Growing up in Richmond and realizing that it was a pretty small city, I always dreamed of stepping outside of the boundaries of my hometown. Most of the opportunities I had to travel were through school programs and scholarships. Now that I am a college graduate, I decided to fulfill my childhood dream of seeing another side of the world.
Last month I had the privilege of visiting London and Paris. The trip was completely spontaneous. My friend notified me of cheap flights before Thanksgiving. We decided we should go. Initially I was really nervous because it would be a completely new experience for me. I have been as far as Mexico but Europe was a whole new playing field.
When we arrived at Heathrow, I felt like I was in a completely new world. I remember stepping outside everyday and couldn’t believe I was actually there. The sky was a clear, piercing blue and looked unreal. The rustic architecture in places like Piccadilly Circus made it look like there was a dome over the buildings covering the sky. But there was no denying we were outside; on a “warm” day it was about 2ºC, which is the equivalent of about 36ºF.
There are definitely locations that I recommend for first timers. On our third day in London I bought tickets for the critically acclaimed play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The characters were brilliantly performed, the special effects were brought to life in amazing ways, and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.
Throughout our time in London, we visited Elizabeth’s Tower, Tower Bridge and London Eye. It was nice to see these landmarks that I have read about. When you think about the history and the changes they have undergone since the time of their creation, you can’t help but feel fortunate to experience them yourself.
On our fourth day abroad we took the Eurostar train to Paris. Once in France, it felt oddly familiar and strange at the same time. Cars were driving on the same side of the road again but everything was in a distinct language. Being Mexican American had its advantages because I was able to understand most things, considering we share a language root, Latin.
In Paris we visited the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Versaille and Notre Dame. These places were everything I imagined them to be, and they brought back a lot of history class lessons.
We even got to attend a soccer match in the city. This made us feel like locals as we started to chant to the different plays. On our last day in Paris, we visited Parc Disneyland. Yes, Disneyland is in France. To be completely honest, I wasn’t too excited to go because I wanted to see more of the city but I am so glad that my friends convinced me. Most of the rides were more thrilling than our own Southern California park.
My travels in Europe were a great experience. I am so happy I got to step outside of my comfort zone. Being in a foreign land and exposed to a different culture pushed me to see the world in a different way. I came to value the distinct mannerisms of people, but I also realized they aren’t that different from us. I plan to go back and now that I’m versed in travelling, it will be nice to show my family around.