At the end of my journey in Spain, I hopped on a plane to London. Thanks to Mr. Jim McClenahan at the College of Business at UNR, I was able to tag along with the Nevada Global Business Program for the weekend. Nevada Global Business is open to all Business majors not only at UNR, but also UNLV and offers several different locations. London is typically a popular location due to its diversity and famous landmarks. I feel so grateful that I got the opportunity to see the city in only a couple of days.
Somehow I was able to navigate the Heathrow airport, exchange my euros for pounds, find the Underground tube, buy a ticket to Russell Square, carry both my carry-on and checked bag up a flight of stairs, walk the streets of London with my bags in 80 degree heat, find College Hall at the University College London (UCL) and check in to my room, where I would be staying for the next four nights. It sure was a scary and interesting experience navigating through London, a MUCH bigger city than Bilbao, by myself. I was so proud when I got to the dorm, but ready for a very long nap.
The first face I saw when I arrived to the dorm, was a friend of mine from UNR. It was so refreshing to see a familiar face and I felt a sense of comfort. Luckily, she was able to hang out with me on the dinner cruise and spend the next day with me at Buckingham Palace, before heading to Paris for the rest of the weekend.
That night, I got to join the program for a dinner cruise on the Thames river. How awesome is that? It still sounds weird coming out of my mouth. We enjoyed a very fancy three course meal and live entertainment. I wasn’t used to seeing some of my professors in this type of environment, but we were in London and enjoying the scenery around us so it was okay to let loose. We all would go up to the top of the boat occasionally to take pictures and watch the sunset. It was about a 3-4 hour cruise and we got to see the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (sadly under construction), Tower Bridge, London Bridge (which really isn’t as cool as it is made out to be), and The Shard building. It was a perfect way to see all the landmarks without having to find my way around on the tube which I must say is VERY, VERY confusing compared to the metro in Bilbao. I will attach a map of the tube in London and you guys can try to figure it out 🙂
My second day in London, my friend and I headed to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guards, which they do at 11am every morning. There were so many people!! The closest thing I could compare it to is Disneyland. I think my favorite part was the hilarious security guards. They look mean, but they really love to have fun with their jobs. One of the security guards was riding a horse around and telling people to move out of the way, but also not to pass out or vomit because it was “boiling” that day. Their accents make me laugh. We made friends with an Australian couple who pretended we were their daughters so we could make it to the front to get a good view. Even the security guard pulled us up to the front because we were following the rules the whole time. It was the absolute best. I got amazing videos of the guards walking out of the front gates of the Palace, which is crazy to say. After the guard change, we got lunch at an outdoor food vendor which seems to be very popular in London. In the afternoon, I walked to the British Museum which was directly down the street from our dorm. This Museum had about four floors, so there was a lot to see. Typically, I am not much of an art or museum person, but I decided to have an open mind and enjoy the art from different cultures. That night we went out for gelato, which of course I will never turn down.
I didn’t have any plans for my third day, so I decided to do a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of London. Some students in the Global Business program said it was a great way to see the city in such a short amount of time, which is exactly what I needed. I took the yellow line which hits all the famous spots, and you can get off and walk around to eat, explore, etc. and then get back on the bus whenever you want to continue your tour. It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. The yellow line took about two and a half hours. I decided to hop on the blue line as well which covered all the museums and also the beautiful Kensington Park. That line took about another hour. It was a long day of sightseeing, but I had a much better idea of where things were in relation to the dorm I was staying at. It was a great way to spend my Saturday. Later that day I stopped in a bookstore next to my dorm called Waterstones. It was very similar to Barnes and Noble, but had four stories and a coffee shop connected to it! I wasn’t going to buy a book, but I found one about the Camino and immediately knew I had to have it. I walked to Regent’s Park and started reading in a shaded spot under the trees.
On Sunday, my last day in London, Jim and I went to mass at Westminster Cathedral. It was unlike anything I had seen before. They were celebrating the feast day of Saint John Southworth and the anniversary of the church. During the Homily, the priest talked about how the church was built with a Byzantine structure to differ from Westminster Abbey which has a Gothic structure. The ceiling was supposed to be gold because when you look up, it should resemble the beauty of heaven. The architect knew he wouldn’t have enough money to finish the Cathedral, so one day they would like to finalize the structure inside the Cathedral so that it would resemble heaven. They also had a cute little gift shop inside, so you know I spent some time in there. I also got to experience Afternoon Tea time in Britain. It was so prim and proper that I felt like I didn’t belong. The waitress put our napkins in our laps and even had us smell their assortment of tea leaves to decide which one we wanted. We also got to choose a variety of four scones, or finger sandwiches to go with our tea. Those of you who really know me, know that I love tea with a passion. I was in heaven. I even got to watch a really cool magic show done by the one and only Jim McClenahan. I never knew he could hypnotize people?
If I had to decide which city I liked better, London or Bilbao, I would definitely choose Bilbao. As soon as I arrived in London, I immediately noticed certain things that were different from Spain. It was crowded, the streets were a lot dirtier, the public transportation was difficult, there were not many dogs, restaurants closed earlier than those in Spain due to siesta time, I got cat-called about a million times in one day, and worst of all, everyone speaks English :(. I was so sad to not be using my Spanish anymore, but it was kind of refreshing to hear the language of the motherland. I think I got so used to living in Bilbao and all the culture surrounding me, that going to London was a whole new set of culture shock in itself. Don’t get me wrong, London was awesome! I am so grateful I had the opportunity to go and explore things by myself. It allowed me to be independent and gave me a bunch of new experiences to talk about back home. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Big thanks to Jim for taking such great care of me in London!