This weekend I went on my most exhilarating adventure yet…London! My friend from home and since birth, Kelly, is also studying abroad this semester in Sheffield, so we decided to meet up in London and tour the city together! It was a wonderful weekend full of firsts, theatre, food, and fun!
Friday morning I took a taxi to the airport bright and early. I was very nervous because it was my first time flying alone. I had a few issues at the airport. First, my ticket listed the wrong terminal, so a nice security guard helped me figure out where I was really supposed to be. Then, I successfully went through security and passport control. Next, I came upon a second passport control. I was told by a worker that I needed to go through it again, but when I got to the front of the line (3o minutes later) a second worker told me that I actually did not need to go through again and could have gone straight to my gate. It was frustrating, but I still made it to my gate in plenty of time. While I waited for my flight, which was then delayed an hour and a half, I got in some studying for my midterms which were coming up the next week, so the flight delay was probably a good thing for my grades! Soon, I was on the plane and then landing in London after a smooth flight!
When I landed, I exchanged some money and got on a Gatwick Express train to Victoria Station. While I was looking for the train, I kept forgetting that everyone in London also speaks English so I kept trying to say phrases like “thank you” and “excuse me” in Italian! It was so interesting to me that even after being in Italy for a little under a month, those words had become my default! On the train, I sat next to a very nice man from Texas. He and his wife were traveling around Europe with their winnings from an episode of the game show Family Feud! He told me all about the process of auditioning for the show with his family and about their episode. He said that they won the game on a steal from the other family. The question was who do you not want to see running out of the back of a church. The top answer was the priest, but his family stole the question and won the game by answering God! It was so awesome to hear about the show from someone who had been on it and to be reminded of the special opportunity that traveling gives me to meet interesting people all over the world!
Soon, I arrived at Victoria Station. When I got outside, the first thing I saw was a Starbucks! London immediately reminded me of a fancy New York City and I loved it. I wanted to check out the British Museum, so I decided to walk there from the station to see what I could see along the way. I stopped at tons of cool sights like Buckingham Palace, the National Gallery, and many West End theaters, which was so exciting to me because I absolutely love musical theatre. I made it to the museum and wandered for a few hours until Kelly arrived from Sheffield and met me there! It was so great to see her! From the museum, we went out for dinner, walked around the city a bit, and then checked into the hostel for the night.
The next morning, we got up and went out for traditional English breakfast! It was surprisingly delicious. I had never had beans on toast before, and I was not expecting to like it, but it was very good. The beans that are typically used around the UK were Heinz brand so it was exciting to see a Pittsburgh brand being used so far away from home! After breakfast, we walked around the city. We saw platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Parliament building, Big Ben, the London Eye, the Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London. On the way to the Tower of London, we passed a marquis in the distance that looked like it had Matthew Perry on it. We were curious (could I BE any more obsessed with Chandler Bing?) so we walked a little closer and found out that we were right and that Matthew Perry was currently starring in a play called The End of Longing. Assuming it would be sold out, we went in the lobby of the theater just to look around. However, when we went inside, the box office worker told us that there were still a few seats left and that they only cost 15 pounds so we got tickets to see the show that night! The seats were on the very end of the last row in the theater but we didn’t care! We were just so excited to be spontaneously seeing a play in London! We continued to walk until we made it to the Tower of London where we saw the Crown Jewels and many other exhibits. Then we wandered around the city, did some window shopping, and grabbed dinner at a pub before the show. The show itself was great! It was a dark comedy about relationships. I was so excited to be able to experience a slice of London theater even in my short amount of time in the city. After the play, we went back to the hostel for the night after a great day.
On Sunday, we got up early and checked out of the hostel. Then, we went to a really cute cafe for breakfast. I had some pastries and a delicious mint tea. Then, we went to Shakespeare’s Globe to take a tour of the theater. It was really exciting to learn about the theater. We even got to watch a young theater group rehearse a few scenes from Henry VIII and A Midsummer Night’s Dream! It was a great end to a fantastic weekend. Sadly, I then had to say goodbye to Kelly and catch a train back to the airport.
Overall, the highlight of my trip to London was getting to spend it with Kelly! I had not seen her in a pretty long time, so it would have been great to be reunited at home, but it was every better to get to see her again while we’re both abroad! I felt like we traveled very well together. Kelly had already visited London once, but since there is so much to do in London, all of the things we did were still things she had never done before which was really exciting! It was just so special to catch up and share our study abroad experiences. The low point of the trip was my flight back to Rome. It was storming very badly, and what I thought would be the last half hour of the flight was very turbulent. Since the turbulence was so awful, I had been counting down the minutes until the plane was suppose to land. I began to worry when we were still up in the air 15, then 20, then 30 minutes after we were supposed to touch ground. Eventually, the pilot came over the intercom and said in English that it was not safe to land in Rome and that the plane was now in route to Pisa. My mind was racing a mile a minute and I was trying to explain what the pilot had just said to the Italians around me on the plane who did not understand the pilot. A few minutes later, a flight attendant delivered the message in Italian over the intercom. It was very upsetting to hear, and people began shouting. We flew to Pisa with more turbulence the whole way, but we did land safely. We were then held on the plane while the flight company debated what to do next. After about a half hour, we were told that a bus would come and drive us from Pisa to Rome that night at 23:00. So, we got off of the plane and I went to grab some food. At this point, the airline workers left so I just tried to stick with people I recognized from the flight. Luckily, I found another girl who was studying abroad and traveling by herself as well, so we stuck together. The bus was about 50 minutes late, so we were preparing to spend the night at the airport when it thankfully came. We then drove through the storm to the Rome airport. The first people off of the bus got in taxis, but by the time we got to the stand they were all gone. I tried calling for one, but got no answer since at this point it was about 03:30. Then, we saw one taxi begin to pull around a corner and we sprinted to it. My new friend and I both took the taxi back to our campuses safely and I was back at about 04:00. The whole experience was very scary and I was completely exhausted but thankful that I made it back to campus safely.
Even despite the Pisa Incident, I had an amazing weekend in London!