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Briton for a Week

Where the Sun Never Sets

UNITED KINGDOM | Saturday, 10 May 2014 | Views [59] | Scholarship Entry

My stomach tightened like a prisoners’ before his hanging. My palms were sweaty as I gripped the handles of my seat-in-the-upright-position as the plane descended. I was alone, besides the unwelcome company of nausea and anxiety. What if I get robbed? Or followed home? What if I run out of money? What the hell was I doing in London.

To ward off the panic, I tried to remember that I had come here by myself, with a week’s worth of adventures awaiting me. The queue at the UK border was prompt, and I cautiously stepped onto European soil for the first time in my life. English. All the signs were in English – something familiar, I supposed. As I wandered through Heathrow Airport, people impatiently pushed past me like salmon run in Vancouver’s autumn. What are they in such a rush for?

Boarding the tube, packed in tightly with the other travelers next to me, I let my eyes wander to the map with the famous destinations. Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Oxford Circus, the British Museums – those were the reasons why I came here. The thousands of years of human history and culture, transported, preserved and compacted into this city, neatly wrapped and presented for international tourists to admire. It better be worth it.

I finally arrived at the Westminster stop. I get out, dragging my barely manoeuvrable suitcase onto the streets. I look up at the top of the stairs, and the entrance is blocked by a view; it was a view so magnificent and breath-taking that humans from every corner of civilization must have gasped in awe of its beauty and grandeur. It was the Big Ben. I've gazed at the picture-perfect productions of Tumblr photographers, read about the history and its association with the British Parliament, but this was the real thing. Its bells chimed a confident and informative ring as I stepped onto the Westminster bridge.

This was it. This was, and is, the crux of British government, the symbol of the once unbeatable nation, for whom the Sun would never set. This was no other replacement, no model, no fake – this was the real, authentic Britain, and it was all for me to indulge in. Nothing else could replace being in the presence of standing face-to-face with the Big Ben, listening to its bellowing chimes across the Thames. This was it. This was why I was here. And I had a full week to spoil myself in this living heritage site, soaking up centuries of history.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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