18 April, 2009

My Dream Trip to London

Last July I was awarded with a trip to London and a teacher refresher course. I know! Life IS good. So when the boss (Ana Zullo) told me it was my turn I realised I had never expected to get the trip even though all the teachers senior to me had got it. Well, it came as a surprise but of course I said yes! It was very refreshing indeed (to say the least).

So, let’s get to the point:

I had been to London before but just for a couple of days and I’ll tell you... two weeks aren’t enough - at least not if you are taking a course from 8 am to 5 pm - let alone a couple of days.

What did I do there that I recommend?

I went inside the Tower of London where people ‘lost their heads’, namely Anne Boleyn - Queen of England (1507- 1536) and Lady Jane Grey, also Queen of England (1537–1554) beheaded at the age of seventeen, just to mention a few. There I was surprised to see some sort of ‘medieval graffiti’ on the walls and lots of armour. People talking about the Tower often refer to the Crown Jewels, which are all very nice but not as much as the history of the Tower itself, in my opinion.

On my way out I was taking a photo by the Tower Bridge (which people confuse and take by London Bridge) when lovely Alexandra joined me.

I went inside the Abbey too, the Westminster Abbey, where Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy are buried - among 3,000 people, starting with Chaucer, the author of The Canterbury Tales, who only got to be buried there because he worked there and the priests liked him, at least that’s what I recall from the guided tour. I had a very special guide, Jeremy Irons, as everyone else. (He recorded the audio guide). Why don’t we have audio guides in Brazilian museums?! This one instead of looking like i-Pod earphones it looked rather like an old and heavy mobile phone you kept holding next to your ear, but it had videos too. By the way, even though William Blake, Lord Byron, Shakespeare, Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters are not buried there they have memorials in the Poet’s corner.

Visited the National Gallery where I fell in love with the painting of Lady Jane Grey about to be beheaded – The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche.

Also visited the British Museum with all the heads of pharaohs, mummies and the Rosetta Stone.

Talking about museums, last but not least, I visited the Tate Modern and saw the street art exhibition that included graffiti by the twins from São Paulo on the façade. Great gift shop, by the way.

I saw two gigs – the Mars Volta at the Roundhouse, a legendary venue in Camden where Jimi Hendrix played and, believe it or not, Monobloco at a place called Guanabara.

I wanted to see the Arsenal Stadium in Highbury but it was closed by the time I got there, so I only saw it from the outside. Actually, we got inside the first gates but we couldn't see the field. Such a shame.

I went shopping in Oxford Street – loved Top Shop! Best and almost only purchase: a small yellow bag with a big bow, bright pink on the inside, with a chain handle by Paul’s Boutique.

I had a lazy afternoon at the South Bank on a hot summer day. I went there to join a friend from Niterói who had recently moved to London and had the day off too to relax and have Pimms. We were there chilling at this open air bar outside the Southbank Centre. South Bank is a must, click here to check its official site. There's a book market, a skate park, lots of other stuff and it's just beautiful.

Got a train to Brighton on a Saturday morning, spent the day in those lanes, saw the Royal Pavilion, sat on a chair on the sand watching the sea, visited a couple of friends from Niterói and came back to London in the evening.

I had lunch at Camden Market on a Sunday, when they have the fair.

I had snacks in traditional pubs.

I had delicious blueberry cupcakes.

I saw the change of guard and I saw the Queen's Guard play 'The Final Countdown', made famous by Europe, a hard rock band from Sweeden, in the 80's. If you don't believe me, I can prove it. I recorded it and put it on YouTube:

I watched a trial in the Old Bailey. It was a case of murder.

I walked for hours along Hyde Park.

I went into Kings Cross station just to see the Platform 9 3/4.

I walked across the park from Wood Green, where the students Hall was, to Muswell Hill, where the school was, and saw people playing golf in a public place. Ordinary-looking people. Playing golf in the park.

I decided to have some coffee in Leicester Square and came across the European Premiere of the new Batman movie - The Dark Knight.

I got a brochure of MA courses in the Institute of Education at the University of London.

I ate something I think was called Abbot Ale Meat Pie. The meat pie looks somewhat like what we call ‘empadão’ here in Brazil but I guess it tastes more like a ‘Mille-feuille’. It came with chips and gravy, I was really looking forward to trying gravy but I wanted to eat it just as they do so I asked the young lady: ‘Where do you pour the gravy?’ She replied something like: ‘wherever you like’. So I went: ‘No, where do YOU pour the gravy?’, to which she then replied: ‘oh, on top of everything’. So I did... yummy! Scrumptious!

I made friends.
Christina Henn, from Germany; Stefan Firica, from Bucharest – Romania, supporter of Dynamo; Eftychia Charalambous (aka Effie) from Cyprus and supporter of Anorthosis; Robson Sant’Anna, from Petrópolis, who works at Cultura Inglesa Grajaú and Marcella Correa, from Rio, were the closest ones. I also exchanged emails with Steve Hirschhorn, a local who taught us a couple of lessons, the best ones. He came all the way from Oxford (he's the principal at an English school there called Eckersley) by motorbike to teach us.

I also met people from Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Latvia, Spain and the USA.

What I did not do but might be fun too:

I didn’t visit the famous Madame Tussauds even though they were revealing a new statue – Amy Winehouse – while I was there. I only know about it because of the free papers on the tube (The underground).

I didn’t go to the Cinema even though I would've been to the Prince Charles with my new German friend Christina if I hadn't been late after spending such a long time in Hamleys trying to find the perfect gifts for my kids.

I didn’t go to Notting Hill.

I didn’t go on the Ferris wheel, the London Eye. But I did take many pictures of it.

I didn’t see a musical.

I didn’t even get a glimpse of Harrods.

I didn’t get to know Brick Lane and this is the thing I regret the most, together with not taking a photo crossing the Abbey Road.

Oh, I also deeply regret not having fish and chips.

So, even though it was my second time in London I still must come back. There are many places in the world I still don't know and I really want to but I'm not done with London yet.
Thank you Cultura Inglesa for my English, and now for making this dream trip come true.

Raquel Rodrigues


  1. Yes... what a wonderful trip that was! Raquel you forgot to tell about our fire drill at the dorm... hahaha
    Loved to relive all that.
    Love always,
    Robson Sant'Anna - Grajaú Branch

  2. Girl, you must admit your next step is travel consultancy through blogs, right? Amazing travelling records!! Doesn't Cult Trip need a volunteer to follow them (whether virtually OR NOT !)and keep parents updated with the trip events? My vote is for you!!
    Valéria Fonseca

  3. That's right, Robson! That was funny!
    Thanks Val, who knows? ;)

  4. Hello Raquel! What a nice trip! I went to London in november last year and was a lovely time. Great city, especially for culture. Wonderful museums and art galleries!