Posted by: claire.mangine | March 1, 2013

Post Five- City Review of London by Mike

Happy Friday, WordPress! My week long London kick is coming to the end. with the help of my good friend Mike, a fellow Bonaventure student who also studied abroad in London and has tons of tips to share!

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Home University: St. Bonaventure University ’13
Study Abroad Destination: London, England
When traveled: September-December 2011
Program Traveled with: St. Bonaventure University and Montana State
University Attended: Kingston University, London

Claire: Tell me about Kingston is like and where is it compared to London city center.
Mike: My neighborhood was in the outskirts of London in the borough of Kingston-upon-Thames, which is different from Central London. Kingston is more of a residential area with a town center that was more urban, and Central London is where Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, etc. is located. When you think of London, you think of the center of the city. For me, there were two different Londons because Kingston and the city center were so different.

One thing to keep in mind is London is a sprawl that covers a lot of ground, making many different distinct neighborhoods. 

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C: What was your favorite part about being in London?
M: Touring Parliament. As a political science major, seeing the House of Lords and House of Commons was very interesting. The British Parliament was the seat of power for one of the world’s greatest empires and seeing where so many important decisions were made was surreal.

C: Tell me some things you HAVE to do and see while in London.

M: Obviously you also have to see Buckingham Palace, which is within walking distance from Big Ben. The most scenic way to get from Big Ben to Buckingham Palace is through St. James’ Park, which is one of London’s many parks. London is much greener than I had expected.

If government isn’t your thing, London also has great shopping. Harrods Department store in Knightsbridge covers two city blocks and has six floors. Every designer imaginable, from Gucci to Prada to Armani, is available at Harrods. Another interesting place to shop, and one of my other favorite parts of London, is Camden Town in north London. Camden Town is a string of markets and stores that sell everything under the sun. Camden Town is associated with the British counter-culture of the 60s and 70s and you definitely get the feel for the London of that era when you visit.

Also, visit an old school British pub; they’re all over the place. Go for the cliché and order a pint of ale and some fish and chips or bangers and mash. London is a multicultural city and the new British national dish is Indian chicken tikka masala. Make sure you try the traditional British seafood, but also the new dishes brought from all over the world.

C: What is the weather like? What should you pack if headed to London?
M: The weather is cold, but not in the same way we view cold at Bonas.

              Please note, it is constantly cold at St. Bonaventure. During our school
           year, besides from about 
end of August-October, then April-May…it’s.                                               cold.                               And snowing. And raining. And cold.

London has a moderate climate and rarely gets snow due to its location near the English Channel. You’ll be OK 90% of the time in a North Face fleece jacket, so don’t pack a heavy winter coat. Definitely pack rain gear because London gets a lot of rain, the stereotype is true

C: Any other tips you can share about going around London?
M: One thing to remember when walking around London is they drive on the left side of the road, so pay attention when crossing the street. Sometimes the crosswalk will even tell you, “look left” or “look right” so pay attention.
Also, people will tell you to buy an Oyster Card to use the London Underground (the Tube) or the bus service. You put money on your Oyster Card and it charges you per ride, however, this can get expensive. Instead, buy a day travel card for 8 pounds that will give you unlimited rides. 

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C: Where else did you travel while abroad? 
M: I went to Paris, Rome and Barcelona. Those cities are world class in their own right, but I spent the most time in London.

Sometime in my last two weeks abroad, I realized I had only scratched the surface of London. You could spend a lifetime there and not do everything. My best advice is to find something about London, a neighborhood, place, museum that really interests you and explore that. There are the obvious things that you have to see, such as Big Ben, but there is something for everybody there.

I think the best way to end my response is to quote British writer Samuel Johnson, “if you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life.”

That is VERY well said, Mike. Thank you for your time!!

(photo credit ton all pictures: Mike Terry)

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