Last May, I took a trip to Europe and had a quick jaunt in London. After a long 8 hour flight from Chicago, we land in London for an 8 hour connection on my way to Istanbul. This was my first time in London so I was very excited and purposely booked the connection with such a long layover so that I had time to see some of the city. Unfortunately, for some reason I did not get much sleep on the flight. This is odd for me, as I usually pass out as soon as the plane is off the ground. In total, I probably had about 2 hours of seep. Needless to say, I was a little exhausted by the time we landed.
Thanks to social media and networking, I’ve been able to keep in touch with friends who have moved overseas, or who are from overseas that I’ve met in the US on their vacations. A childhood friend of mine who currently lives in England had some great recommendations for our layover, down to detailed instructions on where to get on The Tube (London’s underground train) and where to have lunch.
As we approached London Heathrow during the landing, it was hard to know what to expect as it was a gloomy, overcasted day. Looking out the window of the plane, I could see the Thames River, The London Eye and bits of the city. We finally disembark and make our way to the transfer area. To my surprise, the passport control line was very long, and there were only about 4 desk agents there. We weren’t exactly sure what the procedures for customs were going to be, but it looked like we would be sitting in that line for a while. After finally making it through the line, my travel buddy and I stepped outside to enjoy some fresh air. We soon make our way to the train and travel to SoHo to enjoy some lunch and London life.
There was something about the air in England. It smelled kind of like a light potpourri. (Or it could have been the scent of cologne sticking to me from the man that was on the train.) Either way, I could see why people like this city. The little neighborhoods I saw on the train ride made me think of how much history the country has. The English countryside is definitely breath taking from what I saw.
We finally made our way to the Picadilly Circus stop. The subway hustled and bustled like any other major city subway system. Luckily for us, we both understood that it was important to be alert, and follow the crowd’s flow as to not get trampled. The next challenge, however, was going to be trying to find the restaurant we were looking for since we weren’t familiar with the layout of the streets. After walking around for about 30 minutes trying to find the place, my friend Patrick decided to stop in at one of the hotels and ask a front desk agent. When they pointed us in the direction in which we were supposed to go, we realized that we had walked past the place about three times! However, the signage was so small that there was no way we would have found it. But I digress. We were happy to finally sit down and eat something!
Spuntino was the place we were looking for, and we finally found it. My friend who was nice enough to recommend it, told us that it was supposed to be pretty good American fare. When we walked in, the first thing I noticed was how cozy the place was. It was not very big at all, with about six seats at the bar, and a few tables toward the back. There were a lot of dark brown tones throughout the bar and walls, with some cool looking light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. The bartender was very kind when we sat down and gave us some great recommendations.
After finishing our lunch, we had about four hours left to explore the city so we took my local friend’s advice and walked down toward Buckingham Palace to take some photos. The walk was pretty brisk and we quickly made it down to the palace. Although I was kind of excited to see it, it didn’t surprise me that I was underwhelmed when I actually saw it. But like they say, sometimes it’s the journey and not the destination. The walk through Green Park on the way over was amazing. And also just wandering around the city for a bit on the way back to the train was pretty amazing as well. London reminded me of a cleaner New York City.
We eventually made it back to the train and headed to Heathrow. Our mini adventure in London was over and it was probably one of the best cities to have a short layover in. However, by this point, jet lag was hitting me like a brick wall and all I could think about was getting on the plane so I could pass out. Luckily I had my travel buddy to keep me going just enough to make it. Needless to say, as soon as we boarded the plane, I was out like a light! Next stop, Istanbul!