Have you ever read so much that you didn’t want to pick up a book? I know, it can be hard to admit, but academic burnout is real. It can happen to even the bookiest of us. (I may have some personal experience with this…) Maybe you’ve planned an entire trip around an intensive course like the Open Palace Programme. And maybe you’ve decided to add literary tourism into all your spare moments and then some. No? Just me? Ok, well maybe you’ve planned a family trip or you’re just visiting a lot of museums and plan to spend each evening back at your accommodations curled up with a mug of tea and a book. Trust me when I say, you have got to put down the book both physically and mentally every once in a while. Your brain deserves a break. Because this can be hard for some of us (*cough cough… I don’t know what you’re talking about!*), I suggest pre-scheduling some non-academic activities that let you relax, let loose, and recharge mid-trip. Luckily in London, there’s so many activities to choose from that it’s not hard to take an academic Time Out.
Sunrise Yoga at the top of the Shard
I’ve found that Yoga is one of the best ways to relax and recharge. I’m not a morning person, but I’ve also learned that after a day of sightseeing I’m too exhausted to make myself exercise in the evening. That leaves the morning, and if anything is going to get me out of bed early on a weekend to do it, it’s the promise of watching the sunrise from a vantage point high above the London skyline. Sunrise Yoga with Yogasphere at the top of the Shard lets you do just this.
Now if you’re thinking, forget that, there’s no way I’d be able to get myself up early the morning after an academic program finished! Hold up- here’s a few ways to set yourself up for success.
- Reserve your spot in the class well in advance. Because I had already paid I would feel guilty if I didn’t go.
- Find accommodations nearby so the morning commute is short and easy. Luckily I found a reasonably priced Airbnb within walking distance of The Shard.
- Set out your pre-yoga snack the night before. I grabbed an apple to eat during my walk to the class so that I wouldn’t be thinking about brunch instead of channeling my energy into the movement of my muscles.
London is strangely quiet at 8am on Saturdays. Aside from the occasional construction worker, the usual busy streets of London were nearly deserted. Arriving at The Shard, the entrance proved elusive. I circled the building until I found a line of girls in yoga pants beginning to form. I joined the line and at 8:15 a red-coated woman with a clipboard checked our names against her ticket list and then ushered us towards security screening. From there we were taken in groups up two elevators to floor 24, called The View at the Shard. Yoga mats were laid out around the viewing room and soothing music emanated from somewhere.
I found I was happy to be awake early. And besides, what a view! An Indian looking guy with a microphone greeted us as we each chose a mat. From one corner of the room he led us through the stretches. Three other female instructors, one in each corner so everyone could see, also circulated helping to correct postures. It was all very relaxing yet I was definitely drenched in sweat by the end of the hour and 45 minute class. Lying on my back all I could see above me was clouds. Looking out I could see the tops of London buildings stretching to the horizon. Holding the down-dog position, I saw below me the Thames River, the Tower of London, and Tower Bridge. Watching London slowly ease to life far below was worth waking up early for.
Time Out is an app that lets you find things to do/see/eat/experience in several major cities and also runs evening activities. I attended two Time Out events in London.
Movie on the Thames River
I love a good movie night especially when it’s an old familiar movie. But how about when it’s on a boat on the Thames? Yes please! I couldn’t say no to an invitation to watch Casablanca on a boat in the middle of London. The invitation had come from one of the girls who I would be spending the next three weeks with during the Open Palace Programme so I figured a movie night would also be a good way to make a new friend ahead of the course.
That evening the rain cleared, and although it was still a little windy, I was warm enough with a few layers on. I met my new friend at the dock where we boarded the Time Out boat. We found seats on the open-air top floor facing a deflated screen. It was good I had bundled up. As the sun set, the boat floated us down the river so we could see the famous sights of London. We passed London Bridge, the London Eye, Big Ben, and The Globe theater. Finally when it was dark enough to play the film, we docked somewhere. The screen was inflated and we were given wireless headphones to hear the audio (so we wouldn’t disturb other boats).
While we watched the Gestapo raid Rick’s Cafe and Elsa struggle with her old flame, many other types of party boats passed us. Wedding parties and disco party boats zoomed by and I wondered if I was on the wrong type of tour! Overall, however, I had a good time.
And for those wondering- I was slightly nervous about walking back to my hotel after dark in London, but I survived without problem. After that I was never nervous walking alone in London because I was always surrounded by people at all hours. London too seems to be a city that doesn’t sleep.
Silent Disco at the top of the Shard
This was quite the experience. After reading a blog post by This Battered Suitcase about the silent disco at the top of the Shard, I had to experience it for myself. If you’re not familiar with silent discos, let me enlighten you. Upon entering the space you’re given wireless headphones. There are three different DJ’s each playing different music and you can change the channel on your headphones to flip between the three at any time. This means that the room is silent other than the sounds of people chatting- or singing horribly off tune! And if you take off your headphones and look around you everyone seems to be dancing like a crazy person each to a different beat.
High above London we danced like crazy people and screamed along to the tunes playing in our ears. The security men standing in each corner must have thought we were nuts. As we danced the Moccarina the lights of Tower Bridge and the rest of London twinkled below us. I enjoyed to view until the self-consciousness wore off and then I relaxed and joined the crowd in this bizarre but hilarious experience.