Scotland Adventures: Part One

The last time I left you guys, you were throwing caution to the wind and boarding the next flight out to London.  For those who did, I hope you had a safe flight and enjoyed London as much as I do. In the event that you have not taken the leap (which I acknowledge might actually be the majority), good news! For the price of flying to London, you can now also add Edinburgh, Scotland to your itinerary. Two for the price of one! I mean technically, you will still have to purchase a bus ticket to Edinburgh from London, but this is minor detail.

Okay so let’s get down to business. You’ve made it to London and after seeing the great city and all it has to offer you’ve been told that Edinburgh, Scotland is only one bus ride away.  However, there is a catch. This bus ride to Scotland is ten hours long! After a brief moment of hesitation, you decide to put on your big kid pants and get ready to brave the ten hour bus ride. As repayment for your bravery, you will not only get to visit Edinburgh but are gifted with a breathtakingly beautiful scenic journey to your destination. This journey is full of rolling hills and valleys filled with sheep and livestock, as well as rugged coastlines. For the strong willed who can overcome their sleep deprivation, this scenic bus ride is a trip in itself.

The Destination

You have now conquered the grueling ten hour bus ride. As you step off the bus in Edinburgh,  the first thing you will hear is the sounds of bagpipes. If it is 8 o’ clock in the morning, your sleep deprived self might even tear up a little at the sound of the bagpipes playing.  The music will reach your very core and stir up emotions you did not know you had. After experiencing this emotional roller coaster, the next thing you will notice is the weather. During my visit in June 2014,  the weather went from rainy  and dreary to shorts weather and back multiple times during the day. So do your best to be prepared and layer up, and most importantly….Bring an umbrella!

Now after making peace with the weather and taking a terribly bad photo of a bagpiper(as seen above) and having someone ruin said photo, it is time to visit Edinburgh castle. For those who missed out on bagpipes in the street, you will most likely find a parade of bagpipes upon visiting the castle. Not only did I witness a chorus of bagpipe players during my visit, but I was present for an event referred to as “The One’O Clock Gun.”  This event which originally was a time signal in its past for ships, is now simply a ceremonious event for tourists which involves the firing of a cannon around 1pm. Besides this ceremonious event,the castle is a beauty in itself. Take a moment to walk through its rooms and towers and learn about the prisoners of war that were held in the castle, as well as Scotland’s military history at the National War Museum within the castle walls. When you have learned about Edinburgh’s history, the views from the castle was astounding and perfect for photo opportunities. If you are lucky, one of the bagpipers might photobomb your photo! Say Cheese!

Photo with photobombing bagpiper and classmates

Edinburgh Castle

You have now conquered Edinburgh Castle and learned about its intriguing history. Now, for all those reading this who have children or want to relinquish their adult status for a day, this next one is for you! A visit to Edinburgh, would not be complete with a visit to Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. This building has six floors of hands- on fun complete with illusions such as fun house mirrors, heat cameras, vortex tunnels, and much, much, more.  During my time there, a few and my classmates and I had fun with optical illusion images, heat cameras, vortex tunnels, and rooms which made us feel like pop sensations with glittering lights. When you are done embracing your inner child, continue the fun during the Camera Obscura show where you will learn about Edinburgh while viewing live moving images of Edinburgh on a viewing table and manipulating the people in these images. After the show, continue on to the rooftop for more scenic views of the city below.

By this point, you have now conquered two attractions in Edinburgh, and this is only the start of your visit.  If you are feeling a little exhausted by this point, consider doing a little souvenir shopping the rest of the day by walking down The Royal Mile. Along these streets, you will find stores selling everything from shot glasses, postcards, and keychains to cashmere scarves and tartan skirts. After stocking up on souvenirs and cashmere scarves, indulge in some chocolates and fudge and refuel for your next adventure tomorrow.

 

To be continued…

 

Travels in London: Part Three

Hey everybody,

If you’ve made it this far, you have now read about London’s great galleries, museums and theatres. However, my discussion on London would not be complete without recommending you some of its famous landmarks and beautiful green spaces. This list is by no means a full comprehensive list of all the things to visit, but rather some of my favourites. Without further ado, let us begin.

Buckingham Palace
If you are going to visit London then it only seems right that you visit the residency and administrative headquarters of the monarch. It is not only a residency, but stands as a representation of the British royalty and its power in England. It is a beautiful structure and situated in front of it adding to its beauty is the beautiful Victoria Memorial, dedicated to the late Queen Victoria. This memorial is absolutely stunning with its marble structure and gilded bronze. It is the perfect place to take stunning photos and witness people from all the corners of the world congregating together to visit the palace. If you are visiting Buckingham Palace, be sure to find out when the Changing of the Guard takes place as it is a sight worth seeing complete with marching and music.  Although I did not see this during my visit three years ago, I was able to witness the Changing of the Guard at the Tower of London which was equally mesmerizing.

Buckingham Palace and Victoria Memorial

Hyde Park and St. James Park

Now after visiting Buckingham Palace, make your way north for Hyde Park or southwest for St. James Park. These two parks are full of lush greenery and friendly wildlife. If you are looking for a peaceful afternoon, these parks will provide you with a sense of calm and peace as you walk along the lake. If you decide on Hyde Park, consider renting a bike from the Barclay’s bike rental stands in Hyde Park to explore the large park.  For those looking for more recreational activities, during the warm weather rowing and pedal boats are available for rental to glide across the Serpentine lake. If you are short on time, I would recommend visiting St. James Park instead which offers the same lush greenery but is not as large as Hyde Park.  In addition, St.James Park is perfect for photo taking opportunities as the London Eye is visible in certain areas of the park.  Whichever park you choose, you will not be disappointed. If you have time to visit both, then go out there and enjoy. If you are pressed on time, St.James Park will lead you to your next destination: The London Eye and Big Ben.


St.James Park

The London Eye and Big Ben

I have lumped these two together due to the fact that they are both in very close proximity to one another. Now I’m going to be honest in that during my entire time I was in London and even during my most recent visit, I have only seen the London Eye and have never actually gone on it.  If you are wondering why I have not stepped foot into one the little pods that make up the London Eye, my answer is simple: the line is too bloody long. Thus, for those wanting to take a ride, my advice to you is to buy tickets in advance and go early.  I cannot comment on the views from the London Eye but a quick google search yields many positive reviews in regards to the the incredible view from The Eye.  So I only hope you have better luck than me and manage to make it on one of London’s most well known landmarks. After your successful ride, visit Big Ben if only for a photo opportunity. It is a short walk from The Eye and although the clock tower is currently undergoing renovations, it is still a beautiful tower to see despite the construction.

Big Ben 

The London Eye 

Tower of London and Tower Bridge 

Next up on your itinerary is the Tower of London. The Tower of London is a historic castle which is better known for its history as a prison. Take a stroll through the complex and educate yourself on the torture that occurred within these walls. Within Wakefield Tower, you will find replicas of the torture instruments used on the prisoners of the tower. After learning about the torture that went on, bring yourself to a happier place by seeing the Crown Jewels which are housed in the Tower of London.  After you have walked around the Tower of London,  Tower Bridge can be clearly seen from the yard where you can continue with your photo shoot.  And with that you have crossed off two more places to see in London.


Tower Bridge 


Tower of London (Crown Jewels are in this building)

Markets

Now when you get to London you will notice something very quickly…. it is very expensive!  My advice to you is if you are looking for cool vintage items or cheap food, then head over to the various markets scattered across London. If its vintage items, music, and fashion you are looking for then Camden Market should be your first stop.  If it is food you are seeking, head over to the Old Spitalfields Market for an array of different foods to try from meat pies to Chinese noodles.  With a full belly and a one of a kind vintage piece you have now maneuvered through two of London’s markets.

Camden Market- Again you will have to excuse the camera quality on this one. 

Final Thoughts 

So you’ve made it to the end! I hope my guide on London has been helpful and informative in making the most out of your trip to London. As mentioned, the places I have mentioned are by no means a comprehensive list of places you should visit but rather the places I found most intriguing that I believe others will appreciate. There are many more museums, galleries, landmarks, green spaces, and markets to discover and this is just the starting point of your adventure. For those who live in London, I hope I have done well in representing the city you call home.  There is so much to see in London and I am sure that my next visit will only lead to new discoveries. If you have any questions, feel free to send a message. I am always happy to suggest additional places and/or talk about my experiences abroad.  Below I have left some suggestion of British literature both fiction and non fiction which might be of some interest to you in getting a better understanding of London’s history and culture.  Happy Travels!

Book Suggestions

Fiction
Sam Selvon- The Lonely Londoners
Night Haunts- Sukhdev Sandhu
The Buddha of Suburbia- Hanif Kureishi

Non-Fiction
London in the Twentieth Century: A City and Its People – Jerry White

Travels in London: Part One

Hello everyone,

Now that appropriate introductions have been made, I am going to recount the experience which inspired me to see as many places and experience as many cultures as possible. It may consist of several parts, but please bear with me.

It started in January 2014. I was walking the halls of my university campus when I came across a flyer advertising a summer study abroad course in London. At the time, I was your average university student with barely two cents in their pocket. I thought that there was no way I would be able to afford a trip to London, and yet after experiencing an incredibly devastating family tragedy that winter I was determined to find a way.  I was not about to let that year be defined by tragedy. Rather, I would change the trajectory that the year was seemed so determined to take.  So with that in mind and barely enough money to cover the deposit, I applied.

The course studied British literature and art, and how the city was represented through these mediums.  By seeing London through this scope, it was not merely a visit to see the monuments of London but rather it was an experience of  the culture and history of London.  Whereas one might easily overlook London as another big city, it is so much more than that.  With that said, this is where the fun begins. I will take you through what I learned and the things I loved about this great city so that you may love it just as much.

The first thing I loved about London was how ethnically diverse it was. Many media portrayals of the United Kingdom will have you thinking that London is far from ethnically diverse.  However, that is the furthest thing from the truth. This diversity was evident in the plethora of food options available to me ranging from Middle Eastern, Chinese, Bangladeshi, Spanish, Italian, etc. This diversity of food options did more than just satisfy my palate, it also made me reflect on the struggle immigrants faced and continue to face to be recognized as truly “British”.

And so, comes my first suggestion. If you are in London, do yourself a favour and visit the art galleries and museums that London has to offer.  In doing so, you will begin to familiarize yourself with London’s history and culture while also learning about other cultures in the process. London for being an incredibly expensive city to visit, has some perks. First and foremost, many of the museums are free. Now, if you have a few extra pounds to spare please consider putting a donation in the donation boxes to keep the museums free. Some of the museums/galleries I visited while in London include the following:

Victoria & Albert Museum

First and foremost, The V&A  is absolutely massive. It houses photography, sculptures, ironwork, ceramics, theater galleries, and paintings amidst many other things. If you wish to learn about Britain, please kindly visit the Britain collections which are identified on the map of the museum and the Modern collections to learn about Britain. Now,  A visit to the V&A is incomplete without the Theatre and Performance collections. These collections portray the history of the performing arts in the U.K. The costumes on display are absolutely stunning and should not be missed. I could go on about the Victoria & Albert Museum but I will leave you to discover the other gems in the museum.


My apologies for the quality, it was 2014 here. My camera was not up to the times. 

Tate Modern

Now when I was in London in 2014 I did not get a chance to visit the Tate Modern, however over three years later I finally made the visit and man had I been missing out! This gallery is free as well and there are many great exhibits by British artists, and many more pieces by international artists. The Tate houses mixed media pieces along with paintings, tapestry, sculptures, etc. Guiltily, I have to admit that some of my favourite pieces were foreign born artists including Salvador Dali, Cildo Meireles, and Ibrahim El-Salahi. Below are some of the images from my recent visit:

Cildo Meireles- Babel 

Ibrahim El Salahi’s “Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams”
Salvador Dali’s “Metamorphosis of Narcissus” 

The piece that had the biggest impact on me was Cildo Meireles piece. This grand tower is a collection of vintage and modern radios ranging in size all tuned in to different radio stations. The chaotic noise that is produced aims to address modern day’s society failure at communication and the information overload presented to us. This dizzying chaotic display of noise and lights serves as a reminder for us to unplug and notice the world around us. While technology does offer its advantages such as my ability to share this information with you , it has also led to people isolating themselves by living their lives behind that same computer screen.

Final Thoughts

It is with this that I conclude my post on London’s great galleries and museums. Other notable places worth visiting include The British Museum and Whitechapel Gallery. The British Museum is worth visiting just to see the Rosetta Stone alone and the beautiful Egyptian artifacts housed in the museum. On the other hand, the Whitechapel Gallery is constantly hosting different exhibitions worth viewing. During my 2014 visit, Stephen Willats’ “Concerning our Present Way of Living” was one of these exhibitions and portrayed communities that were often ignored such as public housing estates residents and dockworkers. Although it is no longer exhibiting at the Whitechapel Gallery, it is worth researching what is currently exhibiting at the gallery. I hope I have provided you guys with some valuable information about London’s museums and galleries. Please stay tuned for Part Two where I will be discussing London’s theatre scene and what I liked most about each theatre I visited.