This past weekend I traveled outside of northern Spain for the first time to the “New York City of Europe.” As my plane glided through cotton field skies over connected pastures of lush green and brown, I couldn’t have been more excited. I thought about how my mother always used to tell me about her travels in her 20s; I realized history is repeating itself, and now it’s my turn.
On the bus ride into London from the airport, I got into the mood by listening to dozens of great Beatles hits, daydreaming about casually bumping into Rupert Grint and compiling a list of quintessential British food I wanted to eat during my stay. Everything I had seen and heard about the UK in movies and books was right before my eyes. Glimpses of Underground signs, double-decker buses and flags boasting the Union Jack whizzed past my periphery. I pressed my nose up to the window observing the stained cement, colorblock-style paint and faded brick homes with dusty roofs and aged chimneys. Houses with perfectly square windows and geometric structures were stacked and connected to each other with V-shaped rooftops and quaint reader nooks. Within seconds, views of this simplistic architecture transformed into more historic buildings I had only ever seen in my school textbooks. Big Ben, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey made unexpected side-by-side appearances as we finally approached our destination.
When I at last stepped outside, I was giddy like a school girl, anxious for my two-day adventure to begin. My northerner friends made fun of my amusement of seeing my own breath in the cold (I’m a Florida girl so that was a big deal for me), but all three of us were wildly entertained by the British accents around us – especially the ones belonging to precious children! Also, it was refreshing to be surrounded by people speaking our native language. After more than a month in Barcelona, we had been so used to hearing solely Spanish and Catalan that we accidentally said “sí” and “gracias” when speaking with local Londoners.
Being fluent in the language wasn’t the only thing I loved about this city. Unlike Barcelona, it is normal to order tap water in a restaurant and free to do so. I was delighted by the diversity of the street performances ranging from old school rock ‘n’ roll, a beatboxer creating dubstep (an alternative type of music that originated in England) and a contemporary violinist. I even witnessed an insane limbo feat in Piccadilly Circus that conquered a stick balanced on two liter Coca Cola bottles. If you’ve ever watched “Futurama,” this guy was the real-life Hermes.
I loved the scent of spices hovering over Covent Garden, a subsection that contains Indian restaurants, Broadway theaters and Drury Lane where the Muffin Man is rumored to live. I loved the timing of my trip, coincidentally being there during London’s Fashion Week and having sunshine peering in through the clouds. I loved the city’s metamorphosis at night, landmarks lit by colorful lights under the cheshire cat’s grin in the night sky.
But more than anything else, I loved the people. They are friendly, cheery and genuine, always smiling and laughing. They’re not afraid to strike up a conversation with a stranger, and they’ll go out of their way to help you with a favor. I was fortunate enough to see a friend studying there, and he took us to a typical English pub where I saw more of these amiable interactions take place.
On our last night, we stopped by another pub for a final hurrah. We met a local ex-pat wannabe who gave us tons of tips and recommendations of activities we weren´t able to do. Unfortunately, the city is extremely expensive and there are IES classes on Fridays, so our time and money was limited in such a vast city. In the two days we were there, I didn’t get to see a play or visit any museums, but I’d still say I accomplished a lot: Trafalgar Square, the chic and cheap Camden Market, Platform 9 3/4 and all the aforementioned sites. There is so much I didn’t see, but this only gives me a reason to return some day in the future.
I was a little sad to leave, especially because I had a Spanish midterm awaiting me only eight hours after departure, but I managed to “keep calm and carry on.” It was hard to be disappointed when I saw the recognizable Barceloneta beach creep into my window on the plane.
The plane landed and the pilot welcomed newcomers. Then he said, “For everyone else, welcome home.” These words stood out to me as I realized what Barcelona has become to me.
London was wonderful, but it was nice to come home.
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<div><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Marisa is a sophomore at the University of Florida, majoring in journalism and minoring in Spanish. She is an active writer and photographer for her school newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator, and a varsity rower on the UF crew team. In her free time, she enjoys playing guitar, volleyball, cooking, shopping and hanging out with friends. Traveling is Marisa’s biggest passion, and she has wanted to study abroad in Barcelona for some time now. She is most excited to master fluency in the language, immerse herself in the culture, sample exotic cuisines, and explore cities throughout Europe with new and old friends.</span></div>