It had only been a few hours since I’d lugged my overstuffed suitcase off the plane, through customs, and out the double doors of the airport. But now, far from the newly remodeled, sleek corridors of Heathrow, I stared up at the ancient, towering clock whose chime resonated throughout the city. From a young age, I had romanticized what it would be like to roam London’s cobbled streets. Like many 21st century teens, I had spent my childhood waiting restlessly by the mailbox, wondering why my Hogwarts acceptance letter had not yet arrived, and drooling over pictures of my favorite British celebrities. And as an avid reader and writer, the thought of traveling to a country so steeped in history and literature sent chills rushing down my spine. But it wasn’t until I was standing beneath Big Ben in the spring of my freshman year that it really hit me: In body, I was standing on a street corner in London, England. But, in spirit, I was home.
My trip itinerary promised to take me to all of London’s most popular tourist attractions, from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, and from the Victoria and Albert Museum to Trafalgar Square. The city really was a writer’s playground. Elaborate buildings rose from the paved streets like the broad strokes of a calligraphy pen. Bookshops dotted every corner like inkblots on an otherwise unblemished page. And visiting the Sherlock Holmes museum at its famous 221B Baker Street address and posing next to the wax figurine of the legendary playwright William Shakespeare at Madame Tussaud’s transformed some of my favorite works of literature into a tangible reality. My travel agenda had been planned for months in advance, but actually experiencing London, with its slower pace and majestic scenery, was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. The city’s culture – its museums, theater, trendy restaurants – while foreign, felt strangely familiar. And much of what I thought I already knew about London proved to only scratch the truth’s surface. Touring the Warner Brothers Studio, I was shocked to discover how much effort and detail had gone into creating the sets and costumes of the Harry Potter films I had watched on repeat as a child. I felt humbled as I stood above the grave of renowned scientist Isaac Newton in his final resting place at Westminster Abbey. And from 443 feet off the ground, I realized how small I really was in the grand scheme of things, gazing upon a miniature version of the city I had fallen in love with from the top of the London Eye.
What I had assumed would be just an exciting family vacation had turned out to be so much more; a profound experience that enhanced my love for and appreciation of the elements of pop culture, historical facts, and majestic architecture I had previously taken for granted. And as I wheeled my overstuffed suitcase through the double doors of Heathrow airport once more a few days later, I felt as if I was saying goodbye to a dear friend. But friends have a way of finding each other again. This summer, I will be returning to England, this time to Oxford, to learn even more about the country’s literature and history, comforted by the fact that my spirit will finally be returning home.
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