Innovative {London} Week

Ah, Innovative Learning Week. Five whole days dedicated to studying 'creatively' in non-traditional settings through workshops on cooking, yoga, and the arts, with no worries of lectures or tutorials. In reality, though, it's an opportunity for Edinburgh Uni students to ignore their essays, and pack a duffle to head home or jet off on an exciting vacation.

Me? Well, I indulged in the latter (along with two of my friends).

Since we couldn't bear the rain, wind, and cold of Edinburgh any longer, we thought that a holiday to somewhere warm was much needed.

Naturally, we decided on London which was- wait for it- a whole four degrees (Fahrenheit) warmer than Edinburgh! And an hour and a half and £38 later we were in (relatively) bright and sunny London.

Confession: I've never been to a hostel before. So I didn't exactly know what to expect. Except for that it might have been really awful, and we would've had weirdo roommates and absolutely no heating.
Luckily, that was not the case. Even though hostels are essentially hotels for poor students, it didn't feel like we were traveling on a budget. I didn't have any basis to compare it to, but I think the Walrus was a pretty upscale hostel for the value. Not to mention, the staff was incredibly accommodating and friendly.

I think the best part about staying in the hostel was the social aspect of it all. Most people staying there were students or a bit older, and since we had to share rooms, we had plenty of time to get to know other people. Plus, the bar at the hostel was a great place to socialize at night.    

Our first day was marked by tiredness. We arrived in the afternoon, and our first thought was to eat, of course. And then it happened: I brought my Canadian friend and my Scottish friend to Chipotle. A heavenly place where they had never been before. And they loved it. I mean, how could you not? 

After a very late lunch, we headed over to the National Portrait Gallery to soak in some culture. We gazed at portraits of Kings and Queens for a few hours before heading to see a movie (we were so tired that we needed to partake in a stagnant activity).

We had dinner at the British Establishment that is Wagamama. Nothing special, just some hearty, tasty Asian food to satisfy our stomachs. 

We ended our first night (and every night...) with a cocktail or two from the hostel's bar. They were absolutely delish, and less than a fiver! This mango one was my favorite.

Day two started out with a walk along the river Thames and up to the Tate modern art gallery. Since one of us is an art history major, and another one of us (aka me) takes it as an outside course, we had to hit up some museums while we were there. Modern art isn't exactly my thing, but I found it to be a really fun gallery with lots of though-provoking pieces. After walking through nearly all of the rooms and really getting a feel for modern art, I wanted one of these artsy posters from the gift shop for my wall. 

A rainy afternoon called for a hot drink in a cozy cafe. The Four Corners Cafe was right around the corner from our hostel, so it was the obvious choice for a nice mocha.


A long queue awaited us at our next stop, Franco Manca, a pizza place known for its addictive sourdough recipe. But a line out the door means it must be good, right? And good it was. Despite the limited menu, it was incredibly difficult to choose a pizza. I ended up ordering one with ham and mushrooms, and it was delightful. Adding on a bottle of white wine made for a pretty much perfect meal.     

Our final day was spent mostly at the Natural History Museum where we got to stand in a 30-minute long line with a bunch of elementary school kids. And it was so much fun. As we waited in line, we reminisced about our childhood- what we wore, what games we played, how often we cried- and soon enough we were inside. Unfortunately, the line to get into the dinosaur exhibit was far too long, so we stuck to learning about volcanoes and sustainability. 

A trip to London isn't complete without a proper tea! We visited the Mess at the Saatchi gallery to get our tea and scones fix on our last afternoon. I loved how two of the desserts were pink, and one was chocolate- that's definitely my kind of dessert.  

After a bit of shopping and a quick drink at a Canadian Bar, we were all craving Indian food. One of my friends quickly looked up the best and closest Indian restaurant on her phone, but once we got there the line was massive. So we headed to another place, called Masala Zone. The line there was also out the door but not nearly as long, so we decided to stick it out (as starving people in need of Indian food often do). And, man, was it worth the 20 minute wait. I swear, we've been raving about this meal for days it was that good. We had three types of curry, samosas, and peshwari naan. Oh, that naan. I don't exactly know what's in it, but it was the best bread I've ever had. Everything else was fantastic as well. 

Our final meal was definitely a high note to end a fabulous trip on.

Surely one of the best parts about living in the UK is the close proximity to other major cities in Europe. It was London this year, but who knows where I'll go next!   

P.S. Major shout out to my travel-writer mom who put together some suggestions for restaurants and things to do while we were in London! Mom obviously always knows best :) 

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