Sometimes you just have an experience where regardless of knowing you’ll do it again, or even if there was nothing spectacular that happened, it’s something that will stick with you. That’s how London was for me. Is for me. Now my first time there is what’s most documented however, I’ve since been back to London over 15 times in a year and a half span. And though, I must admit, I like it less each time, my first experience remains my most vivid. Ever since I was five and watched Spice World on repeat while mimicking their accents and practicing dialects, I’d dreamt of visiting, even moving there. Getting to work the trip there was a shock especially since I normally work domestic flights, but after my first encounter I️ made sure this became a monthly occurrence. After requesting to work it, I’d thought it’d take longer than the first try and two months on the line because London seems like a place loads of flight attendants would want to go. Wrong. Summer is summer, people want time off, and luckily I wasn’t one of them.
I found out I was going at 4:45p the day before and that I’d be leaving the country for the second time in my life; first time to Europe. The plane ride itself wasn’t as hard as I thought it’d be. I got to take an unnecessarily long break (in my opinion) and in eight short hours I was there. We left Chicago at 7:45p to arrive at the London Heathrow airport around 9am their time and everyone on the flight, except me, had been there before. The hotel ride was an hour around the city passing gothic style buildings and a Cara Delevingne billboard about every ten minutes. By the time we were there, instead of sleeping like a normal person I changed, grabbed a map from the front desk, bought an umbrella for 4 pounds, and searched for the nearest “Underground” sign.
The best thing about the job is that wandering around alone and taking public transportation becomes second nature within the first week. I took the tube (the subway) for about fifteen minutes until I got off at the Westminster stop, which happens to spit you out directly in front of Big Ben. Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t the only tourist that stopped immediately and took a million pictures while standing in the middle of the stairway of a very busy tube entrance.
Big Ben may look big in pictures, but it isn’t until you’re facing the building and breaking your neck to look up at it that you realize just how small you are. Also, many people think Big Ben is the building name, most try to correct said people and say it’s the clock tower but as I’ve learned from the hotel staff, both are incorrect. The building, or palace I should say, is called the Palace of Westminster. The clock tower that’s located north of the palace was named Elizabeth Tower, after the queen. Big Ben, however, is the Great Bell located inside the Elizabeth Tower attached to the Palace of Westminster. Don’t ever say I never taught you anything. Anyways, it was huge. Much larger than I’d ever imagined and as I turned my head to the left I noticed the bridge that lead directly to the London Eye. If there is a moment this year where I could be convinced I was dreaming this was it. That was until I looked the wrong way down the road and nearly got smoked by a double decker bus. That quickly reminded me I was 100% not dreaming. Now as much as I would have loved to enjoy gawking at Big Ben, the area was about as busy as Time Square only way more foreigners than myself who had no regard for personal space, courtesy, or ever knew you were there until they body checked you. I finally crossed the bridge, battled my way through a store to buy a three-pound coaster for my mom (yes, a six dollar coaster), took a million pictures of the area, and finally broke away.
After all of the touristing (not a word), one of my favorite finds was this little coffee shop labeled “Look Mum No Hands”. The coffee shop was in fact food truck. Off to the side were outdoor picnic tables and streamer like triangle flags layering the seats above your head, almost like a makeshift roof. I ordered a rum cake and a triple shot of espresso as I sat and watched people pass to glance over the river and enjoy the street art/performances nearby. It was extremely relaxing. Afterward is when I wandered into what looked like a circus themed courtyard that was the outside of a vintage (underground?) circus that was usually opened at night, I’m assuming. To be fair I did very little research on the circus itself but the pictures surrounding the area intrigued me. The courtyard had four food stands and a carousel that doubled as a bar, with the horses as seats. It was an extremely cool and innovative concept.
By this time, it’d been trolling the city for a few hours on absolutely no sleep so I figured it was time to go back and take a nap. I caught the tube back to the Holiday Inn and took a power nap before meeting up with a fellow flight attendant for dinner.
When we met up we walked around our quaint little neighborhood and went to the first pub that looked like they might have good, reasonably priced fish ‘n’ chips. They did. A plate full of fries, fried fish, and a beer was exactly what I needed to end my very eventful day of exploring the city.
On the way back to the hotel we decided it’d be a fantastic idea to stop in a store and buy cheesecake as we ate it in Kensington Park, not far of the hotel before we called it a night. When I got back to my room I turned on BBC and looked out the window which had an incredibly surprising view of the city. Being in love with the city doesn’t even begin to explain it. The morning came too soon, and the day prior was far too short, but it just solidified the fact that I need to spend much more time in the UK in my upcoming future.