Okay, so I've been able to have internet access for a few days, and yes, I know I'm just getting to my blog now. Don't worry, I'm behind with my hand-written travel log, too. Anywho, I'm gonna try to play catch-up, so here's the first day/entry (first day is really two days, because the transition was somewhere in the middle and there really wasn't any sleep).
An 8:55am flight doesn't sound terrible, does it? That is unless you live an hour away from the airport, like to guarantee you'll arrive early rather than late, and like to double-check your packing in the morning. Which all translated to my waking up 4-4:30am. Getting out of the house was easy enough, and things went smoothly. I have the post-9/11 security down pretty well. I had a brief teary/panicky moment when I hugged Mom goodbye, but that passed fairly quickly.
The flight that I had thought was non-stop to London actually stopped in Atlanta to change planes, despite it still being the same flight number. The first half was uneventful enough. I spent most of it playing on the DS Patrick loaned me (thank you!). When we landed in Atlanta we had a few minutes to hurry over to the second half of the flight. It's funny, but when I flew to Montana I was on three Canadair planes before I got to fly a 737, which felt huge by that point. On my way to London I got to fly on a 757 and a 767.
I sat in the very back row for both flights, but it was a window seat, so it was all good. My seatmate on the second flight was a very interesting young man. He has a Nigerian passport, a British accent, cousins in America, and lives with his sister and her boyfriend in England. He made a very friendly seatmate for the 9 hour flight to Gatwick. I played the DS some more, but I don't think it lasted quite 10 hours. I also managed to get in a couple of naps. Dinner was almost decent, "chicken" mixed with rice and smushed into a bowl. It came with a roll, too, but Addi (the seatmate) didn't trust it. Very thankful for my window seat, I enjoyed watching the light grow on the horizon. Breakfast was served about an hour before landing, and it was marginally better than dinner. The guy at customs/passports asked me three times how long I was staying in London and looked very put-out by the fact that he had to talk to me. I'm certain that if he asked me a fourth time how long I would be in London, I would have started second-guessing myself. I met my ride without too much trouble and rode to the hotel with several other AIFS girls I wouldn't see again, because they're in a different AIFS office.
My roommate in London was also my roommate in Prague, a 25-yr-old former SoCal resident by the name of Alicia. She moved with her Marine boyfriend to Vermont and is taking this trip while he is at school in Virginia. Poor Alicia had much more difficulty getting to the hotel than I did, and was supposed to room with one Alex, who turned out to be a guy rather than the girl that all his paperwork said he was. Since I had checked in after Alicia, the electronic keys were acting funky. Hers wouldn't work but mine would, so we went to the desk to figure that out. Then my key didn't work and Alicia's did. Later in the afternoon, a third girl showed up in our two-bed room. So we all went downstairs to figure that out and get the keys reconfigured again, since the third girl now had the only operating key for our room.
We wandered and found food (after I took a shower) before returning to the hotel that night for orientation and drinks with the rest of the AIFS Prague people. We followed a girl (Jessica) who had studied in London before on a very long walk from the hotel to Picadilly Circus in search of a good pub. Some of the group opted to take the tube back to the hotel, but Alicia stayed out with Jessica and one other girl, returnign only as I was getting ready to go to bed.
A really pretty church/yard not very far from the hotel. Alicia and I found it as we were wandering.
The Green Park in London. Apparently it has grown over what was a mass burial site during the plague. Therefore, because the plague is still active/alive where it's buried, there's no gardening in this park. It just grows the way it grows. We went through it on our long hike that first night in London.