It’s official: I love London. (I have a feeling I will be saying that with each location I visit, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there). Throughout the initial hours of my arrival in the UK I found myself smiling every time I heard someone speak in an English accent. As you can imagine, I must have been overjoyed with this novelty every other minute then – even when an automated voice on the train announced upcoming stops. It was both strange and wonderful to be the one with an accent this time around.
Since my research was not scheduled to begin until June 20th, I spent my first full day in London exploring the city. I took a quick train ride downtown to Charing Cross, wandered through Trafalgar Square, explored St. James’s park, happened to arrive at Buckingham Palace during the changing of the guard, toured Westminster Abbey (making sure to walk the same path that the other Catherine took during the royal wedding), and explored a variety of random streets and shops that caught my eye. As I rounded the corner to view Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament I discovered that the zipper of my bag refused to open and therefore I had no access to my camera, money, book, food, etc. I was so exhausted from sightseeing and the previous day’s travel that I was actually glad to have an excuse to head home. My Oyster card (for the train) and house keys were luckily in a separate pocket, allowing me to make it back to Ladywell without a problem. When cutting a hole in the messenger bag later that night to retrieve my belongings, I told Dom & Suz that if this has been the biggest hiccup in my international journey thus far, then I’m doing just fine.
Thursday marked the beginning of my research, as it was the day of my appointment with the Curator of Physical Anthropology at The British Museum. The morning started off with the realization that I had packed two left black flats instead of a normal pair – taking the phrase “two left feet” to a whole new level. I was able to wear them for the interview then immediately change back into comfortable sandals upon leaving the building. My experience at The British Museum was a wonderful way to start off the project – I had a great interview, toured some of the behind-the-scenes storage facilities, took photographs of any human remains on display, and even had time to visit practically every exhibit of the museum.
The following Friday I spent the day exploring the South Bank of the River Thames. I took a ridiculous number of pictures (237, to be exact) of landmarks such as Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the Jubilee Gardens, the Royal Festival Hall Food Market, the rooftop garden of Queen Elizabeth Hall, Tate Modern, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London Bridge, City Hall, Tower Bridge, the Shard, and the Tower of London. In the afternoon I bought a snack to curb my hunger, and though not much can compete with a Nutella Milkshake from Edzo’s in Chicago, a Nutella Frappé on the South Bank of the River Thames definitely comes close. Later when it began to rain, I ducked into Tate Modern – London’s museum of modern art – and wandered the halls for hours viewing the works of artists from Mondrian to Picasso. After the museum I walked under Millennium Bridge (only recognizing this footbridge to St. Paul’s Cathedral because it was destroyed with special effects in the sixth Harry Potter movie), stopped to watch the free festival next to city hall, and continued on to Tower Bridge. When I arrived they had stopped traffic and raised the bridge to let a boat through (fortuitous timing has become a reoccurring theme on this trip). I ended the afternoon on a bench in front of the Tower of London, taking in the scenery along the river and reminding myself once again how unbelievably lucky I am to be on this international adventure.