Travels in London: Part One

Hello everyone,

Now that appropriate introductions have been made, I am going to recount the experience which inspired me to see as many places and experience as many cultures as possible. It may consist of several parts, but please bear with me.

It started in January 2014. I was walking the halls of my university campus when I came across a flyer advertising a summer study abroad course in London. At the time, I was your average university student with barely two cents in their pocket. I thought that there was no way I would be able to afford a trip to London, and yet after experiencing an incredibly devastating family tragedy that winter I was determined to find a way.  I was not about to let that year be defined by tragedy. Rather, I would change the trajectory that the year was seemed so determined to take.  So with that in mind and barely enough money to cover the deposit, I applied.

The course studied British literature and art, and how the city was represented through these mediums.  By seeing London through this scope, it was not merely a visit to see the monuments of London but rather it was an experience of  the culture and history of London.  Whereas one might easily overlook London as another big city, it is so much more than that.  With that said, this is where the fun begins. I will take you through what I learned and the things I loved about this great city so that you may love it just as much.

The first thing I loved about London was how ethnically diverse it was. Many media portrayals of the United Kingdom will have you thinking that London is far from ethnically diverse.  However, that is the furthest thing from the truth. This diversity was evident in the plethora of food options available to me ranging from Middle Eastern, Chinese, Bangladeshi, Spanish, Italian, etc. This diversity of food options did more than just satisfy my palate, it also made me reflect on the struggle immigrants faced and continue to face to be recognized as truly “British”.

And so, comes my first suggestion. If you are in London, do yourself a favour and visit the art galleries and museums that London has to offer.  In doing so, you will begin to familiarize yourself with London’s history and culture while also learning about other cultures in the process. London for being an incredibly expensive city to visit, has some perks. First and foremost, many of the museums are free. Now, if you have a few extra pounds to spare please consider putting a donation in the donation boxes to keep the museums free. Some of the museums/galleries I visited while in London include the following:

Victoria & Albert Museum

First and foremost, The V&A  is absolutely massive. It houses photography, sculptures, ironwork, ceramics, theater galleries, and paintings amidst many other things. If you wish to learn about Britain, please kindly visit the Britain collections which are identified on the map of the museum and the Modern collections to learn about Britain. Now,  A visit to the V&A is incomplete without the Theatre and Performance collections. These collections portray the history of the performing arts in the U.K. The costumes on display are absolutely stunning and should not be missed. I could go on about the Victoria & Albert Museum but I will leave you to discover the other gems in the museum.

My apologies for the quality, it was 2014 here. My camera was not up to the times. 

Tate Modern

Now when I was in London in 2014 I did not get a chance to visit the Tate Modern, however over three years later I finally made the visit and man had I been missing out! This gallery is free as well and there are many great exhibits by British artists, and many more pieces by international artists. The Tate houses mixed media pieces along with paintings, tapestry, sculptures, etc. Guiltily, I have to admit that some of my favourite pieces were foreign born artists including Salvador Dali, Cildo Meireles, and Ibrahim El-Salahi. Below are some of the images from my recent visit:

Cildo Meireles- Babel 

Ibrahim El Salahi’s “Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams”
Salvador Dali’s “Metamorphosis of Narcissus” 

The piece that had the biggest impact on me was Cildo Meireles piece. This grand tower is a collection of vintage and modern radios ranging in size all tuned in to different radio stations. The chaotic noise that is produced aims to address modern day’s society failure at communication and the information overload presented to us. This dizzying chaotic display of noise and lights serves as a reminder for us to unplug and notice the world around us. While technology does offer its advantages such as my ability to share this information with you , it has also led to people isolating themselves by living their lives behind that same computer screen.

Final Thoughts

It is with this that I conclude my post on London’s great galleries and museums. Other notable places worth visiting include The British Museum and Whitechapel Gallery. The British Museum is worth visiting just to see the Rosetta Stone alone and the beautiful Egyptian artifacts housed in the museum. On the other hand, the Whitechapel Gallery is constantly hosting different exhibitions worth viewing. During my 2014 visit, Stephen Willats’ “Concerning our Present Way of Living” was one of these exhibitions and portrayed communities that were often ignored such as public housing estates residents and dockworkers. Although it is no longer exhibiting at the Whitechapel Gallery, it is worth researching what is currently exhibiting at the gallery. I hope I have provided you guys with some valuable information about London’s museums and galleries. Please stay tuned for Part Two where I will be discussing London’s theatre scene and what I liked most about each theatre I visited.


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