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Last summer I had the tremendous pleasure of traveling to Londonwith my dear friend, Lauren. I’ve raved about it before, and I knew we had only scratched the surface of London’s bajillion cultural offerings. So it was with a smile that I landed in London for a 5-day stay with a friend.
Along the river and by important buildings. You know, like Parliament.
A few things were on my to-do list this time around.
1.       Go dancing. All the lindy and blues I’d been doing in Ireland invigorated and inspired me to keep it up, and London has one of the most vibrant dance scenes in Europe. How could I pass up some chances to dance with some of the world’s best?
2.      See more free stuff! London is an expensive city, there’s no getting around that. That being said, though, there are a number of ways to save your dough while there. Last year, Lauren & I had done a lot of touristy things that required payment. This year, I wanted to hit up some of the museums that didn’t.
3.       Do Madame Tussaud’s. I’m a huge dork. I have no idea why, but since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to see the famous wax figures of Madame Tussaud’s. Last summer both in Amsterdam and London I suggested it as an activity, but it’s pricey and, honestly, kind of a waste of money. Since it was just me this time, though, I wouldn’t feel guilty about wasting my own cash.
4.      See more Shakespeare! The production of Much Ado About Nothing that we saw last year at The Globe was the best play I’ve ever seen. Hands down. The acting and direction were impeccable, the experience was extraordinary for so many reasons. To experience that again in the form of a different production would be yet another wonder-filled 3 hours I would never forget.
I know you’re dying to find out: did I check all these things off my list? Heck yes, I did!

I went dancing twice; once, to Blues in my Shoes, where the class was a fun gender-bender (where the normal follows lead and leads follow, always a great exercise to improve your dancing), and the fantastic live music during the social dancing made the night great. Then, later in the week I attended another Swing Patrol event, where there were dancers from literally all over the globe swinging out. Super!
As for seeing more free stuff, I headed to the Natural HistoryMuseum for the first time. I thought I’d be able to do that and the Science Museum in one day, and man was I wrong! The NHM had so much to see: dinosaurs, the “treasures” collection, which displays some of the most valuable relics the museum owns (like a skeleton of a dodo bird, and an original copy of On the Origin of Species), exhibits on human memory, what it’s like to be in an earthquake, and so much more! And it’s all free! I also hit up the National Gallery—also free—which houses incredible paintings by the Impressionists, the Baroque painters of Spain, and hundreds of other artists.
I did Madame Tussaud’s. Was it worth it? Well. Yes, I suppose it was, if a total rip-off, pricewise. The one thing I learned, though, is that sometimes silly touristy activities like that are worth doing with friends. It got tiresome having to ask strangers to take my ridiculous photo one after the next doing stupid things with wax figures of Robert Downey, Jr. and Brad Pitt…
Clearly I have no problem embarrassing myself in front of strangers. But hopefully you’ve figured that out by now…Click to make it larger and see me with the Royals, Audrey Hepburn, The King of Pop and more!
And, oh, the Shakespeare! For Christmas, my parents gifted me a ticket to see Twelfth Night, starring Mark Rylance as Lady Olivia and Stephen Fry as Malvolio. See, ten years ago The Globe did an all-male production of the play, just like they would have in Shakespeare’s day (called an “original practices production”.) It was freakin’ amazing. Originally running at the Globe, the play—along with Richard III, also starring Rylance—is now at the Apollo Theatre in West End. Walking in, they truly stick to what we would have seen as audience members in Shakespeare’s day. The actors were getting ready onstage; make-up being done, they were warming up their voices, having costumes adjusted, the whole lot, and what I loved seeing in that time was how they visibly shifted into character, especially Rylance. As his costumer was doing some finishing touches, I noticed his posture straighten, his face begin to grow more serious, his hands calm, all of which befit the character of a mourning, beautiful Olivia. The whole cast did a fabulous job, with a lovely Viola done by a youthful Johnny Flynn and Stephen Fry’s return to the boards after a 10+ year hiatus from stage acting. Stellar.
What else did I do in London? I checked out the fantastically curated Pre-Raphaelites exhibit at the Tate Britain, got drinks at a very hip pub in Tooting (haha) in the borough of Wandsworth, South London, got a mini-tour of one of the British Museum’s conservation labs where my friend works, watched Die Hard for the first time (Merry Christmas!), and took a walk along the Thames to the Christmas stalls on the South Bank.
We got candied apples and listened to Christmas carolers along the Thames!
All in all, it was a pretty great stay and certainly not the last one. Cheers, London, and cheerio for now!

Have you been to London? What do you like to see when you go?