It was our last full day in England, and we were determined to suck out all the marrow of life, as my homeboy Thoreau once said. So, Courtney, Hillary, Cassie and I got up early that morning to get to Buckingham Palace by 11:30 a.m. for the Changing of the Guard. However, upon arrival we discovered that it had been cancelled that day due to the Olympic triathlon, which would be passing by the palace. So that was lame. But it wasn't a total loss: we got complimentary tote bags and British flags with our copies of the Daily Telegraph, and we displayed them rather mysteriously.
Cassie and Hillary stayed behind to watch the race, while Courtney and I headed to the mall to meet our friend Isaac for lunch.
We ended up eating chicken for about an hour and a half in a restaurant called Nando’s. It was awesome to catch up with Isaac, who had been in Hong Kong all summer, and the chicken was absolutely delectable. We also drank about five glasses of soda each (free refills, son).
Courtney and I stayed around in the Westfield Mall for a few more hours to do some last-minute shopping. Let me tell you about this mall: it’s four stories tall and has some awesome shops; that being said, it is one of the most stressful places I have ever been in my whole life. It is literally a sardine can. There are people of all nationalities rubbing shoulders.
While this is awesome, it also results in the most crowded mall on earth. Starbucks was so full that I just sat on the ground outside next to the Argentinean Handball team.
So by this time, my feet were killing me. Courtney and I had been walking around for about seven hours, but there was sightseeing to be done! Operation Bucket List must be (partially) completed!
So, Cassie, Hillary, Courtney and I set off again, but this time in search of the famed Abbey Road Studios. And find it we did. We ended up waiting for about 15 minutes for the annoying people in front of us to take about five different pictures on the crosswalk. The cars on the road were not amused and kept honking at them. Finally, it was our turn. I must admit that it was not identical to the original. This was our most legitimate-looking photo, and it was just of us trying to get to the other side of the street in order to take said photo:
This one just looks awkward and makes me drool with laughter when I look at it:
However, we found out later that the day after we took the picture was the anniversary of the photo being taken, so we felt pretty legitimate. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go into the studios themselves, being the poor, college students we are, but we were right outside.
We also saw some cool, fan-made graffiti on the wall out front:
We then got back on the tube, changing trains at Baker Street, where the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes lives in folklore:
We then met up with the rest of the gang near the Tower of London. Going into the tower was on my bucket list; however, we didn't have the time or money to do so. At least we got to walk by it. Fortunately, I had taken a tour inside it when I was in London in fourth grade, but sightseeing isn't really the same when you're little, is it?
We proceeded to walk across Tower Bridge to an awesome pub where they were showing the Olympics.
I had a delicious shepherd’s pie for my last English pub experience, and we watched track and field on the big TV and cheered along with everyone else there. It was beautiful. Then we went back to the house and packed our little butts off.
The next morning, Courtney, Will, Cassie and I headed out the door for the last time. Will and I had our sweaters tied around our waists like we were in primary school and we all had our rolly suitcases in-hand. We meant business.
As we walked, single-file, to the tube station in Leytonstone, I made the observation that it looked like we were going to boarding school, like the Pevensie children in "The Chronicles of Narnia." By the time we got to the station, we were already sweating, my hands throbbing from the weight of my two suitcases.
After swiping through with our Oyster cards, we proceeded to take several trips up the stairs with our luggage. Then we entered the train, already stinky and exhausted. Will got off a few stations later to catch his train to Paris, and I told him to eat a baguette for me. I hope he did.
Cassie, Courtney and I then had to change trains. Oh. My. Gosh. It was one of the most stressful experiences of our lives. First of all, we were walking against the flow of the huddled masses. We decided to wait until the crowded hallway let up, except it never did.
So we finally plowed through until we got to a stairwell. So again, we took several trips to get all of our luggage to the top. Then, we had to go DOWN a flight of stairs. So down we went. A few kind strangers offered to help us as the rest of the crowd looked on with what looked like disgust.
We finally got to our train, and when the doors opened we leapt in, lest one of us get stuck behind with half of the luggage. So there we sat, each of us with at least one bag on our laps and two in front of us on the floor.
I got to talk to a nice woman from Spain who I was able to practice my Spanish with. Apparently, her favourite food from England is breakfast, to which I thought to myself, “Come on, you can do better than that!” I asked her how the Spain soccer team was doing in the Olympics, and she said that they don’t care about the Olympics—only the World Cup and the Euro Cup. So David Villa and his homies didn't even compete in London. More power to you, Spain.
We finally arrived at the Heathrow stop, and Courtney, Cassie and I all parted ways to our separate terminals. My flight to Newark was, surprisingly, uneventful, and I got to catch up on some movies I hadn’t seen yet, namely “The Avengers,” “The Five-Year Engagement” and “Young Adult.”
After going through immigration, baggage claim, customs, a second baggage check-in and another security checkpoint, I finally got to my gate. I met a nice Lebanese woman and her daughter, who were returning to Charlotte after two months in Lebanon. Finally they called our flight, and two hours later, I was riding home in my parents’ minivan. I felt like Cassanova Frankenstein in “Mystery Men” when he said: “Hello, Champion City. Daddy's home.”