Hannah and I had a 12 hour layover in London after a 9 hour overnight flight from Houston. We both slept about 3-4 hours due to some turbulence and being too excited to sleep. Needless to say, our day in London was tiring. I am having trouble keeping my eyes open as I write this from the waiting area for our flight to Athens, Greece.
I wanted to expound a bit in this post about London, United Kingdom and its inhabitants. In our short experience, the British are very accommodating, welcoming, and eager to help. This was evidenced during a discussion with a Passport control officer who proceeded to provide us information on where to find the London Underground inside the terminal. It was completely out of her job duties, but it helped our day get off to a positive start.
During my day in London, I likened the city to the busyness of a city such as Chicago or New York, but with the friendliness and diversity of a city like Houston. The city has a constant buzz of small black taxis, double-decker buses, and a myriad of police presence in the areas we visited. All around you in central London, there are relics from the past dotted throughout the landscape among modernist skyscrapers and businesses. It was unique to see the two cohabitate the skyline.
Interesting History to Consider
During our hours of walking today, Hannah and I discussed the history of England. This small island in the Northwest of Europe rose to be a monumental global power, eviscerating or colonizing most others in its path. A perfect example is the 9,442 miles that separate England from Australia. Other examples include Canada and India, among several others. In retrospect, we have the British to thank for its spread of English as a vernacular language across the world. They played a major role in foreign adoption of English. While colonialism under a microscope is an ugly affair, reading signs in dual languages is a benefit that many of us have reaped during a trip abroad.
English Attitude and Lifestyle
The overall attitude among the English is far more polite than what I have encountered on a typical day in the United States. Even when a policeman was reprimanding folks for blocking a walk way, he stopped to teach a young tourist girl to move her backpack to her chest, rather than her back, as the area in front of Buckingham Palace is an opportunity for pickpockets. Then again, it was only one day in a year of 365, so hopefully I’m not generalizing by today’s observations.
Pertaining to local lifestyle, one odd pattern always appears in our travels. Hannah and I enjoy visiting local grocery stores in foreign countries to get a (sometimes) literal taste of what they experience day in and day out. Today, we visited Sainsbury, a grocery chain in London. One of the secondary reasons is that they offer free restrooms, a rarity in many foreign countries. If travelling to the UK, I would highly recommend you bookmark https://www.toiletmap.org.uk/ as well as have a general knowledge of where the local US Embassy is for emergency purposes.
Back to the earlier topic of lifestyle, the portion sizes in London are different from the United States. The cost of goods are also higher in London by a fair amount, as well. Things such as ketchup don’t include high fructose corn syrup. The cereal has corn flakes, bran, and very few sugary cereal choices. There were also very few choices between various brands. This is a stark contrast and made me draw pause and consider how we as Americans consume.
Another aspect of lifestyle was that a large number of Londoners use the Tube, or subway, in order to get around. Many also bicycle to work or school. Home ownership is far less likely and town homes and multi-family flats are more happenstance as we peered through the subway windows into the suburbs.
A Window into the Past
I asked myself several times today how a monarch, even if more symbolic, was still loved and revered by his/her people in a modern age. One moment gave me a glimpse into it. We witnessed the daily changing of the guard today by happenstance. As we watched the guard march and play up the drive to Buckingham Palace, I realized this is a tradition that has occurred daily for decades and shows no sign of slowing down.
Additionally, nationalism is alive and well within the United Kingdom just as it is in the United States, for good and bad. In the short 6 hours or so we spent in London, it was painfully obvious that tension was abound with the upcoming Brexit negotiations. There are still many others within the city and larger country that would prefer a larger change altogether.
PS. One last fun fact. We were in London Heathrow Terminal 5. There are 3 different gates A, B, and C that have a very large number of gates to each. You can traverse to gates B and C by walkway that is underground beneath the rail system and can go back and forth between terminals. If you try to take the tram, you will be unable to return to Gate A. It was a ghost town and an odd adventure to pass some time and get some exercise.
2 thoughts on “A Long Layover in London”
I’m excited to read about all the comparisons to how a normal life in the US is. My few explorations over seas was eye opening for sure, and I can’t wait to read more about those different experiences. Be safe!
It is difficult not to compare to my only experiences back home in the US. It is eye opening though and has already changed the way I think.