14 Must-Do Things in London

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In the land of Shakespeare, Arts and Culture, there’s just so much to discover. London has been a dream city since my childhood and I have waited over 10 years to come here; flew over 22 hours from Sydney, 9 hours transit, with 3 luggage, and just ONE ‘big fat’ dream—to see this beautiful city. I’ve had the absolute privilege to travel to London 5 times during my exchange (I’m possibly crazy haha), but if that makes you feel better, I am going to produce a local’s scoop of the must-do things in London, well, according to me!

I made it a challenge not to blog about too overrated stuff unless it’s really good, so let’s skip the Big Ben and London Eye in this list, shall we? Because that’s idiot proof!

1. Be dazzled by this Insta-worthy neon lights heaven

You have to be prepared to travel out of the way for this Instagram-worthy heaven, God’s Own Junkyard (technically it is owned by God). It is nowhere near central London at all. We took about an hour and a half to get here. It is a 15-20 minutes walk and about an hour on the tube, but the result? Totally worth it. Just note that pictures cannot be taken using a DSLR, as they cannot be used for commercial purposes.

One funny story—both of our phones died the moment we reached there. Since there’s neon lights all around us, power and electricity must be in abundance. We simply plugged our phones in one of the sockets hahaha.

God’s Own Junkyard
Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate
Shernhall St, Walthamstow
London E17 9HQ, UK
Opening hours:
Closed Mon-Thurs
Fri & Sat 11am – 9pm
Sun 11am – 6pm
For the: Picture crazy traveller

2. Go Museum Hopping and leave feeling inspired

I wrote a post specifically about museums in London that you absolutely must visit here, and the museums in London really have vast collections so rich in culture, history and value. Besides museums, cultural centres are totally worth visiting as well. My friend recommended me to go to Somerset House, which is an art and cultural centre with ongoing galleries and festivals. It is the breeding ground, the new experimental workspace for artists, makers, thinkers and hipsters alike.

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Somerset House is one of the best atmospheric outdoor venues in the UK. Its galleries are divided into East Wing, South Wing, New Wing and North Wing; each of them houses various exhibitions. They also have performances like this in the main Fountain Court. Circus Sampler was performing on the day we were there, where you can catch hula hoop acrobats and the Guinness World Record Holder in action!

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My absolutely favourite discovery lies in the South Wing. Print! Tearing it Up is an absolute treasure that I have stumbled upon and my biggest takeaway from Somerset House. It’s a showcase on independent British magazines changing the world, and all the magazines there were amazing. Print! Tearing it up reveals that print is not dead in today’s digital era; and seeks to continue its demand by revealing the power of print to provide a platform for key social and cultural issues.

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Furthermore, the content is good—they have a wide selection of topics like art, design, photography, poetry & prose, cooking books, and more. The exhibition showcases a diverse range of contemporary publications dedicated to urgent issues of the day, arguing the case for considered journalism to politics, fake news to the power of the algorithm. I bought a magazine called Backstage Talks on compiled interviews with 10 designers at the Design Conference last year (the yellow one on the table). This series ended on 22 Aug but don’t worry, there’s always new and interesting things coming, they have cool events like summer film screenings etc! Just keep a lookout for What’s On.

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Somerset House
Strand, London WC2R 1LA, UK
Opening hours:
Everyday 8am – 11pm
For the: Culture seeker

3.  Spoil yourself with luxury and beauty stores in Covent Garden

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From Somerset House, you could take an 8 mins walk to Covent Garden, where the best shops and best buys are at! There is Jubilee Market, which is famous for antiques and collectables; luxury shops like Daniel Wellington, and also the quirky Moomin shop. We went to Covent Garden on a rainy day and was in the mood for some souvenir shopping, and headed towards macaroons shop Ladurée and tea shop Whittard. You absolutely must visit Whittard to try their hot chocolates and their fine selection of teas! They have a lot of their flavours for testing. I tasted the white hot chocolate on a cold rainy day, and the rest was history. I have never tasted white hot chocolate in my life before. So so good! Of course, I bought it hehe.

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Besides shopping, Covent Garden is also renowned for award-winning restaurants and theatres, so you might wanna check it out.

For the: Culture seeker, the shopaholic

3. Unleash your inner foodie at the local markets

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This was my lunch for £8!! It’s rice with seafood (prawns, oysters etc). You absolutely must visit the markets in London. They are great for affordable food & shopping in contrast to places like Covent Garden. Borough Market is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London. The padella pasta is good, and they also have a wide selection of wine and cheese, honey…the list goes on. Borough Market’s food is fresh and amazing, especially seafood. You can even drop by London Bridge while you’re at it cos it’s just next to the market!

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Borough Market
8 Southwark St
London SE1 1TL, UK
Opening hours:
Mon – Thurs 10am – 5pm
Fri 10am – 6pm
Sat 8am – 5pm
Sun Closed
For the: 
Passionate Foodie

Next, Camden Markets! This one is huge. Camden Town is something like the Bugis street of Singapore I would say! There are more stores selling fashion and accessories here, adjoining large retail markets. Borough Market just sells mainly food; however Camden has more Asian food as compared to Borough.

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Camden Market
Camden Lock Pl, Camden Town, London NW1 8AF, UK
Opening hours:
Everyday 10am – 6pm

4. Feel (un)cultured trying to understand Shakespeare

This is crazy. I got tickets to watch Shakespeare’s Hamlet for £5! Yes, tickets can get as low as this…provided you get the yard tickets (standing). But we didn’t mind at all because of the play was so exciting, the actors so talented and engaging, that by the time we had noticed our legs were aching, the play’s already over.

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I watched it at Shakespeare Globe. The architecture here is amazing and (I think) it’s probably one of the only places to watch Shakespeare. Anyways I never felt so uncultured my whole life because I didn’t understand a word of the actors’ dialogue haha. However, it wasn’t boring at all for me, and you have my assurance that it probably won’t be for you as well. The actors are so talented, they would keep you engaged with their body language. I wished I could have watched one of Shakespeare’s plays when he was still alive in the 1600s, that would be interesting.

Plays usually have an intermission in between, and we aren’t allowed to take photos while the actors are on stage. Buy your tickets online in advance, because for this one, the tickets sell out very fast. I repeat, very fast. Like literally I checked in the morning it was available, and by the afternoon came it was all gone. I had never felt so anxious about buying a ticket in my life before.

Shakespeare Globe
21 New Globe Walk
London SE1 9DT, UK
Tickets: http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/whats-on
For the: Culture seeker

5. Catch dirt cheap musicals in West End

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Ahh, West End. I’ve heard so much about this before I came here. It’s so integrated into London’s culture, and it has never let anyone down, so if you only have one thing you can do in London, I’d say do this. Everyone I’ve met who have been to London (Jan, Florence, WenXin…) have told me not to miss out on the musicals.

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I was deciding between Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables, and in the end, we went for Les Miserables—the world’s longest-running musical. I have watched the movie before so I was really curious to see how the actual live musical looked like. The experience was…exhilarating. I cried. I don’t think I can ever emphasize how much the both of us freaked out right on the first act, the music and the singing really freaked us right out into tears. My friend beside me burst into tears immediately. I was stunned, sitting frozen in a daze. It was so loud, so impactful, so real…the familiar lyrics I’ve always used to hear over my computer screen just thundered right before my ears. By the time I Dreamed a Dream came on, uncontrollable tears just flowed freely from my eyes as I sat high up in the upper circle, my gaze fixing on the actors below. It was performed differently from the movie—it was raw, unstable, emotional. The plot slowly unfolded right before our very eyes, the acting the music and props & everything…was so nicely done. My favourite song was Do you hear the people sing? it was just so liberating, so enchanting, so otherworldly. From the first song to the last, we sat frozen in a gaze, our hearts secretly impressed.

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We caught it at Queen’s Theatre, and we weren’t allowed to take pictures while the actors are on stage so these images I got from Google hahaha. We got pretty good seats for ourselves for about £29. What a steal! Considering musicals like these would easily cost over a hundred plus in Singapore, I’m very satisfied with the price. I heard that if you queue up outside the box office very early in the morning, you can get tickets as low as £5-10. I don’t know, I never tried. If you plan to get tickets online, book it in advance too because this one is also as crazy as Shakespeare Globe!! The good seats run out very fast.

Due to time constraint, this was the only musical I’ve watched during my time in London. So it works like this: usually, one theatre is dedicated to ONE production. Below are the respective theatres and their productions. They should have one intermission. And oh! Don’t just leave after the musical. You can head outside the backstage door to meet the actors and take pictures!

Queen’s Theatre
51 Shaftesbury Ave, Soho
London W1D 6BA, UK
Production: Les Miserables

Her Majesty’s Theatre
Haymarket, St. James’s
London SW1Y 4QL, UK
Production:
The Phantom of the Opera

Lyceum Theatre
21 Wellington St
London WC2E 7RQ, UK
Production: The Lion King

Prince Edward Theatre
Old Compton St, Soho
London W1D 4HS, UK
Production: Aladdin

Apollo Victoria Theatre
17 Wilton Rd, Pimlico
London SW1V 1LG, UK
Production: Wicked

Cambridge Theatre
Earlham Street
London WC2H 9HU, UK
Production: Matilda the Musical

For the: Culture seeker

 

6. Shop till you drop at Oxford and Regent Street

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Oxford Street is London’s busiest shopping street, with big and luxurious brands of our favourite international brands. Don’t let that scare you, I think the prices are pretty reasonable at Oxford Street! If you’re truly broke, head to Primark. In Oxford Street alone there are already 2 huge Primark stores, where you can find cheap and trendy fashion as low as £6, Harry Potter pyjamas as low as £10 (yas!!), Disney and Friends pyjamas, beauty buys, make-up, handbags, shoes…I bought so much this trip that I had to buy another luggage to fit all my stuff in! Primark is known for its affordability. I got Pusheen socks, earrings, necklaces, bathrobes…just remember, Primark. When there is Primark there is no self-control. 😂

If you have a bigger budget or is just feeling splurgy, check out Selfridges, which is also at Oxford St. It is a large departmental store, with fashion, stationery, kids stuff and more. I found Victoria Beckham’s fashion collection there! Lots of VIPs visit the store, and despite the chauffeur driven cars waiting outside, people in Selfridges are not snobby at all. Lots of people compare Harrods to Selfridges, Harrods being another departmental store selling luxury gifts, fashion accessories and designer clothing. I picked up a Prada bag in Harrods for £5,000—not available anywhere else in the world but can only be found in Harrods. The price shocked the hell out of me (obviously) but I still stayed and chatted a while with the saleslady. The people were not snobbish at all. Harrods is not near Oxford St, but it would be worth checking it out after visiting Selfridges.

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After Oxford Street, you can also head down to Regent St, which is in Soho. This is where you can shop at another departmental store Liberty, famous toy shop Hamleys, or explore Carnaby Street which has lots of cool fashion shops with a funky and edgy street style. Or, you can even do a pub crawl which I never got to do because of time constraint haha.

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And Chinatown Gate is just around the corner too. Here in Chinatown, you can find Hong Kong pastries and Chinese food, give it a try!

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For the: Shopaholic

7. Sit under a tree and chill with a book at the amazing parks

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When we moved to London, our accommodation was near Kensington Gardens so we decided to take a look. It was so breezy that day, a blessing considering that the past few weekends had been really hot. I could easily have my ideal morning there: feeding the ducks, reading a book under the shade of a tree and watching the world go by. Imagine living near a park in London! You could just go there whenever you are stressed and walk around, take in the fresh air or feed the ducks, which I must say, is a very therapeutic activity.

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Holding hands and dating must be so nice amidst this lush greenery and amazing weather too!

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From Kensington Gardens, all you have to do is cross a bridge from the correct side of the gardens and you’ll reach Hyde Park! Hyde Park was huge. There were a lot of people walking their dogs, and doing some rowing near the lake.

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For the: Nature Lover

8. Tell people your Hogwarts acceptance letter came…finally.

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The UK is THE paradise for every Harry Potter fan. This is the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour, which is a freaking long tour (about 4 hours) but was super worth it. You can go on board the Hogwarts Express, see the train cabins where they filmed Harry Potter, and also try out wand choreography (which I felt like an idiot doing it but they teach you how to wave a wand properly!!)

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Besides visiting the sets, you’ll be let into the costumes collection, prop collection and most of the stuff used for the filming of Harry Potter. We got to see concept art and initial sketches of the movie, as well as paper models of Hogwarts and other sets, and the design and thought process that goes behind the production of the 8 films. It just awes me, that people put so much effort and dedication into perfecting every detail, into making the costumes, building the sets…

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Oh! they also served us butterbeer, which is non-alcoholic by the way. Its actually made out of cream soda and butterscotch foam, and tasted really pleasant and sweet. Overall, this place just brings the magic of Harry Potter to life.

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter
Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden WD25 7LR, UK
Opening hours:
Mon-Fri 9.30am – 10pm
Sat-Sun 8.30am – 10pm
Tickets: £41.00
https://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/tickets

For the: TV and movie buffs

9. Connect with London’s famous detective, Sherlock

From the moment I watched BBC Sherlock played by Benedict Cumberbatch, I was Sherlocked. Captured in every way possible: by the witty storylines, the friendship between Sherlock and John Watson, the detective novels. I’m absolute trash for this fandom you probably have no idea. So I made it a mission to go to the most famous address, 221B Baker Street, to pay my detective a visit.

The museum was awesome. Inside we walk through the apartment of Sherlock Holmes, Watson’s study, and I was impressed that everything, even the furniture, looked exactly the same as the TV series! To see it in real life triggered scenes of the show in my head. “Oh, this was where he took drugs…this was where he and John sat to solve crimes.”

If you’re aren’t a BBC fan like me, that’s okay too. Lots of people have just heard a lot about Sherlock, and are curious about him. You’ll definitely learn more about this famous character here. Alternatively, you can visit the Victorian gift shop in the museum for free, which is just below Sherlock’s apartment, and they have lots of antiques, souvenirs & collectables, and BBC Sherlock merchandise for a trash like me.

Fun fact: I spent more at the Sherlock Holmes museum than in Primark, even after taking several items out of my shopping cart.

The Sherlock Holmes Museum
221b Baker St, Marylebone
London NW1 6XE, UK
Opening hours:
Open everyday 9.30am – 6pm
Tickets: £15.00
Purchase at the museum shop

Caution Tip: Please go way earlier than the time it opens to avoid long queues. The queue is crazy.

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We also made it a point to visit the actual film locations of BBC Sherlock. The actual apartment where BBC Sherlock was filmed at was at North Gower St, a quieter street not far from the actual 221b Baker St. We took a bus down after visiting the museum and…I almost broke down at the sight of this door, memories came flooding into my head, memories which were not mine. I was rather emotionally involved with the series hahaha. And tada! Beside the door is the famous Speedy’s Cafe.

We just casually had lunch here until we realised this cafe is bursting with business—most of their customers are Sherlock fans. There was a bunch of girls sitting beside us, one of whom was wearing a “I am Sherlocked” necklace hahaha. The food was okay, not particularly great, but because Sherlock used to always have chips here, I asked the waiter, “Does my burger come with chips?” In the end, we ordered so much and ate till we were so full. 😂

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Speedy’s Sandwich Bar
187 N Gower St, Kings Cross
London NW1 2NJ, UK
Opening hours:
Mon-Fri 6.30am – 3.30pm
Sat 7.30am – 1.30pm
Closed on Sundays

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As if that wasn’t enough, we went to St Barts Hospital, the place where Sherlock committed suicide. There were SO MANY fan scribbles on the wall, it reminded me of how this series used to take London by storm when it first came out. I never dreamed of coming here, of seeing it in real life. If you’re a Sherlock fan, you shouldn’t miss this. Bring a pen with you if you wish to share some love! One of my regrets at that time: I didn’t have a pen with me.

St Barts Hospital
W Smithfield
London EC1A 7BE, UK

For the: TV and movie buffs

10. Explore the state rooms of Buckingham Palace

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I went to Buckingham Palace on three separate occasions. Mainly because it’s always this crowded, and THIS hot in the summer, and I refuse to give up until I get a clear view and good photos haha. I do recommend going at least 45 minutes earlier to camp at a good spot, where you can see the changing of the guards. It usually starts at 11am.

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I also had the absolute privilege of entering the palace to visit the state rooms. It is indeed a rare opportunity which we can do this, as the palace is only open for a limited period only. Plus, again, tickets are in demand, so it is advised to book in advance. I paid £22 (student price) for a one year pass; the palace is open to the public on 21st July and will last till 30th September. It’s ending soon, so if you’re in London during this period, go on and be a royal for a day. Sadly, no pictures are allowed inside, and we had to go through a tight security check. I took as many mental images as I walked through the drawing room, throne room, ballroom, grand staircase…because how often do you get to see the inside of the palace? I even saw the throne chairs used for the Queen’s coronation and I was enthralled!

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If you have time, do explore the palace gardens and surroundings as well! I saw some swans and it is indeed a tranquil place to take a walk.

Buckingham Palace
Westminster, London SW1A 1AA, UK
Opening hours:
Open everyday from 9.30am – 6pm
Last admission 4.15pm
Tickets: £24.00 for a one-year pass
https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/the-state-rooms-buckingham-palace

For the: Culture seeker

11. Visit the squares in London

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I know, sounds funny right? Squares in London, what’s that? Well, Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square are my favourite squares in London. I was in Leicester Square during the pride weekend, and it was so happening, so crowded and usually there are performances in the square. Leicester Square is an entertainment hotspot, with more cinemas, theatres and restaurants ever. Just nearby you can visit TWG Tea if you’re feeling a bit homesick, or check out the huge multi-storey M&M’s world, an outlet like no other, where you can customise messages and names on your M&Ms.

See Nelson’s Column at Trafalgar Square, and if you find that dull like me, just opposite the column is the National Gallery, where you can see paintings of famous artists like Van Gogh and Monet.

For the: Culture seeker, the shopaholic

12. Scare your pants off at the London Dungeon

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I never knew the dark side of London. Here I got up close with London’s frightening past—of convicts, the great fire, and the plague. The London Dungeon is near London’s Southbank, along with the other tourist attractions like the London Eye, Big Ben and River Thames; but you’ll scream in fright here like no other. I was brought from room to room in darkness, with occasional jump scares while learning about London’s dark history at the same time. I was treated like a convict, charged guilty, and there are two rides inside—where they say you will ride to your peril.

Ok, in all honesty, I was seriously so scared but it’s manageable as well. I mean, there were kids there, so it can’t be that bad. My favourite feature was probably coming (almost) face to face with Jack the Ripper. The actors and workers inside were also really into character, they spook me and make me laugh at the same time!

The London Dungeon
Riverside Building, County Hall
Westminster Bridge Rd, Lambeth
London SE1 7PB, UK
Opening hours:
Open everyday 10am – 5pm; with the exception of
Sat 10am – 6pm
Thurs 11am – 5pm
Tickets: £21.00 (online price)
https://www.thedungeons.com/london/en/tickets/

13. Don’t be a typical tourist—Climb the Tower Bridge!

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We all know the Tower Bridge, but I got to learn a bit more about it when I climbed up there and discovered its hidden history, learning how it was built and constructed. I never knew the tower bridge could be lifted up, splitting into two parts in order to let big ships pass! You can check the bridge lift times here.

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Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge Rd
London SE1 2UP, UK
Tickets: £9.80 (cheaper if you buy online)
https://towerbridge.recreatex.be/Products/Overview

14. Get a bird’s eye view of the city at St Paul’s Cathedral

This is not for the faint-hearted! You can get the best view of the city by climbing St Paul’s Cathedral, with its world-famous dome. Speaking of which, there’s probably a lot of spots to get good views of the city from above, like SkyGarden or The Shard, but I’m very satisfied with the view I got from St Paul’s because I worked for it!

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There were no elevators at that time the church was built, so the only way up is to go through a very narrow staircase, and it takes about 528 steps to get to the top — a height of nearly 365 feet. When you reach 257 steps and arrive at the top of the dome, there is also a Whispering Gallery where you can stand at one end of the dome and whisper to your partner at the other far end and he/she would be able to hear you!

After that, you can continue climbing to the Stone Gallery, which can already get you a decent bird’s eye view of the city; or go even higher to the Golden Gallery, where you hit 528 steps in total. I climbed all the way. Initially thought since I was young and it would be easy, but my legs were wobbling at the end and you have to be very careful not to slip and fall. There were so many people resting or giving up halfway—making up to the top was no mean feat!

If you don’t wish to climb, just visiting the church alone for a time of reflection and prayer would be awesome. I cried there again after saying a prayer because I was too overwhelmed by the grandeur and angelic song by the choir. I know, what a crybaby haha. The bottom of the cathedral is the Crypt, where they house tombs of the famous dead. You can explore that as well, it was such a holy and mesmerising experience.

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St Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Churchyard
London EC4M 8AD, UK
Opening hours: Mon-Sat, 8.30am – 4pm
Tickets: £18.00
https://www.stpauls.co.uk/tickets


 

So there you go! It is definitely a challenge to keep this list short because I have so many things to share and London never really gets boring! I sneakily added Number 3 twice, did you notice? 😉 I don’t think we would ever finish exploring London, the city is just buzzing with festivals, events and activities all the time; since it was my first time there, every corner I turn was a surprise. My advice would be just to explore each and every corner of London because this city is a place where we don’t have to stick to an itinerary in order to have fun. Just be flexible in your travel plans, and if you see something interesting, don’t forget to snap it and share it with me!

Lots of Love,
Grace

Of hope and dreams

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All these magnificence led me to pray for you at St Paul’s. I know you will say, “I don’t need this prayer, it’s alright.” But you need it. In fact, my prayers have taken you all around the world. I hope his angels will guard and protect you. I hope you know my love and care — however imperfect it might be — in your darkest days. I pray that if God thinks I’m the best woman to love you then one day He will give us His blessing. Otherwise, I pray that He gives us someone that loves us as much as He does.

Orientation day

1st July 2018—Sunday

Ever since I’ve decided to document my exchange using these blog posts, I have never regretted it. So many things happen every single day that there’s so much to write about, I am almost afraid my memory would fail me if I delay for even another day!!!

Today has been an amazing day. Yesterday I was only feeling anxious about traveling and not having any friends, but today I made so many new friends! They’re such awesome people and coming from all over the world—Hungary, Brazil, Belarus…

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I’ll type up this quick blog post and then go grab dinner. I didn’t have dinner yesterday because I wasn’t feeling too well; just two bananas and a piece of pizza, then I went to bed. It’s funny how it’s 10.40pm now and I am still not hungry yet. In Australia when it’s like winter, I get hungry at like 5pm! The sun has just set in the UK, and I’m not hungry on long days like these anyway. My hunger always had nothing to do with what I ate before but more about the timing.

Ok wait, let me go grab it, I’ll be back.


I got the chicken pasta that I’ve got earlier on at Tesco’s from the fridge. Tesco is awesome, it has cheaper groceries heeee. Each time I visit something I am mentally psychoed into thinking its cheap when in fact it is in British pounds and I forgot to convert it back to AUD. We had gone grocery shopping earlier when we were in the city. It was a mini supermart, nothing fancy really, but we’re going to go to the bigger marts tomorrow!

Today began with a welcome brunch by the school and an introduction.

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“Guys, I hope you know where’s Norwich, England isn’t all about London!” haha. 

The student representatives were so helpful and friendly! Brunch was great. We were introduced to our student representative leaders over brunch and as I made my way into the dining area and sat down, I deliberately chose to sit with a different group of friends from my usual circle. Not because I liked putting myself out of my comfort zone but because I felt like I need to meet more people so that I can actually have travel buddies, the anxiety is almost killing me in my room last night. HAHHAA. As a result, I got to meet really awesome people!! I met this really nice girl who loves photography as much as I do, she and her friend from Romania; and another girl from Japan! I told her I went to Japan before and we talked and stuff. Plus another girl from Croatia, my dream location since forever. There are also so many familiar faces that I’ve seen from yesterday which I wanted to talk to!

We bonded after breakfast which was pastries, breakfast rolls, great coffee, fruit juice, tea, etc. It was great! Then it was the briefing and they gave us not only campus tips, but Norfolk tips for traveling around the city and also tips for greater England (how to get to different states, etc). Everyone’s just so lovely and helpful and nice! We played a game of bingo afterward and that was my favourite. Met so many people all at once, it’s almost like a game of speed friendship. I usually dislike bingo because it’s so basic, but I took a look down at my card and it says, “Recite a line from Shakespeare” and “been to the UK before” and I think it’s the most British bingo I have ever seen.

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LOOKS FAMILIAR??? THE FILMING LOCATION FOR THE AVENGERS AGE OF ULTRON FILM!!!! I can’t believe it, my exchange University is actually the filming location for the Avengers age of ultra film??? Plus Chris Evans has been here!!

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We’re going to have a movie night on Wednesday and they’re going to be screening this very movie too!

 

After brunch was the campus tour. The weather was lovely, sunny with an average summer temperature of 18-20 degrees Celcius. It isn’t burning hot at all. So so perfect. We walked around campus, learning about the buildings and facilities and wow, the campus looks massive!

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After the campus tour, I grabbed my camera and we all headed to the city. Here are some pics!

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Norwich city seems small, but I am so surprised. The city was really cool and beyond my expectations! Norwich is more of a medieval, countryside place so I didn’t expect the city to have so many shops, packed together on every street, and they have everything ranging from local small businesses to big, global brands like Jack Wills and H&M. I think there were about 4-5 huge malls. There are also lots of quaint little cafes and boutiques along narrow alleyways, those are my favorite. The cafes are so unique and according to my sources, sell the best coffee. The alleyways are exactly what I’ve seen in movies, dotted with little-cobbled pavements and each boutique has its own design and style. (it’s like Singapore’s haji lane, but bigger and with more streets). The good thing is everything is within walking distance! Including the malls. I’ve got a monthly bus pass too so it’s not too troublesome to get around.

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The best part is, almost every shop has a summer sale going on!!! We were so tempted to go in and buy stuff, but we were led by student ambassadors who won’t stop for a second because it’s just a really quick tour to give us an overview of the city, so I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing, since I am pretty sure our money would be sucked away pretty fast if we actually did stop.

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I passed by this really hugeee & cool TV & Movie store where they sell posters, merchandise and everything related!!! It got me so hyped up because I saw Thor Ragnorok posters stuck on its huge front doors and window panes. I could literally faint that IS PARADISE!! Thor and thor ragnarok are my fave movies and besides that I’m sure I can find other gold stuff like Sherlock and Doctor Strange inside. Besides Marvel, they also have Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, anything and everything you can think of!!! My friend and I wanted to jump in straightaway of course, but our group moved quickly so we decided we would come back again.

 

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There are also a lot of cathedrals and castles, famous for its rich history and architecture.

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By the way, the pigeons in the city were massive and fat and there’s a lot of them. They are my absolute nightmare!!! They walk in flocks, and act like they’re all high and mighty. I have already mentally prepared myself when I came here, yet I still ducked in fear whenever one of them swooped over my head. As usual, this act of mine never fails to crack my friends up.

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Food all day was provided. This brunch was provided, and lunch was provided after as well. I was so so happy. Lunch was at this hotel in the city called Maids Head Hotel, serving really great main course and desserts, it almost looked too good to be true.

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We were led into a really beautiful dining room.

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I ordered the Dedham Vale beef rump, but they didn’t have it at the moment so they served me the Norfolk turkey breast which tastes just as good!!! Yum.

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This really special desert down here! Don’t know what it’s called but its actually hot strawberry jam with ice cream on top so you have to eat it really fast before the ice cream melts (very quicky indeed)! A perfect blend of hot and cold.

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After we’re done we headed out to the city again. To my dismay, the movie shop I’ve been raving about in my mind closed already. What a pity!!! I was so surprised because it’s only about 4.30pm! Shops close early about 3.30-4.30pm on Sundays. And I thought Australia’s 5-6pm was considered early! Ugh, I must visit it next time.

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And oh! The houses here are an absolute gem. They are so pretty, I wonder how much they cost and what can I do in my life to live in one of them.

Then we headed off to a pub to watch World Cup! We went as a big group, and that was such a great bonding time. We walked we laughed as we wondered how on earth are we going to get a table for all 13 of us.

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Andddddd Russia won! Unbelievable!!! It was such an exciting match, with extra time because of the draw and then Spain losing out at the last minute.

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We then sat outside in the wonderful summer weather and talked about cultures and stuff. We’re all international students, and I couldn’t wish for a better group of friends. Also, many of us are born in a different country than the one we currently live in so we do have a lot to share. One of them’s born in Brazil, lives in Malaysia; and another born in the UK, lives in Australia; and I’m born in Singapore, lives in Australia. So……yeah we do have very interesting conversations!! We talked about how we didn’t like how some foreigners force their own culture down the throats of locals when they move. For example, they told the locals how to cook rice in a certain way, or even complain about the country. I mean if you really want to complain you could have just stayed in your own country. I think it’s good to introduce your culture to your international friends but its always not very nice to force your culture down their throats. There is a fine line between introducing/sharing and forcing but anyways, the main point is to respect and appreciate the culture of the country you are currently in.

My friends told me to cook chicken rendang or bakkutteh for the international food night, a night where we all bring a dish from our home country to share with others. Gosh, I’m SO BAD at cooking. Please help me hahahhaha I wish my mum was here.

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It was a great day!! Although I wished I had more photographs of myself taken. I wanted to skip today for London but I’m glad I did not. My friends from Singapore are in London, and they’ve asked me to go over to visit the museums with them. I was so tempted to take a day trip, let me tell you. But I didn’t go because I’m having orientation on Monday and I didn’t wanna miss it. I was, and still am, so anxious to explore London! I have been dreaming of the city since I was a kid, could I not? To be honest, not a day goes by in Norwich where I don’t think of London. Here I am sitting in my dorm, thinking of London. HAHAHHA. It better be good.

Catch ya later!

Missed opportunity

A quick post again before I head off to bed. I never thought I’ll say this, but my mood has already been affected by the earlier incident where I was unable to meet Zaf at the airport. It was further affected when I started feeling sick on the 3-hour bus journey from London to Norwich; and finally, plummeted to a lower spirit when my friends started talking about their post-exchange trip plans and the regret of not extending my trip began to sink in.

Days are long in the UK. The sun sets about 9-10pm. It is now summer, a far cry from the Aussie winter that I have left behind. However, the moonlit night stills give me so much comfort as I am typing this. I have checked into my university’s accommodation, and my window faces the moon directly, which I love, because I can watch the moon as I fall into a deep slumber.

I have always wondered if I am the sort of person to be affected by jet-lag. I found out the answer today. Turns out I’m not! I’m perfectly fine. Not tired, not sore. My body clock has always been quite flexible.

My bedroom is perfect. It is just the perfect size, I wouldn’t want it to be too big either. The bed is sooooo soft!!! Also, this is the first time in my life where I would sleep on a single bed. I have always been spoiled with queen/king sized beds I don’t know why. Not that I would go out of my way to get it, it just happens. It’s now 1.25am, and I have finally finished all my unpacking. I’m the kind of person who likes to unpack all at one-shot and prefers not to do my packing in segments. It was looking pretty bare and empty when I arrived, but now I’ve decorated it with fairy lights, put up my assessories, I even bought my pillow covers from home. Those pink ones that I bring wherever in the world I go. I made it a rule. To make anywhere feel like home ehehe. After I’m done, I stand back to admire my work, looking around the room that will be mine for some time.

However, I have begun to feel lonely. This isn’t how an exchange is supposed to feel like. I am feeling anxious. I wanted this to be a fulfilling and fruitful experience. Given that today is only the first day, I think I should give it a chance.

I thought about why I might be feeling lonely. It isn’t that I missed home, I have been faraway from home for too long, I know: it’s the lack of familiar interaction in a foreign country. If I had met Zaf at the airport, or if I had known I am going to meet Sin Ming tomorrow in London, I might not feel so terrible after all. My current new friends I’ve just made seem like awesome people, but sharing happiest moments with familiar faces always cheers me up.

Zaf’s miss at the Heathrow airport got to me. I was made to leave the airport for Norwich just as her plane landed. She almost got to me, I asked her to run. I remember. She sent me her live location via Whatsapp, and I sent her mine too, with both of us realizing we’re barely a few miles away from each other. “Do we have to go now?” I asked. “Yes, now.” the student representative’s tone tells me there’s no time for a delay. My coach bus was waiting, along with all my friends already sitting inside, prepped. I began to step away from the airport: glancing back occasionally hoping a familiar face might catch up with me. Still nothing. I’ll remember this moment forever: because that’s when I realize Zaf’s such an important friend to me. It’s not the same meeting back in Singapore again. It’s something about seeing a familiar face on foreign ground that touches me. So close yet so far.

To make things worse, Lucas texted me giving me an unconfirmed reply to our promised plans to travel together. I hate things like this, hanging, uncertain. I hate people backing out on me. But most of all, I’m scared, not of traveling alone, but the thought of my limited time here. That made me feel uncomfortable. I am anxious that I can’t cover most good destinations on time, I feared that I would waste time, I feared that I would not make full use of my trip, where flight tickets are so expensive it’s better to cover most cities in one-shot so that I don’t come back unnecessarily again.

I was supposed to go to London tomorrow but I don’t think I can go now. There, bring my hopes up just to crush it again. I have orientations tomorrow, and I am sick. My stomach was churning during the bus ride to Norwich. I think I might have gastric flu. It happened so suddenly, almost like cramps, until it got worse and I started to suspect whether it was something I ate at Caffe Nero. On the tour bus, I heard this girl sitting diagonally across me ask another girl beside her if she watched Sherlock. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I think they were on the topic of London. I wanted to scream yes, yes I do and I am a huge fan and I want to go to London, but I was too shy to do so. Instead, I close my eyes and their conversations died shortly after because the other girl did not watch Sherlock. 

We’ll see, maybe tomorrow.

Thanksgiving today: smooth clearing of customs, smooth VISA procedure, no missing luggage, safe and pleasant flight.
Disappointments: Lucas’ response, Unable to meet Zaf

I just want to travel to London with like-minded people like me and overcome my greatest fear of wasting this trip to the UK. Besides London, I have thought of Paris and Windsor but have no other states in mind. Any ideas?

The land of Shakespeare

I am writing this from the London Heathrow airport, and I am alone. I have about approx a few hours to go before assembling with the rest of my friends and making my way to my school in another city, but within England. So I thought I’ll write. In fact, I’ll try as much as possible to capture the memories of my exchange experience in this blog, and I hope these precious moments might be remembered forever.

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I flew here by Singapore Airlines. There’s always something about flying Singapore air that comforts me, maybe because it feels like home. I have truly forgotten how awesome the service, food, and everything is. (literally live for the warm hot towels and blankets!!) I sat beside two elderly men on both of my flights—the one from Sydney to Singapore and Singapore to London. I have always loved long haul flights, because they gave me the time to think and clear my head and read and in this case, watch plenty of movies. I watched Call me By your Name and The Greatest Showman. Then I dozed on and off throughout. I could never sleep in planes, I don’t know why. Glancing around, I gauged that only 5% of the plane’s passengers were Asians/Singaporeans, and I don’t know why but as an international student it still makes me nervous. Me going into a foreign country with foreign people, although they seem nice.

During landing, I was shivering with excitement. I peeked out of the window, a ray of sunlight shone through, and as the plane maneuvered its way above the clouds, the European sunlight began to pour through. I smiled. The first beam I saw in Europe.

I have never been to Europe before. I’ve lived my whole life desiring to set foot in this soil. My mind has conjured up too many versions of my experience in the London Eye, Oxford street and the London bridge over the past years, it’s difficult for me to feel I’m actually here. I feel so strange, it feels surreal. I had never thought this day would come. Coming to the UK is my absolute dream come true. The land of Sherlock, Shakespeare, the hometown of my favourite British actors, ahhhh!!!!!

 

ps/ I am so nervous right now, I can barely breathe.