26 November 2016
The day had arrived. Together with our teachers, the 22 of us arrived at Changi airport at 9:30pm, hearts full of excitement. We were expectant that the next 10 days would be very fulfilling but definitely tiring too. We checked in, cleared immigration and began working on our workbooks. We had mixed feelings when we saw it- some of the students from the science stream seemed overwhelmed by poetry they were asked to comment on, while the literature students were rather enthusiastic ( Alicia claimed she “ seriously love(d) it” ).
On the flight we were advised to rest well, given the long and packed day when we landed. I honestly didn’t think it would be anything difficult, especially since we have all witnessed the JC student’s ability to fall asleep anytime and anywhere. However many of us found it difficult to sleep on the plane with the uncomfortable sleeping positions and resorted to the in-flight entertainment. Nevertheless most of us caught enough sleep in the 13-hour journey to recharge for what was in store when we landed.
27 November 2016
This morning, we arrived at Heathrow airport slightly earlier than expected. We went through immigration and soon boarded the coach. While waiting for Graham, our driver, we had our first taste of London weather. It was chillier than expected and we became little kids, marvelling at the fact that we could see our breaths in the air.
At the Victoria & Albert Museum we picked up our tour guide Dominic. He would be bringing us on our city tour. Dominic who is a Blue Badge Guide was extremely knowledgeable about the city of London. He shared with us the stories, legends and the history of London’s buildings and sculptures.
Meanwhile, we were constantly turning our heads left and right, trying to catch sight of what his rapid fire narrative was describing. Some of the places we saw included Harrods (world-famous department store which sadly we had no chance to shop at. All we could do was simply gawk at it as we went by), Albert Pub (where many politicians supposedly gather for leisure) and the buildings of M15 as well as M16 (a centre of secret intelligence, that may be familiar to James Bond fans)
We also had the opportunity walk around some of the more famous sights and areas. We walked round Parliament Square with its fine view of Big Ben and the palaces of Westminster where the parliamentarians of British politics meet to set the course of the country’s future.
We visited the Tower of London (where Dominic shared with us ghost stories of those executed there as well as the royal history of its cobbled stones) and we walked around the perimeter of Buckingham palace. At the Palace, we were able to witness the Changing of the Guards (where many of us did wonder how they were able to march in such and orderly manner with their bearskin helmets covering their eyes as they did). It was grand ceremony full of pomp with a military band and other guards on horses. Dominic mentioned that this ceremony took place once every two days and it made us realise how the City places importance on ceremonies and symbolism.
After this tiring introduction to the next 10 days I feel that the thing that struck us most about London is the magnificent architecture, with its symbolic columns and statues. This was intriguing as I feel that Singapore doesn’t have such a display of historical monuments. Personally, I was baffled by the constant juxtaposition of cathedrals and structures that were hundreds of years old and modern skyscrapers. It was a stunning juxtaposition that showed me how London takes much pride in its history and yet strives to the future.