A quick three hours from Iceland and I was stepping out at Heathrow to a giant, yet unusually quiet airport. The group of us made it to the border check with our customs forms. I was approaching anxiously, recalling horror stories about getting through immigration. I’ll never know if those accounts are accurate though because when I stepped up to a station the guard was clearly in a great mood, laughing with a coworker. He asked where I was coming from in the US and when I answered he promptly made a Frasier reference and we got on talking about American TV. A minute later my passport was stamped, he never asked me any other questions, we laughed and it was over.
Nearly an hour delayed to meet my friend at the entrance I hurried through baggage claim. What a nice thing to see her waiting with a smile and a dance. I’ve always wanted my own “Welcome to Britain Jaida! ” sign as well. : D
She was so helpful in getting me familiar with the transport systems. I secured a pass and we hopped on the line towards town. Talk about thoughtful, there were snacks, a water bottle, and a sim card for my phone waiting for me in her bag too! Next we found my hostel, got checked in, and went for lunch at the corner pub- The Princess Victoria. This place was the perfect introduction to the English gastropub experience. Good cider and a rich meal combined with the beautiful old building made it just right. We wandered around the nearest giant shopping center, found a place to top-up my sim card and picked up some food from the M&S before calling it a day.
I think I’ve over-prepared myself mentally for my first London exposure however. No moment of shock and awe when I arrived. I felt adjusted right away. It sort of just feels like any other city. There are busy streets, lots of people, lights, loud noises. So, historical significance aside – if you’ve spent time in a large city, you’ll manage fine. All of the same music you hear in the US is playing on the radio here. The atmosphere is familiar.
What is quite different is hearing at least ten languages being spoken around you constantly, and that part is just awesome. A reminder that the world is a massive place and we’re all here living our days for similar purposes. Also I have an even greater desire to be fluent in something other than English.
The ancient architecture and many museums are also outstanding and upon experiencing them I finally registered that I was in a very different place. That bit comes next so stay tuned!