Here I am writing my first post on this blog. I could have started writing about my last trip, but I’ve decided to dedicate this post to a trip which I consider to be my baptism as a traveler. It is a trip to London which dates back in January 2014, so more than three years ago now. Nevertheless it’s still alive in my memories and is very special to me, not only because it was my first time in London, after having dreamt it for more than 15 years, but also because it was the first time I travelled alone. That’s why I consider it my baptism as a traveller.
Planning the trip
The desire to go to London had been whirling around my mind for so much time. Since I wanted to attend to a gig, in September 2013 I booked the trip. During the 3 months between the booking and the trip itself, I planned everything, paying the utmost attention to every detail.
Unfortunately, because of a low budget, I would have staid in London just for 3 nights, but at the same time I wanted to see as much as possible of the city. Is it possible to visit London in 2 days? The answer is no! You can just see the most important attractions in London. Although I have been to London three times now, I can say there are still many things I have to see of the city… but I can find a remedy to this! 😀 Well, Well, if you have little time available, the only solution is to wear a pair of comfortable shoes and walk as much as possible, avoiding the long visits to museums. This is how I scheduled this trip to London.
London: first impressions
I still remember the moment when the airplane started descending towards Stansted airport. It was flying over the Channel and the whole route over France had been a unique white carpet of clouds; from that moment, clouds started thinning out and I could see the British coast through them. My dream was coming true.
The thrill thrived even more as the coach that carried me from Stansted airport to London got into the London outskirts. When it went out the motorway, here appeared the first red double-decker buses and black cabs (the typical black British taxis, even though actually there are cabs of different colours as well). The coach passed near Canary Wharf, then behind the Tower of London and I could see from the window a piece of the Tower Bridge; a few minutes later the London Eye and the Big Ben Tower. Wow! That transfer from the airport had already given me a preview of what I would have seen on the following two days.
When I arrived at Victoria Station and got off the coach, it was just me and the city of London. I had two options to reach my hotel: I could go by underground or by bus 148. I chose the second option, because I wanted to see as much as possible of the city. It was about 3:30 pm and students had finished their lessons. One of the first things that struck me and made me realize I really was in London was to see students at the bus stop wearing their school uniforms. It was just like I had seen in movies or in the pics of my English books at school.
Another thing that struck me was to see people lining up to get on the bus; other fundamental rule: you can get on the bus just from the front door. There are rules that should be valid all around the world, but I have to admit that here in Italy things are a little bit different; on the contrary, getting on the bus in Italy at peak times is like an ultimate struggle for survival, almost like “The Battle of Bastards” of Game of Thrones. Feeling a little bit ashamed for what I was accustomed in Italy, I lined up, too.
Anyway, I didn’t feel sorry to have chosen the bus instead of the underground to get to the hotel in Shepherd’s Bush, because I could see glimpses of the city I could never find out underground, such as Hyde Park, Marble Arch and Royal Crescent, one of the corners I love the most in London, with its semicircular row of Victorian-style white houses, located between Holland Park and Shepherd’s Bush (West London).
Travelling alone for the first time
My first night in London was a mix of emotions. On the one hand, I was so excited to be there, but on the other I realized I was in a place so different from my hometown in Italy and alone in a megalopolis of 8 millions of inhabitants. I was scared of the unknown, afraid of not being able to move in such a big city, with huge spaces, crowded of people of all kinds and from all over the world. I was distressed enough to sleep shortly at night, despite the bed and my hotel room being very comfortable.
Luckily, in the following morning the curiosity to explore that so much desired city won over everything. I started my tour and as I walked through London streets, every worry slipped away, leaving space to enthusiasm. I was worried for no reason at all. On the contrary, that place that scared me at first, welcomed me warmly with open arms and gave me such incredible days. Travelling alone made me create a strict connection with the place I was visiting, because I could see things with no distractions, but on the other hand it was also the chance for me to put my limits to the test. When you travel with someone, it’s easier to get distracted by something, risking to lose some details.
In the next post, I’ll talk about the itinerary I followed to visit London in 2 days. In the meantime, after reading this first post, I would be very pleased to know what your first experience as a solo traveller was and how you felt, if you lived an experience similar to mine. Please, leave a comment below. 🙂