The line for entry into Westminster Abbey
Unfortunately, you can't actually take pictures inside the Westminster Abbey. But here are some outside, close up shots of Westminster Abbey.
The courtyard inside the Abbey
Courtyard of the Abbey
After going to Westminster Abbey I walked along the River Thames for a few minutes, then decided that I should try to get to London Heathrow Airport. My flight wasn't until around 6 p.m., at this point it was about noon, I think. Like I said before, I'm really paranoid about getting to places on time. It probably took about 50 minutes to get from the Westminster Underground station to London Heathrow Airport. The Tube actually stops IN London Heathrow at the different terminals. London Heathrow is so big that it can do that. Now the question was what to do for five hours until my flight. I ended up getting my boarding pass, then eating lunch/dinner at one of the restaurants in the airport. I then went through security, which I have to tell you, I don't see what the big deal is. It's not that bad. It probably took me five minutes. Then again, I did get there pretty early. I spent the next few hours walking around London Heathrow, mostly just going in and out of the different shops. Eventually, I sat down and started to do what I do best when I'm bored: read. I finished "Catching Fire" in the Hunger Games book series (which I had been meaning to do for months) and after that, I started to write down everything and anything I had observed during my time in London. Here is some of the observations I made:
1) I became acutely aware of how "flat" my American/East Coast/Pittsburgh accent sounds when compared to the English/British accent (I know, there are different dialects and there isn't just ONE accent, it's like anywhere else in the world, but you know what I mean). To be honest, I hadn't really even noticed this while I was in Cork, but it hit me like a ton of bricks while I was in London. I don't know WHY it occurred to me, perhaps I have become so used to listening to the Irish accent that the English/British (I'm still not positive which is the correct usage here) accent sounded different enough. Either way, I've become very aware of how my American accent sounds. It's not really even in a negative way, it's just the way I hear myself speak now after talking to a person with a British or Irish accent. It sounds very flat and even, and I hadn't ever noticed that before.
2). How different London is from Cork. I almost hate to even compare the two cities because it's like comparing New York City to Pittsburgh. Actually, it's almost EXACTLY like comparing those two, so I'm going to roll with it. Here's the thing about London: it's very clearly a major international city. And it KNOWS it. Which isn't a bad thing at all, but it has a certain aura or aristocratic (I don't think that's the exact word I'm searching for, but go with it) "air" about it. Maybe, a high profile, sense of its own importance? I don't know how to describe it, but it's just like the city knows it's a very important place. I have a feeling that you would get this in any major international city. I vaguely recall feeling the same thing in Washington D.C. There is just so much there culturally, politically, socially and historically. So it just has this "feeling" about it. That's NOT negative thing, but compared to Cork, it's noticeable. See, one of the things that I've noticed about Ireland is that it's not really a country that feels the need to put on airs or promote its own importance. Particularly not in Cork (or maybe the South), but maybe a little bit in Dublin. Back to the NYC and Pittsburgh analogy. Cork is like Pittsburgh in that it's kind of a secondary city (well, it's the second biggest city in the Republic of Ireland). New York is like London for fairly obvious (I think) reasons. Now, I come from Pittsburgh. It's fairly no nonsense (unless it's Sunday and it's football season, then the whole place goes mental) and working class. I appreciate Cork so much because it reminds me of Pittsburgh with it's no nonsense atmosphere. The thing with New York (and London) is that they are extremely important and everything in these two cities SCREAMS "hey, we're important." Again, that's not a BAD THING. I just notice it more because I'm from Pittsburgh and I've been in Cork/Ireland for so long. I've also come to realize that I almost prefer the cities like Pittsburgh or Cork. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED London, but I almost prefer the "down to earth" feeling of my hometown and Cork. I kind of felt the same way about Dublin as I do London. I like being a tourist in them, but I don't know if I'd love actually living there.
3) British pound sterling beats the Euro, the Euro beats the dollar. London is just SO EXPENSIVE. I am NEVER EVER going to complain about how much anything costs in Ireland again. And I am definitely NEVER going to complain about the cost of things back home in the United States. I swear. (unless it's the cost of textbooks or my education, I'm still going to be complaining about that)
Overall, I really loved London. It was kind of a way of proving to myself that I can fly to some other place alone and navigate things in an unfamiliar city well enough to be completely fine. I wasn't really worried about getting lost since I had a map. I tend to worry about small things, like the amount of time the Tube is going to take to get from Westminster to London Heathrow. But I do think the London trip helped me to prove to myself that I can do things alone, be fine and have fun while seeing a ton of cool, unforgettable stuff. And I think that might have been the most important part of the whole trip. That sort of personal confirmation that I can figure things out. Like when your phone runs of money, you go to Starbucks and use their free Wi-Fi to talk to your dad, so that everyone else knows you're okay. Also, getting lost isn't such a bad thing. I accidently stumbled across this ridiculously cool street that only had bookstores and stores with art/sketches in them. Literally, the entire street was just those two things. So, really, that's what is important about traveling. You can get a greater sense of what you can do and how to handle adversity (though, really, running of money on a cell phone isn't the best example of "adversity" but it's the one I have, so I'm going to go with it.