Backpack Benji

The Chunnel to London.

I travelled from Amsterdam back down to Brussels and booked a journey on the high-speed Chunnel Train to London. The Chunnel is one of the world’s most marvelous inventions, connecting the European mainland with the UK beneath the English Channel.  I was behind schedule and unaware there would be a customs checkpoint on the Belgian side of the Chunnel.  I had to wrestle off my backpack and quickly work to find my passport while standing in line.  When it was my turn to approach the border guard, I was asked why I was coming to the UK and how long I would be staying.  I replied that I was coming as a tourist but was not certain when I would leave because I had no return agenda….WRONG ANSWER!!  I was told to step out of the line and an officer came to interview me as the train behind us was warming up and countdown seemed to be commencing.  I pleaded my case and my passport was eventually stamped with a handwritten note and a warning to be gone in two weeks!  I thanked them kindly and scooted onto the waiting Eurostar, happy to have been allowed to go to the UK.  I had a first class ticket on the train and each train has different amenities for first-class passengers.  During this train ride, I was served an unexpected treat and happily enjoyed a three-course meal and sparkling wine for dinner!  In London, I had booked yet another AirBNB flat and chose to stay near Hyde Park in Knightsbridge, just two blocks from Harrods department store. The flat was upscale and an enjoyable way to submerse myself into the London culture by staying in a neighborhood versus a hotel.

I took in some of the touristy sights, and took a cruise along the Thames, enjoying the rich architecture and grand traditional buildings of London.  I marveled at the iconic London Bridge, the Shard, the London Eye and the Tower of London – home to the crown jewels and the most important medieval fortress in Britain.  Of course I had to tour Oxford, Piccadilly Circus, Notting Hill, Downing Street, Paddington, Westminster Abby and the Big Ben all while taking breaks for English tea and fish and chips.  London seemed to be ever-changing with something new happening every day.

A friend was in the area and invited me to attend a Broadway style musical in the buzzing theater district, and also to some home cooking, London style. Additionally, an old classmate flew to come stay with me for a few days and we went to an NFL game in Wembley Stadium to watch the Buffalo Bills defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars as the Ohio State University marching band entertained the crowd of over 80,000.

My week in London was iconic and after months of travel, it was wonderful to see the familiar faces of old friends.

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