and really interact with Seymour. As a whole, the production was really weird in the best way possible. Little Shop as a premise is pretty weird in itself and I feel like many live productions of it rely too heavily on making it look like the movie. I kind of hate that because if I wanted to see the movie, I’d watch it at home. If I’m going to put pants on and leave the house to see a show, I want it to be wildly creative and entertaining. Luckily for me this production was exactly that and definitely made my short trip to London worth it.
Despite my trip peaking at the theatre, I still had about a half an afternoon free the next day. It’s nearly impossible to choose how to fill a few hours in London because there are way too many options and decisions are hard. It’s even harder because most museums in London are free, so budget doesn’t really factor into decision-making.
I ended up going to the British Museum because it’s big and filled with cool things. I really had the urge to see some mummies and the Lewis Chessmen. But the major reason I traveled there was to see the suffragette-defaced penny. The suffragettes are some of my favorite people in history so naturally I felt compelled to see it. Unfortunately for me, the penny was temporarily not part of the regular collection. Instead, it had been moved to a special exhibition about political dissent. Of course I paid the $10 extra to visit it (justified to myself because the museum admission was free). The premise of the dissent exhibit was really interesting, but the space was small and wouldn’t have been worth it if I had paid to enter the museum as a whole. I did get to see my penny and that made me inexplicably happy.
While at the British Museum, I learned that the Museum of London is actually holding an entire exhibit about the suffragettes in honor of 100 years of votes for women. I strongly considered heading there next but it wasn’t really close to the airport train so I decided not to. I really wish I had known about it earlier as it was a huge mistake to not go. Instead, I decided to go vintage shopping. This would have been a great idea if I wasn’t so exhausted from being on the go pretty much constantly since I arrived in London. I was (and still am) on a mission to find a nice, relatively inexpensive black leather jacket. Unfortunately, I didn’t find one. I was too tired to try on anything else so I just walked a lot without buying anything. This was great for my wallet but disappointing for my wardrobe. I saw so many cute things but I just couldn’t bring myself to be in a shopping mood. Defeated, I headed to the train, then the airport, then Copenhagen.
Am I glad I made the trek to London? Absolutely. The show was phenomenal and well worth the trip alone. Everything else was just gravy. I love London and had a great time while managing to stick to a meager budget. This was my first real taste of travel this semester and it was a great start. Sure it was hectic and I returned to Denmark completely wiped out. Still, it was so great and novel to hop on a plane and land in a completely different country an hour and a half later. Plus, I was feeling a little homesick and it was really nice to be able to eavesdrop on people and read signs.
And yes, I know that this post was almost a month late. Time just slipped away from me. I do have a few more posts in the pipeline which should hopefully be posted in a timelier manner since I have apparently gotten over my writer’s block. Look for a post about Paris in the upcoming week!