previously posted on my blog Abroad in London
as a weekly update for family and friends
My arrival in London on the 2nd of July was plagued by exhaustion and an inability to sleep during the cross Atlantic flight. An over night flight seemed like the most intelligent decision considering the time change and difference between Boston and London. But by the time I was situated it was too early on Boston time to sleep and by the time I fell asleep it was only a few hours before landing. The three hours of sleep I had on the flight could barely get me through the first day in London- it was very anti climatic compared to all the plans I had made for myself.
After stepping off the plane I collected my luggage- which has a story of its own. I packed two large suitcases with perfect precision to the weight restrictions of the airline I was flying with. I literally weighed each bag on a home scale during the packing process and filled each to within half a pound of the restriction- a fact I was very proud of at the time. Of course in Boston I had no difficulty with the luggage, it wasn’t very far from my car to the ticketing counter and I was wide awake.
It was on the other end of the trip that I discovered what the weight of two seventy pound suitcases and a forty pound backpack truly feel like. And if I thought I was tired after we debarked the plane it paled in comparison to how tired I was by the time we arrived at our flat.
After collecting our luggage we made our way through customs. It was early enough for there not to be too significant of a line. With our paperwork in order it didn’t take long at all and we were on our way to the Tube and the Piccadilly line that would take us to our new home. It was my flatmate’s idea to take the Tube from Heathrow to our new home instead of hiring a taxi or a mini-cab for the trip. It certainly would save us a significant about of money and that is one of the reasons I agreed. I also was eager to give this famous subway system a go and discover for myself why it’s considered to be one of the greatest in the world.
My first encounter with the Tube was not the most successful but I would definitely say it was memorable. I nearly got separated from my luggage and flatmate since the Tube is a voracious opponent when it wants to close its doors. We both barely made it on with our luggage before the train departed. And if that wasn’t bad enough it became quickly apparent that we were travelling during the morning rush hour commute. It made for a very cramped hour between Heathrow station and the Russell Square station. And an hour later, after much shoving and pushing, we tumbled off the tube and into Russell Square.
Only we discovered that the trip was not yet over. Russell Square was not a handicap accessible station- and there were a great big set of stairs to traverse before even coming close to the elevators.
But this is the good part of the story- about how I already loved the British within two hours of landing in London.
There I am, all 5 foot nothing, with two suitcases that I can barely handle. To be fair my flatmate was a big help but he was dealing with his own over sized and over stuffed luggage. And then I was faced with the daunting task of climbing those stairs, luggage in hand, surrounded by the morning commuters. I quickly determined that it couldn’t be done in one trip so I was set to leave behind one of my bags when a very nice, and very handsome, British gentleman offered to haul my seventy pound bag up those stairs.
And I have to wonder if he knew what he was getting himself into.
After all those stairs we still had to wait for the lift (elevator for all you Americans) to take us to the ground level. There is something to be said about how deep underground the Russell Square tube station really is. I later learned that in addition to the three lifts there was also a staircase from Russell Square’s platforms to the ground level- if one was willing to traverse 175 stairs.
My first view of London was from this tube station. And we were greeted by one of London’s most prevalent sites; and it was not Big Ben, or Tower of London, or the London Eye that greeted us. No, it was a Tesco Express store with its blue and red lettering and welcoming fluorescents. I later would become well acquainted with the many Tescos in my neighbourhood, in the part of town where I worked, and in general as I travelled the country.
With the assistance of my London A to Z map we found Southampton Row and our flat without delay. We were promptly greeted by our very charming porter- who during our stay in London passed on much to our sadness- and were shown the way to the lift.
By any stretch of the imagination our flat was nice and the location couldn’t be beat- quickly I called it home. Yet somehow after all that travelling (and jet lag), all that anticipation, and all those stairs, I felt a little let down. A few hours later, and after a much needed nap, I realized that it’s the kind of flat that grows on you. No need to be magnificent or outstanding if it can be turned into a home and after unpacking all my belongings I discovered that it was my home, for the next six months.
London was home.