Week One – Winning London
Thank you so much again for following my travels via this blog. Sorry about the delay in posting – where has the time gone?! From now on, I’m going to try my best to post every Monday (I’ll try my hardest!). That way, you’ll know when a new post is up and don’t have to check back constantly! On to the good stuff…
Here’s a brief timeline to catch you up:
***Just a quick note: Any time frames listed in this blog will be in U.K. time (5 hours ahead of my Ohio home!).
Jan. 4th: Arrived in London exhausted, but safe and sound!
After a smooth 6 hour flight from JFK to London Heathrow, we landed at 10am and were greeted by members of the IFSA-Butler team, who a had a coach ready to take us to our hotel. Fortunately for us (but not so lucky for the bus, perhaps) all of our luggage arrived safe and sound with us. IMMEDIATE THOUGHT: This looks nothing and everything like I imagined it. Sounds weird, but the landscape from the highway looked like I was just in Ohio! As we came into the city of London, however, our guide pointed out posh neighborhoods where au’pairs are the norm – NOW THAT’S MORE LIKE IT! Can’t lie that my head was screaming “WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE ROAD?”
We were all looking a bit rough, so thankfully the afternoon was free for us to rest or wander at our leisure before dinner. I so desperately wanted a nap, but knew I had to power through the day to beat jet lag! I walked just around the corner and found a familiar green logo – what a wonderful piece of home in the form of Starbucks! The remainder of the day was spent walking up and down the streets of London. It reminded me of New York in terms of having streets lined with shop after shop, but was on a much smaller scale (no skyscrapers!).
*Interesting discovery: The stores lined the streets arranged by category of merchandise – ie. the electronic stores were all next to each other, home and bedding stores next, you get the picture. This was much different than having to drive back and forth in Ohio – no wonder they don’t need cars!
Jan 5th-8th: IFSA-Butler orientation in London.
DAY 1: As I walked into orientation munching on some cereal, I began the first of many lessons on British culture – eating in any conference is not polite. (Whoops!). After a brief insight into British cultural norms, our orientation began with an introduction to the IFSA-Butler team members, followed by education sessions on the UK’s cultural differences and academic system. I can’t wait for the day that I get a 70 on an exam and it’s an A! After lunch, we heard all about England’s political system by Lord Taverne, a member of the House of Commons, the second branch in Parliament following the House of Lords (comparable to our Senate). We then learned all about safety measures from a former policeman, and we all left feeling scared out of our minds (like after you watch a Law and Order marathon). With that scaring, though, I felt very prepared and now have this officer’s lessons in the back of my head every day as I separate my money and make sure I’m aware of my surroundings.
Following our education sessions, we took a trip to the Fortune Theatre for a performance of The Woman in Black. With the evening free to explore, a group of friends and I walked about the city to find the sites that I had been hearing about my whole life – It was great to see the city shops the prior day but in the back of my head, all I could think of was “Where’s BIG BEN? The LONDON EYE? BUCKINGHAM PALACE?” Check, check and check! We even tried to get into Buckingham Palace by climbing on the gates (in a kidding manner of course – don’t tell the Queen). We ended the night with a stop to our very first pub, where I had a warm mulled apple cider that was perfect! Complete with a toast to the adventures to come!
* Click on any picture (and then click on it one more time) to make it larger!
DAY 2: Our education sessions today covered how to travel around the U.K. and Europe, and I will definitely make use of those lessons! Paris is just a 2-hour train ride away and from there, who knows where I’ll end up! After lunch, we had a walking tour of the city and it was great to see all the sites in daylight. After that, a few friends and I walked to Westminister Abbey (the church where the Royal Wedding took place!!!!) and were able to attend a service there. It was beautiful on the inside, and I definitely was the girl exclaiming “Oh my gosh, Kate Middleton walked on this floor!” Definitely blending in…
(Sorry, the one on the right is bit blurry, but it’s Westminster Abbey!)
Afterwards, we visited a local pub for dinner, where I had my very first Fish and Chips! YUMMMM!
DAY 3: Most of the students in our orienation group are attending Oxford, so they departed and left us three girls from the University of Kent in the city to have the next two days at leisure. Three girls. In London. With free time. What to do?
SHOP, OF COURSE! In London, there is a great little shopping center known as Covent Garden.
*Fun Fact: It was formerly called Convent Garden, but a scribe left out a letter and the name as stayed ever since!
This area is composed of a shops in what’s called Apple Market and then streets of everything from little boutiques, bakeries, and coffee shops to familiar stores like Topshop and Urban Outfitters. They even had American Apparel – gotta love representation! A little ways away from this shopping center is another street for clothing, and we discovered a little piece heaven – four floors of beautiful clothes at really inexpensive prices called Primark! It’s basically comparable to a Forever 21 but bigger and much more beautiful! My favorite trend here is elbow patches – they are on everything from sweaters to winter jackets! After doing a little damage, we took a trip to another theater to see Goodnight Mister Tom – definitely a tear jerker.
DAY 4: Our last day in London began with a little enculturation with a visit to the British Museum. It’s HUGE! It’s collections are comparable to the exhibits I’ve seen in the States, but my favorite there was one completely dedicated to clocks…yes, clocks. Watches, cuckoo clocks, grandfather clocks, I loved it!
After leaving the museum, I knew that my last day of London had to be spent adventuring to the place I’d been dreaming about all my life – Harrods! I knew it would be a bit of a hike, but it was easy with such beautiful scenery!
Passing St. James Park, and Buckingham Palace, I made my way to a beautiful area known as Hyde Park. If you’ve ever seen the movie Secret Garden, you can imagine what I saw. It was EXACTLY what I expected an English park to look like – cute little benches, delicate statues, and flowers blooming in yellow and purple. I regained my focus on my destination, and in just a few short minutes I found it – Hello Harrods, where have you been all my life?!
With that, I headed back and waved goodbye to London – for now!
Jan 6th: Departed London. Took 55 minute train to Canterbury and settled into my new home for the next six months.
Look out for my next post on my first week in Canterbury!
THINGS I EXPECTED
1. The architecture of buildings is EXACTLY what it looks like in the movies!
2. British accents are just as wonderful in person as they are on television.
3. Diversity – London especially is such a city of European, Asian, and African influence. Restaurants ranged from Indian, Italian, and even Turkish cuisine!
4. Red Double Deckers – they are EVERYWHERE!
THINGS I DIDN’T EXPECT
1. Buckingham Palace is right in the middle of the city – I always assumed it would be far off behind a gate and a huge courtyard!
2. So many American influences! From Starbucks at every corner to American clothing stores, it was a surprise but also a nice taste of home! I even turned on the television to find commercials for Disney Florida, Food Network, and American sitcoms!
3. Although I saw many red double decker buses, I always thought they were used for tourism purposes only and were open at the top. So far, the ones I have seen (with a few exceptions) are all public transit buses and are closed-topped!
4. Baked beans with breakfast? Interesting…more food discoveries to come!
Sorry for the length – that was an action-packed first week! Stay posted for more (hopefully shorter) posts on life in Canterbury!