Saying good-bye to the District
Needless to say that when you wake a night owl up at 4:45am to go to the airport, they’re not going to be pleased about it. I really am glad I hunkered down and figured out how to make the best of morning travel. It set me up for a successful morning.
I hopped in the shower with Dr. Bronner’s and blasted the “Power Commute” playlist I had mentioned earlier.
Listening through it, I realized I had in fact heard of ELIZA before. Spotify selected “Pack Up” as its ELIZA track, but “Rollerblades” had been my absolute jam in high school.
Like battle armor, I pulled on mesh cut-out leggings and Pumas with my bodysuit. I wouldn’t take it off for well over 24 hours moving forward.
Breakfast didn’t go according to plan, but it wasn’t a complete bust. I traded in a home-brewed chai and oatmeal for Starbucks’ egg bites and a vanilla soy latte. A go-to for me, if you can’t tell.
Waiting for my first plane, I struck that fine balance between work and play. I put in time on the blog and finished a run of “American Horror Story.”
Unfortunately, this chipper attitude took a down slope at my JFK layover.
Saying good-bye to the States
It’s one thing to know you have an 8-hour delay between your first flight and second. It’s another thing to experience it. Especially at a congested airport. With not nearly enough chairs at its terminals.
I had a bit of grief with my mobile boarding pass. Since ticket support from my airline wouldn’t be back for another two hours, I scavenged. Luckily, Central Diner turned up with a decent veggie burger (another go-to of mine).
Then my airline solved my boarding pass problem. And then they went the extra mile and checked my suitcase. And to be frank? I was annoyed. Now wasn’t the time for excellent customer service. I still had about six hours to kill.
I grew restless. Sleep deprivation and travel anxiety make a terrible couple. I tried slowing down with a guided meditation app. I tried redirecting my restless energy into listening to my favorite podcasts with zeal.
Everyone was either busy with work or fall semester in full swing. I didn’t have anyone to call. I put out a distress signal on Snapchat. A few fine friends replied and for that, I am forever grateful.
After meeting up with fellow students in my program, the day started to pick up. I didn’t feel so miserable and lonely anymore. Turns out a fair amount of classmates (known and unbeknownst to me) were also heading to London.
To kill the last two frenzied hours, I doubled back to the blur of a coffee shop I had passed on the way to baggage claim.
In the mood for an iced drink, I hedged my bets with a frozen soy caramel macchiato. It did not, however, hit the spot. It tasted less like a milkshake and more like plain ol’ espresso shots, crushed up with ice and dashed with a caramel drizzle. Given that it wasn’t nearly as creamy or smooth as I was expecting, I’m not sure if I could recommend the drink to a friend in good conscience.
The shop is great for the #aesthetic, however, and looking moody as you pen some Baudelaire-inspired bars in your Moleskine journal.
Right before I got coffee, I quite unexpectedly ran into an old friend from the newspaper. In the bathroom, of all places. She was flying to Florence from JFK. It was such a delightful surprise to see a friendly face in the midst of all this chaos.
Admittedly, it was a positive chaos. I liked watching men run up on each other to give hugs. I liked hearing squads giddily discuss their plans for a fabulous semester abroad. It warmed me. I watched the weight of England dawn on so many faces as we began to board the plane.
Saying hello to the Big Smoke
What happens on the flight to Heathrow, stays on the flight to Heathrow. And by that, I’m alluding to this: I fell asleep watching “Beauty and The Beast” and I’m really not proud of it.
I was so excited to watch it. I really was. I passed up the chance to rewatch “Hidden Figures” or “Get Out” or “Moonlight” or even “La La Land” because I really wanted to see Emma Watson shine. Ah, yes, my fearlessly smart, unabashedly feminist queen!
But waking up at 4:45am for the commute caught up with me. And 45 minutes later, the warm, gooey haze of mushroom farfalle and aged cheese and red wine and red velvet cake caught up with me, too. I didn’t wake up until breakfast the next morning and I am wholeheartedly ashamed. I have now, quite literally, slept on Emma Watson.
I’ll make it right one day, Emma, I promise.
From the second we stepped out of Heathrow to breathe in the fresh English air (debatable!), it was game time.
We all went to our flats, moved in and unpacked. Then it was orientation time until dinner. My flatmates and I ate together at a pub called The Black Swan.
The Holborn neighborhood is absolutely fraught with coffee shops and pubs and delicious-looking restaurants. But the little open-air street where Black Swan was located had caught our eye. One of my flatmates had been by already for a drink and had an encouraging opinion.
Three out of four us ordered the Swan’s “Ultimate Fish + Chips,” complete with battered cod, chips, tartare sauce, curry sauce and your choice of whole or mushed peas alongside two slices of buttered toast. It’s England. Of course, we were going to order fish + chips on the first night.
My initial bite of fish could be heard ’round the table: buttery and crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside. I alternated between dunking bites of battered fish in the Swan’s fragrant tartare sauce and dousing chips in the curry. The array of spices in the sauces and textures of the fish + chips conducted a symphony in my mouth.
Considering the eye candy of the houses and shops, British slang (“cheers!”) and wry humor, wealth of subjects for people-watching and a successful first pub trip? Of many to come? Suffice to say it, but I think London is already living up to the hype.