So remember the last post, about one in four? Well...I WON!!! I just experienced the most magical, most un-anticipated week in London!
My very favorite thing about the trip was the new friends I made. I've met a few of the London team members via video conference, some during my interviews and some since. But nothing could have prepared me for the fabulous week I had with them. I was a little apprehensive to be working for a week with strangers, but from the moment I walked in (jet-lagged and all) they were so welcoming and I felt like I had known them forever. They were so great to train and help me with any questions I had, and then Thursday night we had such a fun Christmas party. It was so much harder to say goodbye than I could have anticipated.
After work, I was able to go out and see some of the wonders London had to offer. While it was incredible, the thought that kept running through my head was "I wish my mom or sisters were here to see this." I tried to remember every detail and things I wanted to tell them about, little things I saw that would make them laugh or roll their eyes. I missed them like crazy and it seemed like it had been much longer than a week since I had seen them.
Monday night I was beat from traveling but knew I had to get myself on London time asap. So I forced myself to walk a few blocks from my hotel to Covent Gardens. It was such a fun shopping experience! I felt like I was in a movie. Everything was so charming and festive, with Christmas lights and live musicians and the smells of delicious food wafting through the air. I had to keep reminding myself that about the exchange rate because all the shopping was so tempting!
The walk to and from work every day was such an adventure. It was about 10 minutes from the hotel to the office, and I passed The Royal Courts of Justice and then so many fun offices, shops, and restaurants. The people were so classy and all so thin and well dressed. The weather was in the low 40s all week and mostly sunny, a few little rain showers here and there to give me a true taste of London.
Just past the office was St. Paul's Cathedral. I took a lunch break Tuesday to go see it and it was incredible. A church has been on this site for hundreds of years, longer than anywhere else in England. I usually feel like cathedrals are cold and dark, but this one was so beautiful and had such an incredible spirit in it. As I walked through it, listening to the audio guide, I was impressed with how everything was built to point to the Holiness and Omnipotence of God and Jesus Christ. Although things didn't align perfectly with my faith, I could feel the sincerity from those coming here to worship in their own way. In one quiet corner was a painting of the scripture "I stand at the door and knock," which literally took my breath away. I stood there and stared at it for so long, and realized how no matter where we are in life, our souls are all searching for the truth.
As I walked down the stairs and back to work, my brand new high heels slipped on the stair edge and I managed to fall down the cathedral stairs...bet all the tourists enjoyed that!!
Tuesday night I ran quickly back to Covent Gardens to grab a few things from stores that had closed before I could get there the night before, and then went to Crazy for You at the Novello theater. I was kind of kicking myself for choosing an American play, but it was SO charming to see the Wild West portrayed by this group of English performers! The accents were so over the top but so fun! After the play I realized I hadn't had time for dinner, so I asked the hotel for a restaurant suggestion. The doorman walked me to a Turkish-English restaurant where I had the most delicious steak and just sat and watched people. The manager of the restaurant kept coming over and chatting with me, calling me Madam and when I left he thanked me for coming and kissed the back of my hand. I was completely flattered until the next day when I told the girls at work and they said he was just trying to take advantage of a naive tourist. :)
Wednesday night I went to see the historic and famous sites. Chelsea and Marcus told me about the Tower Bridge and that it was incredible, so I rode a double decker bus down to the Tower of London. I wished it hadn't been dark, but even still it was super impressive. I walked around that, and then came around the corner and the Tower Bridge was looming ahead. It literally brought tears to my eyes; I have never seen anything so beautiful in all my traveling. I felt like I had walked into a Disney movie and wouldn't have been surprised if everyone had burst into song. It was all lit up and un-describably huge, with purple and blue trim. It was freezing walking along the river but totally worth it. Again, I couldn't help but wish my sisters and my mom had been there. I kept thinking "I'm staring at this beautiful scene with no one to share it with!" As I started walking across the bridge a boat came down the Thames, so they lifted the middle of the bridge up and let it cross underneath, then when it was clear they lowered the bridge back down and let the cars continue. It was so impressive.
I caught the Tube like a true Londoner and headed to the House of Parliaments. I was amazed at how deep the trains were--it is incredible they can be that far underground! When I got to the stop and came up, there ahead of me was the famous Big Ben clock tower. Again, so massive. I walked down the street to the London Eye which was all lit up but unfortunately closed for the night. Then I walked the other way down to Westminster Abbey, and then past a beautiful park and then Buckingham Palace on the other end. They are all so beautiful! When my taxi driver was bringing me into the city on Monday we passed the Palace and he said "Its not the biggest palace in the world, but I suppose I'd live there, if she asked me nicely that is." It was much warmer than by the river but I was exhausted, so I caught a cab back to the hotel, ordered room service, and called it a night.
Thursday at work when the group learned the London Eye had been closed, they insisted I take another lunch break to go see it. It was fun to be out around some of the places I'd only seen in the dark. I wish I had been able to enjoy it a little more, I was far too stressed about how much time I was missing from work (what is wrong with me?!?) to completely relax, but it was still beautiful. The sun sets in London this time of year by 4, so while I was on the Eye it was going down and was so beautiful as it set behind Big Ben.
Thursday night was the Christmas party, which was more fun than I can write. They showed my video, and then we watched the 6 videos the teams there had made. It was so fun to see they laugh and complain about the same silly office issues that we do. After a fun night of the Goldman Globes, we headed to Bedhuin, a local pub where we stayed out dancing far too late but had so much fun.
Friday I ran into work just long enough to thank everyone and say goodbye. The biggest compliment I got was when one of the girls hugged me and said "I don't want you to go!" I totally agreed. Then it was back to the hotel, threw everything in my suitcases, and met my cab who was taking me to the airport. So sad to see the trip end!
I am such a lucky, lucky girl. I know this was the opportunity of a lifetime and I'm so thankful for it!
(p.s. you are probably as sick of the yellow coat and the self portraits as I am by now! And sorry for the information overload...hope you felt no obligation to read it all!)