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March 17, 2014 / laurencox12

Love Affair With London

It has been a week since I landed back in the U.S. after my friend Alex and I took our trip to London, and I have to admit, I’m already itching for my next vacation. Seriously, I spent an hour the other night looking up cruises.

Our London adventure, my first real vacation since my Senior Trip in high school, actually started as a spontaneous text message. Alex and I had been talking about planning a trip for a while, but nothing concrete was ever put in place. A little more than three months ago, my friend and former intern Jaime posted a picture of the place where she would be staying while she studied in London during the spring semester. That Instagram post is what got the ball rolling. As soon as I saw it, I sent Alex a text proclaiming that we had to visit Jaime while she was in London. So thanks for studying abroad this semester Jaime!

I’m sure Alex rolled her eyes when she got my message. This wasn’t the first time I’d sent her a text like this….I think the week before I was planning a trip to New Orleans. But by New Year’s Day our upcoming adventure was a reality. We started 2014 on a high note, booking flights and hostels and starting a list of all the things we wanted to see. Before I knew it, we were on the runway at Newark Liberty International Airport preparing for take off.

As soon as we landed in London, I was reassured that this was the best decision I had made in a long time. I was in love.

A week-long stay in one of the greatest cities in the world can yield literally a million stories, so I’ll have to spare you some of the details. To keep things simple, I”ll stick to my five favorite things about London.

  1. Every Tube stop had maps that were easy to read and understand. It was magical.

    Every Tube stop had maps that were easy to read and understand. It was incredible.

    The efficiency. From the minute we got off of the plane, we could tell London was a model of efficiency — a.k.a. heaven for Type A ladies like Alex and I. Directional signs everywhere (in multiple language might I add). Not a long line to be seen. We got through customs in a matter of seconds, including the break we took to chat it up with the agent there. Then we discovered The Tube…better known as God’s gift to public transportation. We never had to wait more than three minutes for a train the entire time we were in London. In fact, the longest time we waited for any public transportation was 10 minutes for a bus (at 3AM). Coming from the land of SEPTA, where there are only two subway lines and nothing runs on time, London’s public transportation system was awe-inspiring. But the efficiency didn’t end there. For a big city, London was amazingly clean. It didn’t take long to see why. There were workers everywhere sweeping streets, emptying public trash bins and more. They even clean the inside of the trash cans when they empty them! I could go on for hours about London’s efficiency and still not do it justice, so I’ll stop here.

  2. The people. Literally EVERYONE we came in contact with was nice. I’ve never seen anything like it. The customs agent I mentioned before, he started our trip off with a request for a piece of Alex’s “American chewing gum.” Yeah, imagine one of our TSA agents doing anything other than demanding you take off your shoes or patting down your hair, all with a scowl on their face. Security guards at all the tourist sites greeted us with a smile and some sort of fun comment — usually about Alex’s paint can purse which everyone loved. The staff at our hostel were all super helpful, no matter what time of day it was or what questions we had. Even the random guys in pubs were nice and definitely less creepy than randos at home. 
  3. The food. Yes, you read that correctly. I know England has a bad rep when it comes to dining, but I thoroughly enjoyed everything that I ate there. Were there items on the menu that I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole? Yes, but that happens to me at home too. The cheap pub food was great, but my favorite meals during the trip came from the outdoor markets.
  4. The gates at Kensington Palace were the place where many mourners left flowers and other tokens of affection for Princess Diana after her death. I was obsessed with Princess Dianna as a kid, so seeing her former home was one of the highlights of this trip for me.

    The gates at Kensington Palace were the place where many mourners left flowers and other tokens of affection for Princess Diana after her death. I was obsessed with Princess Dianna as a kid, so seeing her former home was one of the highlights of this trip for me.

    The history. Obviously we have pieces of history here in the United States, but the historical aspects of London are on a whole other level. We were able to walk through the Churchill War Rooms — the underground bunker where Winston Churchill and his staff spent much of World War II, the very rooms where they plotted the war. We got to take a tour of Kensington Palace — the centuries old building that countless members of the Royal Family, including Princess Diana and now Prince William and Kate Middleton, have called home. We even made our way to Abbey Road, home to Abbey Road Studios and the location of the famed Abbey Road cover where The Beatles are seen crossing the road. With each new site that we saw, Alex and I had to take a minute to fully absorb the historical events that had taken place where we were standing.

  5. Our view from the top of the London Eye. Breathtaking.

    Our view from the top of the London Eye. Breathtaking.

    The views. I’m a sucker for a good view, and the ones I saw in London were top notch. Whether it was from my hostel window, the top of Tower Bridge or a capsule on the London Eye, the views were nothing short of spectacular. I have to say, the coolest view for me was the one we saw from the Eye. At that point, our trip was halfway over and we had seen most of the big things on our list. As we made our way up to the top of the London Eye, a lot ran through my mind: how little time I had left in this amazing city, how blessed I was to be there at all, and how lucky I was to be experience a new piece of the world with my friends.

To say this trip was desperately needed is an understatement. Spending a week abroad and celebrating my 24th birthday in a foreign country was magical. Although I dreaded returning to work, when I did walk back into the office, I felt like I was ready to take on the world. It’s crazy what a week without email, time spent with friends and a few drinks can do for your mental state.

Until next time London…Cheers!

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