A Royal Welcoming

Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of United Kingdom  , London, City of,
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I called the Queen on Tuesday, and I said, "Queen, I'm going to let you know what it’s like to be American. I’m going to fix everything that’s wrong with your teeny tiny country."  She jumped at the opportunity and told me to fly to her immediately.  My flights went off very well, surprisingly.  I flew from Greenville/Spartanburg to Dallas/Ft. Worth then to London.  My flight to London left around 8 PM Texas time, and I arrived in London around 11 AM England time.  I had a nice window seat on the way there, and I sat beside Queen Latifa (or someone similar).  She nodded off before takeoff and woke up intermittingly for dinner and breakfast.

After we landed, I headed through the worst airport I’ve ever been in to the immigration line.  There were two separate lines: one for UK/EU passport holders, and one for non-UK/EU passport holders.  The lines were starkly different.  UK/EU line was filled with man-prees, colorful clothes, tacky jewelry, and a myriad of hairstyles (and hair colors).  Meanwhile, the non-UK/EU line is full of smartly dressed businessmen and women in black or brown jackets from the US and Canada (almost all Canadian).

I waited in line to get an Oyster Card next to ride the Tube (London’s underground train transportation system).  No one in line spoke English.  I rode the train into town.  The train starts above ground before diving under when closer to town.  I passed a million apartments, town-homes, and Harry Potter look-a-likes on the way in until it traveled fully underground.  When I got off the Underground at my stop, I had to lug my backpack, carry-on, and suitcase really for the first time.  I no longer had the luxury of the carts provided at the airport.  It wasn’t so bad.  My suitcase weighed in at 49.3 lbs, and no, it didn’t roll.  I managed to get it off the train quickly before strapping it over my shoulders and going up the small flight of stairs.  “Just a few set of stairs and I’d be out of here,” I thought to myself, but I was mistaken.  When I reached the top if the stairs, there were only more stairs around the corner, then an escalator, then two more sets of stairs.  The Underground must be as deep as the Earth’s core for god’s sake.  Eventually, I made it to my apartment downtown and got all set up without much of a problem.  My apartment is in a nice part of town, the Borough of Islington.  I overlook some nice apartments and some skyscrapers.

I didn’t have any bedding so I asked one of the ladies who works here where to go.  She said there was a great store around the corner to get that stuff called Argos.  I imagined this place to be a Bed, Bath, and Beyond sort of deal, but I was quite mistaken.  I walked in the store, and it was a row of catalogs, a check out desk, and a waiting station.  I found out that, at this store, you flip through a catalog, write down the catalog numbers of the stuff you want, then take it to the check out where you pay.  Then you go over to a little sitting area where you wait for your number to be called.  Then all you have to do is pick up your stuff.  I guess this is a good idea, but I kinda wanted to feel the bedding I was buying before I bought it. Also, they don’t pronounce it Argos like a good American would.  They all said “Augus” like August without the T…very un-American of them.

I went to bed early and decided to go sightseeing the next day.  I went exploring towards school in the Borough of Bloomsbury and Borough of Soho, then down to Trafalgar Square, Parliament, Big Ben, and the Westminster Abbey in the Borough of Westminster.   On the way there, the guards were changing near Buckingham Palace.  I managed to gather in the crowds to take a few pictures.  One of the guards (as featured in the video) accidentally did not get his sword into place in the holster and unfortunately embarrassed himself in front of 100+ onlookers.  Whoops.

I made it down to the River Thames (pronounced Temmz), one of the many things that the British do not know how to pronounce correctly (other words such as Greenwich (pronounced Grin-itch) and Leicester (pronounced Lester)).  I saw the London Eye; however, I didn’t ride on it as it is very expensive and the line was quite long.  I’ll get around to it one day though.

As I was getting ready for the bed back at my apartment, the fire alarm went off.  Like anytime the fire alarm goes off, I didn’t believe it.  However, the one time you ignore a fire alarm is the one time you go up in flames.  I quickly got outside and saw only a few other residents out there.  I talked to Susie, a girl from Leeds for a little while.  It didn’t take long for the fire department to get here, but, before they arrived, I realized a crucial flaw in the apartment’s security design. The key to my apartment complex is a card that you slide to make the front door open into the lobby which is great; however, the card will again need to be slid when I go down the ground floor hallway to the elevator.  When I get to my floor, the card needs to be slid again to open the door to the hallway and then AGAIN to open the door to my room.  In other words, each key to a room at the apartment complex unlocked one path to the room.  People who don’t live on my floor won’t be able to access my floor, and people on the other side of my floor can’t access my side.   When the fire alarm goes off, I thought maybe the door would ALL automatically be able to be accessed….NOPE.  The firefighters couldn’t even get in the front door.  We had to let them in.  Not only that but they couldn’t get passed the lobby.  There was a display in the lobby that read where the fire was (thanks a lot room 202B) and effectively pointed the finger at whoever was smoking in their room.  Someone with a key to 202 hallway had to lead the firefighters up there.  After it was all said and done, one of the firefighters came down to talk with us.  He mentioned that we had done the right thing because we were outside, but he also said this was the WORST evacuation he had seen in 6 or 8 years because a majority of people were still in their rooms when he went to investigate the fire…

Apparently, when the fire alarm goes off, it is supposed to notify someone that has a skeleton key to the whole building (this person was a no-show).  The firefighter told us that he was going to have a “chat” with that person about the fire safety protocol.  He was very very unhappy.  He told us that he wouldn’t risk his men to save a bunch of stupid teenagers who ignore the fire alarm.  Another whoops.

Overall, London is significantly nicer and cleaner than I thought it would be.  I had imagined it being the gritty London I learned about school (though I guess it has been awhile since the Medieval times).  The streets are clean, and I have yet to see a “bad” part of the city yet.  The city never seems to end and, perhaps, it won’t.
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Amy Russ on

Love it! And I can't wait to visit :)

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