London: Day One
Wow. Study abroad. I still can’t believe it’s actually happening. On Tuesday, I left home from the Washington, D.C airport and was on a 7 hour flight to London. It really wasn’t a bad flight (got to watch the Avengers!) and airplane food isn’t as horrible as its reputation claims. On British Airways international flights, everyone has a screen and you can watch movies, TV, listen to music and lots of other stuff. I constantly used the flight path thing on there where you can find out where you are because I couldn’t wait to land. A few minutes before we landed, I looked out the window and could see the clouds with the moon above them…and a second later I looked down and saw London all lit up. It was absolutely gorgeous, and it made me even more excited.
When I got to London at 7:00 am their time, an AIFS representative met me there. We went over to the AIFS van, and the first thing I did was to open the front door on the right side…and see a steering a wheel. I’m glad I’m studying abroad in France because the whole driving on the right side of the car would completely trip me up. Phillip, the representative, dropped me off at the Copthorne Hotel, which is right next to the Chelsea Football (soccer) stadium. While we were there, there was actually a game going against a team from Wales and there was a huuuuge amount of people (the Welsh one, to the English’s disappointment).
At the hotel, I met my AIFS London guide, John, who would be helping us while we were there. I finally went up to my room, and I don’t think I’ve been more pumped up in my entire life. I kept pacing the room and saying “Oh my god, I’m in London. Holy shit, I’m here.” I just wanted to leave and see everything I could. I was also kind of freaking out because I couldn’t get the lights to work. I tried literally every switch in the room at least three times and still couldn’t figure it out. Eventually I gave up and called the concierge. When he showed up at the door, he asked for my room key and as soon as he put it in a slot on the wall that I had completely ignored, every single light came on. Apparently, every modern British hotel has this kind of thing. Never felt so dumb in my life.
Stupid light thing
Anyway, my hotel roommate, Caroline, and another girl, Katie, arrived and the three of us decided to go explore London on our own. For a little while, we walked up and down the streets near our hotel. Even though it has a reputation for being gray and dismal, London is actually nicer than most of the cities in the states. The houses are prettier to look at, it’s less dirty, and despite the fact that everyone drives like a crazy person there, there isn’t a lot of horn honking going on.
After we walked around a while, we decided to take the bus further down in the city (we were in Chelsea). EVERYONE takes public transportation by the way. It’s really efficient and clean and it gets you there fast. Those red double deckers that we see in pictures from London aren’t just tourist buses; they actually ride them everywhere. They have these things called Oyster cards too, and if you buy one for 5 pounds (not dollars. Had some trouble with that) every ride is half off and you just load money onto it.
So me, Katie, and Caroline got off and walked around for a while and we eventually got to cool-looking pub somewhere. I got fish and chips for the first time, and I felt really authentic. While I was in London, I also had meat pies and cornish pasty. English food is definitely starchy and kind of heavy, but it’s actually pretty good.
After that, we decided to check out the Victoria and Albert museum, but the jet lag was starting to set in and walking around a quiet museum didn’t help much. We hopped on the bus again, headed for the hotel. Only problem was that we figured the bus went in a loop route, like most of them do at home. We were on the bus for a good 45 minutes, falling asleep, when we heard “this bus terminates at this stop. Please exit the bus.” We found out the hard way that the buses are a way-one thing and we should’ve taken the bus on the other side of the street. It wasn’t all bad though. We got to see a lot of the city, and it was nice not having to walk everywhere. We just relaxed and looked at all the new, different sights of London out the window
When we got back, the rest of the group had also arrived. We hung out for a while, then left to go back to the Victoria and Albert museum again. It was a lot easier this time, and the museum was awesome. It’s an art museum, one of the museums three in Chelsea. The other two are a natural history museum and a science museum. At Victoria and Albert, they had a jewelry gallery, stained glass, iron displays (which I’ve never seen in any other museums), tiny ivory carvings, and lots of paintings. The coolest part where these enormous Egyptian engraved columns that stretched out to at least three stories.
Wasn’t supposed to take pictures in the jewelry gallery. Whoops.
Natural history museum
After the museum, we went out to eat then headed back to the hotel. Pretty much all of us went to our rooms and passed out because jet lag sucks and I think I had been awake for at least 32 hours. Despite the exhaustion, what I saw of London on the first day already convinced me that I loved the city and that studying abroad has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life.