After a 9-hour direct flight from DFW to LHR, we have made it. The flight was actually pretty rough, thanks to some intense turbulence. Normally, I love turbulence (weirdly enough, I have found that it relaxes me and puts me to sleep) but this was something I've never experienced before. Things were actually flying off of trays and into the aisles, so much so that Sandy was grabbing onto my leg and praying, "Lord, if the plane crashes, please let me die upon impact."
At first I laughed, then I was alarmed, and then I was asleep (see what I mean?). The storm had passed by the time I awoke, and while I normally sleep during the entirety of my plane rides, I stayed awake most of the time on this one. The airline (British Airways, which we loved, apart from the turbulence) was showing all the Oscar movies, so I sat back and watched Rachel Getting Married, which I enjoyed. Sandy didn't sleep much either, and, for that reason, we were super tired and jet-lagged when we landed in London and went through customs, bright and early this morning.
This was hardly my first customs' experience, but for some reason, I totally panicked during the cursory questioning part. First, they asked to see our acceptance letters from the University of Salzburg. I had zero recollection of packing mine in my carry-on; the only reason I found it was because I was fumbling around in my bag with no expectation of finding it -- I just didn't know what else to do when he asked for mine after Sandy produced hers so readily. So, more or less for show, I dug around in my bag and then, there mine was -- exactly where it was supposed to be.
With a look of bewilderment on my face, I handed it to the man, who glanced it over once and then asked us both which university we came from. I answered ever so matter-of-factly, "University of Oklahoma!"
I do not attend the University of Oklahoma.
Sandy looked me, half-annoyed and half-confused, and then the man asked us a few more questions before funneling us through. On to baggage claim!
I spotted our escort first -- a man holding a sign for us. Sandy asked me, "Where? Where? I don't see him -- what does he look like?" Let it be a testament to both our exhaustion that I replied to her, "Well, he doesn't look like the shiniest star in the sky," and then she nodded, as though she totally knew what I mean.
What does that even mean? I don't know.
On our way to the hotel, Sandy asked every human with whom we came in contact if they had flown British Airways; she is really on a B.A. kick right now after all the free food and drinks we were offered during our flight.
Once we made it to our hotel, we quickly checked into our room on the 16th floor, which overlooks beautiful London town. It's absolutely freezing here -- colder than it was when I was in Alaska. Just the walk from the hotel to the underground (probably 90 seconds?) is brutal. It snowed a bit off an on today -- and it's so beautiful -- just very cold.
We saw TopShop and H&M at various points throughout the day and I proudly refrained from entering the premises, as both of those establishments played major roles in the thousand-dollar debt I owed my parents after my last trip to London... but that is water under the bridge. Paid it off! And now here I am.
After not shopping, Sandy and I attempted to walk through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park all the way to Buckingham Palace. Five minutes into our journey, the cold was so unbearable, that we stopped for lunch at a cafe near Royal Albert Hall. We were really enjoying the food and the warmth of the cafe until we realized that neither of us could keep our eyes open. It was the worst feeling just wanting to curl up right there at the table and go to sleep, only to realize that we had to venture back out into the bitter cold to get home.
So, we headed back to the hotel room, Skyped with our friends JC and Hunt, and then decided a nap was well overdue. At that time, it was 3:00 and we didn't have to be anywhere until 6:00, when we had to meet up the other American students downstairs in the hotel bar. At 6:15, I woke up to Sandy shouting that we had overslept. In that moment, if someone had pointed a gun to my head and asked me where I was, what day it was, what time it was, or who I was, I would have had no response. It took me upwards of 30 seconds to remember that I was in London. I have never been so disoriented in my life.
We rushed down to the meeting, which wasn't really a meeting at all, so we skipped out early and met up with Sandy's sorority sister, Grace. She is studying in London now, and texted us the address to a pub on Argyle Street, which I immediately recognized; my family's favorite hotel in London is on Argyle Street. I guided the way and in no time at all, we had arrived. We had the best dinner -- just us girls -- but were already ready for bed by the end of the meal.
In related news, Sandy loves riding the tube -- and loves referring to it as 'the tube' as much as possible. She has had only a few minor freak-outs, but I am really in my element here so we make a good team. The deal was: 'Sandy gets us to Europe, Jennifer gets us through Europe.' Applications and deadlines give me horrible anxiety so her job was to remind me to turn those in and to help me with the paperwork, which, in turn, made this trip a reality. And now that we're here, I'm more than happy to take the lead, which I will gladly do tomorrow morning as we shop around one of my favorite places: Notting Hill! The Portobello Market awaits us....
Quote of the day:
"Oh! Look! A dungeon!!!!!!" -- Sandy, really soaking up every bit of old London
Currently listening to: Dead & Gone, by T.I. and J.T. (Sandy) and Breakin' Dishes, by Rihanna (me)
Currently thankful for: Smart Wool socks, luggage push-carts in the airport for girls who have severely overpacked their bags, and the Kelty backpack that allows this girl to severely overpack her bags.
^^ A snapshot of Sandy, taken during our attempted walk through Hyde Park