I was beyond excited when I landed in Heathrow and had cleared immigration, claimed my bags, and was through customs within 20 minutes. Anyone that has ever even connected through Heathrow, knows several hours is a short time to get through this airport. So this was no small victory. I made my way to the Underground and headed towards my hotel. While the tube is one of the most connected subway systems, I had to make 2 transfers to get to my hotel. At each of the station, without my asking, there was some stranger, that would help me carry my bag up and down the stairs, and not one even waited to hear my “Thank You”. I was totally blown away by the kindness of this city. And as I learned at every step along this trip, Londoners are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.
I have become a bit of a “Rainmaker” during my travels. There have been many times during my travels, where it feels like simply my presence has inspired rain – or as my grandmother used to tell me, the heavens are showering their blessings on you. I spent a few days in the Moroccan dessert, and it rained for the first 3 days. I’ve been to California in the middle of the drought, and it rained several times during my trip. So coming to London, I had prepared for rain. However, the day I landed in London, there was no forcaste for rain. I got to my hotel early and was lucky get a room before check in time. By the time I got ready and left, it started pouring. Given that I was jet lagged, my plans were still unclear (please see The Long Awaited Journey), and the rain, I decided to “tour” the city in the climate controlled, super cool double decker buses.
Getting the front seat of the double decker bus was a bit of urban survival – fastest person gets the best view. You have to slowly keep switching seats and move forward, with the hopes that one of the four people in the very front get up and you are the quickest to grab the seat. Once I got to the front it was a really nice view (even in the rain). An unique experience to see the city from that height. Big Ben was the first landmark I saw, and even through the rain, was a awesome sight.
Along the way I spotted celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant “Italian” and stopped there for dinner (Please see My First Meal in London). After dinner, I took another bus through Leister Square. It was just amazing seeing the theater district and the energy surrounding it. The bus made it way through Oxford Circus and onto the shopping district of Oxford Street. Finally I decided to get off and walk a bit and grab dessert. So I stop shop and get my favorite chocolate – British Cadbury. There is something very unique about the taste of British Cadbury that is very different than the American version. And while I enjoy fine chocolates, the memories of Cadbury Dairy Milk, bring back so many childhood memories of vacations in India – this is definitely comfort food.
I got lost and made my way through Hyde Park Corner and ran into a photo crew filming some political marketing material. Eventually made my way back to the hotel later than I had planned for some much needed rest.
This first day in London was so amazing. Shuttling around in buses, gave me a really good layout of the city and the neighborhoods – something I couldn’t have learned from a map. I was so comfortable navigating through London, because I had seen so much of the city this first day. The other thing I learned is that Londoners were not phased by rain. So many weren’t even carrying umbrellas or raincoats, and just going about their business. It was like the rain just didn’t exist for them. So I decided that for the rest of the trip, I would be a Londoner too and be unphased by the rain and just immerse myself into the city. Both things served me so well on this trip. An awesome first day of a wonderful trip.