Ghost Town London

The walk along the Thames was so nice and encouraged us, that we can still have the opportunity to occasionally go out and have some fun. Therefore, we did another day trip, but this time to the city centre. Yes, you heard right. We were just super curious to see how it’s like, if there were many people, lots of security or police, and so on. Elina was visiting a friend in Hyde Park. Therefore, Ilya and I decided to go on our own. 

We took the bus to the city and hopped off at Hyde Park corner. There were actually more people than I expected. However, compared to the regular times in London, it wasn’t busy at all. To that time, there were obviously mostly locals going for a run and cycling around. So many cyclists! You can’t even imagine. Anyway! The first thing catching your eye when arriving at Hyde Park corner is Wellington Arch. It stands just pretty random there, but definitely looks cool. I felt kind of awkward when I tried to take a picture with my camera, because there weren’t any tourists around doing so. And honestly, considering the circumstances at that time, it didn’t feel so right to behave like a tourist. I mean, you weren’t even really allowed to go out. Therefore, I tried not to take a picture of every single little thing I was walking by, especially not if security or police was around. And that strategy worked perfectly, I have to admit. We walked through Wellington Arch and the following alley before we reached Buckingham Palace. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so empty over there. Otherwise, everything seemed quite normal. The guards were standing there and changing position as usual. 

From Buckingham Palace, we walked through St. James’s Park. It’s quite a small area. However, you can still find there a pond and animals you wouldn’t expect to find in a British park. We actually saw some pelicans! Most importantly, I enjoy walking through St. James’s Park, because it connects Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. The location is just perfect. It creates a completely different atmosphere and gives you the feeling of being in nature, although you are in the city centre of London. Around Westminster Abbey, tourists are usually lining up to take a picture with a red telephone cell. It is funny that England is associated with red telephone cells and red busses. Who on earth is using a telephone cell nowadays? No one! They are not used at all but work perfectly as a tourist attraction. Because this time, no one was lining up, I just had to take a picture as a stereotypical memory. Big Ben was still under construction. 

And then, we already reached the Thames. I really like cities on the water, whether it be on a lake, a river or the sea. It gives a nice atmosphere, creates a beautiful scenery and just connects everything. Furthermore, it is much easier to orientate yourself. For London, I have the attractions in mind, depending on where they are located on the river. First comes Big Ben, then London Eye, St. Pauls Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, Tate Modern, Borough Market, London Bridge, Tower Bridge and so on. And that’s almost the way we followed. We already saw London Eye when we walked by Big Ben. Honestly, I do not know why London Eye is considered as such a big attraction. It’s just a Ferris wheel! But well. Still cool, somehow. On our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral, we came by a little courtyard where we made a break, luxury hotels such as the Savoy, a couple of statues, interesting buildings and small parks. It was so sad seeing businesses, especially hotels and restaurants, closed. They really had and still have a hard time. But let’s look at the positive sides. We really enjoyed walking on the river promenade.

Good timing! Then when we arrived at St. Paul’s Cathedral, we both felt like eating lunch. We ordered some Poke Bowls online. They got delivered within 15 minutes. However, first I received the wrong order. It was really funny. I went to the driver, told him my name, but received Chinese take away. Luckily, I noticed the mix up before he was gone. A couple of minutes later, another girl came asking for her delivery. And guess what, she was also called “Anna”. Too funny! My delivery guy was just standing a few metres next to us! Unluckily, we forgot to order cutleries. Haha Ilya literally wanted us to eat the bowl with our hands! But no way! We didn’t even bring hand sanitizer with us. Therefore, we ordered some spring rolls and dumplings at a Chinese restaurant nearby, where we just walked by to pick the food up. And here we had our chopsticks. It was quite cool sitting on the gras, in the sun, right next to the huge cathedral. Quite a unique experience, I have to say. 

Already at that time, I was trying to search a bathroom. But no chance! Restaurants and shops were closed, public toilets locked and even those disgusting toilet boxes were closed. Argh! It was a struggle. But I was convinced I could make it. Haha! As we couldn’t find a bathroom, we continued our journey. We walked across Millennium bridge, walked along the river, came by London Bridge and continues walking until we reached Tower Bridge. Omg! There were so many people just sitting tight on tight on a tiny grass place, drinking beer, chatting and eating. Without mask or anything! I was shocked. How can that be allowed? We walked by with the biggest distance possible. When we crossed Tower Bridge, we saw quite a few police officers. It didn’t seem like they did care at all about the behaviour of people. Insane! 

And that’s the time when Ilya decided that he wants to try Bubble Tea for the first time. I still haven’t found a toilet. Therefore, drinking a big cup of tea might have not been the best thing to do. But I just had to! Especially because the Bubble Tea shop was the only business around that was open. Also, we haven’t drank much the entire day! The Bubble Tea was yummy, and it was so funny to see his reaction when chewing on the boba. Not sure if it’s going to be his favourite on earth. But I guess, you always have to give things a try.

We finished our drinks at the Tower of London. Afterwards, we headed straight to the subway. We felt like we were in a ghost town. No people at all! We were the only ones! Crazy! And kind of creepy. Unfortunately, we had to change tube one time. I really really had to pee. It was so bad. Kind of embarrassing to write about it.  But I mean, it was how it was. Terrible! When we were waiting for the next tube, which of course was delayed, I just couldn’t anymore. I had to call an Uber! I even asked the security if they could open the toilets at the subway. But no, they didn’t even think about it! The Uber drive back was one of the most exhausting, painful and funniest drives I’ve experienced. Ilya tried to give me moral support. Looking back, it was too funny! He is still reminding me of that situation all the time. Well! Luckily, I can report that we both made it safe and dry back to campus! It was already 6pm. I don’t think he ever seen me running that fast to my dorm!

So, what do we learn from that day? You can go to city during lockdown and have an amazing day. However, don’t drink 1 litre water at breakfast, eat lunch and drink bubble tea when you know that you will not find a bathroom for 8 hours! Overall, I absolutely enjoyed that sunny day in London with Ilya. We saw the beautiful city without big crowds of tourists, had delicious food and good talks. I wished I could fly back immediately. Sooner or later, I will! 

Lockdown in London

And then everything changed so quickly!

We had some more regular classes on campus. But already then, we shouldn’t leave campus. The biggest trip was going to the gym or to the supermarket. But even that changed. We’ve been only a little longer than one month in London, when our school decided to close and move to remote learning. It was a strange and kind of sad situation. We just got to know each other and got used to the new campus. And now? Everything should be over already? I wasn’t ready to leave London just yet. I just came!

At the beginning, our school suggested us to stay on campus, as travelling wasn’t that safe. But at the end, almost everyone went back to their families. At least when they were able to. Some students earlier, some students later, some students not at all. It was so sad seeing everyone leaving again, considering that we didn’t know if or when we will see each other again. I decided to stay on campus for a while, as it was to that time still very easy to catch a flight back to Germany. I had always the possibility to go back. My friends from China for example had much bigger issues. They wanted to go back home. However, finding a flight that doesn’t cancel last minute and isn’t 1000 times more expensive than usual was almost impossible. Well… and so it started: lockdown in London. 

On March 20, we had our first online class. It was actually quite funny to have a meeting with all my colleagues from all over the world. They were students online from China, Taiwan, Russia, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Italy, France, Germany, Norway, the USA, from literally everywhere. Obviously, the time difference didn’t make remote learning so easy. But surprisingly, we managed it quite well. It was just a complete switch to our usual class environment with plenty of group work and presentations. Now, it was so important to force yourself attending the classes and organize tasks and work we had to do. I just followed my usual weekly plan. Therefore, I was as busy as before with attending classes, studying and doing projects. It was definitely more exhausting to work on group projects through “Teams”. We often called each other for 6 hours in a row, eating dinner for an hour and then calling us again until 2am in the morning to finish a report. Tuff times! But somehow, we made it. 

In our free time and especially Easter break, we played games, such as UNO, Monopoly and Jenga together. We either played in the kitchen, in the sofa area or outside on the grass. It was super cool having an inner courtyard on campus. You have no idea how often we played. At the end, we were really sick about playing UNO or Monopoly, that we had to find some other ways to keep us entertained. Movie nights were always an option. But we also tried to attempt a puzzle. But seriously, that was just impossible to finish! And I even learned how to play Mahjong, a Chinese game. At the beginning I thought I would never be able to understand that game, just considering the Chinese characters on the game pieces. But it looked harder than it actually was. It was so much fun. I wished I could still play it at home. 

Moreover, one of our most common activities was going to Richmond park. The park was just a 10 min walk from campus away. Not only is Richmond park incredibly huge, but also really beautiful. You could walk there for hours and always discover something you haven’t seen before. We especially liked spotting dears and other wild animals. I can’t really call it “spotting”, as they were randomly standing around all over the park. And besides dears, you have no idea how many squirrels were living around Roehampton. It wasn’t even a surprise anymore seeing one. When I looked out of my window, I could be sure to see minimum 5 squirrels. Even when I went to the kitchen, it was no surprise anymore seeing one sitting next to the window or in the trash. Whatever. Let’s stay in Richmond Park for now. Elle pushed me to come running with her several times. At the beginning it was so exhausting! However, I started liking it. It was so good to get some fresh air and do some sports. Otherwise, I was just sitting all day long on my laptop. It was even more fun when we were a couple of girls running together and doing a little workout on campus. 

If you haven’t noticed yet, the weather was incredible. Most of the time! Unlike the stereotypical English weather, it was so sunny and warm. During spring, all flowers began to bloom, which reminded me of the cherry blossom season in Japan last year. Incredible. Just sad, that we couldn’t use that weather to do some more trips. But we tried to make the most out of it. We chilled together outside, made a small picknick and went to the park at Richmond University to visit and feed the ducks and geese.

One of the biggest issues for guys during the lockdown period was the unavailability of hairdressers. It was just so funny to see how they all got so long hair. One friend couldn’t stand his long hair anymore. So, he asked me and Elle to give our best and cut his hair. Wow! He really trusted us. And who knew that it is so much harder to cut guys hair compared to girl’s hair. Lord! We struggled hard. But at the end, he was actually happy with the result! What a relief!

And besides going to the supermarket, the Korean market, doing laundry, watching netflix and cleaning my room, the biggest part during quarantine was the food. We cooked and baked so much, celebrated birthdays and Eastern. When I was with my Chinese friends, we had the most incredible dinners ever. They do not just cook one meal for every person. No! There are hundreds of different dishes spread out at the table. And then, everyone shares everything! It was so cool. We ate dumplings, Hot Pot, seafood, fish, noodles, tofu, spicy rice cake, curry, veggies and more. I had the opportunity to try so many things I have never even seen or heard of. For the Russian Easter party, we had some typical Russian food and pastries. I baked some chocolate chip cookies. Haha, I had to give them all the recipe and bake the cookies again and again because they were so delicious. On a daily basis, I tried to cook as diverse as possible. I cooked curries, pasta, salads, stews, noodles and so on. 

And that was basically it. Sleep, study, eat, repeat! As boring as it sounds, that’s how we lived for at least a month or two. But then, we just had to get out for another trip! Stay tuned!