The tour has officially begun. I guess it is best to start with the beginning. I flew from Atlanta to London-Heathrow on a very early flight. We arrived in Atlanta at 2:30 am. That was quite an experience. I flew to London with a friend of mine, Leslie, who is studying in Spain this summer and wanted a fun trip beforehand. If you want a fun trip in Europe, I’m definitely the guy….not to go with! When I get here, I feel like the Energizer Bunny — going and going — and I’m a bit too tight with money for Leslie’s taste. We’re learning to compromise. It’s a good thing.
Arriving in London after a night with no sleep was quite comforting. Bill Barnard, a Ramsey Board Member, picked me up. His friend Rob was extremely hospitable, and I quite enjoyed his accent. Throughout the e-mail, I’ll attempt to add a bit of local color; I’ll reiterate some of the colloquial language of the Brits. Here goes…
Oxford, England – Oxford is the home of the famed Bill Barnard, and quite a home it is. One of the first things that Bill told us was never to argue with the bus driver over prices. 10 minutes later, Bill was arguing with the bus driver over prices…He won. Bill strikes me as the type who always wins. I’ve decided that he knows everything about everything, and I picked his brain for 2 days straight. For that reason, I’m sure he was glad to get rid of me.
Bill lives in a very cultured world. Oxford is home to the oldest university in the United Kingdom, initially established to rival a French university of Accountancy…number crunching for the purpose of collecting taxes. Oxford was simply splendid (here’s a bit of that local color), and I quite fancy the set up of the place. I used Oxford as a base by which to visit other cities, but I definitely enjoyed everything about Oxford, except for the bus driver. Without the able assistance of Bill, the exact same bus driver overcharged Leslie and me. We took Bill’s advice — no arguing! Being handicapped in this regard, my subservience to the evils of “bus world” was shining brightly. However, Oxford had many great things to see and do. One great thing about Wednesdays in Oxford is Pensioners Day at the movies! Translation: old people get cheap tickets. The dignified elderly of Oxford, in their Burbury shawls and canes, were lined up for miles. The Oxford Library was gorgeous. Just remember not to talk really loud as you walk into the plaza of the library. The acoustics of the place are pretty good. In case you’re wondering, I have a tendency to learn my lessons from experience!
London, England – The Oxford tube takes you right into London town if and only if you’re willing to stop 1,000 times before you actually arrive in London. The suspense was killing me! So, I hit the ground running the moment of my arrival…naturally by going to Quizno’s. So I was hungry…sue me why don’t ya! It was really quite delicious, though, and prepared me for a day of adventure and sight seeing. If you take away the fact that I ended up at the Marble Arch 6 times in the midst of my sight seeing, it was really a grand event. The moment that we arrived off of the Oxford Tube, the tour guide spotted us as your typical tourist. It was kind of sad really. Anyway, for the purpose of convenience, we hopped on and off of this tour guide’s bus wherever we chose. The first stop I can remember quite vividly: Harrods. The conversation with Leslie with something like this: “Jon David, we’re getting off now…RIGHT NOW JON DAVID!” Although reluctant to see a store, she pleaded with me that by seeing Harrods I can begin to understand the important cultural differences of our two societies and examine the economic impact of such an establishment on the town itself…or something like that. Anyway, when you start talking Economics, I fold. So, I obliged and proceeded into the store. Once in the store, I carried on for nearly an hour about the price of every item that Leslie touched. “This is EXPENSIVE, Leslie!” I really am convinced that I saw a pair of those £500 shoes at Macy’s the other day!
The biggest news in London is (drum roll please) “Bridgette Jones marries”. Other great news stories are as follows: “Prince Harry can’t iron his clothes” and McCully Culkin says ‘Michael Jackson didn’t grope me (At least as far as I remember)”. These headlines were hot off the press…kid you not! Buckingham Palace was great, although Queen Elizabeth is definitely not the queen of hospitality. She wouldn’t let us use her loo, and she didn’t stop in to say hello while I was at Quizno’s (her motorcade passed by the store). Westminster Abbey was so fully of history, and it was also so full of dead people. Poet’s Corner was my favorite! John Donne, however, was not buried there. He’s my favorite poet who, come to find out, was involuntarily cremated at St. Paul’s Cathedral after being buried there two years before the great fire of London. Speaking of St. Paul’s, it too was gorgeous. We did, unfortunately, miss the queen once again who had attended an event at St. Paul’s the previous day to honor the victims of the Tsunami. At any rate, everything was beautiful, and I was glad to see London for the first time.
There will be much more to come later. I have to get offline now. It’s nearly 1:30.
London, England again – I was in London for one more night to make my flight to Edinburgh. As it turns out, I sat next to the mastermind behind American Idol at dinner.seriously!! He was some famous producer who gave Simon the idea for the show. He said, “We took it right from the show Pop Stars (some famous show over here)”. “Americans will never know.” We’ll have to look into this! It’s not that I’ve ever seen American Idol, but it was still really cool to sit next to him in some fancy Chinese restaurant in England…talk about a cultural experience. The next day, I headed to Edinburgh via Stansted. While in Stansted (on the outskirts of London), I tried to find an ATM nearby…couldn’t. ATMs don’t exist. Translation: No money…until I found a cash machine! We really do speak a different language, because I asked three people where the ATM would be located, and no one had a clue. I managed to get my money and avoid a panic. Then I calculated the exchange rates! Believe me, I panicked. I have one rule in Europe now…never do the exchange rates. I know that International Finance is my major and everything, but understanding the strength of the pound hurts a bit too much. The train to Stansted was nice, and England has some beautiful rolling hills once you get outside of the cities. The train porter was also the nicest/happiest person that I’ve ever seen in my life. The old man’s smile made the trip. The actual flight, once we arrived at the Stansted Airport, was equally refreshing. I met a little boy named Joshua who was taking a Make-A-Wish trip to Edinburgh to see his favorite superhero, Scooby Doo. He got to see the cockpit and help the flight attendant pass out food. It was really nice to meet him and his family.