Live. Love. London.

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to return to one of my favourite cities: London, England! As soon as the plane (which was only in the air for 40 mins!) touched down, I got a crazy sense of coming home. I’ve often said that London is a city I could live in, and this trip only made me want to move there that much sooner!

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My original purpose in planning this UK trip was to volunteer at Free The Children’s first We Day outside of North America. This would complete my We Day hat trick: attended the first ever We Day in Toronto (2007), worked at the first We Day in the States (2013) and volunteered at the first We Day UK (2014).

The show was amazing! I volunteered as a Crowd Pumper, so I basically got to cheer and dance while having a great view of the stage.  I was most excited to see HRH Prince Harry (!!!) speaking, but was more blown away by the inspirational and well-spoken Malala Yousafzai (who didn’t even use her teleprompter), parolympian Martine Wright (who competed in London 2 years after losing her legs) and the always-impressive Spencer West. Of course, dancing with new friends to Ellie Goulding wasn’t too bad either 🙂

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My future husband – aka HRH Prince Harry!

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Malala Yousafzai – pure inspiration!

After We Day wrapped up, I met up with my good friend Andrea, who is currently on exchange in Sweden. We set out for the exhilarating, yet continually disappointing, Book of Mormon lottery – you put your name in a giant spinning drum and 2 hours before showtime, they give out 21 front row seats for only 20 pounds! It’s exciting, standing in the crowd and clapping for the lucky few who hear their names called. But it’s also pretty disappointing to walk away empty handed.

Fingers crossed! Waiting (and losing) at the BOM lottery

Fingers crossed! Waiting (and losing) at the BOM lottery

After losing the lottery, we tried at a few discount theatre ticket shops but decided on a cheap dinner and early night.  Unfortunately, our cheap dinner didn’t turn out too good (I paid 8 pounds for 2 chicken wings and a waffle) and neither did our early night. At the last moment we decided to buy tickets to Once, which were upgraded when we got to the theatre!

Trying to look happy about our mediocre dinner

Trying to look happy about our mediocre dinner

The next morning, still on a theatre-rush, Andrea and I headed to the Wicked box office for student tickets to that night’s performance. Tickets in hand, we walked over a few blocks to Buckingham Palace’s famed Changing of the Guard…

…which was an overrated let down! I have never seen more tourists crammed into an area for, what boiled down to, a few marching bands. Regardless of where you stood, you could only have visibility for a portion of the ceremony. The best part was the bad-ass cop on horseback who had crowd control down to an art form.  I can’t believe that gong show goes on every other day (every day in the summer)!

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The real star of the Changing of the Guard

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Tourists suck

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Yup, we were there!

Next we followed in the tourist tracks and joined a free walking tour. It was a beautiful day for it – but our attention span wasn’t quite there. We tuned out most of the stories and ended up ditching our group for birds in the park about halfway through the tour.

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The guards at St. James Palace come right up to you on their march!

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The guy next to us was throwing his bread in the air where the birds would fly, hover & catch it mid-air!

We continued on our own “walking tour” heading up to parliament, Big Ben & Westminster Abbey before dragging our sore feet through some stores on the way to dinner.  After enjoying some Wok to Walk, we jumped on the tube and got in line at the Apollo Vic Theatre to see WICKED!

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Pretty sure I take this exact same photo every time I come to London

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Andrea enjoying the legendary Wok to Walk

This was my 3rd time seeing Wicked (2nd time in London – rough life, I know), but it still gives me chills every time. I notice new details and have to restrain myself from joining in on the songs. Our Elphaba was phenomenal and in addition to her incredible voice, had plans to run a marathon in April! To be that talented!

Best show ever!

Best show ever!

Our final day in London started off with delicious brunch with a familiar face: my (second? removed? who knows?) cousin Rachel! Rachel, her husband and her adorable dog just moved back to London after spending a few years in Brazil. It was nice to see some family and really nice to enjoy yummy brunch out in the sun.

Brunching with Rachel & Lorenzo!

Brunching with Rachel & Lorenzo!

After food, we headed to the train station. On the way we walked past St. Mary’s Hospital (where Prince George was born!) and a market on houseboats (which seems like something Amsterdam should be doing!).

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The Lindo Wing at St. Mary’s Hospital where Prince George was born!

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Checking out the used books on the house boat book store

We took the train to Windsor Castle and spent a good part of the day exploring the grounds, checking out the state rooms and trying to guess where the Queen might be.

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Heading into Windsor Castle

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This flag means the Queen is home!

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Family crests of British soldiers

The castle was pretty spectacular, and the whole town was really cute. There were lots of little shops including a discount bookstore and some overrated award-winning ice cream.  By late afternoon, we were ready to head back to London.

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Before we realized what a let down the ice cream would be!

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Windsor’s gardens

Though we didn’t actually reach London for a few hours thanks to lots of train delays.  Luckily, we didn’t have anywhere we needed to be. We stumbled across an Indian buffet (spicy, yet delicious), purchased some postcards and headed back to our hostel.

Our few days in London flew by pretty fast: Andrea was off Sunday night and I took a bus to the airport Monday morning.  We saw a lot, but there is so much of London and the UK left to discover. I found myself constantly saying how I would see that thing and go to that place when I (eventually) live in London. I will definitely be returning to London – in fact, as soon as I got home I emailed my mom with plans to start our trip there in May. So I might get a few more lovely London days in May and hopefully some lovely London months in the not-so-distant future!

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And tomorrow morning – off to Budapest, Hungary!

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