As my time in Amsterdam came to a close, I embarked on an exciting journey that would take me from Brussels to London aboard the high-speed Chunnel Train. The Chunnel, an engineering marvel, connects the European mainland to the United Kingdom beneath the English Channel. I was unaware that a customs checkpoint awaited me on the Belgian side of the Chunnel, causing me to frantically wrestle off my backpack and quickly work to find my passport while standing in line. As my turn to face the border guard approached, she inquired about the purpose of my visit to the UK and the duration of my stay. Unprepared for the question, I fumbled and stated I was a tourist without a fixed departure date….WRONG ANSWER!! To my dismay, I was directed to step aside for further questioning while the train behind us prepared to depart. Pleading my case, I convinced the officers of my intentions, and my passport was eventually stamped with a handwritten warning in my passport to leave within six weeks. Grateful for the opportunity granted, I hurriedly boarded the Eurostar, savoring the privilege of traveling in first class with my Eurorail pass.
The journey to London was nothing short of luxurious. I still had my first-class Eurorail pass, and each train offers different amenities for first-class passengers. In the comfort of my seat, I was pleasantly surprised by a four-course meal, featuring delectable dishes such as pheasant accompanied by sparkling wine, culminating in a decadent chocolate mousse cake for dessert.
For my stay in London, I opted for an Airbnb flat near Hyde Park in the prestigious Knightsbridge neighborhood, and a mere two blocks away from the iconic Harrods department store. Embracing the local culture, I relished the experience of immersing myself in a residential area rather than a hotel.
London, with its rich history and iconic landmarks, beckoned me to explore its enchanting streets. I indulged in a leisurely cruise along the Thames, admiring the grandeur of the city’s architecture. The sight of the legendary London Bridge, the towering Shard, the majestic London Eye, and the historic Tower of London left me in awe. Venturing further, I made sure to visit Oxford, Piccadilly Circus, Notting Hill, Downing Street, Paddington, Westminster Abbey, and the illustrious Big Ben. Along the way, I took delightful breaks to savor traditional English tea and indulge in the classic dish of fish and chips. London, ever evolving, seemed to offer something new and exciting every day, never failing to captivate my senses.
During my stay, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with my dear friend Heather, who was visiting her sister in one of London’s oldest houses. They graciously invited me to a delightful dinner where her brother-in-law showcased his culinary skills with a fabulous coq au vin. The evening continued with her sister presenting a delightful array of fine cheeses and port. Heather and her sister invited me to attend a Broadway-style musical the next day in the buzzing theater district. The following day, we ventured out, exploring London together, relishing each other’s company as we toured the town in London style.
As if the joy of reuniting with Heather was not enough, my old classmate Andrew, originally from England, flew in to spend some time with me. Together, we had the thrilling experience of attending an NFL game at Wembley Stadium, witnessing the Buffalo Bills triumph over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The electrifying atmosphere was further enhanced by the spirited performance of the Ohio State University marching band, captivating a crowd of over 80,000 fans.
My week in London was truly iconic and after months of travel, the familiar faces of old friends added warmth and familiarity to my explorations, making this leg of the journey all the more memorable. As I bid adieu to this magnificent city, I carried with me cherished memories and a renewed sense of adventure, eager to embrace the next chapter of my travels.
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