London is one of those cities that you can never get enough of. Luckily for me, I’ve been many times before with my parents but this was different. This time, I couldn’t rely on my Dad to get me around London, this time I had to manage how I spent my time, this time I was on my own. However, I was excited to experience the capital with my newfound set of friends.
To get to London, we used the reliable Stoke On Trent train service and it took us an hour and twenty minutes to get to Euston Station.
The hostel where we were staying – The Generator – was a ten-minute walk from Euston and if you weren’t looking for the hostel, you would’ve missed it. It was cowering in the back of an alleyway and the building looked tiny. My hopes weren’t high. We walked in and my first impressions completely changed. It was modern and funky with smooth music playing in the lobby. It was packed with other students and travellers that had the same idea as us, yet the atmosphere was surprisingly balmy.
After we had half an hour to settle in and stow our bags away underneath our bunk beds, we walked to Camden town. I’ve always loved Camden, the smells, the individualism – that’s all been capitalised now for tourist attraction – but the one thing I didn’t like was the prices.
Camden food market is huge. With food stalls selling food from all over the world, it’s mouthwatering. But I wasn’t going to pay £7 for a burger. I am a student after all and I cannot afford many luxuries. So I had to settle for a KFC. Yes, I am usually cultural but at this moment in time, I was thinking about my purse and the fact I had only a £100 for the three days. It was heartbreaking.
After looking around Camden market, it was five o clock and it was getting dark. I felt like I had wasted my day and I felt infirm. One of the girls in the group – Amy – wanted to go to Harrods and look round that end of London and I obliged because I had actually never been to Harrods before. She also needed to go to King’s College to get her suitcase off a friend so the group decided to go with her (there was no way we were going to let her travel round London on her own when it was pitch black).
We took the tube to Knightsbridge and I relied on Amy because I felt bemused by all of the different coloured lines on the map and as soon as we walked up the stairs out of the Knightsbridge station, Harrods loomed in front of us. It looked beautiful, with its old architecture and lights sparkling all around the building, it made me excited for Christmas, and nothing normally does that.
As soon as the five of us walked in and I instantly felt poor. There were people with baskets full of Harrods merchandise, there were people sashaying around in their expensive clothes and accessories, casually holding Dior and Gucci shopping bags (if I had a Dior shopping bag I think I would cry, mostly over the amount of money I spent to get the bag in the first place). They were living my dream. And there I was, walking around the store in leggings, a hoodie and converse. I didn’t fit in and I felt mortified.
We walked round Harrods for what seemed like forever, my feet were killing me and I just wanted to head back to the hostel – which seemed like it was in a different country. But we still had to get to King’s College so Amy could get her things.
So we did. We walked down barely-lit backstreets until we got to the University. At first, we couldn’t get into the building because Amy’s friend wasn’t answering their phone. So we waited until someone else was opening the door and we went in and walked up the stairs. It wasn’t until the security guard was chasing us up the stairs that we realised we weren’t meant to be there. Amy, Keisha and I ran up the stairs until we reached the friends’ room but unfortunately, Laurianne and Louise lost to the security guard and had to wait in the foyer for us. Once we got the suitcase, we walked casually through the foyer, ignoring the glaring security guards looks and made our way back to the hostel.
We were back at the hostel and settled into bed until, at one in the morning, the fire alarm goes off. Panicking and with no idea of what to do, we risked it and stayed in bed after texting one of the tutors on what we should do. We weren’t impressed when we found out that some people staying there were smoking in their room.
The second day saw us go down to Bauer Media which is where all of the major radio stations such as Kiss, Kerrang!, Heat and of course, Planet Rock are based. We sat in on Planet Rock’s, Paul Anthony’s breakfast show and even though I don’t want to go into radio, it was interesting to see how much work is put into a live show; I even might have fangirled just a tiny bit as my Dad and I listen to his show sometimes.
After the breakfast show, we walked around Hamleys, a massive toy emporium. It’s not exactly my thing and I was hankering to go to the Oxford Street Lush store. I couldn’t go to London and not go to the Oxford Street Lush. But Hamley’s had such a fun atmosphere, you couldn’t help but enjoy the show; with its entertaining staff, it made you feel like a child again. Something that – since coming to university – I have longed to feel like again.
Our task for the day was to do a vox pop with anyone in Trafalgar Square and share pictures of us doing them on the Staffordshire Journalism Twitter page. The group was absolutely starving so we all piled into Frankie’s and Benny’s and I realised that I didn’t have enough money to eat if I wanted the money that I had left to last me tomorrow as well.
Paying for the tube on the first day and buying the Oyster Card on the second day had drained half of my money. I didn’t realise how much tube fare would cost me; I decided to starve and wait until we got back to the hostel.
After everyone else had finished their meal (and I was left there clutching my stomach because I was so hungry), we went to the square to do the vox pops. I asked an American couple what their favourite things about London was and they replied with how culturally diverse it is and that it seems to be constantly alive. They also made a joke about how London should have New York’s iconic phrase “The city that never sleeps”.
“You know what I love about London the most? How culturally brilliant it is and how, it doesn’t matter how many times you come here, you never get tired of it. There’s always something new around the corner that you haven’t discovered. And that’s why we travel all the way from Michigan every year to come here… THIS is the city that never sleeps…”
It was time to go to the Oxford Street Lush. Finally. The three – floored shop smelt delicious and I realised that I was in heaven; this is what I had been saving my money for. After the group spending about half an hour in the worlds biggest Lush store and me spending £20 (when I could have spent £50), I realised that I had enough money to go and get a panini from Costa. I ate the panini in what seemed like seconds, but my mood had been lifted and we went back to the hostel were all about to go to sleep when the fire alarm sounded again. This time at half ten at night.
The third and final day saw us get up at half seven in the morning to the wailing of another fire alarm. It was getting ridiculous. But we ploughed on through it and got ready for the day ahead of us.
The London News Centre where The Sun, The Wall Street Journal and many other papers are based was our first stop. Even though I’m not especially ardent about working for newspapers, the experience was interesting as we received a talk from a digital editor for The Wall Street Journal and I appreciated seeing behind the scenes on what it’s like to work for a publication.
The plan was to eat at Borough Market but because of the extortionate prices, we ended up having a Subway. It was just the four of us now since Amy had to go home. So I stepped up and took on the ‘mom’ role of getting us around London with my newfound aplomb.
After some deliberation, we planned our day. We were to go to Westminster and then Chelsea (since Laurianne and I were massive fans of the hit TV show ‘Made in Chelsea’).
We got off at Westminster and everywhere was cloistered. Coming out of the station, you could see the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben towering above you; you turned the corner and you saw the London Eye. If it was your first time to London, this was the place to be. After taking pictures of all the sights and taking a stupid amount of ridiculous group selfies, we thought it was time to go to Chelsea. That day was a day where we had a lot of free time to do whatever we wanted to do, but the free time seemed to be disappearing fast and we wanted to make the most out of the day.
Sloane Square was the next stop and Laurianne and I instantly fangirled as we saw things that had been in the show (yes, like that particular bench. Yes, we were sad enough to know that). We walked down all of the main streets until we hit the famous King’s Road. Even though I’ve been to Chelsea many times before – because I’ve made my parents take me – I still got a huge sense of excitement seeing all of the road signs and shops that appear in the show. It also made me happy to see that Laurianne was in her element and pictures were taken of all the streets that had the famous rows of pearly white houses and the jet black wrought iron gates.
We needed a well-deserved break and McDonald’s was calling out to us. After a good hour and a half of relaxing (and realising that even the people who worked in McDonald’s were insanely well-spoken), we went to walk up to Battersea Park but unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time as we had to head to Convent Garden to meet up with the other groups. So with the time that we had left, I decided to show Laurianne the Bluebird Café – where the cast of Made in Chelsea frequent.
Covent Garden is constantly alive. But at this point in the trip, I was feeling etiolated and the only thing that could make me happy was a long, relaxing rest. So we finished our trip in Starbucks, where we stayed for around two hours and where I drank my venti tea (you’re not allowed to say “large” in Starbucks). For two hours, I pored over different Pinterest boards. London had given me some inspiration for artsy things and had suddenly reignited my love for interior design and fashion.
It was late, it was pitch black and Stoke seemed like heaven in that moment in time. I just wanted to get home.
Waiting for the train back home seemed to drag and once we got on the train, we were counting down the minutes until we reached our destination. When we heard that our train was approaching Stoke On Trent, I wanted to cry. The trip had been great, it had been a laugh and a brilliant experience. Money had stressed me out to the max though (which was the nadir of the trip) and it worried me that I couldn’t feel my feet due to the amount of walking I had to endure.
But as I got back to university, my feet hurting or the fact that I’d spent £100 in three days didn’t matter anymore. I was just glad I was home and glad that I got to experience such an amazing opportunity with my classmates.