I feel like it’s a given that at some point during your euro-trip, you’ll find yourself somewhere in England. After all, the United Kingdom was part of the European Union up until it’s controversial referendum in June this year, which ultimately lead to the UK voting to leave the Union, thus Brexit was born. Big mistake in my not very important opinion. However, due to its close proximity to its neighbouring European countries, you’re bound to end up there sooner or later.
I found myself in the city of double decker buses, red telephone boxes, tea and of course, Harry Potter, midway through my euro-trip. After finishing my Greek Island Hopper trip with Topdeck, I flew over to visit my bezzie, who was living in Kent as a gappie (gap year) teacher. I spent a week in both London and Oxford with her, being a typical tourist. This is how it went down.
DAY 1: LONDON
After my flight into London and being harassed by the immigration officer for every detail of my life, I met up with Sammy and headed from Heathrow Airport into the centre of London via the Underground. My first tube experience involved a lot of stairs and heavy luggage being hauled up said stairs. Although people offered to help me, I was determined to be an independent woman. As you do in one of the biggest cities in the world.
We then checked into Wombats Hostel and spent the night recovering from our Topdeck hangovers, for we had a busy day travelling to the charming city of Oxford the following day.
DAYS 2-4: OXFORD
Oxford is definitely a city for the ages with its historical buildings and paved walkways. I wasn’t sure what to expect there, but it did remind me a lot of my home town. The bus drive there featured many luscious green landscapes and rolling hills dotted with grazing cows and sheep. It was gorgeous and really set the scene for the charming “country” style city.
Our first point of call was to check into our hostel and go searching for food. I had googled a few of the hot spots on the drive over and found this amazing little pizza corner called The White Rabbit. If you ever find yourself in Oxford, this spot is a must. I remember walking up to this gorgeous white building and seeing a background of a walkway lit by fairy lights just beyond the restaurant. I don’t think I have ever fallen in love with a place so fast as I did with Oxford. Although there isn’t all that much to do, just wondering around the city had me in awe. Upon entrance to The White Rabbit and out of the rain, we were greeted by Frank Ocean blessing our ears and a couple of yummy ciders. (Blonde had just dropped and I feel as though they decided to honour his new album by playing Chanel Orange the whole time we were there. It was a good night). We shared a couple of huge pizzas and a few drinks in the cozy, dim-lit restaurant, then decided to call it a day and head back to the hostel just after the rain had stopped.
Day two in Oxford was beyond chilly coming from the heat of Grecian summer. The city was damp with rain the whole time, which made the buildings look that much more spectacular. Autumn was just coming to a close so everywhere the grass was ridiculously green and the leaves were still falling from the ancient looking trees. We decided to spend the day grocery shopping and searching for all the places they filmed Harry Potter. We visited a couple of the University’s which were used for the filming of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Unfortunately some of the original film set was under construction but it was still amazing to just be there and stand in the same place they had worked for over a year. Following our little expedition, I decided that I needed to fulfil a British fantasy of mine and eat scones with jam and cream and drink tea in a very quaint cafe. Thinking back on it now makes me laugh. I was so determined to eat those damn scones.
Following this, Sammy and I went to a small pub for a drink. I remember listening to her order a Midori lemonade. It will forever be something I will never forget because the bartender had never heard of it before, even though they had a bottle of Midori on their shelves. He didn’t even know how much to charge her god bless. Later that night we went to the local cinema to watch the movie Nerve (good movie by the way), and had a good chat to one of the workers there. She was surprised that we had come to Oxford on our holiday because “there isn’t anything to do here,” which was very true, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. One of the things I wish I got to experience there was the night life- seeing as though Oxford University is one of the best Uni’s in the world, it is expected that there are some places around for students. However it was the end of the uni break and there wasn’t many people out and about at all.
Our final day consisted of nail painting and souvenir shopping before heading back to the hustle and bustle of London. I highly recommend visiting Oxford if you’re looking to take a step back for a moment and enjoy the English countryside. As mentioned before, there isn’t much to do or see, but if you find that you like to wonder around aimlessly for hours on end and take photos of beautiful paved buildings, then Oxford is definitely the place for you.
DAYS 5-7: LONDON
Following our quick trip to Oxford, we found ourselves back at Wombats hostel for the next few nights. Our first day back in the city of double decker buses and giant ferris wheels saw us taking to Harrods shopping centre. A giant “mall” like shopping experience for people with lots of time and money. It’s super easy to get lost, but there are tonnes of different sections to purchase your goodies from. Sammy and I found ourselves in the food section for majority of our time there (couldn’t help ourselves), and I found myself buying a peanut butter cupcake for $12AUD. Whoops. However it was entertaining just walking around and looking at all the things I couldn’t afford. E.g. Chanel luggage, very aged bottles of scotch, cars etc…
Later that night we caught up with a friend who had moved to London recently for a couple of cheeky cocktails and dinner at one of Jamie Oliver’s restaurants. Hilarious stories were shared over a couple of cocktails, and a couple of bevys turned into a couple more, and before we knew it we were strolling through the high screens of Piccadilly Circus searching for somewhere to go out. I don’t think I have ever had so many people come up to me and say “Are you ladies going clubbing tonight?” more than I did on that night. It turned us off going out for sure.
Day six consisted of many cliche touristy activities and pictures being taken which all took place on the hop-on-hop-off bus in 36 degree weather throughout London town. It was absolutely sweltering, but I did manage to tick almost everything off my “London Bucket List.” I got to see Buckingham Palace, visit Hyde Park (I even got to see a squirrel which was a pretty big deal for me), view Trafalger Square, take sneaky pics of both Big Ben and the London Eye, drive over Tower Bridge and stroll through Covent Garden to get that red telephone box shot. It was a massive eight hour day in the city both on and off the bus, but I definitely enjoyed every minute of it, even if I ended up leaving butt sweat on every surface I sat on. Eventually we found ourselves back at the Wombats for my first den experience at their underground bar. It was a pretty chilled out night yet nothing compared to the night before my Topdeck tour began!
Come day seven I had never been so excited to relive my childhood. Sammy and I both had tickets booked for the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio tour. Anyone that knows me has come to accept my obsession with the franchise, so this was an absolute dream come true. We even got to watch the first movie on the bus ride out, cherry on top of my trip for sure. It was the 10 year anniversary of the first movie being released so we got to experience some extra sets from the first movie. Some of my favourite parts were the Hogwarts Express Train, which had carriages set up in the theme of each movie set, the Dursley’s house, which had Hogwarts letter strung up around everywhere, and the scale model of the Hogwarts castle itself was also really spectacular! Following our amazing day trip, a kid promptly decided to vomit all over the staircase we were sitting near on the bus ride back, which nearly made me vomit of course and really put a damper on my good mood. (Vomit is not and will never be my thing).
Later that evening we decided to tick another “London Bucket List” item off by visiting Camden Markets for some street food. Oddly enough, the markets were all closed so we had to settle for a cheap Spoons feed, which was honestly just as good. The people of Camden are all very forward and aren’t afraid to stare and say things to you while you’re walking past too, which was something I wasn’t used to at all. Soon after, Sammy and I decided to head back to the Wombats den so that I could catch up with some people going on my Topdeck tour the following day. It was a wild night to say the least filled with beer pong, giant jenga, and endless banter with Canadians, Britts, Americans and Aussies of course. I also got to meet a lot of new people who I now consider really good mates of mine. Can now say from experience it is the easiest way to meet friends all across the globe, getting absolutely pissed with them in an underground bar. Shoutout to Mumma D, who on our first encounter told me she was a school teacher, to which I replied “You would be my favourite teacher if I were still in school.” But the best nights were still to come, with some of my best and funniest memories occurring over the next eleven days on my Europe Express tour with Topdeck.
All in all, London was an experience not to do in one day, which I learnt very quickly. One day I hope to be back to explore more of the local gems and less of the touristy sights!