#BFFsDoEurope Recap - Pt 1, LONDON {Travel with EF Ultimate Break}

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It's been a hot minute since I've updated this page. Between going back to school and working my life has been a hectic cycle of work sleep eat repeat for the past year or so.

BUT we had planned for a while to take a trip and expand on our #BFFsDo adventures - so I finished my summer job early, and boarded a plane to adventure!

We booked our trip with EF Ultimate Break because we were both just too busy to deal with the nitty gritty of booking hotels and finding things to do. We had both travelled with EF tours in high school and after looking at reviews from previous travellers decided that EF Ultimate Break would be the best for our post-grad adventure! Ultimate Break (previously EF College Break) caters to travellers 18-29 and hosts trips all over the world! We chose to do the London and Scotland Escape which covered London and Edinburgh with a day trip to the Scottish Highlands.

Because I was coming from Canada and the only departure point within Canada is Toronto, it was cheaper for me to book my own flights. I ended up booking a flight that arrived a day earlier than the rest of our group because it was way cheaper than the day after. Thankfully, EF makes it super easy to make your trip longer by going early or staying late - all you need to do is make the change through your online profile.

SO, we boarded planes in two different cities and met up in LONDON!

Back in 2011, I had a brief layover in London and fell in LOVE with the city - and vowed I would be back. We arrived in London with no real plan of what we wanted to see or do - except that we wanted to see everything and do as much as we could in a short period of time.

An overnight flight later, I made it though passport control, onto the Gatwick Express train to Victoria station, and then navigated my way through the London Underground. We ended up booking this hostel, which we didn't know at the time, but was only a twenty minute walk from the hotel we would be staying at with the group.

After dropping our bags off at the hostel (we arrived at around 10am and check in wasn't until 2pm), we ventured back to the underground station and headed to the city centre in search of coffee. After stopping for a latte, we walked around for hours just taking in the fact that we were 1) TOGETHER after two years of being apart and 2) In LONDON, a place we had talked about visiting for so many years. We walked along the River Thames, saw Shakespeare's Globe, the "Harry Potter" (aka Millennium) Bridge, and thought our legs were going to fall off.

Eventually, we found something to eat (Five Guys Burgers and Fries - a super european meal of course) and headed back to the hostel to check in. Karima napped, I edited and posted some photos while catching up on social media and talking to my fiance and family, and then we were ready for some more food (Jetlag will do that to you). We had the brilliant idea to walk to the hotel where we would be staying for the rest of our time in London to see if we could do it with our luggage or if we would need to get a cab (because adding another couple thousand steps to our day couldn't hurt). We ended up walking to the hotel and grabbing some food from a grocery store next to the hotel before heading back. By the time we got back, ate dinner, and rested our legs it was time for bed! We had an early-ish rise the next morning and desperately needed to catch up on our sleep.

The next morning we got up for free breakfast at the hostel (toast, croissants, juice, and - most importantly - coffee), and headed out on our next journey. We met our tour guide and went to grab coffee while we waited for our check-in time. In hindsight, I would totally recommend going a day early to ease yourself into the new time zones and give yourself time to adjust. We were ready to go for our first day while the rest of our group was exhausted and just ready for bed.

We finally checked into the hotel, dropped our things, and met with our group. Our guide gave us preloaded Oyster cards, went over some housekeeping and details for our trip, and we headed out to our welcome mixer!

 We went to a pub and had drinks and appetizers, and got to know some of our fellow travellers. We then headed to Kings Cross station and saw Platform 9 and 3/4 - and the huge lineup that went along with it. We opted not to stand in the line with the hope that we might be able to do it at a later time...which we DID end up getting to do with a minimal wait (more on that in a bit!)! We found burritos for dinner (because we're always down to eat!) and headed back to the hotel.

Monday was an early rise as we were doing a group bus and walking tour of the highlights of London! We had a local guide who was so much fun and gave us great tips for our free time. We saw all of the "photo ops" that you want to see in London and ended our tour at Buckingham palace just in time for the changing of the guard.

After the tour, while the rest of the group ventured off in search of history and art we did what we do best - shopping! We headed to Camden Market to go souvenir shopping, then headed to Oxford Street! At this point we had walked tens of thousands of steps in just a few days, and the shoes that I had though would be really comfortable and last me the entire trip caught on fire and were made of shards of glass. That was fun. So we went on the search for a pair of shoes that a) were comfortable and b) matched my outfit. It was rough. I am honestly surprised that Karima didn't just abandon me in the middle of Oxford Street to limp home. But she didn't #friendgoals. We finally made it to the one store I had wanted to go to while in London - Primark! We were seriously like kids in a candy store and spent way too much money.

Another highlight of this day was visiting the first Twining tea store in London! It was super cute and little and we almost missed it. But for two tea lovers, it was a super cool experience. They offer tea blending classes and other cool demonstrations - which is on our list for next time!

That night we walked down the Shard to do one of the things on my bucket list - a West End theatre production! We ended up seeing Kinky Boots - which was not either of our first choice, but ended up being a great musical with a great soundtrack that we listened to for the rest of the trip!

 Tuesday was our last full day in London :( We had the morning free and we headed BACK to Primark on Oxford Street because there were a few things we wanted to look at again. After dropping our bags back at the hotel, we headed to meet part of our group for a walking tour of "Alternative London". We were back with the same guide as the previous day, and we went outside of the royal mile of "old" London and explored how what once was on the outskirts and undesirable have become mainstream in the cycle of the city. We saw some wild street art and ended the tour with fish and chips (mushy peas and chips for me!).

In an effort to hold on to every moment we could of our London adventure, we stayed out late near Piccadilly Circus (not an actual circus, disappointingly) and visited the Lego store before doing some last minute shopping. 

 On Wednesday we had another early rise - this time it was because we were heading to Kings Cross Station to catch our train to Edinburgh! We got to the train station around 8am and there was NO LINE at Platform 9 and 3/4!! We were so stoked half of our group basically ran (with all of our luggage in tow) to queue up. We got some great pictures and were just generally super nerdy and excited to be actually getting a train from Kings Cross so close to September 1st.

We finally boarded our train to Edinburgh and settled into our seats for a four hour ride to the next leg of our journey. But, this post is getting ridiculously long, so that's another tale for another post!