No matter how excited I was to spend Christmas by myself in a completely new city, there was no denying I was also really nervous. The friend I would be with left two days before I did, so I travelled to Dublin by myself to catch my plane. Thankfully it’s a short flight from Dublin to London, just across the water, and I was there in no time.
London at Christmas time
I arrived late Christmas Eve, the city already dark, festive lights twinkling in the crowded streets. After checking into my hostel, I wandered around in search of food and excitement. I found an old family-owned Italian restaurant and spent my evening there eating pasta, drinking tea, and listening to jazz music while taking in the city. It was almost overwhelming, fully appreciating my situation, but it was an incredibly beautiful moment by myself and one of my favourite memories of the trip.
Christmas day dawned bright and early, and with most stores and public transportation closed, I set off on foot, spending literally the whole day out exploring London’s parks, monuments, and iconic spots. (I checked my pedometer and I walked fourteen miles.) I ended my adventures at Big Ben, fulfilling my childhood Peter Pan dream.
Christmas dinner: crackers and mince pies
My hostel held a huge Christmas dinner for everyone staying there that night, and I got to experience my first Christmas cracker and mince pie. Sitting in a crowded dining room on long wooden benches, Christmas music blasting and surrounded by different people from every part of the world celebrating together was amazing. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it anywhere else.
Trip to Stonehenge
My friend Nathalie wasn’t due to arrive until late the next afternoon, so I booked myself an early morning tour of Stonehenge. I was picked up from my hostel and joined a large group on a bus to the historic site. It was a long drive, but well worth it. There’s really no words to describe the beauty of Stonehenge. You can literally feel the history and magic buzzing around you as you walk through the lush grass and try to imagine who had once stood where you were standing. The stones were beautiful, stacked together in a way that makes you marvel at the fact that they haven’t fallen over. Back at the visitor centre, I purchased a book about the ancient druids of the Stonehenge and got lunch, savouring my time in such a magnificent place.
Harry Potter Day
Nathalie arrived later that evening and we went to dinner together, excitedly planning our next day, which we dubbed our “Harry Potter day.”
We woke up early to join our “Muggle Tour” of London, visiting all of the famous film spots in London, as well as areas that the author, JK Rowling, wrote and was inspired by. Then we made our way to Platform 9 ¾, Nathalie purchased a Gryffindor scarf (a house we both proudly belong to) and both of us took professional pictures at the platform. We ended our wonderful day at a screening of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Needless to say, I cried about three times.
We left London the next morning to head back to Dublin, already making plans for our return to visit the Warner Bros. set of Harry Potter and other sites we didn’t quite get the chance to see.
My second semester is in full swing now, and we’re in the thick of our plans for everywhere we’re going in the next couple of months before our time here in Europe is done. We all now have an unspoken agreement that we won’t mention how many weeks we have left because we can’t bear the thought of this magic coming to an end. Either way, you can trust that I’m going to make the most of it.