LOCATION: London and Canvey Island England
This item is part of my Contiki Trip Series. This is the beginning of the series.
April 20, 2012: Today I embarked on my long day of flying. Even though I’ve been planning this trip for a while, it has really only hit me today, now that I’m staring out of the plane window. I’m finally going to Europe! If you were to ask me 5 years ago if I thought I would go to Europe, let alone by myself, and on my own dime, I would have laughed so hard. It is crazy all that has changed. It is proof that if you set your mind to something, it can happen. This will be a great journey for me. I’m very grateful. –I finally boarded my flight from Boston to Heathrow London. The plane is huge! A row of 2 seats, 3 seats and then 2 more seats, sits about 400 people and I believe there are only 100 on board. Needless to say, I got the entire row to myself and can stretch out since this is an overnight flight. Even though I’m comfortable, I can’t sleep for the life of me due to my anticipation. Hopefully I can get some sleep since I’ll be on the go as soon as I land at 6:30am London time!
April 21, 2012: Next time I decide to do an overnight flight, slap me! It is 12:34am Virginia time and 5:34am in London. I managed to sleep a few hours, but really I’m just working on fumes. As I arrived at the airport, Lisa and her boyfriend picked me up. We drove to her house in Canvey Island, Essex which took about an hour and a half. The car steering wheel and traffic patterns continue to freak me out, it just seems wrong. After dropping off my stuff, Lisa and I went back into London to take a double decker tour. From the get go, people reacted to MY foreign accent. It was hard adjusting to the fact that I’m the one with the accent now. While on tour, we passed the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace, which was much smaller than I originally imagined it to be. The House of Parliament and Big Ben were HUGE! You can read about my Big Ben experience HERE. The London Eye Ferris Wheel was also an impressive sight. Traveling only one mile an hour, it goes really slow. I also learned that I was saying the River Thames wrong. I was pronouncing it thames, when it is actually Tims. The River TIMS (thames, whatever!) I was beginning to learn a lot of English phrases as well. Happy days, bad times, what a touch, bin it…those are just a few. I’ve also realized that I actually can’t understand much of what other people say. We finished the tour with a proper order of Fish and Chips with plenty of English vinegar to top it all off.
Later, I will be going out with Lisa’s friends who never really met a real American before. Should be fun! As I met them, they began to have me say certain phrases such as “whatever and totally awesome dude.” Apparently, all Americans have a surfer lingo attached to them, but I’m sure we all do this to everyone who is foreign to us. I realized that in this small island community of Essex, nobody has really met any Americans so I was quite the hit with everyone around town. I tried a traditional English shot of Sambuca, and returned the favor by making everyone take a shot of tequila. I learned the English roll dance, and taught the jersey shore fist pump. Hey, I’m not the PERFECT American, ok!
April 22, 2012: Today we woke and watched the London Marathon on the “telli.” It is interesting to see the route and know I crossed all of that yesterday. There’s a lot different in the US vs here that I feel nobody really informs you of when you travel. Your credit card in Europe has a chip and pin on it. They don’t swipe cards here but use the chip. Since I don’t have a chip and pin, I can’t use my card in the remote areas like Canvey Island. When I tried to call my credit card company collect, the UK doesn’t even know what collect is to be able to call. Frustrating to say the least. After finding an ATM and getting cash out for the rest of my time in London, the girls and I went for a proper roast at a carvery, which really just meant a meat bar. There was beef, pork, turkey and gammon (ham) for carving slices. They also serve this sweet bread called Yorkshire Pudding. It comes in a bowl shape and you fill it with gravy. Definitely not what I expected. The roast was a nice way to end my time with Lisa on Canvey Island before I would explore London on my own.
April 23, 2012: I woke up and had to say bye to Lisa today. She works near the Tower Bridge so we rode the Tube together. At first, the London Tube seemed really confusing, but after a few goes at it, it was extremely easy to use. The streets were a totally different story though and were very confusing. I managed to find my British guard to take a picture, you can see that experience HERE. I also was able to take my tour of Stonehenge, which you can see HERE. So far, London seems really great. Transportation was really easy and they even have bikes you can rent. You take the bike, and when you return it, it calculates how long you had it and you pay per hour. When I come back to London, I would like to explore more of the historical stuff and museums. Lots of war and medieval history here.
April 24, 2012: I woke up feeling sick. It is probably a combination of being freezing and in the rain yesterday and my total lack of sleep since I got here. On the plane I got 2 hours of sleep, Sat I got 6, Sun I got 3 and last night I got 5. How I’m making it, amazes me. I’ve officially become a super pro at the London Tube. Knowing all of this, I really don’t see the need for the Hop on Hop off tours and am glad I didn’t pay to do that again. During rush hour, the tube is crazy. People are literally jammed up against the doors looking helpless. Navigating a big city in another country alone has taught me so much about myself. I’ve evolved so much in the last few years and fully know that I’m capable of surviving when put to the test. Everyone should test themselves. Today I set out to find Abbey Road. You can read about that experience HERE. I also went to Harrods to drink an English cup of tea, which you can read about HERE. Afterwards, I decided to go to the Tower of London and see the fort and torture center from back in the day. It was a gigantic fortress made to protect the king and lord’s houses. It also served as a torture/jail chamber. One of the most famous prisoners there was William Wallace.
The family crown jewels were also on display there. No pictures were allowed of the crowns, which I thought was weird. After the Tower, I went to see Westminster Abbey, however it was 16 pounds just to go inside!! No thanks! London was fun, but I was ready to see more. Tomorrow, my tour with Contiki would start and I’d be off to Amsterdam in no time.
*Thank you Lisa for allowing me to stay at your place and for accompanying me on my adventure.
WOULD I DO IT AGAIN?: YES!
Contiki Travel is HIGHLY recommended. I would do this all over again a million times. www.contiki.com