LONDON | Saturday, March 9th
The beauty of the rolling hills really struck me once we finally got onto the bus with our lovely tour guide, Anne-Marie Walker. The winding, narrow roads gave me anxiety on the way, but the picturesque landscapes soothed me (as well as Anne-Marie’s calming voice). Being in the countryside made me really miss my home in the rural part of a suburb, but I was so excited to be on the trip to be truly homesick—I guess I was just sick of seeing city 24/7 in Columbus. I even enjoyed looking at the houses we passed by in Downe.
It was such a relief to finally arrive at the George and Dragon Pub after passing by all those cars that nearly scraped the side of the tour bus. The fish and chips were so filling, and I felt so satisfied even though the still water cost us all around four pounds each (I kept the bottle since apparently, we had all bought magical water); Caroline warned us about it before the trip, so I guess I have nobody to blame but myself. Not having to tip as much as we do in America was a perk though. I wonder if they price the still water that high because they know Americans are ignorant in most cultural aspects (me being one of them).
Seeing Emma Darwin’s grave was neat, and I appreciated visiting it, but I think everyone was more enthralled with the church adjacent to her grave and more importantly, the old tree that seemed to split into several separate ones and the fact that you could literally walk through it.
Personally, I thought we spent more time at Down House than necessary, but nonetheless, I enjoyed being the in same space that Darwin and his family lived in. The gardens and greenery may have been different back in Darwin’s day, but I can understand how Darwin was inspired to write his work in such a serene place.
Admittedly, the majority of us fell asleep to Anne-Marie’s soothing voice on the bus ride to the hotel, but from the few glimpses I got of the city of London, I fell in love with the architecture. Once we got settled in the hotel, a group of us went to the Rising Sun for dinner and a few other pubs to wrap up the night.
LONDON | Sunday, March 10th
The British Museum was so fascinating to me and it made me realize how ignorant I am in the history and culture of other countries. I hope to go back one day with more historical knowledge in order to truly appreciate the exhibits. Seeing the Rosetta Stone in person was unbelievable, but I personally favored the exhibit on the main floor that showcased the number of pills two individuals had taken in their lifetime. This exhibit made me more aware of the number of medications I normally use anytime I have an ache or pain.
I went back to the hotel for a little bit to study for my midterms, but once I had enough, I decided to venture around the city and I ended up spending way too much money shopping. A large group of us went to the Gordon Ramsey restaurant where I chowed down on some Sunday roast and went out to the ball pit afterward. On our way to the Gordon Ramsey restaurant, we got to see St. Paul’s Cathedral lit up and I found it even more beautiful in the dark. Afterward, we went to a ball pit/bar before we headed back to the hotel.
OXFORD & LONDON | Monday, March 11th
Madison and I went to Oxford in the morning and it took a while since we got lost in the tube stations, but we got there eventually. This short trip was my favorite part of England. The entire city was so picturesque even though we didn’t have the opportunity to go in most places since there was usually an admission fee for tourists. We did have brunch at the oldest coffeehouse in Europe and the food was to die for. Also, I thought the coffee in both London and Paris tasted so much better than in the U.S. and especially in this coffeehouse. There was a bookshop nearby that we went into afterward that just had books upon books and we just spent some time browsing in it. We ended finding a museum towards the end of our journey and we spent some time there before making it back to London.
We took a break in the hotel when we got back before heading out to dinner in Chinatown (and got lost both on our way there and back). This Thai Restaurant we went to was inexpensive much to our surprise, but the food was delicious. When we got back to the hotel, I ended up staying in and studying more for my midterms before heading to bed.
LONDON | Tuesday, March 12th
The weather on Tuesday was drab, but that didn’t stop my enjoyment for the Westminster Abbey. Even though our tour guide was very helpful, I thought it would’ve been nice to explore the place on our own for a little while. Maybe half and half would’ve been nice. Either way, it was amazing to see the burial sites for so many influential people like Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, and Steven Hawking. Are the death masks really necessary though?
The London Eye was only partially disappointing because of the weather, but I can imagine how beautiful it would be to see the city on a sunny day (and Big Ben not under construction). Nonetheless, it was nice to see such a great view of London.
Olivia and I went to a nearby restaurant to eat lunch before arriving late to the Royal Society. I thoroughly enjoyed the guided tour of the Royal Society and I thought it interesting that the current president of the Royal Society earned his Ph.D. at Ohio University.
Buckingham Palace was one of those places that you see once and then you never have to see it again, but it was far from what I expected—I was definitely underwhelmed.
The Italian restaurant that we went to as a group was outstanding. The few of us that didn’t see a play or musical went around to a few pubs and did some last-minute souvenir shopping to end the night.
PARIS | Wednesday March 13th
I took a nap for most of the trip to Paris on the Eurostar, but from the glimpses I did get to see, I couldn’t help but admire the countryside of France right outside of the city. Once we finally got into the city I was amazed by the stunning architecture that nearly every building exhibited. The Notre Dame certainly did not disappoint in this aspect. I thought it was interesting that, like Westminster Abbey, it was built like a horizontal cross. I honestly could’ve spent days just admiring the architecture and the art inside each chapel.
I don’t think it really hit me that we were abroad until I started having brief conversations in French with the workers in the shops and cafes—it was so refreshing to be immersed in French culture (even though we were primarily visiting prime tourist spots).
After venturing the city and taking in the beautiful sights of the river, I went to the group dinner at Le Petit Prince and had my favorite meal abroad despite the sacrifice of a baby cow that made my meal possible. I think we spent at least a good two hours just sitting and waiting due to the large size of our group, but it was well worth the wait.
PARIS | Thursday, March 14th
Madison’s phone was still set back an hour, so we woke up an hour later than we intended to and had to rush to get to the paleontology museum. I particularly enjoyed the display of the fetus skeletons standing upright—I honestly don’t know why… I thought they were cute at first, but then I realized what they were and then I was a little creeped out at how it looked like they were all crowded around each other and looking down at me. It reminded me of something you would see in a horror movie. I also enjoyed seeing the enormous whale skeleton. Just seeing something so large in comparison to humans really humbled me for some reason.
I wasn’t a big fan of the fact that some of the birds in the zoo had such limited space, but I felt like I could’ve spent hours just going from exhibit to exhibit while observing the animals’ behaviors. I loved seeing the pigeons try to peck the crumbs right from a porcupine’s mouth as it was trying to eat its pellets.
Anu and I went to the mineralogy museum, tried and failed to get into the greenhouses within le Jardin des Plantes, and wandered around the city until we got lost and stumbled upon a graffiti work by Banksy (thankfully it was near our hotel). I spent the rest of the day buying souvenirs, trying out pastries, cafes, and studying for midterms again.
PARIS | Friday, March 15th
Finally got the opportunity to see the Eiffel Tower and experience the breathtaking yet windy views from it. I always thought that the Eiffel Tower was black or grey, but I guess expectations don’t always meet reality (kind of like the Moroccan restaurant the day before when I ordered a Moroccan salad expecting an actual salad, but instead received mushy carrots and beans… at least it still tasted good?).
Wound up visiting the architecture museum instead of the museum of man by accident, but once I realized I was in the wrong place I was already inside and mesmerized by the sculptures with an extraordinary amount of detail. This is where I finally began to appreciate architecture for the art it truly is. I think my fond memory of the museum is also swayed by the amazing crepe and coffee I had right outside, but either way, I wish I had spent more time there. Saw a swan in the river on the way over to the metro station. The scenery alone made this part of the trip so surreal to me.
Tried my first macaron while waiting for the Pasteur museum to let us in and found a cat café around the corner that I wish I had time to visit regardless of my allergy to cats. By the time we got to the museum of arts and measures, all of us were clearly exhausted, but our tour guide’s enthusiasm made the exhaustion bearable. I wish we had more time here to look at all the objects. Needless to say, I slept like a baby.
PARIS | Saturday, March 16th
I had the intent to visit Versailles, but my desire for sleep surpassed any other thought. Once I finally woke from my coma, I headed out to explore the city more. I met up with Alicia and we decided to walk around for a while and drank coffee There was a market near the hotel that Alicia and I went to before we met up with Amanda and Erin for lunch.
Amanda and I split off from the group and visited the Pantheon and the history of medicine museum. I spent a lot more time than I should have trying to read the descriptions of each exhibit for such a small museum, but the tools that were first used for surgery, prosthetics, and so on just captivated me. I took a ton of pictures here that I sadly don’t have anymore, but I look forward to revisiting this museum when I go back to Paris when I have a little more French under my belt in addition to more knowledge of the history of medicine.
I went back to the hotel to study a little more and then Anu, Darria, and I explored more of the city (and bought more souvenirs). We visited several cafes, a pastry shop, a grocery store, a gelato shop, a creperie, we ate authentic Chinese food,
PARIS | Sunday, March 17th
and ended the night at a speakeasy. Anu found the place online so we weren’t sure if this little Italian shop in the front was the entrance to it, but the guy at the counter quickly caught on that we were trying to figure it out and let us into the “freezer.”
The city at night was so enthralling and I couldn’t help but feel blessed to be in such a beautiful place. We slowly made our way back to the hotel, taking in the sights and the Parisian charm.
Staying up until 3 am was not the best decision on all our parts, but we didn’t want the night to end and we certainly did not want to head back to the states. We were surprised to find that the metro ran that late, and we were so relieved after all the walking we did to get there and while we were wandering around. Luckily, we caught the last one.
Waking up at 6 was rough, but leaving Europe was even harder.
I’m already looking forward to my next trip abroad.