Isle of Wight
Even with all the fun classes and thrilling group activities, there was plenty of time to explore other areas outside of London. One weekend I took a relaxing trip to the Isle of Wight, famous for its natural beauty and nicknamed “England in Miniature”. Despite its small size, the island packs a surprising variety of scenic landscapes including chalky downs, high cliffs, sandy beaches, woodland, meadows, vineyards, and meandering rivers. After a beautiful ferry ride alongside cruise ships and sailboats, I came to East Cowes, where the Queen has her Osborne House and private beach. I then visited the quaint village of Godshill, home to a gorgeous hilltop church, excellent pubs, and a unique 1:10 scale model of itself at its center. Next was Freshwater Bay, which has an interesting naval history as well as breathtaking scenery. And just a few minutes away was the main attraction. At the Needles, I took chairlift rides overlooking the white cliffs, walked along the beaches with their naturally occurring multicolored sand, and enjoyed the amusement area’s many activities. The Isle of Wight was certainly an unforgettable visit that I wished would never end.
June 15—Trooping the Colour
On June 15, Kyle, James, and I went to watch the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. The act is performed most days of the year at Buckingham Palace, on the road known as The Mall, but this day was quite different. In celebration of the Queen’s birthday, otherwise known as Trooping the Colour, the queen and the rest of the Royal Family traveled down The Mall in celebration. The ceremony dates back to the seventeenth century. Tens of thousands of people crowd around The Mall, St. James’s Park, and Buckingham Palace to watch the procession. The procession is one of the only times each year where people can get a glimpse of the Queen.
June 16—Leeds, Dover, and Canterbury
On June 16, Tyler and I took a day trip to Leeds Castle (shown at right), Canterbury Cathedral, and The White Cliffs of Dover. We left on a bus early that morning from Victoria Station and our first stop was to Leeds Castle. Leeds Castle is an incredibly amazing castle, as it is still completely surrounded by a moat.
After visiting Leeds, about an hour drive southeast of central London; we continued heading south all the way to Dover, along the English Channel. The White Cliffs rise over 400 feet above the English Channel, where Dover Castle sits.
We finally started heading back towards central London, with just one final stop at Canterbury. The countryside around Canterbury was quite beautiful. The city of Canterbury revolves around the Cathedral, as it is one of the most famous in England. The city of Canterbury is exactly what I imagined a small English town would be, with narrow roads made of cobblestone. Canterbury was my favorite part of the tour, as the Cathedral is unique to that of any I’ve seen in London.
Digesting England by the Pound
You don’t feel culture shock once you arrive in London. Everything seems familiar, but slightly different. You hear the famous British accent, but for the most part you hear Americans and other nationalities speaking. Soon enough you figure out that London is the capital for tourists. One doesn’t come here just to be a part of British culture, a person comes to London to see the entire world crammed into a sprawling city. You will fear things like the London Underground at first, but you assimilate rather quickly.
Everything just seems a bit better on the other side of the Atlantic. Even the cheapest food is better than back in the States. You are drawn in to the local bakeries every morning to get all the delicious bread you can throw a pound at. Tea is dirt cheap, and it can be found at any street corner. Want Japanese? Indian? Ethiopian? Just some fish and chips? I bet you can find each option within a tenth of a mile of where you’re standing in Central London. It’s all here, and you don’t even have to look for it.
The London trip is amazing! There is a lot to experience and discover while here. As a computer scientist in the works, places like Bletchley Park and the Science Museum are my highlights to the trip, as you cover material that goes over Turing and Babbage.
If you are in the thermodynamics class, then the Kew Steam Museum and the Science Museum will have things to interest you. I didn’t have the pleasure of taking thermodynamics, however I couldn’t advocate the circuits class and the computer science class more. The circuits class will takes things you learned in Physics II and advance it further, while remaining interesting. The computer science class is an overview of the history of the theory of computing, and is an eye-opener. It’s the best computer science class I’ve taken to date.
As a side note, there were quite a few things we did that were great. We watched “A Midsummer Night’s” Dream at the Shakespeare Theatre, which was fantastic. If you find some free time one weekend, take a slight trip up to Thorpe Park. I recommend the Stealth ride, as it’s the fastest thrill there! If you want good food, go to Poppies for fish and chips, or Byron Burgers for their Byron burger. They are great places to eat if you want a meal reminiscent of something we would enjoy at home!
Another thing to keep in mind is that there are certain differences here than most know. You can drink at 18, but do so responsibly. Almost all restaurants never split a check, so if you eat with friends, you will have to pay separately with their hand-held credit card readers. If you have an American credit/debit card, be prepared to sign every time you pay for something, so make sure you’ve signed the back of your card!
You will also have a hard time finding public trash cans (rubbish bins), as they simply don’t exist here! That’s not true, but they are rare. There are no water fountains, so keep water on you if you need it. Aside from that, go experience the London live, do well in your classes, and have a blast!