7 May 2013
“That’s lovely. You’re a star!” The English boy that sat next to me on the plane to London Heathrow, had me starstruck the moment he opened his mouth. I gave him my bread from our actually very decent airplane dinner, in which he gave me this “typical” British response. I have never heard that one in the states before! His accent, along with all the English I have met thus far, was absolutely charming! The entire flight I was asking him questions about England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland (The United Kingdom) mostly just to hear his stunning accent, but also to learn more about his beautiful culture. Come to find out, He is from Cambridge, and attended Trinity College-One of Cambridge’s 31 Universities. Hearing how much he loved it got me even more excited to attend Cambridge for myself here in a month or so! Just as my mom feared, I have absolutely fallen in love with Old England… But no worries, I have 4 months to get sick of it, although I don’t see that happening 😉
I arrived in London “the” Heathrow, as the Brits say it, to find the absolutely amazing Alexander family waiting for me as they had promised. Over these past two days I have been blown away by how gracious, fun, and knowledgable they are about the British culture. Alyssa goes to school with me at BYU and her parents have lived on the military base in Harrogate, England for 8 years. Their love for living in the United Kingdom radiates as they speak about the people, places, and culture. I have caught the bug, I LOVE THE BRITS TOO! Coming to the UK needs to be on everyone’s bucket list because simply the way the people here speak, laugh, walk, and dress will rock your world… Have I mentioned how charming their accent is yet?
Our first stop was Stonehenge, an ancient neolithic temple built of giant stones about an hour southwest on London. We spent nearly two hours walking around the marvelous structure that was built over 3,000 years ago, a place where worship, sacrifice, and learning took place among these ancient people. The stones were hauled over 90 miles, from the coast of England to the site where Stonehenge stands now. The design behind the placement of the stones is absolutely brilliant. It could’t of been built by someone who hadn’t a creative mind or innovative eye. The stone structure was used to tell time based on the direction of the sun and the placements of the sun rays and shadows of stones. Can you imagine creating such a multifaceted structure, one that still stands thousands of years later? As a temple of worship and sacrifice, the structure need to only be beautiful, but purposeful as well. Just like any innovative idea, it must bring purpose and value to the people it serves….and stonehenge is still doing that for people today. Each stone was placed strategically, each stone needed to add value to the structure as a whole. With an outer ring of larger “red stones” and a smaller inner circle of “blue stones”,each named after the color that speckles their surface once they get wet, stonehenge was creatively crafted as a place to commune with the Gods, as it perfectly aligns with the stars. As a cosmic, astronomic, and religious wonder on earth…it can’t help but me an iconic monument for millions of people on earth to visit each year.
The “Tube” as the locals call it, is the underground subway system that connects all of London. I got to have my first experience on it later that evening as we took it into inner London the Eastside from our Hotel just outside the inner city. As you get further into London it gets more and more compact, much like New York City, but instead of building up to accommodate space, people just give it up instead. The subways are crammed full of people, the streets barely exist to make room for housing, and the cars are nonexistent because frustration and convenience cause all the people to result to public transportation. Although the housing is small and complex, in the “posh” areas, a British word for the upper class, the places are antique, beautiful, and have a unique charm about them. Something you can’t help but feel when you walk the narrow streets and walks.
As I explored the inner city of London I noticed many things that were a lot different than back home in the states. Not only do they speak with different accents and use different currency, their police cars are yellow and only flash blue lights, their ambulances are fluorescent yellow and orange, their taxi’s look like art on wheels, and their plug-in outlets are not like ours in the US, nor like those in the rest of Europe–so much for the converter I brought… They sidewalks are still filled with red phone booths, and old red post boxes. Their buses are double deckers (As my sister Talia would understand-they are just like the bus on Harry Potter), their license plates are A LOT bigger so you can actually read the numbers as you drive by, and have I mentioned they drive on the other side of the road?! If you look right and forget to look left as you cross the street, good luck to you….
TJ Maxx it is TK Maxx, but still the best clothing store ever! You won’t see signs for the bathroom anywhere, but you will see a lot of signs that say “toilet”….but it doesn’t end there- you best have 30 pence out because they wont let you through the gates outside the bathroom unless you pay! Water isn’t free here either, so not be surprised with a little extra charge on your bill. The public transportation system is absolutely amazing and very effective and efficient–the states should watch and learn. The people are incredible and kind-hearted. I have ever been called honey or love so much in my life. The Brits know how to look good–and they know it. The subway and streets are filed with clean shaven men in sports coats, and women primped heel to toe in stilettos and up dos. I am just going to say it, the English are Fabulous!
We ended our evening with a tour in East London following in the footsteps of Jack the Ripper, England’s most famous Cereal Killer. It was quite eye opening to see how horrible living conditions in 1800 England were. Jack killed numerous people, in absolutely horrific ways, and was NEVER caught. He could still be roaming the streets of London today. Scary! I am so glad that I did not live during that time period–when millions of people were jobless, homeless, and desperate.