Destination London: a narrative of a reporter’s random trip

by Allison Remcheck

f my friend Elizabeth and I were

normal college students, we would have loaded up a van to take a road trip to Florida

during Spring Break. But alas, we aren’t normal — and instead of Daytona Beach, we picked London over Winter break.

Jan. 12

Contrary to popular belief, there is not enough overhead compartment room for everyone to have a carryon, and after the little baggage scandal around Christmas time, people refused to check their luggage.

On our connecting flight to Philadelphia, people were forced to check their bags while on the plane, and since this is a time-consuming process, our connector was just a teensy bit late. In fact, there was a period of time where I was convinced my luggage would go to London without me, but after a very nice run to our gate, we both made it there.

Jan. 13

Our first experience on the Underground (the subway in London) taught me a lot about the difference between British culture and American culture. In America, to find a way out of a building look for an exit sign.

In England, you look for the way out. It makes a whole lot more sense. When there is a pleasant way in, there is a pleasant way out.

Also, whenever you get off of an Underground train, there is always a sign that says, “mind the gap.” It is not a command like “watch the gap,” but a polite request.

On our way to our hotel in South Kensington, Elizabeth and I decided we would go see Kensington Palace, where Princess Diana lived.

One would think that huge landmarks, like one where Princess Di lived, would be clearly marked. One would also think that two people would be able to spot a palace fairly easily. Not us.

We must have walked directly past the palace at least twice, and almost entered through a private entrance once, before we found the right “in.”

Inside Kensington, we saw gowns that had been worn by the Princess herself. We also were followed around by a thirty-something, balding curator. How flattering.

After learning that not all British guys are hot, we headed to Parliament. We saw the Big Ben Clock that Peter, Wendy, Michael and John flew by in Peter Pan, then went to Picadilly Circus for dinner (No, it’s not actually a circus, it’s more like Times Square in New York City).

Jan. 14

Two days later we were starting to feel like real Londoners, or we had at least done a pretty good job at convincing ourselves that we were.

In fact, we spent the day completely assimilating ourselves at the London Bridge and the Tower of London.

Unfortunately, there are no more heads of guillotine victims lining London Bridge, but it does have a nice riverview. The Tower of London is actually many towers, and is more of a fortress with a

village inside.

Famous for its ravens and their legendary ties to the success of the monarchy, the Tower of London is known for its prison and scaffold where several of King Henry the VIII’s wives were beheaded. The prison is now much more comfortable, but it’s worth checking out the inscriptions the prisoners carved into the walls.

My favorite tower holds the Crown Jewels, which are actually exhibited. Along with the precious gems, there is also a collection of china, including a punch bowl large enough to take a bath in.

The Tower does lock up all the expensive jewels, for idiots like me who would want to try them on. I was reduced to drooling over emeralds the size of golf balls that are set into crowns.

For some more Princess Di fun, we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral, where she married Prince Charles. Apparently, there is a whispering gallery where you can whisper sweet nothings very far away from someone’s ear, and have it be heard on the other side of the gallery. We couldn’t find this because there was a fire drill while we were visiting.

Since we were educational for most of the day, our last stop was quite pathetic. Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station. All of you Harry Potter fans know what I’m talking about (and for those of you who aren’t, just ignore this part). I admit it; I didn’t make it through. Maybe I didn’t hurl myself against the wall hard enough, or maybe it only works on the first of September. There has to be a reason why I couldn’t get through that barrier.

Jan. 15

Our very last day before we had to leave was spent at Windsor, an adorable small town built around Windsor Castle where Her Majesty the Queen actually lives. And while she’s there, and she was, visitors can’t view the inside of the castle. But at least I can say we were both there at the same time. And of course she must have seen me waving to her.

After exploring the castle grounds and eating fish ‘n chips in Windsor, we took a walk to Eton, the town right next to Windsor, to see Eton

College, where Prince William and Prince Harry (who was in swastika trouble during our visit) went t o high school. This sounds even more pathetic than Platform 9 3/4, but honestly, it’s really only a 10-minute walk from the castle, in another postcard-perfect town.

In the evening we went to Harrods, a huge, expensive designer department store. I’m not sure I even took a breath the whole time we were there. They had Jimmy Choo, Versace; everything I know I will never, ever be able to afford on a

journalist’s salary.

Jan. 16

On the plane ride back home, which somehow took almost nine hours even though it only took six to get there, I had plenty of time to think about how England isn’t necessarily better than the United States, but they do say phrases like “jolly good” and “mind your head.” And it was warm and sunny compared to our frigid Ohio temperatures. London is a very difficult place to leave.

Contact features reporter Allison Remcheck at [email protected].