One of the most incredible things about London is its museums. Many of those museums are free, and they have given me a lot of my most lovely memories from my time in London. I spent much of my time in London working on a photography project about people spectating in museums. The first museum I visited for this project was the National Gallery, located in the middle of Trafalgar Square. I went alone, with a camera I had just purchased and barely knew how to use at all. This massive building houses some of the most famous paintings in the world, including Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, which is my favorite painting. I browsed the museum, quietly taking photos of some of the spectators while also spectating on my own.
I watched as different tourists posed in front of massive paintings of horses, or as art students sat on the floor and practiced sketching the human form. I realized that I was spectating both the art in the museum and the people in it, and it made for a very interesting project. It took me and hour to find the exit.
What to check out: The National Gallery is obviously one of my favorite museums in the entire world, as its history and the artwork it houses are completely breathtaking. The British Museum is a really fascinating study in museum structure and colonialism. If you are interested in modern art, the Tate Modern is something you will not want to miss. My absolute favorite museum is the National Portrait Gallery, not far from the National Gallery. It is home to portraits of many famous faces, and a visitor can learn much about the history of portraiture in Britain.
London is one of the world’s most incredible cities, ethnically diverse and rich in the history of so many cultures. It is the place where I spent most of my time in Europe, as it was my assigned city for study abroad. While the weather is relatively unchanging from day to day, the experiences that one has while in London are constantly changing.
I’ll talk about one of my first days in London. My friends and I were sent on a scavenger hunt by our university, based on photos that we took as we began to see and recognize different landmarks. While looking for the Monument, a famous statue that sort of seems to be located in an alley, we took a double decker red bus for the first time. However, we completely missed our stop by going in the opposite direction, and we ended up in Waterloo at the end of that particular line. However, as we began to walk around, we became closer friends, built a relationship that was going to be the foundation for keeping all of us sane during our time abroad, and we saw a lot of landmarks we may not have even been able to find!
What to check out: This is the post where I will be more tourist-like with the audience. The architecture and the history that exists all over London is something worth seeing in so many places, even the ones that become a bit more cliche when one visits a city. However, everyone who visits the city must see Big Ben, the world-famous clock; Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard; and the fabulous Parliament building, though it was under construction during my visit.
Liverpool was a weekend well spent with a few of my friends! We stayed in a youth hostel with bunk beds, which were surprisingly comfortable and made for a really affordable way to travel for the weekend. On the way up to Liverpool from London, we encountered a large number of Liverpool football fans who were making their way to the stadium for a match. Even though it was early in the morning, so many of them were drinking to prepare for the match! We had a good laugh about that.
The whole day was freezing and rainy, but we took a lovely walking tour anyway. Even though I ripped a small hole in my canvas shoes, I enjoyed the day thoroughly. At night, we visited the Cavern Club where the Beatles used to play shows. It was really exciting to be part of piece of history. Later that night, we moved to a bigger club, where there was some really interesting mixes of live music that was both older and more contemporary. In the morning, we visited the Beatles Experience, which was crazy! Everything was authentic, and all of the information was so fascinating.
What to check out: The waterfront is really famous in Liverpool, but maybe check it out on a warmer and less windy afternoon! You don’t want to freeze! The National Slavery Museum is on the waterfront in Liverpool, as the area was famous for being a port at one time. If you’re a big Beatles fan, you have to check out the music and history at both the Cavern Club and the Beatles Experience, which is Beatles-visited and approved!
The next place that I’d love to share with all of you is Barcelona, Spain! The weekend I spent with my friends in Barcelona is probably one of my all-time favorites. I have so many crazy and wonderful stories from that weekend, and it is so hard to narrow it down to pick one to talk about here. This is the one I’ll pick:
As so many college students who go abroad face, my friends and I were kind of broke. We had gotten lucky in that our friend’s mother paid for the place to stay that weekend as a birthday present for her daughter. We just had to pay for airfare, transportation, food, etc. We were not exactly a group of kids who knew how to, as they say, ball on a budget. However, we thought it would be a great idea, on our first full day, to walk to the beach instead of taking a cab. However, staying on Las Ramblas means that you’re about an hour walk from the beach. Much of that walk was in the shade, and we walked in our beach attire through the chilly shade until we finally made it to the beach, knowing there would still be an hour long walk back to the apartment. Our feet hurt,
but the moment I laid eyes on that beach, I knew I was going to have a beautiful day with my friends.
What to check out: Take a long walk through the old city and check out the incredible architecture. Las Ramblas is absolutely beautiful, and the shopping is fabulous. Make sure you get to see La Sagrada Familia, a longtime construction project of a church that you won’t want to miss.
Some of the most fun that I had during my time in Europe was a weekend excursion to Dublin, Ireland. After spending a week with a bout of sickness that almost kept me off a trip I was very much looking forward to, I was really looking forward to visiting one of the most important cities in the land from which my family hails. The sky, throughout the weekend, was quite a lovely shade of grey, normal for a day in the life of the Irish. We spent one day with a sweet tour guide named Liam, whose brogue guided us through a city I enjoyed every second of.
What he could not prepare us for was getting lost on Dublin’s public transport. My friends and I wanted to go out for the night, but we wanted to explore the city as well. We got on a bus, hoping it would take us somewhere interesting. However, it left us on the side of a poorly lit road at the end of its route, and we were stranded with minimal phone service and rather confused. However, after locating another bus and finding an adorable pub, we spent a fun filled evening with a large group of locals, drinking and singing merrily as a rugby game played on the television, the bartender poking fun at our accents and my friends’ tendencies to order girly cocktails while he poured me a Guinness. It was an exhilaratingly fun night.
What to check out: Take a tour of Trinity College! The university’s campus is not only beautiful but historic. Check out all of the amazing buildings and their stories. The Temple Bar is a famous place to drink, hang out, and sightsee. Don’t forget the tour of the Guinness Storehouse, where a Guinness in the skybar is included in your ticket! The views and the history are can’t-miss.