London, England Part 1

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The Basics: London, the capital of England, is the perfect gateway city for your European adventure. You can fly there directly from pretty much anywhere in America, it's a five-hour time difference from the East Coast, plus the Brits speak English.

Um, most of the time. They snog instead of kiss, wear knickers instead of underwear, and spend pounds instead of dollars, so you might not always understand what they're bloody (bloody=curse word!) talking about.

I am going to Europe. EUROPE. I am leaving the country.

I have never left the country, and now I'm going to at least five countries.

If we make it to the gate.

"Run, Leela, run! Come on! Hurry!" I yell as the two of us charge through the airport. "They just called final boarding!"

"Wait!" she calls back. "I lost a sandal!"

I turn to see her hopping on one foot. Her bright blue purse is overflowing with a black leather wallet, Vogue, People, EW, Newsweek, hand sanitizer, a small notepad, pencils, her iPhone, and an open metallic makeup bag the size of a microwave. She's also holding a white plastic bag stuffed with chips, a vitaminwater, and a sandwich.

"I dropped the napkins!" she says. "I have to go back for the napkins!"

"Forget the napkins," I order. "We don't have time for napkins. Put your foot back in your shoe and keep moving! I'll take your food, let's go!"

I grab her bag along with mine and keep running. Instead of a purse, I'm wearing a small black backpack that's keeping everything in place. My passport. My wallet. My guidebook. Four paperbacks-One Day, The Paris Wife, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and My Brilliant Friend-that all take place in cities I'm planning to visit. Now that it's summer vacation, I can finally read whatever I want.

When we get to the gate there is only one person in front of us.

The board says:

London

Flight: 401

Departs: 5:00 p.m.

Final Boarding

"We made it!" I say, panting. "I can't believe it."

Our first almost-delay was when my mother nearly had a panic attack when Leela's parents picked me up to take us to the airport. She'd come to the driveway to say good-bye, but as I was getting into the car, I saw her eyes glaze over and she seemed very far away. "Mom?" I said, freezing in my spot. "Are you okay?"

"Just a bit light-headed," she answered, retreating toward the house. "Don't worry about me. Go. Have a safe flight."

I felt slightly sick as I watched her close the front door behind her. I wondered: Can I really do this? Can I really leave?

"Everything okay?" Leela's dad asked.

"Yes," I said. "Let's go."

So we went.

Traffic was miserable, costing us an extra ten minutes. Then security pulled Leela over to examine her massive makeup bag to make sure she wasn't breaking any kind of liquids rule.

"Why do you need so many lipsticks?" I asked her.

"That's a ridiculous question."

"Then why didn't you pack them in your suitcase?"

"Most of them are in my suitcase. But I couldn't pack all of them in there. I was worried they would melt."

The final straw was my fault. I insisted on stopping at our terminal's Fresh Market to get sandwiches. That way we'd be able to eat as soon as we got on the plane, be done before takeoff, and could go straight to sleep. But the line inched forward and we almost missed boarding.

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