After arriving at Heathrow after a quicker than expected flight from Copenhagen and clearing immigration (somehow I managed to go through a lot quicker than the others, meaning I was stuck 'in the UK' by myself for 10 minutes), we waited by a conveniently placed Krispy Kremes store for a SISEP representative who took us from the airport to where we were staying for the week, Baden Powell House, located next to the Natural History Museum on the same road as Harrods. Because we took the Tube from the airport and needed to use it for our week's stay, we needed to buy Oyster Cards which proved to be very handy. I got a pay-as-you-go card which I kept for the whole week, while others opted for a Travelcard loaded on their Oyster Card. Even though I occasionally had to spend time at the station topping up my card, I feel that the pay-as-you-go card was better for me.
After our epic journey from the airport to BP House, we ran into the UK exchangees (who had been there since Sunday) and then checked in. I'll just briefly talk about the facilities that we had at BP House. I shared a room with 3 other guys and it consisted of 4 bunk beds, meaning we each had a bunk bed to sleep on and keep some of our stuff on. Unfortunately, the staff had made up the bottom bunks so we couldn't keep our suitcases neatly stowed off the floor, but this was not too much of a problem. We were given a toilet, basin and shower in our room, but it was only about 1 square metre in size and the shower had no water pressure, though it was better than nothing. As part of our accommodation, we had a free continental breakfast each morning with Corn Flakes, muesli, yogurt, peaches, juices, cold meats and toast. While perhaps not having the largest of selections, what was offered was more than enough for me to get some energy for the day. They also offered packed lunches for under 5 pounds but we decided against having these; we ended up getting some great bargains for lunches during the week. In terms of whether I would stay at BP House again, I think I would consider it though I would have to search around to see if there were better deals on offer. It was certainly a pleasant place to stay however.
Because we lost a day in London due to the weather, we packed in a pretty heavy schedule of activities to do in the week. On the Monday night when we met up with our 'supervisor' Les, who role was only to act as a person to advise, help out or to talk to if anything was wrong and didn't come around with us in London, we worked out roughly what things we wanted to do while we were in London which I think we should have done before we got to London as it was a little bit stressful. The next day, a group of 10 of us (which for the most part I was with going around London), along with my unit's mascot Boris the cow, decided to first to go on a free walking tour of London run by New London (just search free walking tour London in Google and click on the first option) which started at 11am at Marble Arch. We had a lovely tour guide Jo, who as we went around the Westminster area that the tour took us around explain a few historic things that I didn't know. Our tour finished outside the Houses of Parliament at around 2pm, though because we went on the tour we were entitled to a 25% discount on lunch at a restaurant close to Leicester Square tube station, which was a great offer. While my pasta was a little bit cold, it was still a very nice meal for the price I paid, under 5 pounds. After lunch, a few of us went around the corner to the National Gallery just off Trafalgar Square and spent some time wandering around the building to look at some lovely paintings. That night, the South Australian exchangees (including me) went off to the Dominion Theatre to see We Will Rock You (we had bought our tickets a couple of months earlier at http://www.londontown.com/, where we paid just over 30 pounds for fabulous seats in the circle). The show was absolutely amazing and I would recommend anyone going to London to go see it.
The next day was rather cool as we went up to Camden, a groovy little neighbourhood in the northern part of London. On the way, we popped into nearby King's Cross Station where we took some photos at Platform 9 3/4, which had been set up by the station. It was very funny and a nice thing to see. We then made our way to Camden where we spent some time wandering through the markets and nearby stores, where I bought a couple of things. After lunch, we decided to make our way to Harrods to have a look around. It was an adventure in itself wandering through the giant department store, where we saw an amazing number of funny and random things being sold in such a beautiful building. The only things I bought were a irresistible maple and walnut fudge and a little strawberry petite four, both of which were very lovely. Our journey from Harrods back to BP House was rather amusing though. We decided to take the bus from Harrods, though we decided to get off after starting to go down a street we weren't familiar of. As we were trying to find somewhere we could recognise, some of us (not me sadly) saw Bill Nighy from Love Actually and Shaun of the Dead walking past. We eventually found the street BP House was on and popped into the Natural History Museum which was on the way. It was a very, very nice building, and had a couple of interesting exhibits. That night, we took it easy while we watched Austin Powers.
The following day was rather exciting for us as we saw a number of exciting things. Firstly, we went to London Bridge where we did The London Bridge Experience, voted Britain's scariest attraction. It was certainly a scary experience, though some of it was also rather informative on London Bridge's past. After this, we walked down along the Thames towards Tower Bridge, which we then walked across. A smaller group of us then walked down the other side of the Thames towards the Millennium Bridge, though before we crossed it we popped into the international HQ for the Salvo's where they had a cafe serving lunch for a very reasonable price. After this pit stop, we then crossed the bridge and walked over to the Globe Theatre to have a look. We decided against going in to see it because the tour wasn't for another 20 minutes, but we did go into the gift shop. We then made our way to a 'nearby' Tube station via a pleasant walk through what seemed a pretty groovy neighbourhood and then took the Tube to Oxford Circus, right in the heart of bustling Oxford Street. A few of us decided to have a look at Hamleys, a famous 250 year old toy store close to Oxford Circus, which was a very awesome store. We then made our way back to BP House via Harrods to get a few things (I got more fudge). Once back at BP House, the entire group met up and went to a nearby Italian restaurant for a meal, which was very nice. Afterwards, a group of us decided to take a night tour around different parts of London. First, we went to Piccadilly Circus to look at the famous electronic advertisement boards which were really cool. We then went across to Leicester Square to go to a gift shop and soak up the atmosphere. We then decided to go to Earl's Court because there was a Tardis on display just outside for Doctor Who fans, which we had in our little group. Things then took a random turn when we decided to go across to West Kensington to visit a large Tesco store. We then decided to head back to BP House as it was after midnight and the Tube services were about to stop running.
The next day was our final day and we managed to cram a little bit in before we had to head to the airport. I went with a small group of 3 to Westminster and visited Westminster Abbey, which was a very grand and amazing building. We then went down to the bank of the Thames where we could see the London Eye (it was closed for maintenance while we were there so we couldn't go on it) and have a pancake in a cup for lunch. We then decided to walk up from Parliament Square (where Big Ben and the Abbey is) towards Trafalgar Square and on the way we saw 10 Downing Street. Once reaching Trafalgar Square, we had a few photos on the lions and had another quick peek in the National Gallery before we headed across to the Covent Garden Market, which was absolutely superb. We had a nice hot chocolate and saw a great performance before heading back to BP House for the final time to get our bags and head to the airport via the Tube. Despite fears that it would be packed due to peak hour, we had plenty of space for our bags and got to Heathrow with ease. Once checked in, we had a group photo with Les before saying goodbye to him and heading upstairs to the departures area. We decided to spend time relaxing before going through security, with a number of food outlets open. It then got time to 'leave the UK' and head for our gate.
Our journey home went a bit quicker than the journey to Europe for me, probably because I got a lot more sleep going back than I did going over. Because we were flying British Airways, our entertainment wasn't as good as Qantas, though it was still very good. The highlight in terms of food was in our flight between London and Bangkok where for dessert we had white chocolate mousse which was very tasty. We had a very brief stopover in Bangkok which seemed to fly by (pardon the pun) before we hopped back on the plane and made our way to Sydney. After arriving and clearing customs, it was time for the first of our many goodbyes with the NSW exchangees leaving the group. The rest of us then transferred from the international to the domestic terminal, where we first said goodbye to the Queensland exchangees as their flight was the first to leave. It then came time for us, the SA exchangees, to board our flight meaning we had to say our goodbyes to the Victorian exchangees. For me it was sad saying goodbye to all of these people because I had become such good friends with them during my time overseas. The flight from Sydney to Adelaide seemed to whizz right past and before we knew it, we had landed in Adelaide and finished our experience. Below are some photos of the moment I saw mum, dad and some people in my Venturer unit for the first time in 2010.
As I now sit in my family's study writing this final blog entry, I look back on my experiences with amazement that I actually went to Denmark. For me, my host family was very nice and friendly and really helped me to fit into the community as much as possible. The number of things that I did in Denmark is amazing, and to think that I was in snow for over 3 and a half weeks is incredible considering Denmark rarely has this kind of weather. I would certainly first and foremost recommend Venturers to apply for this experience, but also to apply to go to Denmark. Not only do you get to truly experience another culture, you also get the chance to experience London as a group. All aspects of the exchange I believe have helped me mature, and I now feel more than ready to tackle life. To finish, I'd like to thank Jakob and his family for looking after me so well, and thank the organisers of the SISEP program for making such an amazing experience possible. If anyone reading this is even the slightest bit interested in doing this exchange, I'd encourage you go to the Scouts Australia International page (http://www.international.scouts.com.au/), click the SISEP tab on the side and download an application form. It is an experience that will change your life. Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed this blog and thank you to all that have read it and enjoyed it.