Week 22: Cheerio, London! (Castles, Oxford, and Proper Afternoon Tea)

My time in London flew by. The last week was jam-packed with different British experiences: visiting the countryside, going to Oxford, the Tate Modern and the V&A museums, The Tower of London, cruising the Thames, and proper afternoon tea. I was also fortunate enough to see Michael, another altMBA alumni and my meditation teacher during this last week. We had a lovely breakfast and conversation, and I was again reminded of the great community I’ve come into with the altMBA.

Weekend in the Countryside: Arundel and Oxford

Arundel is a small town in the south of England, near Brighton, known for its medieval castle and position on a major trade route back in the day. A group of us took a 2-hour train here on Saturday, met up with a local tour guide, and wandered around the countryside for a bit before checking out the castle. Rolling hills, flowers growing like weeds, and a lake full of swans added to the loveliness of the day.

Arundel Castle was built in the 11th century. There, we saw an amazing library, the keep, a fortress-like structure used for protection during times of attack, and gorgeous gardens.

A quick dinner and pint later, we headed back to the city to celebrate one of our dearest Remotes’ birthdays at Cocobananas, a two-story bar where we had so much fun dancing (and less fun sweating, since London doesn’t believe in air conditioning). Later that night, half of PTY crew – my oldest friends on Remote Year – went to Duck & Waffle, an exclusive, 24-hour restaurant in one of the new London skyscrapers. We had, you guessed it, duck and waffle, which was delicious, and capped the night off with champagne, because London. We enjoyed the great views, witnessed a fight break out, and were generally intrigued by this luxury restaurant offering comfort food.

The next day, several of us headed to Oxford for the day. This was a big priority for me because of Harry Potter and His Dark Materials, and it did not disappoint. Oxford was cute, unbelievably historical (the university was first founded in 1096!), and super British. We got the chance to look into the courtyard of one of the colleges, skipped the huge line to see where The Great Hall in Harry Potter was filmed, and spent the afternoon punting. This is kind of like riding a gondola, but one where you use a giant pole to push off from the riverbed. It was really hard, we spent a lot of time figuring out how we ended up backwards, and I almost fell in the water. Very fun experience nonetheless, and a typical Oxford tradition!

London Sights

During the week, I checked out some key London sights:

  • The Tate Modern museum, which newly opened after moving locations, and houses a great collection of modern art. I only had about an hour, briefly joined a tour, and then wandered on my own. The best part was the building, and the views: it overlooks the entire London skyline, including St. Paul’s Catedral, and was truly stunning.
  • The Victoria & Albert museum, or the V&A, which is stunningly beautiful and features eclectic collections like underwear fashion and glass. We went to an after-hours event, which was great because there was almost no one in the exhibits, wandered around, enjoyed sitting in the courtyard, and narrowly avoided the London rain I’ve heard so much about but have had the fortune to not experience much.
  • The Tower of London, which is a fortress turned tourist attraction. I took a tour with one of the Beefeaters (guards), who had a big personality and seemingly as much fun as we did. I saw the house the Queen stays when she is at the Tower of London, the dungeons where prisoners were kept, and of course, the Royal Jewels. This included Queen Elizabeth’s crown and the largest diamond in the world on the Royal Scepter.
  • Our farewell party took us on a cruise along the Thames, during which we bid adieu to the Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Tower of London, etc. It was a fun-filled boat ride of conversation, and as always, dancing.

Proper Afternoon Tea

It’s only fitting to close out a trip to London with a proper afternoon tea. A small group of us dressed up and went to the Langham Hotel for a couple of hours of tea (with milk and sugar, of course), finger sandwiches (the truffle one was a big hit), and scones (because of course we needed more carbs after sandwiches). It was a nice experience at a beautiful, swanky hotel, which we followed with a bowl of punch, royals-style, at Punch Room. It was a lovely end to a great couple of weeks.

Final Thoughts

All-in-all, London surprised me. It’s never been a place I’ve been dying to go to, probably because I always assumed I would get there. Having spent a couple weeks here, though, I’m eager to come back. The stunning beauty of the city and the properness of the people impressed me, and there was never a shortage of things to do, fields to frolic in and pints to drink. It was also great to connect with the Undertone team here, some of whom I hadn’t met before, and add value with several trainings that I hope continue to bridge the pond.

Aside from Buenos Aires, this is probably the only city I’ve visited so far that I can imagine living in, and in today’s world, that’s an exciting possibility.

 

Also, check out fellow Remote Laura’s recap video:

 

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