MY TOP 5: LONDON EDITION

Oh, I love London Society! It has immensely improved. It is entirely composed now of beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics. Just what Society should be.

– Oscar Wilde

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South Bank

Nothing says quintessential London like the view you get from South Bank. Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the Thames… This is London. South Bank itself is vibrant and lively, and quite a change of pace from the northern bank of the river. We went for a walk along the bank at dusk and watched the city come alive before I very happily took my “London” shot. If there’s one photo you need to share from your visit to London, this is it.

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Shakespeare’s Globe

Ok, so this isn’t the actual Globe Theatre used by Shakespeare; that got closed down and demolished by the Puritans in 1642 because the theatre is, of course, evil. However, the theatre that has been built to replace it was made in the exact style and with the same materials that would have been used on the original, all the way up to the thatched roof. It’s incredible. I was fortunate enough to see The Changeling in the indoor playhouse (plays don’t run in the outdoor theatre in winter). The playhouse is, again, as authentic as the original indoor theatre, and lit only by candlelight. As a drama student, this was absolutely amazing. Life can only go downhill from here.

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Westminster Abbey

Although the Abbey is impressive and vast and grand and beautiful, Westminster actually made it on my list because of the southern transept, dubbed the Poet’s Corner. This is exactly what it sounds like. Here rest some of the greatest literary figures to have walked the earth: everyone from Geoffrey Chaucer to Charles Dickens. Even Lawrence Olivier somehow slipped in!

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Museums

In truth, I only went to two of London’s museums, but I loved them both so much that I couldn’t leave them off the list! London’s Natural History Museum is hands-down the best natural history museum I’ve ever been to. It will take you through the earth’s 4.5 billion year history, explaining how things happen, why things happen, and what things will happen in the future. It’s got animals, it’s got ecosystems, it’s got astronomy. It’s got everything. If cultural history is more your thing, the Museum of London takes you through the city’s history, from prehistory, through Roman occupation, to the Medieval and Renaissance periods, and all the way up to modern 21st-century history. And the best thing about the museums in London: they’re free!

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Harry Potter Studio Tour

I had one of the best days of my life at the Harry Potter Studio Tour. This is where the magic happens. The sets, costumes, props, production artwork, everything that went into making the Harry Potter films – it’s all here. It’s all real. It’s right in front of you. Everything from the Great Hall, to Diagon Alley, to Dumbledore’s office, to the classrooms, to the wands, even Dobby! The tour finishes off with the Hogwarts model that was used for all the outdoor shots of the school, and it’s simply breathtaking. You can fly a broomstick on the green-screen. You can drink butter beer. You can buy wands, the Nimbus 2000 and 2001, robes, and scarves in every colour from Gryffindor to Slytherin. You go behind the scenes in a way that no DVD bonus features can take you. It’s literally the most magical place on earth.

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IN FAIR VERONA

I’ve had a love affair with Verona from about the age of 11, when I first discovered the glorious specimen that is Leonardo DiCaprio. Though I didn’t understand a word of Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation at that time, the appeal of the star-crossed lovers was enough to romanticise fair Verona.

Fast-forward three years and I was studying Shakespeare’s tragedy at school. I still question the judgement of whoever thought it was a good idea to give 14-year-olds a story about kids falling in love after an hour, getting married the next day, and killing themselves after a series of extremely frustrating twists of fate. Not to mention our school’s attempted censorship of the sex scene in Zeffirelli’s 1968 adaptation starring Olivia Hussey and the Zac Efron lookalike.

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If I had to pick one word to describe Verona it would be magical. The city still carries it’s Shakespearian charm, and tributes to Romeo and Juliet are everywhere. The old city walls bear a plaque famously quoting that “There is no world without Verona walls, but purgatory, torture, hell itself”. And busts of Shakespeare. Everywhere.

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Although I’m about as far away from the lovelorn tourist as you can get, you absolutely cannot go to Verona and not go to Juliet’s house, Casa di Giulietta. Let me preface this by saying that Juliet probably didn’t live here; yes, the Shakespearian tragedy is fictional. However, the house did belong to the Cappelletti family, whom the story is likely to have been based upon. Despite the extremely distant connections, tourists flock here to post their letters to Juliet on the walls in the courtyard, and to stand on her balcony and await their Romeo. So we did. When in Verona, right?

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But Verona isn’t just a pilgrimage site for romantics. Any history nerd will feel right at home, with remnants dating back to the Roman Empire. The Veronese Arena is at the centre of the city, and still hosts entertainment for its citizens. Sure, it’s not the bloodbaths of ancient Rome, but if you don’t mind more sedated events like live music… If not, you can tour around the arena by day like we did, all the way from being spectator in the top tier to walking through the archway to begin a glorious and bloody fight to the death.

And just a side note on why Verona will forever by one of my favourite cities: vegetarian heaven. I’ve never seen so much vegetarian and vegan food in my life! As a vegetarian in Italy, I’m usually limited to pastas and pizzas (not complaining), but it to have vegan food that was based solely on vegetables and legumes… Freaking amazing. And you know how everything tastes better in Italy? Vegan food does too.