that you would consider unpleasant for a six hour plane ride: screaming baby, guy behind you Irish Step dancing on your seat, the kind of turbulence where you hit air pockets and feel the plane drop a couple thousand feet every thirty seconds…that was my flight to London, and then some. My plane was probably 95% Syracuse students going to London on the SU program, so while walking to my seat I expected maybe I’d sit next to a nice Syracuse boy, we’d have a drink and I could pass out on his shoulder and wake up six hours later in London Heathrow. When I got to my seat, I realized I only had half a seat because the other half was taken up by the 95 year old woman sitting next to me. Not only did we (unfortunately) cuddle the entire time, but I think I had bruised ribs from her elbowing me so much. If that wasn’t bad enough, she didn’t know English. And I don’t mean she didn’t know English but she could get by…she didn’t even know yes or no. She couldn’t communicate one single word because the only language she spoke was Egyptian (the flight attendant eventually figured this out). I spent my entire plane ride trying to help her communicate (the SU girl on the other side helped out too—she was great). I didn’t sleep the entire time, and this woman seriously made me want to cry my eyes out to a point where I shed a few tears on the plane because I felt so bad for her. Things really couldn’t get much worse, so I was pretty excited to land and see how things could start looking up.
When we got off the plane, we went through a huge customs line that moved slower than the Starbucks line across from Richter, but I finally made it through and got my first stamp in my passport. I met up with the girls on my plane from my program and we met the AIFS woman who had us wait with some other girls…for an hour while she frantically searched for another girl, and we later found out her flight was cancelled. I tried to buy a Vitamin water from the vending machine but I soon realized they don’t take cards or dollars or quarters. Finally we got into a bus and made our way to the school. I was running on no sleep at this point so I slept on the bus for a little while, and when I woke up I was in Kensington, London at Richmond University.
(Still not used to them driving on the opposite side of the road!)
We got off the bus and were greeted by the RAs and office staff who directed us where to go and one girl carried my 65 pound (weight not currency) bag up the stairs to the third floor where my room is. I walked in and I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but I’ve been comparing it to a jail cell. I guess all dorms in the UK have sinks, but it just makes me feel like there should be bars on the windows. I’m getting used to it though, having to walk downstairs every time I need to use the bathroom or shower would be even more annoying if I had to do it to brush my teeth or wash my face, too. So far, I haven’t encountered anyone while in my towel walking the stairs before or after a shower—hopefully I didn’t just jinx myself.
I kept myself awake and pretty busy for the rest of the day. I had a few orientation meetings to go to, and I went to the phone store to get a simcard for my phone. This was my first experience of the area, and it’s really awesome. I could do without all the Maseratis though. Reminds me too much of Miami. A few hours later my roommate Carli arrived from California and we figured out how to unpack all of our stuff. It’s definitely starting to feel a bit more homey, even with our makeshift laundry bags and our makeshift fridge—the ledge outside our window.
(The view from our balcony…am I actually allowed out there?)
At around 8 PM the entire program went to a pub a few blocks away from where we’re staying. There was a pub quiz, which we knew about zero answers to, but we sat and I had my first legal drink in the UK. I also had a Snakebite with Black Currant for the first time; thought this would be my new favorite drink.
(Me and Carli and our Snakebites)
We could only make it out until about 11 PM because we were so tired and I was approaching about 30 sleepless hours. We got back to the room and I laid in my bed for the first time. I would say the bed is like sheet rock combined with steak knives, but it’s not so bad now that I purchased a foam cover. The first couple nights were rough though, to say the least.
The next morning I felt…horrible. I only had two drinks so the fact that I threw up everything I ate for breakfast kind of surprised me. It had to be a combination of jetlag, exhaustion, not eating enough, and heavy English beer or maybe the Snakebite. I started the day with a tour of Kensington which was extremely interesting. I learned all about the history of the area and saw the Kensington Palace (Prince Harry, are you there?!) but we weren’t allowed to take any pictures there. After the tour, I had another orientation meeting and got lunch at a really cute cafe with my friends. I ate a croissant type thing filled with spinach and feta. It was delicious and the woman was so nice! We decided we have to become regulars there.
After lunch, we met for a bus tour of London that took us all over to see the main sights. We saw Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, and lots of other things.
That night, I went to an Italian restaurant called Da Mario, which was apparently Princess Diana’s favorite restaurant. We all shared a few bottles of wine and nice conversation. The waiters absolutely hated us, so we asked them to take a picture of us since we had nothing to lose. It was at this point I started to realize that even if I am inside, I am going to be freezing cold. I’m wearing my coat in pretty much all of my pictures because it’s that cold.
We left the restaurant and went to our friends apartment. We must have really taken our time because by the time we tried to find an open pub, everything was closed. I had no idea everything would close so early around here! I’m so used to leaving to go out around 11 or 12 at school, but that’s when a lot of pubs close. We ended up back in Ambassador (the other dorm building) drinking in Jake and Jesse’s room with a ton of people. It was really fun for a while, but it got too loud so the RA came in to break it up. Two minutes later he had chugged three beers and had joined the party. I’m not sure what time it was when Carli and I left to go back to Atlantic, but it was late and we were definitely excited to sleep.
The next day we woke up to do some dorm essentials shopping. We ate at Pret A Manger and bought Oyster cards for the tube. We also went to our school’s activities fair and signed up for an adventure weekend trip to Wales and I’m so excited for it! That night, most of the program took the tube to Piccadilly to see the West End play, The 39 Steps. We had an hour to kill when we got there so we walked around and explored the area. In that one hour span, we saw a red carpet premiere for something called House of Cards, and another movie premiere, where we saw Denzel Washington! After the Denzel madness, we found a pub, got a beer, and headed to see the show. It was really great and the actors are super talented, and I now have the biggest fan crush on Andrew Alexander.
After the show was over we decided to stay around Piccadilly since there were some great places to go. We went to a place called Tiger Tiger and we met some really nice guys from Switzerland who bought us drinks and hung out with us a lot of the night. Abba, Katie and I ended up at KFC (shame) and then spent way too long trying to figure out how to take the bus back home. A nice boy on the BU program helped us a lot and walked us almost all the way home. A big thanks to Ethan (was that his name?).
The next day I woke up and it was snowing! It was the first time Carli has actually experienced snow. We met up with Maggie and Katie at Whole Foods (you can take the Americans out of America…but we’re still gonna eat at Whole Foods) and afterwards we just chilled out. This was the first time I had really just sat down and relaxed since I got to London. Later on, we ate dinner in the dining hall, pregamed in Ambassador and then went to Kelly, Jenna and Maggie’s apartment. We ended up getting there so late that we realized we were going to have to pay a huge cover for any place that we went, so we split up once we got to the tube station. Some people went to Aura, but Katie, Abba, Jake, Jesse and I decided we would head for Piano Bar. I made the brave decision to wear heels this night, and I thought I was being so smart by bringing flats in my bag. Flats would have been a great idea had there not been an inch of snow on the ground. I’m surprised I still have all of my toes. I really am not used to this weather!
Piano bar was so full that the bouncer wouldn’t let anyone else in, and told us we probably wouldn’t even want to go in. We had been walking for so long (Jake took us the wrong way) and I was getting so antsy at this point that I would have gone in anywhere to warm up. Finally we made it to Prince of Wales and had a few drinks there. It was fun but my mood had been a little deflated from my cold feet. When the pub closed (early) Katie went to buy more alcohol while Abba and I went to McDonalds (more shame than KFC…please don’t judge me). When we were done devouring our burgers while being stared at by 15 British construction workers in bright orange vests, we went to Ambassador to hang out there and Carli and Maggie showed up after Aura. They had some hilarious stories from the night, and then Carli and I made our way back to Atlantic.
This morning I woke up went to another cafe with my friends. I got an egg salad sandwich on a baguette and it was delicious. I also had the first good cup of coffee I’ve had since arriving in London. After this, I went on a tour of the BBC Television Studio which was really cool, but I definitely expected it to be more exciting. I’d say the best part was our cute British tour guide who I would have gladly given my phone number to if I had the opportunity. When I got back, I met everyone at Top Shop where they were doing some shopping, and we ate dinner at Prince of Wales. I had a chicken sandwich, but I tasted Maggie’s fish and chips which was actually really good! Not sure if I’ll order it for myself, but I had to try! We went to a place called Candella Tea Room for tea and dessert and I had the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had!
(Ze ultimate tourist)
(Me and Maggie at Prince of Wales)
(The Tea Room)
I’m finally back in my room now and was able to Skype with Rachel and Michelle for a little, and with my sister. I’m eating English MnMs (they taste different!) and finally taking off my horrible gels that were long overdue to come off. Now my nails are nicely painted, I’m finishing this blog, and listening to my neighbor’s television show or movie or something that I can hear through the wall (normally she’s playing some rap music but I think she saves that for hours that people are sleeping (2AM-11AM)). I just love waking up to Chingy at 9 in the morning!
Anyway, I know this was a long blog but I wanted to give an update of my first couple days in London. I’ll keep updating and telling stories and hopefully they’ll be a lot less boring than this one. Needless to say, everything turned up from that horrible plane ride and I’m having a great time! Anyone know why birds chirp here at like 3AM? Maybe they’re jetlagged!