An Ode to London, and the Queen

I deeply love the UK. I of course have been very clued in on all that’s currently going on relating to the Queen’s passing, have so many opinions and will gladly share them.

That being said I’m not going to just write them and make people read them. I thought instead I’d do a little walk down memory lane and analysis of my love affair with Britain.

I was very intrigued by London, and first was on UK soil when I studied there my fall semester of sophomore year, 2007.

I went back in May 2010 at the end of a college trip; my friend I went with had family friends working at the US Embassy who we stayed with!

In 2013 I went, the friend mentioned above lived there for…5 years?

Then came 2015 when I got to live and work in London for 6 months. Life changing. I don’t think I can say anything more impactful.

I quickly went back in 2016.

And then in 2017.

I was in Dublin twice in 2018 for work and both times flew over to London for a weekend!

I’m very hopeful to be able to get back there one day!

Hampton Court Palace

This post is part of a throwback series to my semester abroad in London in 2007! 

Oh be still my heart; another beloved London site! This one might be a bit further down your list, but I’m completely enamored by Hampton Court Palace.

If you’re a history buff or perhaps simply a fan of ‘The Tudors‘ (NO shame), you’re probably familiar with the history of Hampton Court. The palace was built in the early 1500’s by Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York. After numerous years of building quite a fine palace Wolsey, recognizing his downfall from favor, gifted the palace to King Henry VIII. He died two years later in 1530.

Upon receiving the property Henry rebuilt and expanded to fit his particular requirements of a palace as well as to fit his court of over one thousand people. 

Hampton Court is well seeped in the Tudor history up until 1603, when Queen Elizabeth I died and the monarchy passed to the Stuarts. Continued fame in the British history books and renovation after renovation to fit the family and style of the time occurred through the 1700’s, the last time at which the British royal family inhibited Hampton Court Palace. 

Today the location is open to the public and located approximately 11 miles from central London, upstream of the River Thames. 

A few other fun facts:

  • Hampton Court Palace is celebrating it’s 500th anniversary this year, as building at the palace commenced on February 13th, 1515.
  • The palace was featured during the 2012 Olympic games for the road cycling time trial. Temporary structures were installed on the grounds for this event. 
  • You can spot Hampton Court Palace in several historical films, as well as in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. 

Visitors are able to tour the palace both through guided walks as well as on your own (audio guides are provided). 

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves of my experience at Hampton Court! 

Find everything you need to plan your own visit here

The Tower of London

This post is part of a throwback series to my semester abroad in London in 2007!

The Tower of London is arguably the must-see attraction when you’re visiting London-it absolutely is mine. Top three reasons I love the Tower of London?

1. It’s endless amount of history

2. The chills it gives me to visit and think about the executions, and hoping I see a ghost when I’m there

3. The ravens

The Tower was founded back in 1066, meaning that you can pick your favorite era of British history and trace to the Tower’s role at that time.  How cool is that?

Every time I’ve been in London I have made it a point to visit the Tower; it’s one of my favorite spots in the city (yes even though it’s a tourist destination) and just evokes everything I’ve read, studied, and adored about England.

During my semester in London we used our first available weekend after classes had started to visit. Your ticket includes a tour from a Yeoman Warder (or Beefeater)-ages ago they were responsible for guarding the Tower prisoners and safeguarding the crown jewels. Now they primarily serve the role of tour guide for visitors to the Tower.  The history of the Yeoman is fascinating, and in 2007 they welcomed their first female Yeoman!

Guided tours last approximately 60 minutes and give a fantastic overview of the Tower. You’ll be shown prominent points including Traitor’s Gate (as you can probably guess, this is where prisoners were brought in via the Thames on boat), White Tower which is the oldest part of the Tower of London, and the Chapel.

You’ll see Tower Green and the Scaffold Site where three queens of England were beheaded: Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Jane Grey. There’s also a memorial built here to commemorate their deaths. You’ll learn all about some of the more famous points of the Tower’s history (because how could you cover 1000 years in entirety?).

The end of the tour is a great opportunity to grab a picture with your Yeoman. On my particular tour I struck a pose, putting my right hand on my hip and our guide promptly told me to “get your hand off your hip you look like a teapot.” I laughed, the picture was snapped, and here you go-

Afterwards you’re then free to tour on your own the buildings. You can view the Crown Jewels, tour White Tower and view the various displays and exhibitions that are running at the time of your visit. You can walk the defensive walls surrounding the Tower and take in all the beauty of the surrounding Tower Bridge and River Thames.

And my favorite, you can appreciate the ravens! Ravens have been synonymous with the Tower for ages; legend tells that the kingdom and the Tower will fall if there are ever less than six resident ravens. Per the Tower’s website: “Despite their having one wing trimmed, some ravens do in fact go absent without leave and others have had to be sacked. Raven George was dismissed for eating television aerials, and Raven Grog was last seen outside an East End pub.” The ravens (six plus a spare) are tended to by the Raven Master; I’d enjoy having that title!

Logan’s Tips and Tricks

-Buying your ticket online saves you a pound on admission. The opening and closing times vary so be sure to check the Tower’s hours here. When you arrive you’ll be alerted as to the next available time for a guided tour, and you just meet near the entrance at the start.

-Schedule a few hours for your visit so you can take a guided tour and leisurely enjoy all of the sites. For even more guided learning you can rent an audio tour for a few pounds.

A London Pass or similar attraction pass can save you money. It’s worth looking into if you’ll be enjoying multiple London attractions in a small window of time.

The Prime Meridian

This post is part of a throwback series to my semester abroad in London in 2007! 

If you’re a little rusty from your school days, the Prime Meridian is the geographical point where longitude is defined as 0°. Longitude lines run from the North to the South Pole and the Prime Meridian serves as the dividing point of whether a place is in the Western or Eastern hemisphere. A position is defined as a number of degrees, and the equivalent North/South spot is the latitude geographical coordinate. 

The Royal Observatory in Greenwich serves as the common zero of longitude and the standard of time throughout the world.

There are a number of ways to get here. Personally I recommend the DLR line; just take it to Cutty Sark and it’s a 10 minute walk away. 

Here there is an official line marking where the Prime Meridian runs. It’s a pretty cool site to see! 

But as I said, to get there you must walk. The picture below is just a hint at the trek; it also involves walking up hills which is quite tough when you’ve been imbibing the night before….

There’s a National Maritime Museum and Planetarium which we visited during our time. Greenwich is a beautiful spot and well worth a day trip to the “home of time”! 

Read all about Greenwich here. 

Cambridge University

This post is part of a throwback series to my semester abroad in London in 2007!

On our second weekend we spent three days at Cambridge University. Cambridge is such an accredited school as it is widely regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious and influential universities. It was founded in 1209 (!) and is the second oldest university in the English speaking world.




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Our housing for the long weekend was individual dorm rooms. Compared to our London-style (read: cramped) living, single rooms were a dream to have for a few days! Obviously from this photo below I am thrilled!

A big part of Cambridge’s fame (and as students led by a physics professor, a large reason for our visit) is the University’s key setting for the discovery of the DNA double helix. Our time in Cambridge also included an organized lecture relating to our study of astronomy (which honestly I cannot recall much of, other than it took place in a round classroom that was warm, and many students may have drifted off at one point or another…..)

An English fall look, as well as proof that selfies were a thing in 2007!

Our time allotted for ample touring of the university’s many Colleges. The architecture of the buildings is breathtaking and the grounds are immaculate!

Cambridge sports blue plaques in the similar fashion as the London blue plaque scheme, which denote where famous people have lived and worked. It’s a handy way to easily spot places of significance and bring more meaning to your sightseeing.

Cambridge has multiple outstanding museums, including the Fitswilliam Museum which features art and antiquities. The shot below is one of Darwin’s microscopes, featured in the Whipple Museum of the History of Science.

Again with the selfie, and sporting a Cambridge sweatshirt that was well worn by the end of my semester in London!

Of course we checked out the pubs while in town, our pick being the Prince Albert pub. The atmosphere is great and the food is yummy! The pub has dart boards and pool tables too.

Walking around Cambridge really is lovely. The town has the most spectacular feel to it and everywhere you look is something beautiful!


One of the best parts of the weekend was experiencing punting. I recently mentioned this to a friend and she looked at me like I had three heads!

Punting is the fine art of boating a punt (quite a “le duh” comment right there). A punt is a flat bottomed boat, and is propelled by pushing against the river bed with a pole. This is not the same as a gondola, as those use oars rather than poles to traverse. Nowadays punting is almost exclusively an activity of leisure and you will constantly see punting on the River Cam which flows through Cambridge. As the river is narrow it is ideal for punting. Cambridge punters also tend to be attractive males who sometimes punt shirtless, another reason this is a must activity!

The trip down the River Cam is beautiful as it passes many old buildings.

I would just love to visit Cambridge again one day; it really is a magical place!

Logan’s Tips and Tricks

-On a vacation when you are based in London, I recommend visiting either Cambridge or Oxford. No they aren’t the same, but to get a well rounded trip experience I say pick one or the other. I also visited Oxford on a trip three years later in 2010. Both are fabulous and doable as a day trip out of London!

-Cambridge is an easy train ride out of London; frequent trains are available out of several of London’s train stations. The trip takes about an hour to an hour and a half depending on the exact one you select; round trip tickets can be bought online or in person at the train station. I recommend selecting an open return option so you can take a return train to the city whenever you’d like!

-Cambridge has many museums and collections that are open to the public. Additionally college chapels are open at select times, and most of the Colleges are also open for visits. It’s best to check times when planning your trip to make sure any must sees on your list will be open.

-We visited before university was back in session; students start around early October. The campus was still lively despite this fact but if you are partial to experiencing Cambridge when the semester is in session, plan accordingly by looking up the term dates on the university website. On that note if you do visit when term is in session, remember that Cambridge first and foremost is a school. Take this into consideration as you traverse around campus and be respectful of the students and faculty.

-Punting when the weather permits is an absolute must when you are visiting! You can arrange your ride the day of; make sure to bring your camera!

The British Museum

This post is part of a throwback series to my semester abroad in London in 2007!

Our class schedule was pretty great during our semester in London. We attended class Mondays through Thursdays, with Fridays off which made weekend traveling wonderful! 

With our school building in Bloomsbury Square we had our own quad of sorts; this was perfect for lunch breaks and sitting outside to work on homework (ok, if I’m being honest, to talk). 

There was a Pret a Manger across the square, which probably contributed to my deeply rooted love of Pret to this day! Lunches most days however were packed; the four of us living in a flat together would pool part of our weekly stipend and grocery shop together! We kept things very simple with sandwiches, crisps and veggies. 

On that note, we also switched off making dinner. Two of us took the Monday/Wednesday meals, and Tuesday/Thursday went to the other two. Gosh, we were cute! But I digress.

Two blocks away from Bloomsbury Square is The British Museum. The museum was established back in 1753(!) and is a beautiful collection of art and historical artifacts. It’s probably most famously the home of the Rosetta Stone. This shows the same decree in three languages which allowed historians to crack the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Pretty outstanding! 

In our first week of classes our art teacher took us to the British Museum. Our class met twice a week, with one day in the classroom and the other at a museum. We returned the following day to do a little sightseeing of our own, as well as jot down some more notes! 

Amongst the artifacts are the famed Elgin Marbles, the center of long-standing controversy due to the debate of whether they should be restored to their original country. The disagreement between Greece and England over the legitimacy of the purchase of the marbles was finally put to rest this year, with Greece stating they would no longer pursue legal avenues to regain possession. 

Even though the British Museum is SUCH a top tourist attraction, it’s a quintessential part of my favorite London spots. Everyone should experience seeing the Rosetta Stone in person, and the detail of the Elgin Marbles is exquisite! 

One of my many loves about life in London is the free newspapers on the tube. There’s one in the mornings and one in the evenings. Yes they may be a bit tabloid-y (see: below) but I love them anyways.  

Another London must is a proper meal in a pub. Fish and chips, mushy peas, and a pint are food for the soul! 

I really was lucky; I spent three months living just minutes from Regent’s Canal and Little Venice. How gorgeous is this?! 

And yes, the “Warwick Avenue” of the Duffy song is indeed the same tube stop that I took nearly every day for three months!! 

Logan’s Tips and Tricks:

-Like most museums in London, The British Museum has free admission. However don’t be a goober; giving a few pounds upon entry is a no-brainer way to pay it forward. 

-The vast collection means that it’s very easy to become overwhelmed. I suggest taking a look at a map and focusing on a few exhibits during your time. The Ancient Egyptian and Greek sections, Rosetta Stone, and the Enlightenment room are great places to start. 

-As with all tourist spots, the museum can get very crowded. I recommend getting there right at opening and seeing the “top hits” first before floods of people arrive! 

A Semester Abroad: London 2007

During the fall of my sophomore year in college I spent the semester in London, England. While it wasn’t my first time out of the country, it was a turning point in my life. I like to think of it as the defining moment of being “bitten by the travel bug”, as well as the start of my love affair with London. I always knew I wanted to study abroad while I was in college, and it quickly became a no brainer on where to go. 

My college has a specified London Program every year where one professor leads a group of university students in London. Classes were taught out of a building in Bloomsbury Square, just a stone’s throw from the British Museum. Everyone lived in flats in the same building in Maida Vale, taking the Bakerloo line from the Warwick Avenue tube stop everyday to get to class. 

I left with a group of classmates, some already close friends and some simply a name and a face. I came back with nineteen individuals that I will always share an incredible bond with thanks to this experience. 

With Gail and Kathleen at the start of it all, September 3, 2007; my partners in crime and two of my flatmates!

Arriving in London for the first time was surreal. Collectively jet lagged our group made our way through customs, collecting our bags and piling onto a bus to journey into the city. I remember thinking to myself, as the British accents swirled around me in Heathrow, “I’m actually here!”. The bus ride into the city was a blur, all of us desperately trying to pick out iconic landmarks as we gazed out the window. Pulling down our street was beyond exciting; this would be where we’d be living the next three months! 

Our flats in the Maida Vale neighborhood were quintessential British living. Quaint, and small! 

An, albeit grainy, shot of my tiny room that I shared with Gail for the 3 months we were abroad. The extra bed was a dream for storage, since what’s not pictured is the teeny tiny wardrobe we shared that was literally overflowing with clothes! 

On one of our first nights in London we all gussied up and went to The Palm Court Brasserie in Covent Garden with the entire class for a welcome dinner. 

The first week was spent getting settled in before classes started the following Monday. As an introduction to London, the group went on a bus tour of the city to see the major sites. We started things off at Buckingham Palace. 

It’s funny to look back at these pictures, since my eye immediately goes to the center balcony and all of the events in which the royal family has made an appearance in that spot! 

Next was Westminster Abbey, along with Elizabeth Tower (known more commonly as the bell inside the tower, Big Ben!). 

And stop number three was The Tower of London and Tower Bridge. 

The tour really was just a taste of the city; I could not wait to get out and start exploring.

Taking advantage of our free week, the girls and I picked up last minute tickets to a play that Orlando Bloom was starring in. The show was rubbish, but two and a half hours of watching Orlando in the flesh was well worth the ticket price! 

We also made time for a late night trek to Abbey Road, trying multiple times to take the famous shot but failing to get any usable pictures! 

And we embraced our tourist side with a tour inside of Buckingham Palace and a ride on the London Eye! 

After a mere 4 days in London, I was already falling in love with the city!