Twenty-four-year-old Adaeze Uyanwah is the school teacher whose film earned her the dream job as the City of London’s “Official Guest of Honour” over 10,000 other applicants in January 2015.
The custom perks, insider experiences and VIP tour offered to the winning Californian were astonishing in their exclusivity, showcasing the very best that London and its residents have to offer. When we learned that Ms. Uyanwah invited her mother to be her travel companion, we asked to hear more about the adventures of the luckiest family travelers in the world.
FTF: Was this your first trip outside the U.S. and did you have any concerns about going? Any tips?
Adaeze Uyanwah: “I’ve been to England many times before and also lived in Sheffield, England. If I were to give advice I’d just say to visit London with the knowledge that you’re stepping into a city that has so much to provide and explore. As a top tourist destination, London is prepared to cater to the needs of its tourists.
“While I was there, I was very well looked after – not just by those organizing this event, but by the people of London themselves. Taxi drivers, hotel concierges, tour guides, etc…”
FTF: You are a Harry Potter fan. Is there one book you recommend children read before visiting England?
Adaeze Uyanwah: “I would definitely recommend reading all of the Harry Potter books, but if you’re short on time, I’d start with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone depending on which version you have). At King’s Cross Station there’s a Platform 9 3/4 where Harry Potter fans can gather and have their picture taken.
“And of course, you can’t leave England without visiting the WB Harry Potter Studio Tour at Leavesden. There is nothing like stepping onto the set of your favorite film/book series!”
FTF: What tips can you give adult kids about planning an itinerary with parents?
Adaeze Uyanwah: “I have traveled with my mother a lot. The tip that I would give adult kids about traveling with their parents is to recognize that London has quite a bit to offer, and your parents might not have the energy to do everything that you may very well have the energy for.
“Make sure that you all get Oyster cards, and have a good understanding of how the tube and bus systems work (it’s really easy!) That way, if you would like to go for drinks with your friends/siblings and your parents would rather watch a show at the Royal Opera House, you all can split up with the knowledge that everyone will know how to navigate their way through London.”
FTF: You had VIP access to so many events and attractions; how would you suggest a “regular tourist” see them to get the most out of it?
Adaeze Uyanwah: “If I had to choose a few [favorites] I would definitely suggest going to the Harry Potter Tour. I’d recommend going early in the morning, maybe on the first or second tour so you have more room to roam. Also, get some butter beer and a hotdog while you’re there.
“If you’re into sports, I would take a tour of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and Wembley Arena. In fact, take a tour on one day and get tickets for a game on another. Both locations have lively tour guides and very impressive artifacts!
Also, you cannot leave London without visiting one of the many museums. I was fortunate enough to be given a tour at the Science Museum (with Professor Stephen Hawking!) and at the British Museum. Both museums are very interactive, and most importantly…FREE!
FTF: You met many celebrities. What did they teach you about British etiquette and manners that you think other travelers should know?
Adaeze Uyanwah: “One of the most important things I’d learned about etiquette in London was that it isn’t as strict as some may think. Yes, you will have to obey the queues (lines) — that is very important. And if you find that your voice is the loudest in the room, you might want to turn it down a notch.
But for the most part London is very open and playful, and so were the people I met. Jim Carter [Downton Abbey’s Mr. Carson] gave me bunny ears while we did a video blog and Darcey Bussell [former star ballerina of The Royal Ballet] and I did an impromptu dance to “Shake it Off” while at the Royal Opera House.
FTF: Will you have a Show n’ Tell in your classroom?
Adaeze Uyanwah: Show n’ Tell has already happened! I was lucky enough to get a photo album of the entire event, so I showed that to the students. They were most impressed with the £5,000 shopping spree at Oxford Street. I was also lucky enough to get gifts from many of the places I went to, so I laid them out and had my brother pick whatever he wanted. He went for the Welsh Rugby Ball, but I got to keep the signed jersey!”
FTF: Are you in love with traveling? Which contest are you going to apply for next?
Adaeze Uyanwah: “I am, and have always been in love with traveling! I’m hoping Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Ireland, and the rest of England would like a Guest of Honor. I’d make it a full time job if I could. They wouldn’t be able to get rid of me.
“After I’d explored every inch of the British Isles, I’d hop over to France and make my way through all of Europe… in a perfect world.”
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