Well here we are: Already at the end of our first (full) day of our trip! For the sake of both ourselves and for those reading along at home, I am pleased to say that the arrival day went off relatively without a hitch: The hiccups, a 1-hour delay of our group flight out of JFK and a delayed train from France for one of our students, were no problem at all to adapt to and we all arrived safely and excited to begin our adventure.
The night of our arrival (Friday, 7/6), we made our way to the beautiful Kensington Gardens near our hotel in Earl's Court (and on the way, got our first experience on the "tube," the London Underground subway system). In the Gardens, we sat before the famous Kensington Palace, a home of the Royal Family and the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as well as many other prominent members of the House. There, we had a brief orientation for our course and for the trip in which we established our readings and seminars for the course, the Abbey Road Experiential Learning Method, our commitment to helping students with homesickness or any emotional/physical concerns they may have while they are with us, and our "buddy system" (that students must have at least one "buddy" at all times to ensure safety). We ended our first night with a delicious dinner at the upscale MK Bar and Grill.
Today, Saturday (7/7), we had quite a long, but amazingly fulfilling day! Seeing London all in one day is almost an impossible feat, but I am proud to say that with few exceptions, we managed to see it all! In the morning, we took the tube to the Tower of London, where we got a scenic view of the iconic Tower Bridge. Inside, we got pictures with the equally iconic Royal Guards, saw the Crown Jewels, and toured the central White Tower, built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror. Rounding out the morning, we had lunch at a local, authentic English pub. We saw the Monument to the Great Fire of London, and explored the inside of St. Paul's Cathedral, the most prominent cathedral in London, including the crypts below, which housed the tombs of such important figures as Admiral Lord Nelson and Sir Arthur Wellesley.
In the afternoon, we hopped on a classic double-decker London bus to Piccadilly Circus in the hopes to catch the England v Sweden World Cup game, but unfortunately most of the bars were too crowded for us to enter. Not letting that slow us down, we experienced the streets being alive with fans; we proceeded to Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, the Palace at Westminster (where the Houses of Parliament are located), Westminster Abbey, 10 Downing Street (the home of the Prime Minister) and finally, Buckingham Palace. One of the students informed us from his phone app that we had walked roughly 7 miles and tens of thousands of steps, by the far the most intense day of our whole trip! But we did it; we saw London! (Or at least, most of the most important sites to see when visiting). We even got to see some things off-the-beaten path, such as the Monument to the Great Fire of London from the 17th century and Whitehall, from which Britain ruled 1/4th of the world's population only a hundred years ago (now the Foreign & Commonwealth Office).
We will certainly be having a relaxing day tomorrow after such a trek! Tomorrow, we will be spending much of the day on a bus to Dunkirk: Along the way, we will be discussing the origins of capitalism and property while riding along the gorgeous coasts of southern England and through the English Channel tunnel to France. Not too bad so far, I'd say! More updates to come!