The day began early when Jen and I decided to hit up a Catholic church close by for mass. It was cute in the sense that not many people were there and yet there was still singing. The “cantor” of sorts would start the songs in pretty admirable a capella pitch, but he also doubled as an altar boy complete with bell ringing and Communion clean-up. If nothing else, his multi-tasking was surely impressive. Everyone I shared the Sign of Peace with seemed lovely and polite and I would certainly go back based on that alone. There’s absolutely nothing worse than hostile church-goers, after all.
The day continued with some sightseeing for the tourist in me. Feeling ambitious, we decided to hit up a museum. Jen, Nicole (a new friend!), and I traveled to the place that seems to bundle up all the amazing details of London into one area, South Kensington. The Tube trip was a bit long and at times quite awkward (I was coughed on by an old man and had my arm in front of a coffee-drinking man’s face), but the destination made the trivial tribulations completely worth it. We stepped out of the Tube to see large, beautiful, historical buildings that served as apartments to many young and old. British (and maybe some not so British) families walked hand-in-hand between the many museums and small British-accented children exclaimed at the cool things to see. The entire collective sight was actually magical to behold. You can walk through your hometown and not even notice the different diverse families walking past you and how intricate the family system is, but just watching the different family groups interact within this unique setting was absolutely amazing. It wasn’t so much that the families did anything special, but the way some of the children spoke and the reactions from their parents was so interesting to see.
The first stop was the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. This building is the epitome of humongous, but we swore we could brave it. Well, let’s just say that we left half of the museum undiscovered for another day. After all, most of the museums are free, so no harm done! Plus, there is a certain dinosaur exhibit that a certain friend wants (and I also want) to see that reopens September 19th, so there’s more than one reason to return. If the contents of the building weren’t enough to bring us back, the architecture certainly stunned us. Though, I will say, the sections about the Earth and what it’s made up of really had me flashing back to Geology class. I’m not sure whether or not that’s a good thing considering the museum seems to be geared more towards the younger crowd.
A late lunch/early dinner was a necessity as all that walking made us extremely peckish, so we tried to balance our options. Budgeting is hard when everything sounds and looks fantastic, but I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that. We ended up at a small deli with the cutest little backyard sitting area (complete with snogging couple in the corner) and ordered tea and sandwiches. My first “cuppa” was absolutely fantastic! I didn’t think I’d like milk in tea, but don’t knock it until you try it. I felt so authentic in that moment… until I said in my twangy American accent “this tea is so fanTAStic!” I got some stares from the other patrons but, as the kids say, YOLO.
Since the day was still young, the three of us scampered off to Hyde Park. I was surprised by how large the park was, first of all, compared to what my hometown calls parks. If you thought (insert park name here) was big in any sense, it certainly looks dwarfish in comparison to Hyde Park. Complete with fountains, ponds, lakes, memorials that belong in St. Peter’s Basilica, and plenty of bikes to rent and ride, Hyde Park truly has it all. The thing I loved most about the park was that there were actually a lot of people around. Back home, I’m lucky if I see ten people tops. At Hyde Park, there were people everywhere you looked but it wasn’t crowded. There were plenty of large trees to provide shade should the sun get too warm, plenty of ducks for dogs to scare out of their wits, plenty of children screeching by on their scooters (it seems they all have one), and plenty of space to just unwind. It was truly a great feeling to look out at the park and feel like you were part of something important. Whether it was watching the volleyball game, or laughing at the impromptu street hockey match in the middle of the park road, I truly felt happy and relaxed. I would say that Hyde Park was the first place I felt like a true Londoner even though it included none of the typical London things. Long story short, Hyde Park is a place I will be going back to very soon.
Hyde Park’s sheer size made our legs and feet hurt more than we thought possible. So, after a random drizzle amidst blue skies, the three of us hobbled back to the Tube to get back to campus. Even though I’ve only ridden the Tube a handful of times, I already feel like a natural! I received a customary “huff” from a Londoner behind me as I failed to realize the gates opened to let me through and it just felt so real. I accidentally stood on the left side of the escalator instead of the right and was brusquely asked to move aside. Honestly, I feel so at home. Take that as sarcasm or genuineness, it could really be either.
To end the night, the three of us decided to stay in and pull an all-American night-in: pizza and Netflix. Jen and I donned sweatpants, shirts, and sandals (moccasins for me) to travel to an on-campus convenience store only to be told by Nicole that we looked glaringly American. To be honest, I had never received a better compliment in my life. If looking obviously American is looking comfortable and ready to watch some Burlesque, then I am totally okay with it. We walked into one of the stores and picked up some little bits and bobs, mainly snack foods for the movie. The cashier, bless her soul, tried her best to understand why were staying inside while all of the “freshers” (freshman for you Americans) were out partying like good normal college students. I had a feeling she wouldn’t be able to level with me, so I left our reasoning up in the air. Is Netflix-in-sweats time not a thing in the UK? I might be slightly concerned by this.
This whole week has a lot of exciting things in store as classes don’t start until next week. Free time most definitely equals sightseeing, if nothing else. I can’t wait to explore more of London and make it more “my own” as I’ve been told to do these past few days. It certainly helps that I’m making friends, both American and others, because they certainly make the trips more interesting. Even if I don’t walk away from this experience with a million new friends from every single country, I’m glad that the ones I’m making are ones I’d love to keep.