After a week full of orientation, four hour classes and jet lag, I have finally begun to settle in to my cramped quad in The Crofton. The quarters are tight, but I’d live with four more girls if it meant I could remain in South Kensington, just a few minutes away from Hyde Park.
The first full week of classes was also my birthday week! I used to celebrate for seven days when I was younger but this year, I settled for half of that. My actual birthday was on Thursday and I turned 21. This is an exciting age if you’re in America, but the legal drinking age in London is 18, meaning I was legal when I was still in high school. While the age didn’t matter much, it was still a great birthday week.
The festivities began on Wednesday, January 22nd. I have morning class on Wednesdays and Thursdays, which I much prefer because we are let out at 1:00, leaving the whole afternoon open for exploration. My boyfriend, Dariy, and I made lunch after class and then wandered through one of the museums conveniently located down the street from our dorms. The Victoria and Albert Museum is the world’s largest museum of art and design, and like all museums in London, it’s free! Currently, the Tim Walker exhibit is showing for about £15 per ticket. We were hoping to go, but it was sold out. However, the museum is so extensive that we didn’t even get to see the whole thing before it closed at 5:00 pm. I’m happy we didn’t see everything, because it’s just an excuse to go back and hopefully get tickets for Tim Walker’s exhibit. Plus the gift shop has eclectic jewelry, and I have a weak spot for funky earrings.
After the V&A, we walked around the corner to a Lebanese restaurant that I had been dying to try since we got to London, Comptoir Libanais… or as I call it, Computer Librarian. It looks kind of like it spells “computer librarian,” right? Anyway, I wanted to try something outside of my comfort zone, and I ended up not liking it. I got a tagine, which is a slow cooked stew. Mine contained lamb meatballs, quinoa, tomatoes and a mint yogurt sauce. It sounded really good, but I just didn’t like it. Dariy had a chicken sandwich and was satisfied. We also got a pitcher of roomana, which is vodka, pomegranate and orange blossom. Dariy liked this, but yet again, I was not happy with it. I definitely want to go back and try ordering something safer, because I know the food is good — I’m just a picky eater. I was also bothered by two homeless men during dinner (we ate outside). Dariy and I grabbed gelato next door and headed home for the night. Gelato was a bold choice, because it was around 40 degrees outside.
My actual birthday, Thursday, was surprisingly one of the most laid back days of the week. Most of my friends have morning classes and Dariy had a field trip until 5:00pm. Luckily one of my friends, Divya, had a free afternoon. She was leaving for Budapest that night and wanted to take me to tea before she left. She was running on a rather tight schedule, so we decided to just do a quick tea near The Crofton and not the extravagant and expensive high tea that London is known for. We went to a place called Fait Maison. We ordered tea, halloumi and french fries — not exactly a posh tea, but nonetheless delicious. For dessert, I ordered a large macaroon and it was the best pastry I’ve ever had. It’s three times the size of a regular macaroon, and it was filled with raspberries and buttercream frosting (my mouth is watering as I write this).
After tea, I took a nap — not exciting, but it is the truth. Dariy woke me up after his field trip with a chocolate bar and a sweet card. Shortly, after this my friends got home from class and gave me a little birthday present: earrings from the V&A! They also grabbed me two huge meringues from Whole Foods. Like the funky earrings, I have a weak spot for oversized pastries! Another friend of mine also stopped by to bring me a bottle of rosé and some chocolates, and then we all headed out for dinner.
It was hard for me to find a place that took reservations for eight people (and I started looking on Tuesday!), but eventually, I found a relatively affordable spot within walking distance. We walked to Bill’s on High Street and it was pretty tasty! They had a separate gluten-free menu (I forgot to mention, I’m allergic to gluten), which was really nice for me. The ambience was very bohemian and trendy. I can’t remember what everyone got, but there were no complaints. I had pan-fried chicken with mushrooms and mashed potatoes, and I devoured it. I also ordered the sparkling blackberry Negroni, which was way stronger than I had anticipated. All in all, it was delicious and I think my portion was around £26. Instead of hitting a club after, I went home. I had to prepare for my EUSA internship placement interview, which was the next day.
The celebration had to stop for a few hours on Friday, so I could interview with Guinness World Record. My commute is almost an hour and the interview was at noon, so my birthday was put on pause until 2:00pm. The interview went pretty well and I have been confirmed for the position since then.
I got back to The Crofton and changed into more casual clothing. My two best friends from home (Stamford, CT) are studying abroad in Florence this semester, and flew to London to spend my birthday weekend with me. They arrived and we wasted no time going out for lunch. We went to Muriel’s Kitchen in South Kensington. It is a cute and cozy spot with light decor and hearty eats. I got a buddha bowl with avocado, egg, quinoa and tomatoes. We stayed there for far too long to catch up, and then I brought them back to my dorm to give them a tour. We hung out for a bit and planned what the rest of our weekend would look like. Time was flying by and it was already getting close to dinner time. We bought tickets to go to a bar called Ballie Ballerson (the name makes me cringe) around 9:00 pm, so we just grabbed sandwiches at Partridges, a high end grocery/corner store nearby, for dinner.
Ballie Ballerson is a bar with a huge ball pit. We were not sure if it would be fun or corny, but we ended up having a great time. Two of my best friends/roommates from BU also joined us and the five of us really enjoyed the experience. I also ordered a cool drink that comes with a little pill and directions. “First, take a sip of the extremely sour drink, then chew the pill and try your drink again — it’s sweet now.” It was a pill that changed my taste buds, so no matter what I consumed, it tasted sweet for a short period of time. We left the bar and walked to a Luxx, a club where we had a club promoter waiting to let us in. We hated it here. The promoters were creepy, the music was bad and we honestly just felt very uncomfortable. We left and ended up in bed by midnight. This sounds lame for a 21st birthday party, but we were more than happy to knock out, knowing we had a jam-packed day coming.
Saturday was the only full day my friends had in London, so we had to make it count. We woke up early and got coffee and a light breakfast before hopping on the Tube to go to Buckingham Palace. One of my friends was convinced the guards changed at 11 and made us wait it out for about an hour. However, she had the day wrong and the guards were not changing. Despite being freezing cold and a bit annoyed that we stood outside the palace for nothing, we pushed on. We walked through St. James Park and then toward Westminster Abbey. After that, we walked for a while until we reached the London Eye. My friends were dying to go on it, but I couldn’t justify going on a ferris wheel for £44. They paid for VIP and had champagne at the top. They say it was worth it, so I might end up doing it after all.
We were ravenous after all the walking we had done, so we took the Tube to The Alchemist. The drinks are so extravagant here! Most of them revolve around dry ice, so they smoke a lot and the bartenders pour various spirits into test tubes and beakers. It’s fun! We ate here and recharged before hopping back on the Tube and going to Camden Market. This is a huge street fair. It’s like a mix of Notting Hill and Borough Market — half antique/clothing and half food. We wandered around and had a good time walking near the canal and sifting through vintage clothing. We grabbed a bite in the food market and then headed home as the sun started to set.
It was almost dinner time, but we were pretty stuffed and very exhausted. I really wanted the girls to have some tea before leaving London, so I brought them to the place I went to on Thursday for a quick cup of tea. I also got to order that macaroon I had on my birthday again, which was half the reason I insisted on getting tea, if I’m being honest. We rested for a bit but then regrouped around 10:00 pm to go out. All my friends at BU joined us and we went to a bar called The Roxy. This is my favorite spot in London so far because it’s not as formal or pricey as a club, but it’s not as laid back as a pub. Everyone is dancing and the crowd is our age. They really liked it, but we headed home early because they had a very early flight.
My birthday weekend was over on Sunday. My friends from home had flown back to Florence and I was exhausted. I finished my weekend by writing a paper for class in bed. It was a great weekend and I had an excuse to do super touristy stuff with my best friends. I am so grateful for my friends both at BU and from home for making my birthday so fun, and I’m so happy I am here in London, not only for my birthday, but for the next three months. I can’t wait to write more about my time abroad!
Maia Luders, Study Abroad Correspondent
Maia Luders is a junior in the College of Communications studying Film and Public Relations. Maia also has a focus in English and enjoys reading and writing. She is currently studying abroad in London, England and interning for Guinness World Records as a Public Relations assistant. Maia is excited to travel and experience Europe for the first time.