Hello, London!

Actual date: March 10th, 2012

After what felt like an eternity, we finally arrived at London Gotwick Airport at six in  the morning. There was no sudden culture shock, as the only British accent we were able to encounter were from the friendly customs workers. We hopped on a Mercedez-Benz coach and headed to our hotel.

While others were finally able to catch up on sleep, my eyes were wide open and absorbing the world outside the window. We were passing by simple countryside crop fields, but there was something distinctly different about them than the ones in Indiana. The barns and the tractors all seemed to own their own style, yet I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. Even the grass seemed a different shade of green, despite a similar gloominess as the dim days of Indiana winters.

(^An authentic London traffic accident!!)

As we approached a more populated area, I stared at every person we drove past. I wondered what their life was like growing up somewhere so different from our culture, and absorbed every detail about them – their clothing, their expression, or even their bikes (the British people seem to travel a lot on bikes). We drove past what looked like the British version of “suburbia” and nice neighborhoods, only they were much more compact that their yards were gated by brick fences at the size of my bathroom. It was nothing like the vinyl and dollhouse-like look the suburban houses in the United States all seem to resemble. The buildings were mostly built of red brick, and all seemed to have been built at least decades old. Every brick seemed to carry its own history, along with vines that crawled on the walls and added more age.

Just by seeing the buildings, I noticed a dramatically different pattern in British in comparison to the States – the buildings here seem to be of more permanence. Unlike the cheap wood and vinyl buildings so abundant in Bloomington, when the buildings here were built, they must’ve intended for them to last for a long time. It must’ve been successful, because these buildings all look like they survived from the last century.

We arrived at our hotel at Holiday Inn in Kensington, immediately rushing to the free breakfast buffet as soon as we dropped our luggages off. Culture shock finally struck with some of the food they served. The croissants were the best I’ve ever tasted and were the most replenished  item on the buffet, in contrast to the rare chances I ever get to taste the bland croissants in the states due to the cost and lack of availability. They also served “black pudding,” which looked like little black cutlets of some sort of meat, but none of us could figure out what it actually was. I avoided that dish like any American would.

After breakfast, we hopped back on the bus for a half-day tour of the beautiful city of London. The narrow streets scared us all senseless and earned the bus driver a lot of respect and admiration. We somehow safely arrived at Westminster Abbey without a scratch.

Just the exterior of Westminster Abbey was able to take my breath away. I’d never seen a building so grand and impressive, with every inch showing such dedication from the most skilled architects in history.

The tour guide kept listing names of all the famous people who were buried here. I only knew of a few he mentioned. The tombs and memorials within the Abbey were very compact, almost like they couldn’t figure out how to arrange them so just piled them in with no specific order or organization. It was still fascinating to see all these remains and statues that are several centuries old.

We were later also taken to the Buckingham Palace and the London Bridge. I dropped an American penny at the Buckingham Palace fountain. The day was sunny and wonderful. We couldn’t have arrived in London at a better time. I enjoyed it profusely and wished I wasn’t so tired from jet lag so I could really soak it all in.

Following instructions, we turned in early and fell asleep with Channel 4 in the background, which was airing a medical show about a woman with an infection on her nipples. It was not censored.

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