Sunday, August 12, 2012

A look at London: Week one

I made a list, and, literally, checked it twice. Right before I sped off to the Columbus airport last Saturday to begin my three-week journey to London, England, all I could hope was that my suitcase would zip shut. And it did, but not for long. Before I could even make it past customs, my bag was unzipped and my clothes sprawled out on the floor of the airport check-in point. Conveniently enough, my luggage was ten pounds heavier than the legal weight limit. I won’t go into what that number is, but I will say mortified doesn’t even come close to how I felt as I emptied what I swore I couldn’t do without in front of an impatient line of people behind me. I was never a light packer.
View of London Bridge as the city prepares for the 2012 Olympics. 
Besides that, and the occasional diversion to the wrong terminal (I was never really good with directions, either), I made it across the sea and to Heathrow airport in the heart of London with ease. I was relieved to see the familiar and fatigued faces of my Ohio University classmates waiting just beyond the baggage claim, yelling, “Cheerio!” as I rolled my suitcase over. This was it — the start of what I can already call an unforgettable and life-changing experience.
Although getting to England was a cinch, within the first week of being here, I  found that adjusting to the English lifestyle wasn’t as easy as trading in my coffee mug for a cup of tea. Who am I kidding? Even within the first couple hours, I was almost clipped by a bus in London driving on the LEFT side of the road, realized the travelers checks I bought in the States were a thing of the past and blew out my only electrical converter. Word to the wise, leave all your hair products at home; they might be the reason your suitcase weighs so much.
The narrow roads, the pound system, the voice in the train system calling out to “mind the gap,” and the five-hour time difference all contributed to the deer-in-the-headlights look I wore on my face all week, but I wouldn’t give up my temporary home for anything. The city is absolutely stunning, buzzing with anticipation and high energy as the 2012 Summer Olympic Games round the corner. Already in the first week, we were able to visit the historic cities of Brighton, Oxford and Bath, tour Blenheim Palace (birthplace of Winston Churchill, if you aren’t familiar with your ancient palaces) and take a trip to Stonehenge.
By now, the jet lag has worn off and the excitement has set in. With my newfound knowledge and the opening ceremony taking off this weekend, I’m prepared to do what I came here for. You may just have to remind me to look both ways before crossing the street. Let the games begin!

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