Sarah Webb invites you to take a peek into her travel journal as she gets (hopelessly) caught up in the London life.
I’m inviting all of you to follow me around London! Not literally though, that would be weird. I’ll have you all done for stalking.
You would think after a 4am wake up call, an hour-and-a-half drive to Sydney airport, an eight hour flight to Malaysia, a six hour stopover in Kuala Lumpur, and then 13 hours of flying to London would kill a girl who’s never flown in her life. Nope, nada.
After setting down around 6am at Heathrow Airport last Saturday, I had arrived on a 29 degree day looking like an Eskimo. The heat was a total shocker, especially so early in the morning, and instantly regretted wearing the khaki jacket, jeans and boots I had on. It’s winter in Australia, so I had assumed the London summer would be very much like it was back home, but needless to say, I was very wrong. I learned from my site director, an Italian lady named Anna, that this was very unusual weather indeed, so any preconceived notions I had of London weather weren’t entirely wrong.
Apparently she considers this a “heat wave”, but it’s what I like to call a normal Saturday in Australia. However, from what I was wearing at the time, I had no choice but to agree with her.
What’s so great as I’m just finding out, is that the days last so long during the summer (until about 9:30pm). When the sun comes out, I notice Londoners take over Hyde Park or Regent’s Park for any patch of grass to sunbathe.
I joining Anna at Regent’s on Saturday, and walking past the open-air theatre, she told me all about London life and culture, like where the best Italian pizza in the city is (she was very passionate about this topic) and shared some cultural dos and don’ts. For example, I quickly realised that casually asking where to buy thongs is not the best idea in London. Yes, the language barrier exists even in English-speaking countries. You don’t realise how much slang you use when you have to stop every few sentences to explain what that word actually means where you come from.
I woke up Sunday morning to the hustle and bustle of the city below, as Londoners took advantage of the sunny day. Awakening from 13 hours of sleep, I had just enough energy stored for me to power through the events I had planned for the day (and also those unplanned), as I was fortunate enough to not suffer from any jet-lag. Luck was on my side that day.
First up, I trekked to the Underground Tube on Baker Street like a pro and made my way to Oxford Circus without issue. It surprised me because I have a terrible sense of direction back at home, but here, my independent self was finally starting to take charge. I’m still waiting for a disaster to happen to me while traveling the Underground, as I’ve heard if you don’t abide by ‘tube etiquette’, you’ll end up copping an earful from the Londoners. So, careful steps have been taken to ensure that this can be avoided, especially ones to the right. You’ll regret it if you go to the left side of the escalator, and I ‘m sure those of you who have taken the tube before will know what I mean.
I was on the way to my CISaustralia Orientation, the amazing group of people who threw this trip into motion, when I met up with Anna again and other international students, most of whom come from Austin, Texas. As a group, we ventured to a lovely French restaurant hidden away in one of the many side streets of London and we ate on the house.
With stomachs full of Sunday pork roast and nothing to do, two Californian girls and I went exploring and got wildly lost. Before we knew it, there were two of us left and we had accidentally arrived in Piccadilly. But we didn’t care; we just wanted to get lost again, and so we did.
The rest of the day is all a blur. From seeing Big Ben, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, to touring the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square after being greeted by a levitating Yoda, it was possibly one of the best days of my life.
My friend and I topped our late afternoon off with a traditional English fish and chips dinner and we were both determined to leave no batter to waste.
I am the cliché tourist of course, as I was telling my American friend, and I have no shame in asking strangers to take photos and to be curious of all things that may seem insignificant to the native Londoner. This is the chance to take advantage of the endless possibilities in London, and to not only find others that share your passions and to enjoy the various cultures found here, but to find yourself as well and find out who you are and who you can be. I realised that Sunday that this can well and truly be a life changing experience.
Those were just the first two days of my month in London. I have no idea what the next three weeks may have in store for me, but I’m eager to find out.
Feature Image: Lisa Widerberg, Flickr, no changes made.
Images: Sarah Webb