Wow, what an absolutely crazy few days! I have only been here in London for about 36 hours (including airport time), but it feels like it has been a week! We have been going, going, and going without hardly a break! So here's the basic story of what has been going on so far:
(Warning: this may end up being very long and having a lot of details, but I think that this will also be my journal while I am here, so sorry!)
Thursday morning, I headed to the airport about 9:30 am. My flight left at 11, then I arrived in Chicago and had a 4 hour layover. From Chicago, i flew straight to London and arrived at about 10. This is my last glimpse of America from my airplane in Chicago before we took off.
Beautiful, huh? I was supposed to meet another girl from the program at the airport, because we both arrived at about 10 and wanted to share a cab. Well, we came in on different terminals and the plan was for her to get her bags and meet me at my baggage claim. After checking to make sure her flight was on time and waiting at my baggage claim for about an hour and fifteen mins with no sign of her (I really didn't want to ditch out on her and leave!), I finally decided to just head on without her. Of course, I got on the wrong train out of the airport and so I had to do a couple extra stops and get on and off the train once, but I eventually made it to Paddington Station. I was walking down the platform and I heard my name, so I turned around and there she was! Apparently, we had both given up at about the same time and ended up on the same train! She recognized me because of my unique luggage, which I had described to her, so we were still able to share a cab... crazy coincidence!!
So when we arrived at the Centre, we came in and chatted with the directors for a bit, headed up to our rooms, and met some of the girls. About my new home: it is soo beautiful. Everything is very classically styled, with a sitting room, library, and all of that jazz. The main rooms are all wood paneled and have super ornate ceilings, with crazy architecture and chandeliers for lighting. My room is on the 4th floor (which in America would be considered the 5th floor, because here the American 1st floor is called the ground floor), so there are a LOT of stairs to climb about 20 times a day! There are 12 girls in my room, although it is split into two halves, so it really seems like 6 girls. Surprisingly, it doesn't really feel too crowded. We live in a flat in a very cool part of town right by Hyde Park; this is the view across the street:
So anyway, after hanging out at the Centre for a while, we headed out to explore a bit. We just hung out around out little area a lot yesterday- we walked down the street, got smoothies, hit up Kensington Gardens/Kensington Palace/Hyde Park, and then went shopping in some little street markets a few blocks away. It doesn't sound like a lot, but we were gone almost the entire day just walking around.
This is the only picture I took yesterday- the gates at Kensington Palace.
We were all exhausted, and went to bed pretty early... the sun doesn't even set here until about 9:3o, so a lot of people went to bed in the light!
Today, we had a "London Exploration Activity" set up for us by the directors. Besides that, it was a free day. We headed to the tube station, bought Oyster cards, and went straight to the Changing of the Guards. The Changing of the Guards was very long and ridiculously crowded (we got there about 45 mins early and it was already packed), but pretty cool and a must-see.
first time on the tube
After that, we went to Harrods (a HUGE store that has literally EVERYTHING you can think of- clothes, food, electronics, fish, home stuff, etc). Then, we hit up the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square and saw a lot of cool, famous paintings like Van Goghs, Monets, etc.
At this point, we were done with our exploration activity, so we decided to do some REAL exploring. We ended up in Covent Gardens, a super cute outdoor market place, where there are a lot of very entertaining street performers. One that was particularly interesting was this random Australian guy wearing a jumpsuit and an Australia towel as a cape, who talked a lot, drove a remote car around the area, rode on a pogo stick, messed up both of his big grand finale tricks, and was not actually very funny (although, his not being funny made him funny to us. Plus, he had the greatest laugh in the world. And loved to laugh at his own jokes. It was great.)
Also, he came over and talked to me during the middle of his act... he randomly asked my name, where I was from, introduced me to everyone, and made me rub his gross, sweaty shoulders because he needed to relax before his big stunt (which was actually just jumping his remote controlled car off of a ramp, over two people, and landing it on his own face... So cool.) I thought about getting a picture with him, but we decided we didn't want to pay him and he was kind of creepy, so that didn't happen.
Covent Garden (Jubilee Marketplace)
We thought the England/Germany World Cup game was on at 3 today, and we really wanted to head to a pub (they're more like sports bars here) to watch it with all of the English people, so we searched everywhere for a pub and hung out there- only to discover that it's actually tomorrow! It was a nice break though.
At the pub with some of the girls (these are the girls that I have been hanging out with the most so far.)
We met up at Big Ben with about 20 girls and headed to a super yummy food place on the Themes for dinner called Wagamamas... Delish! After hanging out around that area for a while longer, we stopped by Picadilly Circus (the Times Square of London) and headed back to the center. We finally got home at about 9 pm.
Whew! Sorry this post has been soooo long, but I had a lot to catch up on... and I warned you!
A last few random pics:
In Hyde Park- it is beautiful and huge!