Although we ended our voyage in England, the amount of time SASers spent traveling after the voyage varied greatly. I stayed in London for 5 days, although I have friends who have just returned and some that are still traveling now.
The day I disembarked felt almost as surreal as the day I boarded The World Odyssey. The day before everything on the ship was closed, and classes ended with a day to spare to allow us to re-pack and walk around the ship like zombies trying not to cry. The ship is a German cruise ship called the Ms Deutschland for most of the year (which you will read more about in my ship life post), and so everything related to Semester at Sea had to be stripped from the ship and packed away so the ship could make the transition as soon as possible. Here is the ship mid-transition, a mere couple hours after we disembarked:
Goodbye World Odyssey! :(
I was traveling with friends for the upcoming days, and so we waited at the terminal for everyone to exit. There was also a station set up for us to ship home luggage. I underestimated the amount of stuff I bought/brought and was very glad to ship one suitcase home. I still had a ridiculous amount of luggage though, which was not fun to lug up eight stories in our hostel later (luckily someone helped me!).
After everyone in my group was off the ship, we waited for my friend/roommate Alyssa's cousin to show up- she was studying abroad in London and was coming to meet us in Southampton. When she finally got there we loaded our luggage into taxi's and made our way to a gift shop that could hold our luggage until we could catch a train to London. Meanwhile, we explored Southampton. We saw a beautiful church, ate a Nando's (a pretty good chicken place my friend Katherine loves), and shopped a little.
My friend Annie in the most British shop ever where we stored our luggage. Also note The World Odyssey mentioned on the board.
Alyssa and her cousin went their own way and the rest of us boarded the train to London. Two hours later we checked into our hostel, a place called Astor Victoria, a youth hostel with a ridiculous amount of stairs and red bunk beds. Our room was on the fourth floor- which was actually the eighth floor because every other floor was bathrooms. It wasn't as cute or cozy as Yume Nomad in Japan, but it did the job.
Katherine in our hostel. There were two more bunk beds on the other side.
The next day, in a state of weariness and culture shock, we visited the Tower of London and walked on the London bridge while exploring. We said goodbye to our friend Annie (she was only staying one day) after an english breakfast- beans and all. We rode the London Eye that night and looked out on Big Ben. We played some games at a random arcade we discovered before heading back to the hostel.
I couldn't get a picture to do it justice!
Day three consisted of our day trip to Stonehenge. Alyssa met back up with us and we caught a train to Andover. It took a while to reach Stonehenge (we had to take a taxi from Andover) but it was pretty cool, but also pretty cold outside...but worth it. After Stonehenge, we went in search of food in Andover and ate at a chicken place. I made the mistake of ordering salsa- which couldn't even be described as 'bad salsa' because I wouldn't even qualify it as salsa. It was the consistency of Ketchup and I vowed never to make that mistake again.
Day four held the crown jewel of my time in London: the Harry Potter studio tour (see what I did there, although the actual crown jewels were cool, Harry Potter wins). We started the day venturing to platform 9 3/4 to take pictures, and then found the bus to the studio. In the studio, we were taken into a movie theatre, where the film's actors explained via video that this is where the franchise was actually filmed and that this was their home for 8 years. The screen was then wisked away and I was at the gates of Hogwarts.
I'll warn you now, you can skip this paragraph if you aren't a Harry Potter fan- it probably won't interest you. The tour typically takes 3-4 hours and we spent over 4 hours there. There was props, and costumes, and wigs worn by the actors, and we learned some of the secrets behind the magic of Hogwarts. For example, the castle seen in the film was a model made to scale and filmed at just the right angle. Now that I've seen it, I think I can say i have officially been to Hogwarts. Here's some pics from the tour:
After the tour, we met Alyssa for dinner at a place called Wagamama's and went to see a very British movie called Eddie the Eagle. It was predictable and cheesy, but still a good movie. Side note: Sour Patch Kids do not taste the same in England- not sure what's up with that...
My last day in London was spent seeing the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, visiting Westminster Abbey, getting stuck on the tube (the subway), and shopping at a huge shopping center called Harrods where we got tea.
The changing of the guards
The next day I ate my last english breakfast for a while, and got an uber to Heathrow airport (my driver was from Morocco and used to be a chef, and was excited when I said that I was just in Morocco). The plane ride took about 9 hours, and I was on a mostly empty plane. I spent the time watching movies, writing in my journal, and daydreaming about the salsa I was going to eat when I got to Houston. As I flew over the Atlantic ocean, I couldn't help thinking how crazy this whole experience has been and how incredibly lucky I was to have been a part of it. Even though I've already put this quote out there i'll do it again, because I know my adventure is far from over:
“A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our door step once again. It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable" - From Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuściński