With a very short flight of less than 3 hours, I arrived from Keflavik Airport into Heathrow at about 8pm GMT. Everything went much quicker than I expected. The immigration line was short, and since I had a student visa, I was only at the desk for a minute, both of my checked bags arrived quickly, and I got into the arrivals area in a short time. I decided to get a sim card with unlimited data from a shop at the terminal, and then I was ready to attempt to find the meeting point for my pickup the next day.
A very long walk from terminal 1 to terminal 3 finally got me to where I needed to be for the meet and greet. I set up shop near an outlet and watched some stuff on my laptop and phone before falling asleep very uncomfortably on a bench. Around 2am, I woke up because I heard loud talking right next to me. There were two policemen in my area of the terminal, waking up suspicious looking persons. I guess Heathrow gets a lot of homeless people and pickpockets coming to the airport at night to sleep and steal from people. They removed a few guys who were there without luggage and this new information scared me a bit, so I stayed awake most of the night, watching my stuff. I did fall back asleep briefly around 4am and then woke again around 6:30am to the sounds of the airport coming alive again.
I love airports! Yes, the tedium of waiting during layovers or to be picked up can be unbearable, but I also look at sitting in a terminal as a chance to people-watch. It’s amazing how many people pass through an airport. I wonder what their stories are. Is that couple that just walked through the arrival doors on their honeymoon? Is that group of guys here on a football holiday? Is that frightened-looking young woman studying abroad like me? You really can’t assume anything based on what people look like, but it’s fun to guess. The diversity of people is amazing. You aren’t able to assume where someone is from, based on their appearance, because they could be from anywhere in the world and surprise you the moment they open their mouth. I love this international experience. As I sat near the arrivals gate, all that went through my head was “God Only Knows” (by the Beach Boys), and Hugh Grant’s monolouge from “Love Actually.” You can watch it here, or I’ve quoted it below. His character was right. Watching the arrivals is wonderful. There is so much love and good greetings from people and it’s heartwarming to know that there is so much affection in the world.
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
-Hugh Grant in Love Actually
I don’t even want to count how many hours I waited until my meet and greet taxi finally arrived, but by noon, I was finally on the road from Heathrow to my temporary dorm in Marylebone. During my cab drive, I was placed with two very lovely girls, one from Uruguay and one from Vietnam. We all chatted as we drove into the city. I was relieved to find out upon arrival that I could check in a bit early to my room, and promptly fell asleep, exhausted from jetlag. Of course, after I awoke from my nap, I checked Facebook, only to find out that Jack the Ripper has finally been identified from DNA samples, and that was almost too perfect of a thing to happen on the same day as my arrival in London.
My evening was spent looking for some low carb food to satisfy me, and unfortunately the closest McDonalds didn’t have any salads, but thankfully across the street, I found a Chipotle and got myself a salad, and then found a Starbucks so I could get some drip coffee and feel a little comforted. It was spectacular to walk around in my favorite city again. It actually still feels very surreal that I am here, but hopefully with some more sleep and orientations the next few days, I’ll feel like I’m finally alive and thriving in London.