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A Free Day

We didn’t learn too much about the technical aspects of European communication on Saturday, May 28th. Instead we were left our own devices, able to discover London in whichever way we wanted to and learn about the culture from first-hand experiences.

Daphne in front of Buckingham Palace

I was in a smaller group within the 20 of us, and since this was the only day we had free around 11:00 a.m., seven of us took the tube to Buckingham Palace in hopes of catching the famous ‘Changing of the Guard.’ Naturally, on the one day we were able to make it there at the correct time, there was no true changing of the guard. Instead, the guards and Household Calvary were practicing for “Trooping the Colour.” This is an event in which the Queen’s birthday is celebrated, annually, on the second Saturday in June. Even though the Queen’s birthday is in December, she prefers the warmer temperatures in June, and always requests that Spring month be the celebration for her.

Our view of the Trooping the Colour Ceremony (practice) for the Queen's Birthday that would occur in the next few weeks

The Trooping the Colour ceremony has been a tradition of the British infantry since the 17th century, and like the Changing of the Guard, has many Foot Guards and Horse Guards all marching (or in the Horse Guard’s case – trotting), and playing instruments down the road lined with British flags directly leading to Buckingham Palace. This ceremony is also known as “The Queen’s Birthday Parade.”

Big Ben and the London Eye on an overcast day

After watching the ceremony, we wandered along in St. James park, taking in the sites of nature as well as the Horse Guard on the way. We fast approached the Parliament Square area, where Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and Parliament all reside. We stopped to take millions of pictures along the way, enjoying the atmosphere. Again the weather was a little chilly and overcast. People were everywhere – both locals and tourists like us.

Our hungry stomachs were getting the best of us by this point, and we all agreed on finding a pub for a late lunch. We settled on one – finally, after three or four tries and witnessing a Syrian protest. What I loved most about the pubs in London was that you paid for your meal before receiving it, so when we were done eating we were able to leave right away.

From left to right: Nhat, Nick, Joelle, Josh, Todd and Daphne in front of the London Eye

This day was also the day of the UEFA championship match (football…or as us Americans know it best: soccer). Manchester United versus Barcelona. And let me just say that…the Barcelonians invaded London. They were everywhere – on the streets, in the pubs, in the tube stations – all wearing their jerseys, chanting, screaming and clapping. The most memorable spot we happened upon them all was in Trafalgar Square. Swarms of them – and I’m talking about hundreds and hundreds – literally infiltrated all areas of the square. At one point, cannon shots went off which was quite the fright. The Europeans are avid and passionate about their football, and it was such  a neat experience to say we witnessed it right in front of us. After soaking in Trafalgar for a while, we headed back to the hotel. For dinner we tested our Italian sides and ordered pizza from down the street. We all had fun hanging in, watching the UEFAgame, and relaxing until sleep.

A pack of fans getting ready for the game later that night

-Joelle

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