Friday, 13 September 2013

London: So Much to See, So Little Time

As the weekend rolled around, and the majority of Harlaxtonians prepared to embark on the school trip to London, I began to feel more and more that what I was doing was insane.

Rather than signing up for the well-rounded itinerary of the school trip, my friends and I had decided we would plan London independently. We’d booked our hostel back in August, so we knew that we at least had a place to stay, but that didn’t stop me from worrying. What if we couldn’t find it? What if we got on the wrong train? What if –– and this was a truly terrible thought –– we got to the hostel in one piece and found that it was simply not a safe place to stay? What if our roommates were creepy old men who ogled at us in our towels or shifty-eyed characters who stole our stuff?


It turned out that our hostel was none of these things. We were in South Kensington, a pretty posh borough where we wouldn’t have been able to stay otherwise, and all of our roommates seemed reasonably normal. We weren’t all in the same room ––– in what seemed blindingly obvious in hindsight, we’d booked independently and hoped to be grouped together ––– but the woman behind the counter did her best to try to get us together. And we found the hostel just fine, although it took some map-reading and good guesswork to actually find the building once we got off the tube. So all in all, I felt pretty proud of our abilities to go somewhere by ourselves and not end up lost or taken. But just getting to the destination does not make a good trip, I soon discovered. While there, we had to do things like figure out where to eat and what to see, and someone was bound to be disappointed. I worried that I would leave London feeling like I’d seen absolutely nothing, or that I’d wasted my money, or, worse, that despite the fun we’d had, it would never be able to leave up to my fabulous daydreams of the trip. I worried that, like a kid who awaits Christmas with a feverish anticipation only to unwrap socks, my unrealistic expectations vs. the inevitably flawed reality would let me down. But, thankfully, I was wrong.

My trip to London wasn’t perfect. I showered in a space the size of an airport bathroom, forgot my railcard for the journey to Watford Junction, had my walking tour held up by a car show, and came down with a cold in the process. I didn’t get to see half of what I wanted to. But I also drank butterbeer outside of the actual Potters’ cottage, watched the changing of the guard, climbed the lions in Trafalgar Square, ate wonderfully authentic Middle Eastern food (and fish ‘n chips), and affirmed my ability to safely and successfully navigate places beyond my wildest imagination. I met Germans and Vancouverites and saw street performers dressed as cats and drank in weird pubs with some great friends, and I was not let down at all.

Leaving London, I felt like I’d barely scratched the surface of a city rich in history and culture. Because to be honest, two days is not enough to see a city. I could spend months pub-crawling and museum-visiting and tea-sipping before I ever felt I’d experienced enough to say I really knew or saw everything London has to offer. But I got a little taste. And though it wasn’t complete, I don’t hesitate to say that it was one hundred percent worth it.

-Anna Sheffer

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