Royally touring London

by ALEX RAGHUNANDAN Staff Writer

My family and I traveled to Paris, where we spent a week, and then finally arrived in the most historic and modern city of them all, London, right after the 2012 Summer Olympics in August.

It took eight hours to fly to Paris from New Jersey. Then from there, my family took the Eurostar train to London for two hours. The Eurostar connects major cities from across Europe together through multiple railroads.

After arriving in London, my family was driven to the Radisson Bleu Hotel located down the street from the British Museum. It was a beautiful hotel that was very modern and had a prime location because it was still in the city, but was far enough to avoid the noise of the heart of the city. Honestly, it was just a relief that everyone spoke English!

We spent a total of six days in London touring museums, visiting palaces, and strolling the streets like a local.

“I am in love with England, especially because most of One Direction is from England. I really would love to visit London and enjoy the city just like a local,” said freshman Shrina Parikh.

In order to get a real local perspective, our most used form of transportation was the Underground, which is much like the Subway in New York City. The Underground was actually very organized and more clean than the Subway, probably because it was a lot smaller and less complicated than the Subway. There are also tour buses available to bring you from attraction to attraction to avoid confusion.

The heart of the city is centered around Trafalgar Square. It is a large walking area with statues of lions in the middle surrounded by cobblestone walking areas and museums and eateries on the outskirts. In the distance stands Big Ben.

Big Ben and the Parliament building are exactly what you would envision it would be. They look picture perfect, and the best pictures can be taken from a bridge across from the buildings. The bridge itself leads to an assortment of restaurants that are great for lunch.

Not far from Big Ben and Parliament is Westminster Abbey, one of the most famous churches in the country, known for its phenomenal Gothic architecture and arches. As a typical teenager, I did not expect to be as amazed as I was by how the church was built back in the 11th century – it is breathtaking.

The Abbey is where almost every wedding for the British Royal Family, including the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29th, 2011, takes place. Many famous British people, like Jane Austen and Princess Diana of Wales, are either buried in the church itself or on the church’s grounds.

Speaking of the royal family, visiting Buckingham Palace, the home of the Queen, is a must-see. One of the most popular events is the Changing of the Guard, which is a daily ceremony that takes place in front of the palace where the men guarding the front of the palace switch. If you are lucky enough to touch the gate of the palace, do not let go because you will be pushed around!

Also, if you are a truly interested in the history of the Royal Family, visiting the London Tower would be perfect. The tours are directed by experts on the scandalous pasts of England’s monarchs.

There are also Crown Jewels held on display by the tower. The Crown Jewels are a set of jewels worn by the reigning monarch (and sometimes their family) during extremely formal occasions, like coronations and weddings. Some of the most precious diamonds and gems are held there.

The British Museum, which was walking distance from my hotel, was the best museum I have ever been to. It is a huge building that is home to thousands of artifacts from all over the world. The British Museum is home to the Rosetta Stone from Egypt, Hammurabi’s Code from Iran, and more.

“When I went to London with my family. I didn’t want to waste time in a museum, but instead I ended up loving the museum more than any other part of my trip,” said freshman Annie Jacob.

London may only seem to appeal to history lovers, fans of the Royal Family, and people who love landmarks, but London also has a huge shopping district.

Most of the shopping was centered in an area called the Oxford Circus, which is like SoHo in New York, except more packed. One of my most prominent memories is the flood of people constantly moving. Nonetheless, there was every shop imaginable and was definitely a highlight of my trip.

Above all, Harrod’s is the king of all department stores that I have ever been to. The store is the literally the size of two malls and over six floors high. Anything imaginable, from clothes to gourmet food to Christmas decorations can be found in Harrod’s. It was like paradise for me.

Each department was a like a completely different world. The food department was set up like a fancy mall food court with restaurants on the sides of the walkway containing all different cuisines, including sushi and the native tea shops open for Tea Time (which is 4 p.m.).

The clothing department feels like entering Buckingham Palace with chandeliers and designer clothes everywhere. Harrod’s truly makes shopping an experience.

London is such a huge city with so much to see, but there is only so much time. Therefore, London created the London Eye, which is a big Ferris Wheel where you walk into a big capsule that is completely glass that holds about twenty people. It is the ultimate photo location as you see the whole panorama of the city. It is the perfect way to take in the entire city.

Unfortunately, after a week of vacationing in London, I had to finally return to New Jersey, which is basically London minus the history, people, culture, and shopping.

When you travel, what is your favorite part of the trip: the history, culture, or shopping? Why?

#AlexRaghunandan #London #RoyalFamily #Summervacation

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