I was extremely jealous when I found out the sport journalism class was taking a trip to Wimbledon today. S0, when I heard I could tag along if I paid my own ticket (£25), it wasn't a hard decision. I met my group in the IH reception area about 5:45am and we all took the tube to Wimbledon Park. When we arrived, we were handed queue cards with a number. Once the cards run out, they no longer let people inside. The queue (aka line) is just part of the fun at Wimbledon. It's an activity rather than an inconvenience. People camp out, drink champagne, barbecue, play games, etc. In total, we waited about 3hrs before getting inside. The grounds are full with activities, food, drinks, shops, and about twenty courts. It is a completely different lifestyle, and certainly unlike any sporting event I have attended back in the states. The people dress beautifully, sip on champagne, and eat strawberries with cream. Our instructor suggested we try Pimm's - a gin based drink with fruit and lemonade (so good). We spent most of our day walking around and watching matches on some of the smaller courses. Such a cool day.
Earlier this morning, I set out with a classmate to get some tourism out of our system. We had yet to see the main sites: Big Ben, the London Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, etc. We walked around the city for hours, and once again I am amazed by the character and history of the land/structures. It is impossible to walk down a street and not pass something of historical significance. Here are a few of the highlights from today:
To say the least, it is an eventful time to be in London. In what is perhaps the most historic day in England's recent history, the country has voted to leave the European Union with 51.9% of the vote. Shortly following the decision, David Cameron (UK Prime Minister) announced his resignation. Meanwhile, the pound is sinking, making everything a bit less expensive as an American student. Crazy news to wake up to on my first full day in England, and it certainly came as a surprise considering the polls leading up to vote. No one in the city seems pleased with the result, but while London overwhelmingly voted to remain, England's vast rural communities ultimately chose to leave. So far, tensions do not seem bad in the city, but it definitely provided interesting conversation earlier today in orientation. It is a fascinating time to be studying journalism in London.
Good news: I am writing this from my room in London. Bad news: the trip here did not exactly go smoothly. My flight left at 7:30pm from JFK. Considering the 8hr time change, I took a tylenol PM and sleep on the way as we landed in London just before 8:00am this morning (so weird). This also would have been ideal because, fun fact, flying makes me extremely anxious. Unfortunately, life happens and I couldn't sleep. On the bright side, delta offers free drinks, food, and movies. However, if that wasn't entertaining enough, there were HUGE thunderstorms coming into the UK and our plane was HIT BY LIGHTNING. So, I was certainly never bored; and it is astonishing what planes are built to withstand. When we did, of course, land safely, I then waited 2hrs to pass through customs. From there, central London is only a short Tube ride away! We were able to check into our rooms at the International Hall at 2:00pm, so I dropped off my luggage and walked around the Bloomsbury area for a few hours. Despite the storm, it is so beautiful here. I am in awe of the history that surrounds me, I can't wait to explore the city.
Tip: don't buy a drink at JFK without asking the price. I paid $2o for a bloody mary.
The beauty of spending all day in a city alone with no real plans is the opportunity to make them up as you go. I decided to walk through Central Park to the Met this morning with, to be honest, very little knowledge of what it was or what I would see. I originally planned to stay only two hours but ended up staying four and didn't even scratch the surface. I imagine it would take weeks to actually explore the museum in its entirety. It is HUGE! More than 2M sq. feet of floor space filled with famous paintings and ancient art from all over the world. Perhaps the most interesting exhibit was a replica of the barn from the 1960 film Psycho, which sat on the rooftop garden. A very interesting contrast to the views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline. Of course, my phone died halfway through, but I did manage to get a few pictures.
Before embarking on my European adventure, I am spending several days in New York for two reasons: to break up what otherwise would have been a full day of travel, and to visit my aunt who works in the city. I landed in JFK around 2pm and spent the rest of my afternoon in a taxi (because NYC traffic) and exploring the area around our hotel. The first thing I noticed is that traffic laws seem to be a mere suggestion, making the roads utter chaos. I now understand why so many prefer to walk. Despite this, it is difficult to not fall in love with Manhattan - at least from where I'm standing. Our hotel is located in the middle of the theatre district. Walk a few blocks south to enter the energy of Times Square; head north and step into Central Park, 843acres of quiet scenery and wildlife. Around 6pm, I met my aunt back at our hotel and we walked together down to beautiful Bryant Park where we had dinner on a second-story rooftop. Later, we ended our evening on the rooftop of the Dream Hotel with amazing views of the city. Even on a Monday night, the city is alive and full of energy. I am filled with overwhelming feelings of excitement and gratitude tonight.
Tip: for best chance of not being hit by aggressive motorists, follow the crowds rather than the walk signals.