Friday, January 23, 2009
Hmmm, I suppose ya'll have been wondering about my goings on over the last couple of weeks. Let me tell ya, it has been very busy, exhausting, sometimes trying, but overall it has been an enormous blast and I wouldn't have it any other way. I believe I'll stick with London for this blog and my first few days as an international man of mystery.
To start things off right, I must point out that travel was more pleasant than I ever believed possible. I left with very little pre-planning, choosing to leave most of it up to chance, as that is where the adventure begins. I was sooo very lucky to fly first class all the way from Chicago to London. I arrived in London at 10:30 pm, which would make it around 4:30 Oklahoma time. One interesting thing to point out as I flew that day, was watching the sun rise and set from 30,000 feet. Since London is six hours ahead and the sun sets around 5:30 in London, I saw sun rise and sun set within a few hours of flying. I had no Internet, no direction, and limited phone communication after arriving that evening. I had a few vague texts from my mother directing me to a Boston Manor Hotel, everything else was a learning experience. I asked for a few directions and found my way to the London Underground. My first experience on the subway. It was quiet, except for a few foreigners who were having an argument on the train. After exiting the train, I continued on foot, catching my first glimpses of a foreign country. As I walked with all my luggage on a nearly fifteen minute walk to the hotel, I couldn't help but have a stupid grin on my face as I looked all at the cozy houses and tiny driveways of the city. I couldn't help my excitement. It was exactly as I had dreamed. I was in a new country that I had only seen in books and television. I had dreamed of this and it did not disappoint. Exhausted and sore I checked into the hotel and found my way through the tiny hallways of my hotel into my tiny room. It was very quaint but comfortable. After flying for nearly ten hours, I went straight to sleep.
The next morning I woke up early planning to take Thursday as a day to explore London. I made my way back to the Underground and jumped on the first train I found that I believed headed in the direction I wanted to go. I hadn't looked at any maps, and had not changed any of my currency thus far. I rode until I saw the exit "Piccadilly Circus". Never having been to London or having any prior research, I just got off here because of the peculiar name and it seemed to be somewhere near the middle of the city. What a wonderful stop! I couldn't have picked better. From the dazzling lights and shops of Piccadilly Circus, I made my way down the road, guessing directions, but believing I had a pretty good sense of direction. I managed through the park and to Buckingham Palace. After Buckingham palace, I made my way up and around Wellington Arch, and met a very friendly Brazilian girl named Lorena. We both had been aimlessly wondering London. After some introductions, I asked if she'd like to travel together. We made quick plans and set out to see some museums and other touristy sites. It was all spur of the moment and made for an amazing trip. We visited the Victoria and Albert Museum (we were supposed to go see Kensington Palace too but we also wanted to see all the museums before close), the Natural History Museum where I got to see my first dinosaur skeletons/fossils and a beautiful skating rink near the museum. After that end of town, it was back to the underground and towards Big Ben, the Houses of Parliment and the London Eye (that giant ferris wheel from Fantastic Four). Finally, back near Piccadilly Circus to the National Museum for some of the most beautiful artwork I have ever seen. You name the artist, that museum probably had it. I lost my breath on several occasions upon realizing the monumentous artists at which I gazed. I wish I could have taken pictures in there, but my first attempt at doing so came with a shrieking yell of un-enthusiasm from museum peeps. After visiting all the museums and sites we could muster in a nearly 10 hour day of walking in London, Lorena and I sat down to a nice dinner of fish and chips at a cafe in Piccadilly. We said our goodbye's, Lorena going back to Brazil the next morning, and I back to my hotel room. My feet and shins and thighs had never hurt so bad. I covered lots of ground and mostly by walking. It was a wonderful day and I can't wait till the upcoming weekends that I have freetime to visit London one or two more times. There are soooo many more places that I want to explore, but they can wait.
Friday morning I woke in time for breakfast, found directions to Paddington Station from the Underground and caught the first train from London to Swansea. It was an almost 3 hour trip, but the seeing the beautiful English and Welsh countrysides made it entirely worth while. It pays dearly to book your trains the same day. I paid out the *** for my train ticket. I understand booking in advance can cut the price in half at least. But it's all about learning as I go. That's the way I intended it to be.