Thursday, January 14, 2010
Spotted: An American Tourist in London
Well, it’s official. I have arrived in Europe. My dad dropped me off at the airport on Wednesday night and I’ll admit my eyes welled up a little but my hands were shaking with excitement. I walked inside to see everyone else with their parents anxiously waiting to weigh their bags, which I passed through with an entire pound to spare! Once I went through security I decided to try to get some dinner before the long flight. My options? Chips, candy, or duty free vodka. Luckily they fed us on the plane- twice. During this lovely 7 hour flight, I was seated between two businessmen who were friends but apparently neither of them wanted the middle seat. Lucky me. It actually ended up being pretty helpful though since they were both from London and told me a lot of great places to go.
Once I arrived in London, after a minor scare in which I thought they had lost the precious 49 pounds of luggage which encompass my entire life for the next four months, I met up with my group and we hopped on a bus to our hotel. There are 150 students with our group here in London and 142 of them are staying in a hotel together. Guess who is part of the lonely 8 students who were put in a different hotel? I can’t complain though because my hotel is much “posher” and only a block away. From my window I even have a lovely view of KFC, Starbucks, and Burger King. Have I really left Chicago? Since I was the first of these 8 students to arrive, I was brought to my hotel, the Baiey’s Millenium in Kensington (see picture above) and ended up losing track of the precious few friends I met on my flight. Here is where the fun begins. Laura Spinks, my friend from school who is partaking in this European adventure with me, has no phone for me to contact her on. Mom and Dad, I have no idea how you survived college without cell phones. So here I am in London, by myself, ready and willing to take full advantage of the city. I then meet some other students on my program but they all want to stay in the hotel to recover from their jet lag. Lame. Now, I don’t want to get lost exploring in a foreign country by myself so I decided to take a walk along the road my hotel is on. This road is spelled Gloucester but actually pronounced “Glouster”. This is the first of many “language barrier” problems I run into in London. More on that later.
You would be proud, Dad, because I can cross off #17 on my list of to-dos you wrote me for Europe: see Kindergartener’s at school and note the differences from American students. This line of 5 year olds were all dressed in matching forest green pea coats with red plaid scarves. They were such adorable little nuggets and I wanted to take a picture but then I remembered I was alone and didn’t feel like giving myself away as a (possibly creepy) tourist within my first 5 minutes in London. I’m also pretty sure that I saw Susan Boyle driving by in a limo while on this adventure. However, since I was alone I don’t have any confirmation on my first European “celebrity” sighting.
After another hour or so of lonely touring, I finally find Laura and we went to the famous Harrod’s department store. Surprise, surprise that this is the first major “landmark” I choose to visit in London. We then come back to the hotel for the party that our program is hosting for us and make some friends to go out to dinner with. We decide to venture to a local gem called Hereford and here is where the “language barrier” problems get really fun. Hereford is actually pronounced “Hairahferd” not “Here. Ford.” like our lovely American accents make it sound so the concierge is laughing at us when we ask for directions. We finally make it over there and I decide to try, what else but Fish and Chips. I then ask the bartender to recommend a good local beer and he asked me where I was sitting. His accent was so thick though that I thought “wherer ya si-ing” was the beer he was recommending so I just said that sounds good. He rolled his eyes and basically shooed me away after that little mishap.
Next we decided to take the Underground to Camden for a little night life. Apparently Camden is known for its eccentric crowd which is probably why the pub we stumbled upon was a place that Amy Winehouse frequents on the weekend. We had a good time meeting some crazy locals with accents so thick that I mostly just smiled and nodded while they spoke to me. The cab driver on the way home thought I said Lancaster Street since I was still pronouncing Gloucester wrong but we eventually made it back to the hotel to get some sleep for our big day of sightseeing. Look for my next post on London’s hot spots. Cheerio darling!