Monday, August 24 –
We arrived at Gatwick at 6:30 a.m. Located about 30 miles south of London in West Sussex, it’s one of London’s five commercial airports but one of two major international airports (along with Heathrow in West London). This was my second trip through Gatwick after stopping over on my way to Madrid a couple of years earlier.
After exiting our BA flight, we passed through customs and retrieved our luggage. One of my professors, directed us to an awaiting coach that carried us on the M23 towards London. It was unusual driving on the left side of the road for the first time because the States and continental Europe are the opposite.
After getting stuck in Monday morning traffic, we finally entered London and saw famous landmarks we had only seen on television or read about in books. Truly, we had arrived in London, the historic and cultural capital of the English-speaking world, from where much of America’s roots began and where the first charters of our colonies were drawn.
As we passed through south London on Westminster Bridge road we suddenly arrived on the historic bridge over the River Thames. Dramatically, the green-colored Houses of Commos and Big Ben stood in front of us on the northern bank of the River, the same color of the bridge. It looked so much bigger in person than on television and in the movies. To our left was the red-colored Lambeth Bridge, which is the same color of the seats in the House of Lords, which it connected near.
After an exhausting drive through London, we finally arrived at our residence in the Royal Borough of Chelsea and South Kensington, one of the more affluent areas of London. It is called “royal” because Queen Victoria was born in a residence here, and it is the only royal bureau. Dotted with a huge number of Bentleys and Aston Martins parked on the street under enormous flats, many of the famous residents include actors/actresses, politicians, artists, musicians, and wealthy businessmen like Mohamed al-Fayed.
We then ate a light lunch and we put our luggage in our rooms before going for a short orientation session at our local tube stop, the Gloucester Road Station. I felt that was a little hokey, because it’s not like we couldn’t figure that out on our own! The station is about one block away from us and is the connection point for the District (Red), Circle (Green) and Piccadilly (Purple) lines. We took the amazingly clean Piccadilly line train to Piccadilly Circus, the “Times Square” of London filled with thousands of people and neon lights. We then walked to world-renown Leicester Square, home of many British theatres in London’s West End and the Half-Priced Ticket Booth.
Upon our return to our university center, we finished unpacking our things, organized our rooms and I went to bed about 6 p.m. I set my alarm 6:30 in the morning so I could conquer the jet lag once and for all!