After getting off the plane in Heathrow airport and suffering from a very disorienting jet lag, the most frustrating part of the first day or so in London was the fact that no matter what pre-conceived notions I might have had, all aspects of familiarity are out the window. First order of business? Rediscover London.
The first full day in the arguable center of the world, a couple of girls and I decided to head to what all the movies and books deem to be 'London' in all its wonderfully stereotypical glory. We hopped on the tube -- the London metro -- and exited at Charring Cross Station. Emerging from the underground, it finally hit us: We are actually in London.
We found ourselves in the middle of Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery behind us, Big Ben a little ways off in front of us, and all around, building upon building of standing history. It felt like a movie set.
Walking towards Buckingham Palace, we took the same path traversed by Colin Firth in "The Kings Speech." The gardens to the left and right of us were spectacular, green and bright, despite the wintry forty degrees that caused us to pull our pea coats around us tighter.
Eventually making a larger circle, we walked into a pub in front of Westminster Abbey and Parliament. From our seat near the window, fish and chips in front of us, Big Ben was perfectly framed in the large curtain-covered panes of glass. We couldn't help but laugh: this touristy day was not wasted on us.
The world around us might be straight out of a movie, but it soon became clear that we were not going to be tourists these next few months abroad; we were living here. Asking for silverware, for instance, the man at the bar stared at us for a second before smiling in recognition and properly muttering, ah, cutlery. Needless to say, the English may speak English, but that does not mean an American won't get lost in translation.
Another culture shock came when I looked at the clock on my phone, sensing that the evening was keenly approaching, and 2 p.m. showed in bright white letters. Due to the Northern location of Britain, the sun only rose so high that day before plummeting downwards and setting at 4:34 p.m. For us used to the South like North Carolina or Texas, that was a very strange sight. The early morning looked like afternoon, and the afternoon looked like early evening. Odd.
No matter. Because it was a Tuesday, there were few tourists or Londoners on the streets, and we were allowed to simply become lost in this moment on the Thames, the moment when, walking by the river, runners passing us every hundred feet or so, we realized that, for almost four months, this historic city, moulded by countless stories, reality and fiction, will be our city.