This past weekend took a toll. I’m feeling a little under the weather following our best trip to date. And with my first calculus exam coming up, my brain is pretty done as well. London was exhausting but so extremely worth all the late nights and early mornings.
Traveling to London was fairly painless. It was just long, very long, and it was also late. The plane ride was only about an hour and a half, but with waiting to get through customs then the train into the city followed by taking the tube to where we were staying, the whole ordeal ended up being over 4 hours. The highlight from these four tedious hours had to be getting on the train at Gatwick airport headed for London. Not willing to wait 15 minutes for the next train, we sprint for the train, luggage in hand. I follow a few steps behind, and I watch as Amy and then Brianna slip through the open train doors. But just as I get to them they start to shut. With all of the strength my out-of-shape arms could muster I force open the doors wide enough to wedge myself and my suitcase through. In complete awe, Amy and Brianna burst out laughing, and at this point, we had really made a scene.
It was around 2 AM by the time we finally reached our airbnb, and boy, did we get a little surprise. Listed as an entire home/apartment online, we had figured we were getting an entire home/apartment to ourselves (makes sense, right?), but guess again! As we entered, we noticed some shoes lying around and a noticeable mess in the kitchen. Checking out the place, Amy opened one of the hallway doors to discover a couple in bed. Surprise! It ended up not being a big deal at all since we were only there to sleep. We got in late every night and left pretty early every morning. (Plus, that’s what we get for being cheap!)
The next day we went to Stonehenge, which was about a two hour drive from London. I still can’t get over that I have now seen a wonder of the world. Ask me why I wanted to see Stonehenge so bad, I couldn’t tell you. It’s just Stonehenge, and if you ever go, you’ll see that it’s simply Stonehenge. Nothing more, nothing less. It was awesome.
The tour guide that we had gone to Stonehenge with then took us to Bath, a beautiful town in the English countryside known for its Georgian style architecture and hot springs. While there, we were able to try flights of cider accompanied by traditional English meals (think meat pies and chips…aka fries). From Bath, we then headed to a “secret place,” which ended up being Brianna and I’s favorite part of the day! As huge Harry Potter fans, we were ecstatic when our tour guide brought us to the town where scenes from the films were shot. We saw the Godric’s Hollow cemetery along with the house that Harry lived in as a baby in the films.
Following that extremely long day, we had yet another long day. With detailed planning (thank you, Brianna!!!) and a lot of hustle, we were able to see all the major London sites in 14 hours. From taking a tour with a beefeater at the Tower of London (a must-do) to taking pictures in a telephone booth (might I add with a red bus AND Big Ben in the background), we truly did it all. And what better way to finish the perfect day in London than with some great fish and chips and a cold ale!
The following day Amy left to head back to Nice (she had a class the next day), and Brianna and I took it pretty easy. We got a great breakfast (which included pancakes, a rare commodity here in the French Riviera) and then got an amazing tour of Shakespeare’s Globe. (Fun fact: The creation of the Globe Theatre is completely credited to an American!) We finished off our day with a ride on the classic London Eye. Going into the line, I thought it was no big deal, although I’m not a big Ferris wheel person. As we got further and further up, my heart really started racing and I was feeling all hot. Rollercoasters and any other amusement park rides really don’t phase me anymore (after all I was born and raised in Orlando), but I did NOT like being that high and not at least having a seatbelt strap me down. But, I did it. I survived. I made it through. And I will never do it again.
We left the following day, much to my disappointment. I really (really) enjoyed London. It reminded me of NYC (one of my favorite cities in the world) but with different history and architecture. It was also extremely comforting being able to read all signs and understanding what was said around us. The culture and lifestyle in London was much more what I am accustomed to at home. There was not nearly as much smoking compared to France, and activities, such as working out, were much more common.
On one hand, I am glad that I am not doing my exchange in England, despite how much I may like it. Living in a country for four months where I don’t know the language and the culture is pretty different from what I am used to, has already pushed me to grow so much. On the other hand, I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before I’m back!