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Monday, 2 August 2010

London Calling

After six hours of desperately wanting to fall asleep but to no avail, my plane touched ground at Heathrow the morning of July 31st. Despite vowing to myself that I would immediately check into my hostel and catch up on the sleep I lost the previous night panicking about what to pack, I’m flooded with too much excitement and familiarity to follow through with that. The concept that I’m traveling doesn’t typically hit me until I’m very near my destination. The first realization was on the plane when my stewardess came by with a bag asking “Rubbish?” then followed by her American counterpart clarifying “Trash?” Buying coffee after deplaning was another reminder – was my order dine in or “take away,” rather than the “To-Go” that I normally receive.

The 36-minute underground ride on the Piccadilly Line brought back memories as I looked through text messages over a year old from my last days spent studying abroad here. Surrounded by various British accents on my shaky underground ride lit by flickering fluorescent bulbs, my anxiety about the trip washed away, replaced by the beginning of what I expect to be a three-week Europe Euphoria.

I've ended up at a great hostel - Astor Hyde Park. Just a few hundred feet away from Hyde Park and nestled in one of the wealthier neighborhoods of London, it's well suited with amenities that most hostels don't boast: free breakfast, Wifi, laundry, a full kitchen, a lush lounge with leather sofas and a flat screen TV (or tellie!). For six nights I'm paying a mere £140 - of course I'm in a room with five strangers who keep rotating, but one night in an average hotel would have cost this much and it's a great way to meet other people.

The wealth of this area can instantly be noticed with a short walk. I've seen more Rolls Royces, Bentleys, Aston Martins, and Ferraris in one day than probably my entire life. This evening's stroll to the local Whole Foods took about twenty minutes and I found myself spotting at least twelve Rolls Royces, on top of the other makes I mentioned.

Men here are significantly more attractive and well dressed than Americans, including the majority of major cities I've visited. This is without having visited the gayborhood - these are, I presume, heterosexual men. They majority of which are well fit and pay close attention to their grooming and personal style. Of course the accents kick everything up a notch or two as well. Speaking of accents, of all the cities I've visited across the world London by far has the most diverse population. In any given area spending five minutes walking around you hear a minimum of five languages.

My activities thus far have been a bit limited due to jet lag and one night of excessive debauchery. I met up with a couple of South African friends, went running through Hyde Park, toured the Natural History Museum (to remind myself that children are demonic evil creatures that should be locked up at home), and the Science Museum. Before I leave, I have a couple of "green" sites to visit which I'll be blogging about in the days to come.

A special thanks to my friend, "Dolce," without whom this trip would have likely been impossible. Itinerary for the following days: Wales (Centre for Alternative Technology), Brighton Gay Pride, Amsterdam, Berlin, and tentatively Clermont-Ferrand France.

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