Exploring london transit
By Sadie Hagberg
Tuesday was finally here- the day. Well, the second day. After a cancelled Monday flight I was finally on my way to study abroad in London. And this time, success. After breezing through check-in, baggage, and security, I waited a good three hours at my gate. Finally they called us to board, welcoming us on Virgin Atlantic. As the plane’s tires left the ground, I was relieved. Then suddenly overcome with excitement but also terrified. It was happening for real.
Although my one day delayed start of my venture to England was (thankfully) in no way reflective of my study abroad experience, the three hours that I spent in the airport was a definite precursor to the amount of time I was to spend in airports, on airplanes, and using public transportation in general.
I was never one to like public transportation. I had very little experience with it, besides the T in Boston and the metro in D.C, and I had never needed to rely on it the way I did in Europe.
London was the perfect central location for traveling Europe, and had the perfect public transit. I could fly virtually anywhere in Europe for under 150 pounds round trip.
London’s Heathrow Airport was a quick 45 minute tube ride from my dorm in Kensington on the west side of London.
I very quickly learned to love the Tube. It was the perfect way to get around the London. London’s transportation soon began to appear far superior to the other transportation systems in each place I visited.
My travels began with a trip to Paris just three weeks after arriving in London.
This was where my love for the underground first became apparent. Already accustomed to the ease of the Tube, I was longing to leave the dirty Paris metro and return to my favored English Tube.
Two weeks later in Spain, I had similar reactions to the train that took us from our resort on the Mediterranean (which we snagged for an incredible price on hostelworld.com) into Barcelona. It just wasn’t the Tube.
Amsterdam’s tram system failed my expectations as well. While you could get away with riding for free, it seemed you had a pretty good chance of getting hit.
The tracks ran down and across the streets where cars were driving, people were walking and bikers were biking. And the trams run quieter than you may think, making them quite hazardous. Biking though was by far the best and most trendy way to transport yourself around Amsterdam.
Continuing my European trek to Athens, I was once again disappointed in the unreliable transport system.
It was rickety, unsturdy, and made me nauseous. It was an easy system, consisting of just three lines and it brought you to the three most important places, the airport, the Acropolis, and the port of Pireaus where you catch all of the ships to the Greek Islands. But we were forced off the metro on our way to the airport because of political riots. The buses we were advised to take were rerouted and provided us service right to the airport.
Once again, even the buses in Athens couldn’t compare to the cherry red double deckers in London.
These buses, which most people assume are tour buses, are in fact another part of the London’s transportation. Locals use them too.
The classic red buses, as representative of London as the red phone booths and Big Ben, are probably one of the best ways to see the city. Sitting up top as the driver travels down the “wrong” side of the rode, weaving in and out of traffic wondering if the driver will stop, or hit the car that’s stopped in front of you, is a rush.
After each place I travelled, it felt amazing to return “home.” While spring break in Greece was great, and Portugal was breathtaking, London was comforting and felt like home. Stepping off the plane into the airports that I began to know quite well and onto the Tube was virtually my backbone, London felt right. I knew, with each time returning to London, that I had become assimilated with the culture.
I had become possessive over “my” transportation of London; thinking that it was far better than any other transportation system in Europe.
It was cleaner, it made sense. To me, it was just better.