I was a bit fearful about flying into London, England. I’ve never been to the city before (or the country for that matter) and I knew that I was going to be greeted by a sheer mass of people – something I generally try and avoid.
I was surprised, however, to find my exit at the Heathrow International airport somewhat stress-free. The officials at the airport had no problem with me assembling my bicycle right outside the arrivals door and I was able to jump on a bike path almost immediately after exiting the airport. The difficult part, of course, was cycling on the left-hand side of the road and remembering to look the correct way before crossing the street. I nearly got run over by a few buses, and a few speedy drivers were quick to blow their horns at me.
“Sorry,” I thought to myself, “this is my first time ever riding on the left-hand side of the road.”
I landed in London right around noon and had made plans to spend the night with a BicycleTouringPro.com reader who had contacted me just a couple weeks before, so I had plenty of time to make my way to her home in Farnham Common. She hadn’t given me the address of the home, but instead, just the name of the house itself (each house in the city has a different name). So I had to search the entire area, house by house, until I accidentally stumbled upon the correct home on the north-east side of the city.
Once I had arrived, I was greeted by my host and quickly welcomed into the house where I took a shower and was introduced to her roommates. Later that night we all went out for Indian food at a nearby restaurant (my first time ever eating at an Indian restaurant) where the waiter hovered over me, watched me chew my food, and waited anxiously for something to do. When I dropped my napkin on the floor, he swooped in and picked it up for me.
If being in England, cycling on the other side of the road, and spending the night with a house full of strangers wasn’t strange enough, my Indian food restaurant experience certainly put my first day in London over the top.
After dinner I hung out with the roommates in ther living room where we watched a zombie movie before I retired to my tent, which I had pitched in the backyard of their home. The next morning, I woke up, disassembled my tent, and waved goodbye. I was in London, England… and now I was completely on my own.