Big Ben, the British Museum, Camden Market, mushroom pies and lots of tea highlighted my first few days living in London. I arrived Tuesday, jet-lagged, but ready for my semester abroad. My first adventure was catching the Piccadilly Tube Line to my new flat...a little more difficult with more than 90 pounds of luggage. I then dragged it all the way up to my fourth floor flat to meet my four flatmates. We have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, living room, and a non-working fireplace in every room. Home sweet home!
One of the first adventures was finding phones (a.k.a. mobiles) to communicate for the next three and a half months. After we each had a functioning number, we looked to the next essential: food. The flatmates and I found a grocery store similar to our American counterpart, but completely different. We found one brand of peanut butter, "pots" of yogurt and liters of milk (forget gallons).
My flatmates and I decided to peruse a classic British marker on Friday night: The British Museum. We cooked an early dinner in the flat (luckily our kitchen works just the same as ours back home). Then we walked two blocks around the corner to The British Museum. It's regal white walls cover a full city block--an exterior suitable for the treasures inside. I literally shivered as I entered the Great Court (the main entrance hall of the museum). The darkness outside contrasted the white marble walls and floors and the clear glass ceiling. I was in awe. We saw the Elgin Marbles, remnants of the ancient Greek Parthenon, the Rosetta Stone and a glimpse of hundreds of ancient Egyptian artifacts I cannot wait to go back and explore. We relished our London adventures over a drink at a pub just around the corner from our flat.
I woke up to sun on Saturday, the first blue sky I have seen since landing on British ground. My flatmates and I enjoyed this rarity by walking up South Hampton Row to Camden Market, about a 25 minute journey by foot. The bustling market proved far too extensive to tackle in one afternoon. No matter if you are looking for a hot pink tutu, a vintage evening gown or a new neon-spiked hairstyle, I am convinced anything could be found in one of the Camden market stalls or in one of the vintage shops that line the street. We managed to grab a few necessities for our flat including a coffee pot, kitchen towels and hangers.
If the accents, the winding little streets and the red double-decker buses didn't convince me I was in London, Sunday morning's coach tour of the city sealed the deal. The coaches rolled by Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, both houses of Parliament, Downing Street, the BBC studios and the Tower Bridge. I was ecstatic. And, it proved a perfect day for my first views of these London landmarks; the sun was shining once again.
The coaches unloaded just across the River Thames from Greenwich. I walked the tunnel under the river to reach the historic town. I saw King Charles' Court, the Painted Hall and the Queen's Chapel, each boasting the architecture of Christopher Wren. I also toured the Queen's House, which was an inspiration for the design of the White House in Washington, D.C., according to our lovable tour guide, Calvin.
Plenty of shops, cafes and pubs lined the streets of Greenwich, but my friends and I were most tempted by an outdoor food vendor selling piping hot pies. I tried the mushroom and chicken pie with peas, mashed potatoes and gravy. The meal proved to be the perfect answer to the afternoon chill that was settling into Greenwich. After warming up, we walked through Greenwich park and up to the Royal Observatory. I straddled the Prime Meridian. Two hemispheres at once -- it was a big day.
I start classes tomorrow. I have a two hour break for lunch and I'm planning to visit a local cafe down the street from school, which my friends and I wandered into the other day and fell in love with. We had an enjoyable chat with the owner, who makes a mean cappuccino, which I cannot wait to try again. I have never been so excited for classes to start!
So far, London has proved a delightful adventure! The locals are extremely friendly. The tea is delicious. And, the sites cannot be beat. Cheers to a great semester!