Ciao! Or should I say hello?
As I sit here thinking about what I want to write about, I am struggling to begin. Where did this London whirlwind of a weekend begin? How did this rather unfortunate series of events start (correction: unfortunate then pretty amazing)?
Okay, backtracking to last Friday. Let me set the scene. I was super excited for London. Seeing Big Ben, watching the changing of the guard in front of Buckingham Palace, walking underneath Tower Bridge, eating fish and chips, and of course hearing those beautiful English accents. Growing up watching lots of British TV shows and movies, I was beyond ready to finally see life across the pond.
I had just arrived at the Bologna airport with my friend, and we had already gone through visa check and we had our boarding pass stamped. We went to scan our pass in order to get into security, but for some reason the screen read “too late”. After several tries of rescanning, we went to talk to an employee. Turns out..we were way too late. 12 hours too late. That’s right, we thought our flight was at 6 pm..turns out it was 6 am. You see, it seems that everyone in the world uses military time except for America. So I am putting some of the blame on America. And our own stupidity.
So at this point, I had to laugh because otherwise I would’ve cried. HOW DID WE NOT NOTICE THIS? I still haven’t let this go, as you can tell. After a scrutinizing hour or two of having the poor Italian woman working at the airport search for another flight that wasn’t 500 euros or completely full, we finally found a flight leaving out of Milan the next morning at 7 am. We hopped on the train to Milan, then another train to the airport (another 45 minutes), and finally arrived around midnight at the Malpensa airport. After sleeping about 1.4 hours in an uncomfortable airport chair while listening to an old woman snore all night, I was really hoping London was all that it was cracked up to be.
I will end my rant about how much money and time I wasted with that simple mistake with this: QUADRUPLE CHECK THE TIME OF YOUR FLIGHT. Actually, whatever is more than quadruple..do that!
London Day 1:
When we arrived at the London Gatwick airport, we were faced with another challenge. How to get into actual London? Most cheaper airports are pretty far from London, so we were about an hour away from central London. We had already paid for a bus to bring us into London that left last night (at a whole different airport), so we were very unwilling to pay for another one at this point. Lucky for us, we found out that Gatwick is actually a stop on the London underground. We bought a day pass for the tube (a nickname for the underground..trying to sound like a true Londoner) and in about an hour we arrived at our first stop. We got lucky here.
(I made that sound pretty easy, but in reality we stood there for quite awhile trying to figure out how this thing worked. To give you some reference, here is map of the tube:)
It kind of gave me a headache. But once my friend and I figured it out it was a quick way to get anywhere in London. (FYI I learned that London has the oldest transportation system in the world. They invented underground transportation for the entire world. For comparison, Rome has 2 metro lines, London has 11 lines. There was even shops dedicated to the London Underground..a little odd but transportation was a big part of their city.)
First stop: Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard.
As soon as I set foot outside, I was hit with huge gusts of wind and rain. The actual temperature was in the 50’s, but it felt a lot colder than that. Definitely felt like England (and reminded me of Ohio weather)! I stood outside Buckingham Palace for about 40 minutes in the rain with my huge backpack until finally, the officers told us that it was cancelled! Luck was just not on my side with this trip.
After finally checking into my hostel and changing into some warmer clothes, I felt very eager to actually see something British. Next, I took the tube to Tower Bridge.
It was very beautiful, especially with the water right next to the bridge and the sun beginning to go down. The sun starts going down around 4:30 pm and by 5 it’s dark in England!
At this point it was really hitting me that I was actually in London. I saw red Double Decker buses, I was using pounds instead of euros, and my favorite part: beautiful English men speaking with beautiful English accents (who doesn’t love English accents?).
Next, I headed over to King’s Cross station. That’s right, the one from Harry Potter..who knew it was an actual station? Not me before I planned this trip. The best part was this picture was it was free. I have always been a huge Harry Potter fan, so it was worth waiting 40 minutes in line for. The Harry Potter shop next to the platform had everything from Hermione’s wand to Ravenclaw sweaters– a Potterhead’s dream. I had to use every restraint in my body not to buy everything.
Next I took the tube near the London eye and spent some time walking around that area until it was time to go on the London eye. It was right on the Thames river, so there was a slight breeze and it finally had stopped raining!
The London eye was pretty awesome. Not something I would do again, but I got a really pretty view of all of London at night. Words cannot express how beautiful the view was, so I will let the pictures do the talking.
Oh, and I finally got some greasy fries and fried chicken for dinner. I missed greasy food a lot…I didn’t realize how much I missed having food that wasn’t pizza or pasta. It tasted like heaven. London had restaurants and food from all around the world, so it was so nice to see variety again. Also, it felt kind of like home. London actually reminded of America a lot– the food, no language barrier, the modern feel, the higher technology, the bathrooms with toilet paper. It was great to get away and see something new after over two months of living in Italy.
That is all for day 1! I will be adding day 2 soon.