London was the main destination of my Eurotrip purely for nostalgic reasons. Having lived there for the greater part of three years to attend university, London had become a second home and a place where I matured immensely as an individual.
During my two-week stay in London, I had the opportunity to visit some really good friends from university. Since I am generally inept at regular social media contact with most people, a visit to London was needed to check in on my friends. More importantly, I was afforded the opportunity to enjoy my favourite things about the city—like Pret a Manger’s posh cheddar and pickle on artisan—while experiencing new adventures which had evaded me in my time as a Londoner.
Despite having lived only a ten-minute walk from the Palace of Westminster, I entered the building for the first time during my birthday Eurotrip thanks to a friend who works in the UK Parliament. I got a personal tour of the Houses of Commons and Lords (the throne from where the Queen’s Speech is delivered in the House of Lords is all gold everything).
I also had my first ballet experience during my short stay in London. I bought a £4 stall ticket at the Royal Opera House to see two ballets: Raven Girl, a Swan Lake type gothic ballet choreographed by the award-winning Wayne McGregor, and Connectome. I may not have had the best seat in the house, but I still had an enjoyable first time at the ballet on a serious budget.
Despite being a massive museum fanatic, I had surprisingly never been to the British Museum before; this was remedied over a two-day visit. The British Museum is easily the best museum I ever visited with its comprehensive collection of human history from all continents. I also visited the small yet very interactive Canal Museum in King’s Cross where I explored a replica canal boat and tied various knot patterns. (Travel tip: free museums are also very handy when you’re on the go for long hours and in need of a restroom.)
On my actual birthday, I went to Bar Salsa and THIRST Bar in Soho and capped off the night at the Players Bar (known as the piano bar among my friends). My trip to London would not have been complete without a trip to the Players Bar (I actually went twice). The bar is located in the archway on Villiers Street near Embankment tube station. The drinks are cheap by London standards and there is a pianist/singer who comes on around 11pm to do the classics like Piano Man (obviously) and everything Elton John. If you are looking for a fun night out with friends in London, you should definitely head to the Players Bar.
Verdict on London
Best thing: Reuniting with my university friends
Worst thing: Shoreditch
Favourite place: Players Bar
Must see: British Museum
One of the things I regretted the most after I graduated university and came back to Trinidad is that I never really travelled much outside of (central) London. Maybe it was due to the fact that I had to write an essay practically every other week or that I needed a visa to visit everywhere. Apart from a tour of Scotland and a birthday trip to the Netherlands and Italy, I pretty much never left London.
In an attempt to visit another part of England, I embarked on a day trip to Oxford. I bought a ridiculously cheap £2 return bus ticket from Oxford Tube through the Megabus website. It is not necessary to pre-book tickets, however, as buses depart from London every ten minutes and you can simply buy a ticket from the driver. Just head to Buckingham Palace Road outside of Victoria Coach Station and you could be heading to Oxford city centre in less than two hours.
I did not have a set itinerary when I arrived at Oxford; I just wandered around. I stumbled upon the Sheldonian Theatre, designed by the great Sir Christopher Wren (think St Paul’s Cathedral), and two libraries: The Bodleian, one of the oldest in Europe, and Radcliffe Camera. I did actually plan a visit to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History where I saw some dinosaur bones and stone slabs, the latter in which you are allowed to touch. Inside the Natural History museum is the smaller Pitt Rivers Museum which is an anthropologist’s heaven. The museum contains several sections depicting different cultural practices such as magic and witchcraft, charms against evil and shrunken heads. Oxford may lack the excitement that London offers, but it is a charming city with examples of British architectural greatness.
Verdict on Oxford
Best thing: The architecture
Worst thing: Cobblestone walkways (not a good combination with heels)
Favourite place: Christ Church Meadow
Must see: Pitt Rivers Museum
Returning to Trinidad
A the end of my three-week Eurotrip, I took a one-way flight from Gatwick to Port of Spain with Caribbean Airlines. Unfortunately, Caribbean Airlines has since discontinued its London route. Thus, it is no longer possible to fly into Frankfurt, trek to London and fly out from Gatwick. If London is your main destination, then you can travel with British Airways or American Airlines, take a train or cheap plane to mainland Europe and then head back to London. Alternatively, if you want to get the best of mainland Europe on a budget, I highly recommend a return ticket to Frankfurt with Condor using the German financial capital as your base.
I thoroughly enjoyed my three weeks in Europe. With a little planning and budgeting, you create your own Europe experience as well.