Sunday Funday :)

One thing that’s really different in London compared to the States is their Sunday activities. For us Midwesterners, Sundays in the winter are basically ‘me’ days. Church for the church-goers, sleeping in for the night owls, then NFL (National Football League–American football, of course ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) games to rally around before gearing up for the week. In London, however, they have a much more social Sunday lineup. Take your time, do what you choose in the morning, but in the afternoons get ready for a good time.

If you live in London, you know Sunday roasts are a must. If you’re a visitor, word to the wise: don’t miss Sunday roast. Most pubs have their own versions of Sunday roasts, but I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to eat with my Ambassador friends at The Barrowboy & Banker, a beautiful old banker’s building converted into a pub.

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Sunday roasts are basically hearty, warm, filling meals–meat, veggies, and potatoes. A traditional side in Britain is Yorkshire Pudding, which is not anything close to ‘pudding’. I’ve found that the word ‘pudding’ can be applied to almost anything over here…yikes. Yorkshire pudding are the two little bread cup things in the picture (front and center and back right), and are delicious. Our server gave us an excellent history of the Yorkshire pudding and explained how he makes them himself–cold batter, hot oven. The dough is essentially crepe dough. Can’t wait to try out a recipe or two back in the States…bring a little British flavour to our American traditions. ๐Ÿ™‚

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The ‘bun’ in the back left is a veggie pie, which The Barrowboy & Banker are famous for. It didn’t disappoint!

My theory is that it’s called Sunday roast rather than lunch or dinner because you eat it right in between the two meals, around 3pm. I was 100% ready to eat when we sat down and didn’t need to eat again for a day or two afterwards. So filling. And because I was with the ambassadors we decided to do dessert too. Those chefs knew the way to my heart…can’t go wrong with chocolate cake. Sunday roast is a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon with good friends having fun conversation.

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We โ™ฅ Kim!ย  ๐Ÿ™‚

Another cultural novelty for me were pub quizzes. Although they’re not exclusive to Sundays, that particular day of the week lends itself quite well to some rowdy competitions. I have to say, they are rapidly climbing up my list of favorite activities in London. Get a group of friends together (for a Sunday roast, perhaps?), pay a quid or two, and get ready for intellectual warfare. Pub quizzes here are no joke. I played my first pub quiz earlier this month with a group of friends and was floored by how challenging the questions were. Team Bacon had a great time, but we definitely need to brush up on our knowledge of…everything before going back for another quiz. Being from the States probably doesn’t help much either.

Takeaway tidbit: Social time and intellect make for a really fun combination.

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London for free..in the Winter!

My first winter in London has been a pleasantly surprising experience so far. In the Midwest winter is a chance to spurn all social relations and rekindle that annual romance with your couch and comfy blankets because you’re not moving until spring. Or at least, you’re not going to be near as active because it’s just too much of a hassle to go out.

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Unless you’re a kid. Then it’s the best thing ever. (That’s me…queen of the mountain over my siblings ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

But in London there is NO excuse for your couch to develop a derriรจre- shaped indent. Winter is your chance to enjoy the copious amount of free indoor events that you skipped during the summer in favor of enjoying the weather. Just because the temperature is plummeting doesn’t mean you have to abandon yourself to the friendless, magnetic pull of your couch. Or at least, not every night.

A few of the free activities I’ve had a chance to experience this winter so far are:

Tate Modern: I had always wanted to visit the Tate, but didn’t realize it was free until I went with the LUIP Ambassadors. It still blows my mind how many museums are free (basically all of them), especially considering the quality of the pieces on exhibition. There are exhibits you have to buy tickets to view, but we had a great time walking through the free exhibit halls and “contemplating” the artwork. Luckily we had some really intelligent ambassadors to help clarify some of the pieces ๐Ÿ™‚

IMG_0595Fellow Ambassadors Sarah, Beatriz, Jamaal, and Brittany

Volunteering: Queen Mary offers quite a few one-off volunteering opportunities, which is awesome. Although it might sound kind of selfish, my primary motivators for getting involved with one-off opportunities are:ย  it means I get to see a lot of the city I wouldn’t have sought out otherwise, I get to make new friends, and it’s not a weekly or even monthly time commitment if you don’t want it to be. Less selfishly, it means I get to help out in my new community. I’ve only done a couple so far, but they have been really fun!

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Whitechapel Mission clothing drive

volunteering1St. John’s Christmas Fayre workers

Christmas markets: Markets are some of the most fun things around Christmas time. We have them in the States of course, but it’s a slightly different twist when you walk around a London Christmas market. For starters, there’s usually a lot of mulled wine around…tried that for the first time at a Christmas market. YUM. On top of that, there are lots of new, different food stalls. And then the icing on the cake: there are fun, new, British goods being sold in the stalls. Wine, and shopping, and Christmas…well, what more can a girl ask for? One thing to be aware of though–some of the best markets are only one day long. So make sure you scout out which ones you want to go to in advance to ensure you don’t miss the good ones!

P88Mulled wine stall at the market outside of the Tate volunteering5Rides at St. John’s Christmas Fayrep91Rows of books and prints and vintage maps at Southbank’s Winter Festival

Decorations: They’re not explicitly offered on most of the ‘Activities’ lists, but just walking around and seeing all the different decorations is a really fun way to spend a day. Since it’s London, most places are done up right. ๐Ÿ™‚ The unusual thing (for this Midwest girl, anyways) is that it’s the businesses and shops that are decorated much more than the houses. Of course, there aren’t really any yards for people to decorate, but there are some admirably tenacious souls in London who decorate their windows, doors, or ornamental trees.

p93Covent Garden treep92Covent Garden baublesp82Random beautiful (and huge!) blue wreath on my walk to the tube from Senate House Library

Concerts and Lectures: If you look at the list of lecturers and performers who put on free events around London, you’re moronic to not attend some of the concerts and lectures offered at institutions around town. As a student you’ll have access to more than a tourist would, so take advantage of it! Visit other universities, go see a concert at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, or attend a late-night event at one of the museums. My friend Brittany wrote a great blog on her night at the Natural History Museum. If you Google “free concerts and lectures in London”, the results will give you more than enough to start.

79St. Martin-in-the-Fields after a free lunchtime concert.

ย This is obviously just a cursory list of activities available in London for free. To find out what else is available, Google is your best friend. If that gets too overwhelming or frustrating, TimeOut London and Londonist are two of my favorite websites to use when looking for free events in London. They always have a great, comprehensive lists of free activities going on around town. Even if you’re only here for a short time (tourists, I’m talking to you), you can use these sites to help you get the inside scoop on what’s going on in London during your visit.

Takeaway tidbit: London offers so many free, awesome activities — there’s no excuse for you to sit on your bum all winter.