A quick run-down of the past week exploring and getting the hang of London. Part 3 of 3.
After a series of long days and early, not to mention unwanted, wakeup calls, Thursday was much more relaxed. I actually slept in for the first time in as long as I can remember and didn’t have anywhere to be until our Understanding British Culture class back at the CAPA building at 2 p.m. I was, however, still on a high of finally having some security in knowing more about my internship site with the Radio Times, as well as having my flatmates to talk to and get along with.
However, there was unrest around other parts of London. More information was coming out about the Woolwich killing of British soldier Lee Rigby, and I spent a good hour combing through several news outlets to see what kind of coverage was being done about the attack. It was interesting to see the volume of content about the incident because of it’s shockingly violent nature and the way the news and video content was disseminated to the public. We spoke a bit about it in our British Culture class with Richard, who then gave us a summary of some of London’s worst acts of terrorism and violence in the past decade. That didn’t help settle some of the culture adjustment fears.
However, it’s important to know that London has, in recent years, been known to be a fairly safe city. Although hearing and reading about the killing was a shock to the system and an unfathomable crime, I personally didn’t feel in danger and haven’t really thus far. Maybe it’s my inherent lack of knowing when a situation might turn sour, but then again maybe it’s partly how the Brits around here have reacted to the situation. Of course there was an outpouring of sympathy and support for the family of the soldier, but the phrase “Keep calm and carry on” is truly a thing here. The British endure.
The end of the week leading into the long bank holiday weekend (like the UK version of Memorial Day, I suppose) meant a little more downtime to get comfy, discover the city and (at least this is what I had on my to-do list) catch up on some good ol’ Netflix. Don’t judge me too harshly, fellow readers. Catching up on entertainment news and every now and then watching some of it for research and commentary are now part of my responsibilities. Boy, does it feel great to say that out loud. However, I’m still trying to figure out blocks of time that I’m not running about to try and get into classic UK shows like Doctor Who and Sherlock. Some of my friends back home would be ashamed to know that I still haven’t started, but I’m determined to follow through this summer!
In the evening, Elle, Hilary and I went on a pub outing to meet some ladies Elle had met at a concert on the East End the night before. It was our first night out with real Brits and a chance to get away from the cluster of American students we had so far hung around. After some awkward small talk in the eclectic mix of a pub, we broke the ice and just listened to Katie, Olivia and the others talk about life in and around London.
The ladies, all in their early 20s like us, were all good friends for several years since attending school together (the equivalent of junior high and high school). Thus, they were very keen on sharing their stories of youth and friendship and a little drama here and there. It was an interesting peek into some of the entertainment culture that I had needed to sort through, as well, and we talked about some of the popular soap operas and TV series to tune into.
After a nice round of conversation, we split our separate ways, but not without a quintessential British goodbye of hugs and future plans to meet up again.
One thing I’ve noticed from that night, and just observing around the Tube, is how much more mature London kiddos seem around here. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that by the time you’re ready to go to school, you’re often pushed to navigate the public transit systems around here to get to school and back home. On the weekends, teems of young teens meander the streets like there’s no tomorrow. That sense of independence drives teens and young adults to grow up faster than what feels like the norm for Americans.
After taking a break from the touristy things around town, I hopped back on board on Saturday morning to visit the Monument to the Great Fire of London. The tower, which boasts 311 steps in a seemingly never-ending staircase leads to a stunning view of the city of London and the business district along the river. The flatmates and I, along with several other of the group, trekked the stairs to the top and enjoyed the sunny and relatively mild morning. The view was beautiful and the fact that we were at the top of a structure built in the 1600s was astounding.
The next day was also dedicated to an afternoon of leisure and sight-seeing. That is, of course, after some long awaited episodes of the newly released Arrested Development fourth season.
Some of the group and I took advantage of the beautiful weather to visit the Natural History Museum. The exhibits about the human body, dinosaurs, diamonds and animals made me feel like a child again and was a good way to unwind and play around with the other group members. Others also were on the move to enjoy the gorgeous day and long weekend, as the museum was packed with visitors of all ages. We joined more museum guests after our wandering tour at a park area outside the entrance, where we indulged ourselves with ice cream and other cold treats. Considering I had spent my last week in Columbia visiting Sparky’s pretty much every day, it was a long-awaited venture. We lounged in the sun and talked about our internships, journalism, college, housing and even how our parents met.
But that wasn’t enough amazing food and good conversation, so we continued with a dinner on the South Bank at a restaurant called Wahaca. A few members of the group had already been to another store within the restaurant chain, and their hype left my stomach rumbling and eager for the food to arrive. The chicken burrito was just as good as they said it would be, and it was a good cap-off to the evening before I headed back to the flat to finish up our first class assignment, a “get to know your internship” type deal.
A week after arrival, after all the orientations and tours and ice breakers and meals out and jet lag, London finally started to feel like home.