September 18, The first day.
I remember pulling into London’s St. Pancras station after two hours on the Eurostar from Paris. I walked out of the station, thinking it’s surprisingly sunny for what I heard about London, and as I thought “so, where am I?” I looked back and saw the enormous, beautifully intricate building I just walked out of. That, with the tall and red double deckers everywhere—-those were my very first impression of London.
I arrived a day earlier than the program start date, so I checked into a tiny hotel nearby. A private room and rest was so needed at that time, after 27 days of traveling through Europe.
But check-in time wasn’t until later, so I dropped my luggage and took a look around the city that will be my home for the next three months. I realized I was in a totally different mindset when looking at things as a soon-to-be resident, than as a tourist. I looked at things in more detail and tried to actually remember where things are.
I quickly realized that the King’s Cross area, which is where my apartment is, wasn’t the best or coolest town. It looked…pretty plain. Nevertheless, things appeared interesting and new somehow. I kept comparing everything to the rest of Europe that I had just seen and to the U.S. as well. I noticed that London felt much more similar to the U.S. than the other parts of Europe I’ve seen. The fact that everything’s in English probably had an influence, but a lot of other things did too. For instance, there were way more chain businesses in London than other European cities, just like in the States. I was surprised not to see many Starbucks’s in other cities, but once I got used to that, it was strange to see so many of them in London. Also, Europeans in general LOVE sitting out on the terrace of a restaurant to eat. Often I would find the indoors of a restaurant totally empty but the outdoor seatings full. But in London, there were very few outdoor seats. I presumed because of the rain.
But that day first day was sunny, and during the few hours before check-in I got to see the apartment I’ll stay in, a few small parks, my university campus, and a small mall called the Brunswick Centre. By lunch time, I came across a place that offered the full English breakfast for £4.50, and given how expensive things are in London, I figured it’s a really good deal. That was my very first meal. In the full English breakfast came: eggs, sausage links, baked beans (yum), a tomato, mushrooms, hash brown, toast, and English tea. Mmm… I still remember it very well and now I really want it this moment. It’s right down the street, so I can really go anytime, I guess. Feeling like I had a very decent English experience on my first day, I came out all satisfied.
While I noticed certain things that feel more American than European, I also noticed totally British things that won’t be found in the U.S. Weird stop names like “Crouch End” or signs that say “Mind the steps.” Also, I was hearing the British “accent” everywhere, obviously. I kept mumbling to myself what the people passing by were saying.
I was excited at the thought of settling somewhere at last. Living out of a suitcase for a month was not so easy.