London On Par: I think I’m in Love!!!!!

I’ve heard it said before that when a guy looks for a potential wife, he tends to look for a girl that shares qualities similar to his mother. I don’t know statistics or anything, but I can understand the reasoning behind this. The familiarity that a person has with his mother’s positive qualities can easily translate into the qualities that are desired in a potential spouse.

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For me, it’s the same with world cities. I’ve been blessed to travel quite a bit around the world (mostly just Europe and the Caribbean, but you get the idea), but New York City has always been my favorite city every time. I have a fascination that comes with this American mega-city which has been hard to compare other cities with. That is, until I finished this past weekend.

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Joining New York City at the top of my list of my absolute favorite cities in the world is the city which once was the governing centerpiece to New York (as well as every other former colony): London, the capital city of the United Kingdom. I usually am excited about every city that I have ever been to—there is just amazing sites, people, places and culture found in every city, hence my love for everything–but London is one of the few cities that has given me a feeling of wonder, awe, and excitement months (years?) before I arrived, as well as a desire to return as quickly as possible after I left.

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I refuse to compare London to its counterpart that shares the top spot on my list. Attempting to compare London and New York City is unfair to both cities, is really hard to do first of all, and is simply unnecessary in my opinion. Both cities are simply incredible, yet should really be looked at individually.

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Instead, I like to compare exploring the city of London to playing a round of golf (such as on an English countryside course perhaps)…..I know it’s a stretch. I know it sounds a bit silly…just go with me on this one. Here are a few reasons why:

1. It takes a lot of patience.

For those of y’all like me, golf is a game that drains a lot of patience from what little I have in general. It’s the kind of sport that is meant for the individual, meaning that it involves a lot of ups and downs which test both the physical and mental aspects of the sport. It’s also the kind of sport that one cannot simply pick up on the fly and then be a professional at. It takes lots of practice, time, and hard work in order to really be great at it (or at least somewhat decent).

It’s no secret, really: London is kind of big. Or huge. Or gargantuan. It is one of the world’s colossal mega-cities for good reason. For those few that are used to such size, London might not be that hard. For everyone else, it will be quite an experience stepping out of a tube station for the first time…that is, if you manage to navigate the Tube correctly without smashing into hundreds of people. London is an environment that is not for the easily-stressed, so having a calm and relaxed mind is almost as necessary as it is to have pounds, not dollars. Once you get that, as well as remember that the English drive (and walk, fun fact) on the other side of the road than Americans (and pretty much everyone else), then the rest of the trip can be pretty smooth.

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2. It takes loads of discipline.

Even the greats of the PGA and LPGA have to have a distinct level of discipline to their game in order to make it to the top level. Rather than simply drive it long every single play, a good golfer knows his range, his ability, and the power of each club. Knowing when to go all out and when to hold off a little on the power and go in for a nice approach chip can make the difference between making the cut and leaving a tournament early. (See patience…that ties in as well).

London is not only big, it also has tons and tons of different sites to see, neighborhoods to explore, and experiences to take part in. If you’re like me and have only a weekend in London, a couple of things must happen: 1) You’ll have to come back (at least multiple times) because 2) you won’t be able to see everything, so it’s wisest to narrow down what you really want to see. London is big, plentiful, yet also pretty expensive, so it’s also best to discipline yourself so that you save as many quid as possible. Some of the sites are relatively the same (For instance, The London Eye, The Shard, Tower Bridge Exhibition, The Monument to the Great Fire of London, etc. all involve seeing the skyline…the skyline won’t change that much…maybe pick one or two of these). Another solid discipline is to realize that because of the size of the city, investing in public transportation probably is smart. The travelcards (or Oyster cards if you’re there for a longer period of time) are excellent ways of quickly getting around the expansive Underground system….I took five different trains and 22 different Underground subway rides. Knowing the most efficient and effective ways of seeing and getting around London contribute to making it a worthwhile experience.

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3. It’s always a lot more fun with company.

Aside from the competitive nature of the tournament level, golf can more or less be a solid social activity as well. Think of the possible outings with your boss to let some steam off, or rolling around in a golf cart with some buds while hitting some balls around—pure, casual, time-consuming fun that can also be a good use of a beautiful sunny day…especially if one of your pals is a member to a fancy golf club.

As is the case with any city, London is best seen among the company of others. Needless to say, when you know a local Londoner, it is much, much easier to experience the parts of a place that many tourist groups end up not going to. Experiences like eating with new friends in a local English pub in a small countryside village. No city light pollution, not much sound from the outside—just good, old-fashioned, cozy hanging out in a pure English setting. As I love doing in any city, experiencing a city through the eyes of a local make the trip way more wholesome to me.

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And when you’re blessed enough to have one of your best mates live in an area near such a city like London, it adds a ton of appeal for that city. I would still really enjoy London as a world city, but this added element pushes it way over the edge for me. It’s not so much a question of if I will make a return trip to London…it’s more ‘how quickly can I get on a plane back across the pond?’

-- Robby Veronesi, WSA Intern Fall 2013, DIS, Copenhagen


Mary Reagan, Saint Louis University

Happy Backpackers

The trip to Budapest was amazing! I did not know what to expect from Budapest because my roommate just told me to go with her so I was up for anything, but it ended up being one of my favorite trips so far of my study abroad experience. The hostel we stayed at gave us an excellent taste of the Budapest night life while Bogi took us to places that I definitely would not have been able to get to on my own or had known about if not for her WSA tour. It was a great weekend and I highly recommend it.

Mary Reagan, Saint Louis University ~ St. Louis University, Madrid, Spring 2015

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