Welcome back to the Datsyuk and Friends blog! After an extremely lengthy absence, I am returning to broadcast the escapades of my monthlong European journey.
A little background about the trip before I begin. The trip was presented to me by my parents as a graduation gift. The trip was led by college alumni travel organization AESU. I have to say this trip was really fantastic simply due to its organized nature. Everything was planned down to the second, which was really nice given the length and breadth of the trip. I traveled with about 40 other graduates from Michigan State, the University of North Carolina, and Georgia Tech University, as well as my parents and my girlfriend, Shannon. I met so many great people on this trip and will have lifelong friends as a result. I couldn't have spent a month in a better way. Without further ado, here is the recap of my month in Europe!
Day 1 - Travel to London
Quick note: My family and I left for London a day early. This was for reasons I will discuss on Day 3. As for Day 1, there isn't a whole lot to say about this day, other than it was kind of boring. We arrived at the airport at about 4:30pm for a 6:15pm flight. One thing I've wanted to do for a long time is take a flight on a Boeing 747, formerly the largest plane in the skies. Unfortunately, this flight was not on a 747. I was a bit sad. Hopefully soon I'll do that. As for the flight itself, it was long for one reason: I cannot sleep on planes. Rather, I cannot sleep in the sitting position. I did get a lot of sleep the night before to compensate for this, though. I ended up watching a couple movies and playing the in-flight trivia game to keep myself occupied, but once everyone fell asleep, I was pretty much bored out of my mind. Sleeping pills would have come in handy. Roughly 7 hours after we departed Detroit...
Day 2 - Marathon Day in London
...We landed at London's Heathrow airport. We landed and immediately went through customs inspections. The gentleman who checked me was very nice and seemed genuinely excited for me to "meet up with my mates and party." The lady who checked Shannon in to the country, on the other hand, was on a severe power trip, and we think she was hard of hearing. Just because the word "college" is said does not mean we're on Study Abroad. Sorry lady. Anyway....we got through customs and headed to our hotel. After discussing a couple methods of getting there, we settled on taking London's subway system, commonly known as the Tube.
For me, the Tube was very easy to navigate - I love public transport, specifically subways. We found our way to our proper stop, having gone through suburbs and small villages along the way. When we got out at our stop, we discovered that there were two hotels with very similar names in very close proximity to one another. We asked for directions to ours, the Lancaster Gate Hotel, and a kind lady gave us directions to the wrong hotel, the Lancaster Hotel. Oh well, it was about a 5 minute walk to the correct hotel. This would end up being about the shortest walk we would make for the rest of the trip.
We then sought some breakfast. We found a pub down the street and went in to eat. Some of us, namely myself, were not breakfast people and were looking for lunch. Unfortunately, lunch was not served for another hour and a half, so I settled for the typical European breakfast of toast, sausage, and beer.
Having eaten, we looked to take on the day. We first went to the shopping district to search for Harrod's, the most famous department store in London.
Harrod's is an absolute maze. Anything you could possibly want, you could find at Harrod's. They had a Princess Diana memorial, as well as replica Egyptian relics, in the middle of the store. A full food market? Check. Furniture? Check. Sports? Check. It was unreal.
After Harrod's, we headed to the London Eye.
The trip around the Eye took about 30 minutes, and the view from the top was really breathtaking. You could see for miles. It was a really cool way to see the city, especially on a first day.
After the London Eye, we decided to head back to the hotel and get some dinner. We headed back to the same pub we ate at earlier in the day, and I acquainted myself with true English fish and chips. Needless to say, it was delicious. Although Shannon might tell you otherwise. We made an executive decision to get to bed early, as we had a big day planned the next day...
Day 3 - Arrival of AESU crew
Today was a big day for me. For those who don't know, I'm a huge Chelsea FC fan. Well, it just so happened that today was the final home game of the 2010-11 English Premier League season for Chelsea. I've always wanted to go to a European soccer game, and this was my chance. The process of getting tickets was laborious, but worth all the hassle. This was also the reason we left a day early (had we arrived on the normal day, today, we would not have been able to go).
The journey to the game was filled with twists and turns. Tube service on part of the line was cancelled for the weekend due to "planned engineering works," and then one line was delayed indefinitely for some reason I can't remember. The last leg of the way called for us to simply follow the crowd. We did so, and ended up walking through a cemetary.
This was a legit cemetary...huge, and some of the headstones read as old as 1831. Very cool, but kinda creepy at the same time.
We made our way to the stadium, called Stamford Bridge, and my search for a new jersey began. After visiting a couple stands, we ended up at the Chelsea Megastore....and boy, was it Mega. Everything you could possibly imagine or want in Chelsea colors or livery could be found. For my jersey, I ended up flipping a coin between two players: Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou. The result?Didier Drogba. Looking back on it, and considering the fact that he may not return to the team next year, the coin may have done me a disservice. Oh well.
A couple interesting notes from the game itself. Alcohol is served only before the game and during halftime...no sales during play. There is also no alcohol allowed in the stands, which means no vendors walking the aisles. Really a refreshing concept. I was really hoping for a Chelsea victory considering they were playing a middle-of-the-road team, but it was not to be. Newcastle United scored a fluke goal early, with a free kick going off a defender and past a fooled Petr Cech. Chelsea would add two goals and took the 2-1 lead into stoppage time. Then, in the 3rd minute of 4-minute-stop-time, Newcastle scored off a corner. The stadium was deflated. Even though Chelsea did not pull it out, it was quite an experience. One that I won't soon forget.
Following the game, we made our way back to the hotel. We were a few minutes late for the introductory group meeting with our tour guide, Kathi. After the meeting, we took a quick nap and then met everyone for dinner and a pub crawl. The dinner was once again fish and chips, which I loved. Shannon declined the fish and got a pasta dish that was awesome too. Lucky girl. The dinner was where we met what would become our core group of friends for the trip: Michael, Kristy, Ellen, and Zhenya, all from UNC. After splitting a few Tequila Sunrise pitchers, we headed out to a random pub. At the Phoenix, Shannon sat down and was challenged by a local to a drinking contest - who could drink a pint through a straw the fastest? Shannon drew the short stick, as this guy was clearly a ringer, and finished the beer in about 5 seconds.....somehow. After that, I enjoyed the Barcelona soccer game that was on TV at the pub, and we ended up closing the bar. We went back to the hotel and got some rest, as we had a day of London exploration the next day.
I will be updating this every few days in the coming weeks. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions.
To Be Continued...