After two years of raising money, planning and practice, we had finally made it. The Shawnee Mission West High School marching band landed in London, England, just two days after Christmas 2011. Officially, we were in London to march in the New Years Day Parade, but we were also there to experience something new.
Just like me, most of the other kids had never been out of the United States. The London we pictured in our heads was one of royal guards in bearskin hats and fast-talking cabbies who drive on the wrong side of the road. As soon as we left the airport, we realized there was much more.
The bus ride to our hotel gave us just a taste of urban England. We marveled at the tiny streets lined with brick buildings, older than we had ever seen back home. Those brick buildings were home to interesting shops and businesses that we couldn’t wait to visit.
Located just south of the famous Abbey Road Studios, our hotel, the Hilton London Metropol was in prime position for some English exploration. The Metropole is located very close to the Edgware Road Underground stop, which made for easy travel. Among our tours were Westminster Abbey, Abbey Road and The London Eye. To our surprise the Tower of London wasn’t actually a tower, but a fortress on the banks of the Thames filled with all of the royal bling.
Speaking of bling, shopping in London is centralized in one area, Kensington. Kensington is home to world famous shops like Hard Rock Cafe London and the super hectic department store Harrods, where you can buy almost anything. Remember, 60 GBP is not the same as 60 USD. If you don’t, you’ll end up like me and spend a lot of money.
It was time for an escape to the countryside, so we headed to Bath, located just west of London. The countryside is great because it’s the real country. Using London as a platform to base the rest of English culture off of is like using New York as an example of the entire United States. It doesn’t work. We got to see the London suburbs and how they compared with our American suburban homes. After a two hour ride, we were at Bath
The city jumps at you. We rounded a corner and it was there, in a valley below us. Everybody gasped. The entire city is just one color– white, the color of the limestone all of the buildings are built with. We explored the narrow cobblestone streets of Bath and found The Westgate. The Westgate is a traditional English pub nearly as old as the city itself and serves the best sandwich I’ve ever had. If you’re ever in Bath, find The Westgate and order a rump steak sandwich and a Lucozade to drink. You’re welcome.
Unfortunately our London trip had to come to an end, much sooner than we would have liked. But, even with such a short trip, I returned home with a greater sense of worldliness. I realized that the world exists beyond the United States, something that we all “know”, but don’t really understand until you visit another country. Now, I’m infected with what some call the “travel bug” and would like to pursue a career in international journalism. London has and will continue to impact my life, and I hope to return soon.
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