Thursday, June 09, 2016

England {Day 1}

Sunday, May 15th

Last month, I traveled to Birmingham, England with a group of young adults from my church to visit the Globalscope ministry at the University of Birmingham.

[Rachel, JW, Connor, me, Shelby, Christina] 

We flew out of Denver around 8:00PM on Saturday, May 14th. I woke up early that morning, finished getting ready to go, and then went to see Captain America: Civil War with my mom that afternoon. Afterward, I finished up and we went to pick up Rachel, our team leader, and Connor and head to the airport.

I have never flown internationally before. (I mean, I've been to Cabo, but that barely counts and it was a really short flight.) Most of my anxiety about the trip was actually from the flights, especially there. I woke up early to try to stay on my week day schedule where I wake up with the sun and go to bed before the sun goes down. When we got on the plane, I got comfortable and got ready to sleep. I took a sleep aid while we were taking off, started a movie, and eventually fell asleep. I didn't get a great night's sleep, but I slept the majority of the flight and realized on the way home that I had no idea what it was actually like to fly for 8+ hours.

We landed in London just before noon and had to wait for our gate until just after noon. We took the tube from Heathrow to Euston Station, where we would be catching our train later that day. We were able to store our luggage at the train station and we finally stepped out into the English sunshine. (No, really. It was incredibly sunny that day.) We quickly found somewhere to eat. For some reason a bunch of us were craving pizza, like you do when you're in England. So we filled up on some great pizza and developed a loose plan for the next few hours.

[Euston Square Gardens]

Thus began the insane amount of walking we did for the remainder of the week. We got a small glimpse of Piccadilly Circus while walking to Trafalgar Square. We saw incredible street performers, including one young woman who was doing an acoustic rendition of R. Kelly's "Remix to Ignition". There were also performers who were "hovering" and other musical acts. It was quite crowded in the square and we were really just passing through to get to the Parliament building, Westminster Abbey, and the London Eye.

[Trafalgar Square / Entrance to the London Underground]

 [King George IV Statue]

We walked by what I think was 10 Downing Street. I saw a street sign that said Downing Street and there was a crowd by the intersection on the other side of a gated area. We were beelining for the City of Westminster.

[Westminster Abbey] 

Westminster Abbey is closed on Sundays, so we weren't able to go in. Instead, we walked around. Unfortunately, I was discovering how difficult it is to find a public restroom in England, so I was quite distracted from the beauty of the Abbey. 

[Palace of Westminster]

The loo I did find was in a quite courtyard near the Abbey. It was such an incredible place. I wish I had thought to take the time to get a cool picture. It just felt like there was so much history there. They had some signs up about how old some of the buildings were and it was mind-boggling how old they were. When we finally found a way out that wasn't blocked off by gates and guards, we found ourselves at the far end of the Palace of Westminster. I was completely mesmerized by the building. The intricacies are incredible, to put it simply.

[Big Ben & Parliament]

We walked back through the park between the Parliament building and Westminster Abbey. There were statues of important historical figures and an incredible view of Big Ben.

[me, Christiana, Shelby, JW, Connor]

[The London Eye] 

We decided to walk across the bridge over the River Thames toward the London Eye. I was determined to get a picture of both the Eye and Big Ben, not realizing how far I would have to go behind the Eye to get said picture. So I settled for this one instead. It served my just fine. 

[Palace of Westminster & Big Ben]

We walked back down the other side of the bridge, dodging other tourists with every step. If I remember correctly, we decided to walk back to Euston Station at this point to rest, charge our phones, refill out water bottles, and use the loo before our train.

Our train for Birmingham left around 6:30 and it was about a two hour journey. We were able to find six seats together and store all our luggage. By the time we got on the train, I for one was exhausted and I actually slept the best on the plane of the whole group. It was hard to really make out all the scenery flying past our windows, but I loved watching the city go by and seeing it turn into the green hills with farms and sheep.

The train was supposed to split at one of the major stops and only the first four carriages would be continuing to Birmingham, so we had to get off the train and get back on at a car up front. Unfortunately, it was the last day of the Premier League so the train was crowded with rowdy football fans. There was only standing room only, so the rest of the girls filed down to the back of the carriage, followed by Connor, while I stayed with JW near the doors. There was a group of guys our age sitting on the floor surrounded by empty beer bottles who had just come from the Aston Villa-Arsenal match. As soon as we spoke, they figured out we are Americans and started hounding us for being Americans, being named Brad, and eating corn dogs. As the train journeyed on, they sobered up so their banter was a little easier to get into. Toward the end of the trip, we had bonded with one of them (probably the most sober) about Game of Thrones and Dr. Who. After we got off the train, Christina said she, Shelby, and Rachel were talking about how I was a good person on the team to be up there because I could handle it. So they started the hashtag #hannahcanhang. I won't lie, it's one of my more prized accomplishments.

We were met at the train station by Stephen, who used to be on staff at Flatirons and is now on staff at Canvas with his wife. We took one more train to Selly Oak and ran into some Canvas students on the train. We had to walk a bit of a ways to everyone's respective houses. By the time Shelby and I got to Christine's house where we were staying--and the furthest house from the train station--we were exhausted. I promptly fell asleep and got a really good night's sleep considering I don't usually sleep well in new places and had only been awake for about 12 hours.

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