London at Christmastime
Last December I decided to do something I had never done before. Yes, that includes going to Europe, as I had never been before, but more importantly, I traveled solo at a time when I’ve always been surrounded by others. Growing up in a large family meant holidays were always spent with loved ones. This past Christmas, however, I felt like shaking things up a bit. I stepped out of my comfort zone and took my very first European vacation; And it was absolutely, worth it.
After a bit of a turbulent flight, I landed in London on a surprisingly sunny morning. I came prepared with my rain boots and umbrella, so imagine my surprise to see such sunlight. I spent my first day in the UK at Apple Market, a popular street market in Covent Garden. Along with dozens of other shoppers, I browsed at the wares and enjoyed some of the street performers. I picked up some souvenirs for loved ones back home and some trinkets for myself. I have to say my favorite part was trying a glass of mulled wine, a delicious concoction of red wine with sugar and spices served hot like cider. Here’s where the Europeans have us Americans beat when it comes to Christmas traditions!
Over the next few days I managed to see quite a bit in Londontown. At the British Library I read from the original Magna Carta, not only one of the most important legal documents in British history, but also a major influence in the creation of the American Constitution. After visiting Buckingham Palace and viewing the Changing of the Guard, I explored the city on one of London’s popular bus tours. Some of the sights included Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, and a cruise along the Thames river. Taking a day-long trip to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath was definitely the highlight of my trip. I met two fabulous single girls traveling solo like myself and we had an amazing time exploring some of England’s most cherished historical monuments. I must say spending an afternoon at the British Museum was the best time I’ve ever had in a museum in my life. From the Rosetta Stone to sculptures from the Parthenon to artifacts from Egyptian ruins, I was amazed at the diversity and breadth of the collections. Even better, it was free!
Christmas Day in London was relatively quiet. On this day, I’ve grown accustomed to the sounds of holidays songs, gifts being feverishly unwrapped and my grandmother’s cries of stopping my cousins from running through the house. It was very different but also pleasantly refreshing. Most of the stores and restaurants are closed in London on the holiday, but luckily I stocked up at the local grocery store the day before. After making myself a sandwich and crisps, I decided to take a walk and get some air. My wandering led me to Kensington Garden, where the Kensington Palace is located. I’m quite sure that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were not in residence, but I enjoyed gazing at their beautiful home. I strolled around for a while and rested while watching ducks lap around a nearby pond. The park was busier than I expected, as there were families, couples and a few solo trekkers such as myself out and about. I enjoyed the warm weather for a bit before walking back to the hotel.
All in all, I’d say my week in London was a wonderful experience. Not my favorite trip thus far, but it was definitely my most unique Christmas holiday. Traveling solo at this time of year may not be for everyone, but it is definitely something that I would do again. I wonder where next Christmas will find me.
Written By: MAC