Fourteen students. One destination. London. Southeastern Louisiana University students hit the ground running in London, England after over 12 hours of travelling. For many, this was their first experience in ‘Jolly Ole London Town.’
Despite the exhaustion from being awake for over 24 hours while lugging heavy baggage behind and wearing shoes not meant for covering distance, the electrifying pace of the big city combined with the brisk, cool, dry weather, overpowered the group’s fatigue and inspired everyone to go explore the city.
Wide-eyed with wonder and awe at the beauty of London’s skyline of modern skyscrapers mixed with Gothic cathedrals dating back to Medieval Times, the students hosted their own walking tour of some major London tourist attractions such as the Globe theatre, Big Ben, Parliament, West Minster Abbey and an authentic English pub.
Unlike New York City, which is known as the city that never sleeps or even has enough time simply to take a good breath in the midst of the continuous, intense rat race, in London, the people make time to enjoy life after a hard day’s work.
For students, the pubs are fantastic places to talk to the locals and find some off-the-beaten-path attractions so students can experience the real London and avoid the pricey tourist traps. One such off-the-beaten-path place Southeastern students Marianna Lawrence, Karista Filopoulos, and Kaitlyn Seiler decided to visit was Upton Town in search of the shop devoted to one of Britain’s most beloved television series, and America’s newest science-fiction television cult movements, Doctor Who. In search of The Who Shop, Lawrence, Filopoulos, and Seiler, ventured toward the eastern outskirts of London.
Upon arrival to Upton Park in search of The Who Shop, the students got a look at what life is really like for a Londoner. Little side streets lined with uniform, red brick duplexes bordering the main street leading from the Upton Park Station, surprisingly featured so many mattress stores and open-air clothing markets that it was almost laughable, like an overly exaggerated Saturday Night Live set. It could make one wonder if mattresses were really in such high demand.
In addition to the myriad of mattress shops, one could not walk very far without also being overwhelmed by the garlic-infused aroma of Mediterranean and Lebanese cuisine wafting from tiny hole-in-the-wall take-away shops.
As Lawrence, Filopoulos and Seiler observed, Upton Park was somewhat reminiscent of Prytania Street in New Orleans, La, because of its same funky, edgy vibe, and colourful characters. However, there is an eerie feeling that this is not some place a group of single female students would want to hang around especially after nightfall without the presence of several tough looking men nearby.
For Lawrence, Filopoulos, and Seiler, the desire to find The Who Shop drove them to push past the discomforting look of their surroundings.
The Who Shop was not at all what the students were expecting. It’s very unassuming, and almost unnoticeable from the sidewalk, save for the TARDIS-coloured blue paint of the store exterior, which any die-hard Whosian would instantly recognize.
The Who Shop is owned and run by husband and wife team, Kevan and Alexandra Looseley. It’s been a mecca for international Whosians since it opened back in 1984 during the William Hartnell era of Doctor Who.
The Looseleys have been collecting Doctor Who and other British sci-fi show paraphernalia including action figures, magazines, stills from the set, cast autographs and an actual TARDIS originally used in filming during the earlier series of the show. The shop itself is very small considering the amount of memorabilia that has been accumulated almost 3 decades and was crammed into every spare inch of available space.
The Looseleys made it obvious that The Who Shop is more than a business to them. They enjoy getting to know their customers, having a chat, and creating a warm, neighbourly quality to complement the eccentric charm and quirky atmosphere of The Who Shop. Lawrence, Filopoulos and Seiler all agreed that chatting with the Looseleys made the long journey out to Upton Park worth the time. They greatly enjoyed going beyond the typical London tourism boundaries to get a glimpse of true London life and were looking forward to journeying back to Upton Park to do further exploration.