Week 1: The Arrival
Traveling is all about exploring with an open mind and an adventurous heart, and with those ideals (and a large suitcase) I began my journey from Chicago to England. Arriving at London Heathrow airport was quick and easy. Our flight arrived a half hour early, and there were no customs agents to check my luggage. The taxi driver was waiting outside with a sign, and as simply as that, we were off to Eastbourne. Over the course of the next few days, I explored the pleasant seaside town with the two others I flew over with. The first few days were for local exploration and orientation sessions with Brighton University’s Eastbourne campus.
Fast forward to Thursday, our first group trip to London. Our first stop was at Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard, and it did not disappoint. Then the group made a quick walk to Parliament Square to see the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. The afternoon was spent in Picadilly Circus, an urban center of London packed with stores, shops, restaurants, and people from around the world. We were taken into an elegant store named Fortnum & Mason’s that was founded in 1707 and has been known to be a favorite shopping spot of the Queen. The entrance floor gives the appearance of an overly-elegant tea shop, but a venture up an elegant staircase proved me wrong. The third floor hosts the male department, and as someone who is not a fan of shopping, even I was impressed by their stock.
Our trip as a group was over by 4 p.m., but it was just beginning for me and two others in the group. We had decided a few days earlier that we would spend the night in London, and had booked three beds in a hostel. A few transfers on the Underground (the Tube as they call it here), and we had arrived at our destination. After a quick rest, we were ready for a night out. We found out from the hostel manager that the place to go was an area called Camden, and it did not disappoint. The streets were lined with pubs, shops, and restaurants. For dinner were Spanish tapas and then a fun evening at a local rock-‘n-roll bar called the Hawley Arms, which Amy Winehouse had previously been a frequent patron of.
The next morning consisted of a light breakfast and strolling through the streets and shops, then a return train back to Eastbourne. Although it was only a quick trip, I already knew that that part of London had seeped under my skin, and it would not be long before I returned to Camden to explore deeper into the local culture.
Until next time, cheers from Eastbourne.