My excitement kicked into overdrive at one particular moment during my flight.
The pilot announced that we were beginning our descent to Heathrow, so I glanced over my neighbor’s shoulder to look out the window. As we got closer to the ground, I saw rolling green hills and the edge of London itself. An interstate led out of the city and into the countryside and when I looked closer, I saw hundreds of tiny cars driving out of London on the left side of the road. Reality really hit me at that moment. In less than fifteen minutes, I will be standing in LONDON!
On the plane, I was wondering how I might navigate the airport. It seemed so huge and overwhelming when I looked through pictures and diagrams of the layout. I got through customs virtually problem-free and my bag was moving along the conveyor belt (I don’t think that’s the right word) right as I walked up to it. After taking the express train and getting some serious suitcase-induced blisters on my hands, I arrived at my flat in Paddington! (Paddington bear anyone?)
Just a few weeks ago, I was living in a closet-sized dorm room. It was cozy and I loved it, but we had barely enough room to walk. So imagine my surprise when my flat in zone 1 of central London could eat my dorm room like a Pop Tart. It has a living room, dining area, kitchen, three bedrooms, and four bathrooms. Apparently, even the tiniest flats here can cost millions of dollars, so (needless to say) this is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I hadn’t showered or taken out my daily contact lenses for 36 hours, but by the end of that first day, I was just so amazed to even be here. London is so different from the suburban town where I grew up and the college town where I now live. The city is so vibrant and there are people everywhere! The amount of people walking around and exploring the city doesn’t change from day to night, which is really interesting.
The streets also vary from one to the next. Edgware, the closest street that leads to Hyde Park, does not have a London vibe at all. (But it does have a place for FISH and chips. FISH is in all caps because it was ridiculously huge. We’re talking like the WHOLE FISH.) However, an adjacent street to Edgware has these huge red townhouses. London is a blend of new and old architecture, creating a picturesque but quirky skyline.
I’ve been getting to know the city just by walking around with my roommates (flatmates?) and taking a bus tour. The bus tour took us by some of the most famous spots in London like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. The guide was really lively and told us stories along the way. Apparently, one of her friends was invited to the Queen’s garden party and right as she was about to meet the Queen for the first time, her cell phone went off! If that wasn’t crazy enough, the Queen apparently said very sweetly, “Oh, you better get that. It might be somebody important.”
It’s these kind of stories that I love hearing, so I’m looking forward to interacting more with the locals!