One of my favorite things about our trip to Great Britain was all of the political conversations I had with my new friends from all over the world. I felt like I’d heard plenty of perspectives on American politics here in the states, but hearing how other countries talked about our education system, gun violence, and healthcare was a really fascinating point of discussion.
I especially loved talking about top political issues in other countries. It was humbling, for one thing, because I realized that even in my own attempts to diversify my media sources there were so many things I didn’t know much about, like the Philippines newly-elected president, Rodrigo Duterte, who has being called “the Donald Trump of the East,” how English is a national language in Hong Kong (and how you definitely do not equate Hong Kong with China), and then, the many reasons for and against Brexit: Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. And to think that I had so many real political conversations with new friends – FRIENDS – who live in each of these places over a span of a week. It’s such a privilege.
The Brexit vote happened yesterday. I think I feel more personally invested in this decision than I would have if I hadn’t just been in the UK. I know how this decision is going to impact the jobs and visas of people who live in one part of Europe but work in Great Britain and visa versa. I know it may impact UK residents who have retired to different regions. I also know that this is likely going to have major rippling impacts on other economies. While the vote was happening yesterday, I was texting my friends in England (Thank you, WhatsApp!) to learn more about the different perspectives and reasons for leaving. Even though it’s not what I expected to happen, or wanted to happen, I recognize that I have friends who have a much more real connection to this decision, and that makes it feel more personal than it otherwise would.
And I realize in the future that I will be able to share that I visited Great Britain just a few weeks before Brexit… which is kind of weird. But enough politics for now, I want to share more about our adventure. First stop: London!
Our Virgin Atlantic flight to the London was just lovely. I’m honestly not sure how it could have been more perfect.
When we walked into the night club, I mean airplane, I felt completely at ease. It must have been a combination of the simultaneously energizing and soothing music, purple lighting, and open bar (yes there was literally a bartender standing behind a bar – it was the first thing I saw when I boarded). I wasn’t 100% sure that the complimentary alcohol was for me – someone who was sitting in economy – but when I got to my row, I saw this in my seat:
…along with a blanket, pillow, headphones, eye mask, ear plugs, socks, a toothbrush, toothpaste: all free. And there was a touch screen on the seat in front of me with hundreds of newly released movies to choose from. I was giddy with excitement. Bret was, too!
I wasn’t certain that we’d get dinner since our flight didn’t even board until 8PM (1AM London time), but there was dinner. And by dinner, I mean salad and a dinner entree and cheesecake. And wine. Probably more wine than usual for us since most passengers on our flight were an adorable school group who were under the legal drinking age. I’d put my dietary requests (vegetarian) and I was served a vegetarian entree immediately. It was so good. After dinner, I watched some newly released movies (How to Stay Single, Sisters), and slept. I know I slept because I missed big chunks of “How to Stay Single”… but I still thought it was a good movie! And then it was time for the most adorable “wakey wakey” breakfast: yogurt, granola, fruit, tea or coffee. Again, all free. In coach. In short, I never want to fly another airline again.
Arriving in London felt dreamy. Partially because I was sleepy, perhaps, but this dream that I’d had in my head for so long was suddenly real and I couldn’t believe it. Bret was feeling not as great since he hadn’t been able to sleep at all, but fortunately, I’d come prepared to navigate us to our hotel without the internet! I’d printed out step-by-step directions to get us from the airport to our hotel in Greenwich (pronouced Grin-anch… not Green-which as I learned), so we found the Underground, boarded the correct train, and followed those printed directions for an hour and a half, transferring lines every 5 or 20 stops. Bret was exhausted, but I felt good navigating the London underground with confidence.
We checked into our room, napped and showered, and then decided to go explore this beautiful city. I’d made a whole list of things I wanted to do, but we only had a few hours, so Bret suggested going right to Big Ben so we could ogle some gorgeous architecture. It was so, so beautiful. Breath-taking.
And then we walked over to the London Eye and waterfront… so, so peaceful. I loved stepping away from these enormous buildings to gaze out on the water. I could have stayed there for hours.
I snapped a couple iconic “London” photos…
And then we got dinner and went to bed. Haha! There were so many, many places that I wanted to go: museums, Buckingham Palace, The Globe Theatre, Hyde Park, the Tea Room at the V&A Museum, Harry Potter’s Platform 9 3/4, everything on this list… next time.
…but we were tired and kind of overwhelmed by the unknown that was boarding a bus with strangers in the morning. I was so hopeful that the next day was going to be a good one, but I knew we needed sleep, so after finding a traditional English pub, having a pint and a good meal, we re-packed our backpacks, went to bed, and dreamt of the great adventure that was on the horizon. And, spoiler alert, it was amazing. I’ll try to crank out a few blog posts in the next week so I can revisit all of the amazing places that I’m already missing.