Summer in London

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The first time you travel to a new location or find yourself in a different culture, you have certain notions and expectations about the place. However, looking back on those experiences often times those notions were wrong and things aren’t the way you expect them. This was what I found on my first trip to Europe. Going to England, for me, was a goal I had for a long time. Last summer I finally made it. The plane ride was onerous and once we landed, I had that horrible feeling as though I hadn’t slept for days. When my family arrived at the bed and breakfast we were to stay at, I fell asleep until the next morning. I have never been one to rise early, so waking up before sunrise in summer was out of character for me but, because of the time change, I did. No one else in the house was awake. It was just me. I remember looking out the small old window with the white paint peeling off of the trim in the next room and just staring. It was the height of summer. Everything was in bloom. I unfastened the old handle and pushed the window out to let in the fresh air. I could feel the dampness, the soft dew of the morning on everything. The first golden rays of sunlight were barely peeking over the horizon, but the air was already pleasantly warm and fresh. I could see peoples’ back yards and an ancient looking church steeple in the background. What I saw was very simple and seemingly pedestrian, but very beautiful in its’ own way. It was the peak of summer. August: all of the bushes overflowing. The gardens were teeming with clusters of brightly colored flowers.
While I was standing there, I thought about how this would be the last trip before school started. It was a moment of simplicity; before papers would be due, or there were tests to worry about.
What was different about this trip was that I was in a real neighborhood; not a large chain of hotels with rooms, where decor was systematically planned out, mass produced, and impersonal. I could see the small yet overflowing garden in each backyard, see the people walk their dogs down to the park, see that it was very normal and yet it was all new.

One of my preconceived notions of foreign countries was that everything, the people, the food, the general feel of the place would all be unfamiliar, and strange. It was unlike America and the small towns I knew and yet, something was the same as well. Later that day, we walked down to the Underground station that would take us into London. We bought our passes for the week and then we were handed a small map of all the lines and trains in the system. When I opened it I saw the elaborate maze of colored lines and tiny names of all the different stops. At first navigating the labyrinth of trains, was extremely intimidating. People, talking on cell phones and reading papers, would crowd onto platforms and into the trains. Everyone hurrying to get to one place or another. The fascinating thing was that it was all underground and each time you would depart and come up to street level the scenery was completely different. One stop would end up at Westminster Cathedral and Big Ben, while another stop a few minutes later would place you in a world of glass skyscrapers. From walking around all parts of the city, it was fascinating to see those contrasts between the new,modern city and ancient, majestic one. They fit together however and served as foils of one another. The two styles were beautiful in their own way.
I was right in some aspects. The city was different than others in America, like New York or Chicago. The style of buildings, the accents, and the food were all distinctive, but soon I got used to them and found that I enjoyed all of the new experiences. Before going on this trip I was apprehensive about traveling to Europe, but after I went there and saw the beauty of the city, I realized that it wasn’t so “foreign” at all.





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