We arrived in London around 13:30 England time (so 6:30 Colorado time) and the adventures began with customs and finding our way to Central London via Taxi. Our taxi driver fit 4 girls, 6 large suitcases, and 5 backpacks into our taxi and drove us to the city. The first thing I noticed was the mass amount of cars on the tiny streets. The roads are usually two lanes wide, but the cars are right up next to each other with little room in between. They are also very aggressive drivers and do not stop for anyone.
Once we checked in the wandering began. There is so much to see, but I’ve also realized that London is a very “touristy” city. The lines are ridiculously long to see the attractions, but they are so worth it! We went on a walking tour (Free…SCORE!) one day and then explored on our own the next. Here’s a list of the attractions we saw/did (and I will post pictures below) – Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, local pubs, Buckingham Palace & the changing of the guards, Trafalgo Square, telephone booths, London Eye, the Shard, China Town, Shakespeare’s Globe, The National Gallery, Harrod’s (I have never seen so many designer clothes in my whole life!), Hyde Park, and a lot of walking.
After staying in the hostel for two nights I can say that I don’t think hostel living is for me. Not that it’s not convenient and cheap, but people are coming and going at all hours which makes it incredibly difficult to sleep. I also found that they are not very clean probably for the same reason of so many people always being there.
So far I have met an incredible amount of people – SAS (Semester at Sea) and non-SAS!!! They are from all walks of life, which makes for such interesting conversations…I have met Germans, Australians, Americans, Brazilians, Canadians, Argentinians and of course English natives.
Even though I didn’t spend a ton of time in England, I was able to see most of the main attractions and begin to understand the culture. The best way to describe the English is to say that they are less stressed about life and therefore do not worry about much. For example, they will run into you on a street corner and not think to say excuse me…Or in a restaurant the waiters are not in a hurry to get your bill to the table. To Americans this comes off as rude because we are used to constantly saying “excuse me” and having instant gratification. It would take months to get used to the different cultures, but within the 3 days that we were here we had to learn fast.
Speaking of learning fast – crossing the street is probably the most difficult task here. Instead of looking right and then left you have to look left and then right when crossing the street. And some streets are only one ways but are not clearly marked that way. And they do not have street signs, which makes getting/giving directions almost impossible. Directions end up sounding like: “you know that pointy thing at the corner where we saw that man playing the saxophone? Turn right there and then when you see that red shop of the corner turn left.” But then the problem is that you come to a five way street and are not sure which road is left.
To avoid the streets completely, take The Tube. It is an underground transportation system similar to the subway in New York and is relatively easy to figure out (except when you are trying to take The Tube for 2 hours with all of your luggage for 4 months…Thank you to everyone who helped us up and down the stairs!)
Anyways…London was a great experience. I am glad that I was able to experience the culture – attractions, streets, pubs, food, and people.