Exploring London: Day 1

Ever notice how early mornings always seem to lead to the grandest of adventures? I do, but I also noticed something. It’s not about what you see when you’re exploring the world, but rather the people who come along with you and what you do between the sightseeing, that really matters. With that in mind, I’ve decided to spare you the boring part of seeing this and that. Instead, I’m going to write about what has really made my trip to London so fun.

Like any other trip begins, almost all of us were running late, and of course, one of the girls couldn’t find her debit card anywhere. Naturally, it was hidden in the hardest hiding spot… the card holder on the back of her phone. From there, we skedaddled our way to the train station. It took about an hour to get from Colchester to London. Of course, the other girls attempted to sleep on the way there because that’s what you do when the morning comes quicker than you want it to, and of course, I took a photo of everyone sleeping because that’s what you do when you’re me and want to document everything.

Like any other sensible female who just woke up from a nap on the train, the first thing we did was beeline it to Starbucks. After we finally had our morning coffee, we took the tube (also referred to as the underground, the subway, and occasionally, the loud and obnoxiously squeaky thing on wheels). When we came up from the tube, we saw Big Ben right before our eyes… or what should’ve been Big Ben because this well-known clock tower is under construction for the next four years; but like I wrote before, this isn’t going to be an article about the touristy destinations within London, but rather the overall adventure. As we walked around to the opposite side of the Houses of Parliament, it began to drizzle. It was the city’s way of welcoming us because, after all, England wouldn’t have it any other way. While we were there, we looked over this short brick wall into the River Thames. We could see the London eye just behind the Westminster Bridge. It was giant! Everyone was so filled with excitement. I think that’s when it hit me that I was in London and that I’ll be here on this grand adventure for the next five months.

Either way, we walked on and met up with two other girls, after being mesmerized by a street performer singing and strumming his guitar. Once we could bear to look away, we walked onward, across the Westminster Bridge, and past the London Eye. There were two other street performers that were putting on acts. One guy, who very closely resembled a statue, appeared to balance on the heel of one foot while sitting on an invisible chair. The other performer was dressed like a small, plastic toy soldier. When he spoke, he sounded like a toy with a squeaker. It was quite impressive. When we walked up a little further, the air grew louder with skid marks and wheels against concrete. The coolest looking skate park I have ever seen was to our right. The walls and obstacles were covered in graffiti. One of the obstacles consisted of a steep ramp in which the skaters kept taking turns and attempting to jump off. Nearly every single one fell. We stood there for a good while because there’s just something so gratifying in watching someone else flail about and try to catch themselves in that short moment between when the earth disconnects from their feet and then reconnects with their face. No one was seriously injured while we were there though, I assure you.

When we’d finally had enough, we walked across another bridge. It possibly could have been the Golden Jubilee Bridge. By this point, the rain had picked up, but that’s okay because it made walking across this bridge feel like we were in a romance movie... until you looked at everyone’s super frizzy hair, then it became a horror film.

At the end of this bridge was a building. I’m not quite sure what it was, but we went in and down an escalator. It is probably worth mentioning that this building had luminescent purple, blue and green lights that lit up the room, and it wasn’t just some boring rickety escalator like every other one. We walked for a little while until we ended up at the Trafalgar square. It’s this giant square with marvelous water fountains and giant statues. My favorites were the lions because I was that dork that took one of those photos that mess with perspective. At least one friend decided to be a dork with me, and we pretended to be carrying one of the lions above our heads and off into the distance. There was another statue of a hand holding its thumb up. It was somewhere between 17 - 22 feet tall. The statues and water fountains weren’t what really caught our attention though. Right across the street, hundreds, maybe even thousands of people were marching for a protest. We knew it had to be for some big cause because they had a megaphone. You know people are serious about something when there’s a megaphone involved.

When they finally passed, we walked down the mall, which is basically a road that leads to the Buckingham Palace. There were so many people pressing their face through the gate just to look at the guards who literally just stand there. They probably would’ve had more luck waiting for a tree to uproot itself and move. We didn’t judge though, because we all shoved our faces through the gate as well, so I understand their motives for wanting to watch a guy that never moved.

When we finally pried our faces free, we found a double decker bus to carry our worn-out selves to the youth hostel where we were staying the night. We put down our backpacks and headed out in search of food, dinner to be precise. We found a super fancy Chinese restaurant. Not exactly the Chinese food we were imagining, but it worked all the same. We finished our meals and headed to the convince store to pick up some sweet treats. (Just in case you didn’t know, cookies are referred to as “biscuits” here.) We had our fill and headed back to the hostel for the night to recharge for the next day of adventure.

Tip of the day: People in England don’t tip here after a meal in a restaurant, after ordering a drink at the bar, or after getting out of a taxi and tax is already included in the price of items in a store.