So, just for clarification, I was going to London through the journalism program at my school, Asbury University. Eight students had been hand-picked to do reporting for a local Kentucky channel, LEX18, at the Olympics. Needless to say, I was pretty pumped.
We landed flawlessly in London and I grabbed my luggage within 10 minutes. I knew I would be meeting my journalism professor at the welcoming area, but after walking around for an hour, I wondered if we were in different terminals. It was then that I, quite brilliantly, realized that I had a phone number, and after slipping 60p into a payphone, I located him on a different floor.
I met up with Professor Wheeler and Cassie Gerhardstein, one of the other journalism students, and we waited in a Costa Coffee for about an hour before the “Lexington Five” showed up (the five students who flew from Kentucky together). After taking some “group pix” with our extensive amount of luggage, all eight of us loaded into two London cabs and headed towards our townhouse.
So, Heathrow was a little farther away from our house than we thought. At least an hour and a half (we lost track after awhile) and £120 (each cab) later, we pulled up to our address. We were soon squealing and running around, taking in the Ikea furniture, llama fur pillows on the chairs and the general feng shui theme going on in the house.
Hillary and I found ourselves in the room we deemed “Narnia,” because of the large wardrobe at the foot of the bed. Then all eight of us decided to go to dinner at the Westfield Mall, which is right by the Olympic Park. It is a beautiful and daunting place, let me tell you. All seven girls gasped when we saw the three-storied Forever 21.
We went to the food court on the third floor (there is a food court on every floor) and got authentic fish ‘n’ chips for our first meal in England. They came with mashed peas, which tasted like dry split-pea soup and looked like guacamole.
Will, the only guy in our group, was supposedly taking a train to London from France, but we hadn’t heard anything from him yet. But when we got back from the house, we found him standing in the kitchen. “The nice gardener lady let me in,” he said.
Then, everyone pretty much collapsed into bed and tried to sleep themselves into London time.
The next day we grabbed our two Panasonic 200 cameras, split into two groups and shot some footage of the Olympic torchbearers running through Kensington and Hyde Park.
That afternoon, Amy, Courtney, Jane, Prof. Wheeler and I traversed to King’s College for an interview with two students from the University of Kentucky who were studying abroad. The campus was beautiful, complete with two dog statues that looked uncannily like lions, and an unruly garden of some sorts out back.
Friday came, as did the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. Our team headed downtown to Trafalgar Square to watch the festivities on an alleged “big screen” we had heard would be present. However, once we got there we discovered that there was only a countdown clock—no screen.
We hung out there for awhile, watching everyone display their various nationalities and flags.
Check out the footage our team took on our page of LEX18’s website: http://www.lex18.com/videos/countdown-to-the-opening-ceremonies/
However, it soon started to rain (as it is wont to do in London), so we ended up going back to our house to watch the program. And can I talk about how awesome it was? Let’s just sum it up real quick, shall we? The Queen’s corgis followed her through Buckingham palace looking adorable and fluffy. The lovely Elizabeth II parachuted from a helicopter with James Bond. Mr. Bean played the piano and was edited into the famous running-on-the-beach scene from “Chariots of Fire.” Paul McCartney sang “Hey Jude.” Oh man, England is awesome.
The next day, Prof. Wheeler, Amy, Cameron and I went to a pub near Westminster for an interview with a fellow Kentuckian, Mary Ellen Foley, who now lives and blogs in England. I loved her distinctive southern sass combined with her deep knowledge of British culture. I munched on her chips and vinegar (she offered, of course) while we chatted about life overseas, cultural misunderstandings and missing the Bluegrass state.
I have since finished the article, and it can be found here: http://www.lex18.com/news/cloud-computing-lexington-native-blogs-about-life-in-england/
The following morning, Courtney, Will, Hillary and I headed to Westminster Park to video the reactions of non-Americans trying a local Kentucky soda called Ale-8. As we were walking around trying to find some brave souls to step in front of our daunting camera, I ran into my cousin, Nick Walker, by the flag display.
I knew he was in London for a few days, but I had no idea he would be at Big Ben, so I of course flipped out. He was on a trip through Europe after living in South Africa for six months with the outreach program YWAM (Youth With A Mission).
So we sat on the grass looking at Westminster Abbey and caught each other up on the last six months of our lives. It was the best sort of family reunion, if you ask me: the kind that takes place in England.