I finally understood the meaning of “Great Britain” this June. Britain truly is great. I would also describe it as educating, awe-inspiring, beautiful, and supremely life-changing, however those adjectives alone do not come near to covering my experience, but I will try my very best to produce a detailed and imaginative picture of words to convey my story.
I explored London and all its awesomeness the summer after my junior year. I was excited, to say the very least, but truly had no idea the adventure this remarkable country had in store for me. Even from the confinement of a tour bus, the extraordinary and distinctive architecture of downtown London stood impressive and majestic. The Gherkin, a charcoal colored bullet-shaped building, loomed above the other newly built skyscrapers situated in London’s main financial district. However, it was the antique stone architecture that really struck a chord in my mind. The Tower of London, London Bridge, Oxford University, and the truly magnificent expanse of Westminster Abbey literally took my breath away. Seeing “Big Ben”—the London clock tower—overlooking the River Thames, this bustling, economic, mobile city was justly a site to behold. On crowded sidewalks runners with large backpacks jostling up and down on their backs sprint through crosswalks to avoid the iconic, red double-decker buses that scatter the streets of Piccadilly Square. This London was like a bigger, busier, more culturally-diverse version of New York City. Musicians sitting on the wall in the tube—a nickname the Brits use for the subway—give this underground transportation system even more foreign flare. As I emerged from the semi-darkness of the subway station onto the bright sidewalk I observed the London Tower, the medieval home of the royal family that was now a historic sight. My eyes and mind were opened to the historical significance of the site and the city itself. I witnessed the location of Anne Boleyn’s—and of countless others’—execution! I saw replicas of torture devices and how they were used, signatures of notable figures (including Anne Boleyn’s), and authentic suits of armor that belonged to King Henry the VIII. My visit to the Tower truly changed my views of the city, and I am still floored today that I could visit such a historically significant location!
From the bird’s eye view I received on the London Eye, a Ferris wheel -like contraption that gives the rider about 30 minutes to behold all of the city, I could really behold all that London had to offer. The sprawling vastness of Westminster Abbey beneath me, the Gherkin tower up ahead, the Tower of London somewhere in between, and Queen Elizabeth’s Windsor Castle off on the horizon, I am reminded of the contemporary advancements London has undergone in the past few decades. Although what really hit me at the point was not the position this relatively small city that held huge surprises was currently in, but in how far it had come without really changing. London’s medieval architecture and fiercely loyal citizens reminded me of a small town, not unlike Laramie, Wyoming, with a glorious story that its inhabitants cling quietly to. But the story of London is one that whole world knows. The British flags hanging from buildings make me want to stop and salute. The traditional values that England began in medieval times are upheld today. The Royal Guards aren’t part of “historic London,” they are part of every day, of being a resident of England—something embraced and respected. London embodies a contagious nationalism, a rich history that truly sets it apart from America.
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