As a seasoned competition loser, I had little hope that, out of 300 people who participated in a Facebook competition post to win a trip to London, my friend Ryan and I would be selected. So when the DJ at Brit BOP interrupted “Wannabe” by Spice Girls to announce our names, we experienced a cacophony of emotions, from excitement to confusion in equal measure. Sponsored by VK, we had won a weekend trip to London including flights, hotel and a show.
Fast forward two months. During the final week of lectures, with semester one exams fast approaching, we decided to cash in our wee trip before being crushed under the pressure of exams. After making the arduous migration from St Andrews to Edinburgh Airport, we flew out to London and, enjoying our first taste of the London Underground, we made our way to Crowne Plaza London – Kings Cross. We were blown away by the luxurious rooms we’d be enjoying for the next two days with their plush beds and relaxing rain showers, a far cry from the student accommodation we’d been complaining about for three months.
Deciding to get into the festive spirit and experience London at Christmas, our first stop was Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Browsing through the unique handicrafts from across Europe, sampling the various local Christmas delicacies and enjoying the live music and fairground rides and attractions, was the perfect beginning to our trip to London.
The next morning, not exactly bright-eyed or bushy-tailed but definitely excited, we embarked on our tour of London’s traditional tourist attractions. Starting at the theatrical hub of London, Leicester Square, we explored the architecture of Trafalgar Square, witnessed the Changing of the Queen’s Life Guard on the Horse Guards Parade, and strolled past Downing Street where we navigated through climate change protesters.
The protests had caused the closure of roads, allowing us to get a good view of The Cenotaph and the Monument to the Women of World War II. We followed the protestors on their procession to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, where we passed by Big Ben (which was under renovation) and crossed Westminster Bridge to view the London Eye. Revelling in the street buskers and buzz of the heart of the city, we made our way to Buckingham Palace where we once again bumped into the protestors and stopped for souvenirs and coffee.
Our final stop of the day was Harrods, lit up in its Christmas glory, where we splurged on Christmas baubles and merchandise, overindulged on an Italian feast and explored the various sculptures and paintings available for sale.
As part of the competition, we also won tickets to watch the opening night of School of Rock at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. We were blown away by the cast of incredibly talented young actors who performed the musical numbers live, bringing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classics to life.
For our last day in London, the final destination on our list of tourist attractions was the Tower of London. We took advantage of the free Yeomen-led tour of the grounds, learning the rich history of the castle as a centre for power and monarchy for over 1,000 years. We also viewed an exhibition on the Crown Jewels and visited the prisons of leading historical figures such as Anne Boleyn.
Just before heading to the airport for our flight back to Edinburgh, we stopped by Oxford Street to indulge in some retail therapy. Strolling through various flagship stores and browsing the Black Friday sales, we also visited the iconic five-storey Selfridges store to enjoy the Christmas decorations and festivities.
Our whirlwind trip to London fittingly ended with a mad rush to the airport where we arrived only one hour before our flight was scheduled to take off. All in all, we impressively managed to see the majority of key attractions the city has to offer and also took advantage of our unique opportunity to experience London decked out for Christmas.