After having spent about three weeks in the UK, I must say that it is a bittersweet feeling. Having looked forward to this adventure for nearly twelve years, my expectations have both fallen short and been totally blown away. For one thing, it has not rained since I arrived. It has, however, snowed. A lot.
On the other hand, the amount I enjoy hearing British accents all day every day is exactly on par to what I expected. Except when those accents inform you that they cannot send you pizza or a taxi without a contact number, even after you explain that you are an international student and have no cell phone that is in service. Or when those accents sound like a foreign language and you understand five percent of what was said and have to ask the person to repeat themselves six different times. One thing that I am disappointed about is the realization I made on my way to London. Many places (like the highway, the cities, etc.) are so similar to America! I guess I was expecting a magical land unlike any I had ever seen, so entering a city as historic and infamous as London and feeling as though I was back in Buffalo, NY was depressing. Once I was deeper into the city I finally felt as though I were in the London I had imagined. Red double-decker buses, telephone booths, towering cathedrals, exquisite parks, and stone monuments around every corner; this was the London I had been waiting for.
I think my favorite site I saw on this first visit was the clock tower (Big Ben). The gold gilding around the clock face and steeple was breathtaking, and the shear size of the tower was overwhelming. That, paired with the intimidating Houses of Parliament that merge into this iconic symbol of London, make the whole experience unbelievable.
My first adventure to London went very smoothly, despite the weather. It snowed all day and was about -2C all day, but I managed to walk through the majority of the city of Westminster without any mishaps. I started my day out by watching the changing of the guard and Buckingham Palace, then took a stroll down The Mall to visit Trafalgar Square. After a quick photo-op and a stop for new batteries, I pursued medieval works of art in the National Gallery. Once I had regained feeling in my hands and feet, I once again braved the cold weather in order to visit Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. Then, I set out to find Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben. Dozens of pictures later, I walked across the bridge to see the frigid waters of the Thames and the towering wheel of the London Eye. That’s one attraction I don’t think I could manage to convince myself to try, considering the top car sits 443 feet above the river (which has water full of old cigarette butts and I don’t want to know what else).
The final stop was to Westminster Cathedral. The building is even more beautiful inside than out, and is also free to enter. The details on the walls and ceiling were impeccable, and the size and atmosphere within are awe-inspiring. This is one place that I intend to visit again on my next adventure to London (which is in three weeks!).