I am in my hotel room entirely too early for one who is on vacation with so much to do (and so little time!), but I don’t really mind. I have this unfortunate problem of not being able to sleep on airplanes, no matter what measures I take (staying up late the night before, getting up much earlier than normal the same day, taking Advil P.M. inflight, avoiding coffee, etc.) and so I find myself at 5:50 p.m. (London time) completely wiped out from a day of sightseeing (and with this being 10 a.m. home time, I have now been awake for 26 hours straight). I don’t recommend this, but if it is a necessary evil, I also recommend fighting through it and not wasting your entire first day in a foreign land. I’m pretty proud of how late in the day I actually managed to go, seeing as we walked almost everywhere.
It feels like days ago that I began the journey to Europe, when in reality, it was only last night (or this morning, depending on which country your initial point of reference is). This day has been incredibly long, but I am not saying that to be negative. I am tired, but it’s that really almost comforting kind of tired when you know you’ve accomplished a lot in one day, and had a good time.
The journey began yesterday afternoon at 4:00, when our good family friend Roy was nice enough to drop us off at the airport, saving Mom and I a $60 cab fare. We said our goodbyes, promised thank you dinners (which we fully intend to make good on), and hauled our things into the airport. As one might expect of an international airport in July, the check in line was enormous. It looked daunting at first, but we simply got in line and waited our turn – and I eavesdropped on the other people in line. You might say that this is hardly “fancy” behavior, but I beg to differ. The thing is, there are people of all shapes, sizes and, especially, cultures on an international check in line, and it’s fascinating to hear different languages and accents – and watching how people behave with each other (couples, parents and their children, siblings, etc.) is always an interesting case study. Unfortunately, the only interesting observation I could come away from this line standing experience was that giant hot pink suitcases seem to be the trend among female British travellers of all ages. I saw at least four.
Check in went off without a hitch, as did security. It was time to get in touch with Nancy, a longtime, long-distance friend of mine from the Sense and Sensibility message boards. Prior to the trip, she had been asking me where I was going and what I was planning to do, and it came up that I wanted to extend my stay (this was at the time when my vacation began on July 8 with a flight to Germany). I told her the dates I could extend the trip into, and she just happened to be heading to England to visit her daughter and see her perform in a show! Nancy suggested that I come out a few days early and we could meet and see the show together. The plan ended up working out perfectly – we kept in touch and kept each other posted. We even managed to get on the same flight out to London!
Mom and I met Nancy at the gate, where we spent some time talking before getting on board. There we parted ways for the duration of the flight for two different rows. I spend my sleepless flight doing crossword puzzles, reading entertainment magazines, and watching the DirectTV at my seat. (By the way, whoever came up with DirectTV for airplanes was a complete genius. I don’t agree with DVD players/TV’s in cars, but on airplanes, where you have no break from the travel, they are amazing. I get annoyed on flights that don’t have the inseat screens now.) I ended up inadvertantly watching a Steve Carrell/Tina Fey marathon – Date Night, The Office, Little Miss. Sunshine and 30 Rock (yes, in that order).
By the time I had watched all of these programs, we were touching down in London. We met up with Nancy, waited on an incredibly long customs line, and finally got to collect my luggage (which was thankfully just rounding the corner of the conveyor belt as we walked up). It was off to the hotel to check in and freshen up before going out to see London!
Once at the hotel, we cleaned ourselves up a bit and got the “plane stink” off of ourselves (have you ever noticed that airplanes have their own very distinct smell that seems to seep into whatever you happen to be wearing for your flight?). Mom was the only member of our small party who had not been to London until today, so we decided to show her some of the touristy stuff first, just so she could say she had seen various London landmarks. We headed over to the area of Big Ben, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. It was incredibly crowded over there, but did we really expect anything less?
(The London Eye.)
(Mom standing in front of Big Ben.)
(Me and Nancy in front of Big Ben.)
To combat the growing crowds, we walked along the river for a bit, and ended up in front of Westminster Abbey. At first that was as far as we were going to go, but I had never been inside and was really curious, so we headed in. I wish I could describe how amazing it was inside. Unfortunately there was no photography allowed (and I don’t know my architecture terms very well) so I can’t show you how truly spectacular it was inside. There was also a fascinating history behind all the tombs, but my favorite section was an area called “Poet’s Corner.” This part of the Abbey honors great authors (not just poets – Jane Austen was there, as was Lewis Carroll) – some are buried there, while others are simply honored (Shakespeare, for example, is buried in Stratford-Upon-Avon, but has a monument at the Abbey). Being an English major, I really felt something while standing among the names of these great authors.
(Though you can’t take pictures INSIDE the Abbey, here’s the outside, also spectacularly carved in places.)
One thing that I really wanted to do was have a traditional afternoon tea. I knew of a gourmet food shop that had an afternoon tea service, and so we headed over to Fortnum & Mason, only to find out that they were too busy to take walk ins for tea. (This was oddly suspicious since they had at least eight free tables when we were there. However, they turned away the group behind us as well, so we can’t blame them for discriminating!)
I was disappointed that we didn’t get to do the tea, but we had a nice lunch at a small sandwich shop type place. This was when the fatigue truly began to sink in – once we had been sitting, and eating. We decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel. Nancy headed to Guildford to meet up with her daughter, and that’s where we’ll all be tomorrow!
(Keep in mind that any pictures I am able to post from the trip are not the edited versions – since I am working from my laptop, the picture quality is not as good as my Mac at home and therefore I’m not bothering to go through the process at the moment! They also upload smaller into my laptop so images may come out smaller than you’re used to seeing here.)