The Things… London

I had to miss London to get home when I wanted to. We had planned to leave Italy by way of France, stay in Nantes for a bit while collecting our things, get back to London through Belgium and spend a week in Londontown before flying out. She'd already bought her return flight tickets so she had to go back through London. I didn't. The reality is I found out that London was not the only port of call to Europe proper. I assumed as much coming over because of the accessibility and price. However, it is much easier to just fly to and from wherever you really want to be. I could have just gone straight to France versus ran for my life through London to take a long train through the English Channel to Paris. The UK is just the closest land after crossing the pond but far removed from the rest of Europe. This is why I chose two flights from Paris and Iceland to get back home. Either way, she'd already spent a week in London and was to show me around before we both traveled home. So I missed that and I think it was a broken promise anyways. So here is London for me in a nutshell. Please note this is London on a three hour mad dash to the Eurostar train via St Pancras station

I missed…

- Buckingham Palace

I missed the royal family and all the grounds - but I wasn't necessarily interested in seeing them. She claimed to have seen Prince William jogging in this one park but they could have been impersonators. She said that.

- Thames and The Big Ben

I didn't see it and I didn't get anywhere close but theres always "Mission Impossible", "Match Point" and "V for Vendetta". I envision everything in person will be a lot less grand.

- The Tate Modern

She actually went before my arrival in Europe. I didn't learn this until the end of my trip which made me feel like she didn't care in the first place. She couldn't tell me what she saw or how it really was. We'd always shared museums and I thought that was so rude to seen it without me. Now up for a major redesign and expansion I'll go one day and have more to see.

- Curry or Anything Londontown

I did not experience any English food or takeaway which was on my radar. I didn't know there were so many options until I began to research for the trip back. Of course, I didn't make that trip so in that I missed all versions of curry, Doner kebab, fish & chips or crisps, beer, candies and puddings. 

Portobello Road

Totes forgot about even wanting to go here. I had been following this guys Tumblr who lived near there and I signed up for a Tumblr just to get to know him. I then eventually asked to meet him and he completely blew me off. So before I even left I'd crossed this off my mental list then Eat St. on the Cooking network put me onto it. Oops, yeah I kinda still want to go there despite the weird guy. I deleted the Tumblr. Love that blog though!

So the above are things I intended to see and didn't. Now for the things I didn't really think about. 

- Spice Market UK

We had gone to this restaurant in NYC's meatpacking district a few years back. When we realized there was one in London we wanted to go for a drink or dessert maybe. After all, we couldn't afford a $200+ dinner like we had that one time. This was ultimately her idea so.

- WB Studios/Harry Potter Sets

A few weeks before leaving to Europe a few friends had posted pictures of this HP set on Instagram. My heart swelled to see it and it was added to a to-do list. The feelings weren't mutual so I don't even know why I brought it up. Besides being in Florida I'd already been quite involved in the Harry Potter theme park attraction.

- Harrod's

This was never mentioned by either one of us but I imagined it was something important to London I missed. Same goes for all of Regents and all the grand Apple Stores. Her main goal was seeing a Liberty of London store to buy floral sunglasses. She bought her glasses. I know they were expensive and didn't really go with anything. She wore them once in my presence. I recall helping her decide when to make the purchase via iMessage. I remember telling her to eat first and then buy them. I don't think she ate. She never talked about the food.

I did do the following…

I saw a double decker bus - albeit from the plane while landing - I saw several of them in high quality tilt shift view.

I managed to get a six month visa to enter the United Kingdom. I think this was given to me because I told the guy in customs it was my birthday. This was my rebuttal when he asked why I was recently unemployed. 

I exchanged money and got bills with the Queen on it which I managed to keep all the way back to New York where I changed it for Metrocard money. Sadly, I already had a Metrocard just sitting in my ugly purse in North Carolina. I did manage to keep a few coins and I somehow acquired a rupee.

I rode both the Underground and Heathrow Express. I also was in Picadilly Circle and Kings Crossing. All of which was unintentional in getting from the airport to my train.

What I Learned…

On an international flight you can request a meal that fits your religious and or nationalistic background. The real Brits were offered "real" cream for their tea and East Indians were given a traditional vegetarian meal that wafted of premium curry. Had I known.

Toilets were different and privacy was a really big "thing" over there. I say over there because London was just my first experience with a "European" toilet and in all countries visited the toilets were different than American ones. Sadly, all my life I'd been conditioned to the porcelain bowl and in Europe I'd found this modular, plastic square like thing. Having invested in American toilet seat covers before traveling I was sort of devastated and mortified. Then to bring my bags into a very narrow stall and find that it was seamless and closed in was quite strange. No one could see in and no one could see out. No one could even see my feet. I could barely get my luggage inside or get turned around to use the loo. When I finally got comfortable in the stall and turned around to see that thing of a toilet I couldn't help but take a picture. I really had to pee but I was compelled to capture the moment.

I filled out my first customs declaration form. The concept of traveling with borders was new to me so to be stopped, made to fill out a form and then corralled into questioning was quite exciting.

Not to access wi-fi until done in customs and baggage. Apparently, allegedly Heathrow Airport has some strange hold on your phone usage as you make your way from the International arrival side of the airport. Traveling elsewhere I didn't experience this. Even in New York I was only told to silence my phone or not to pull it out but there my device was completely disabled. So the free wi-fi for 30 minutes I signed up for at the gate was depleted by the time I got through customs. Then when I managed to buy wi-fi access at like 11 British Pound Sterling I realized I had no one to talk to because it was just 10am in France and 4am in North Carolina/Florida.

"The Tube" ain't so bad. I was traveling during rush hour around 9am in the morning and everyone was so polite. I did stick out like a sore thumb and I bet all Black girls with multiple suitcases do but I liked the attention. This guy with locks and big headphones told me which turnstiles were closed by barreling past me and saying "they ain't gonna work dearie!". A ticketing agent sold me a student ticket to be nice after I'd gotten on the wrong train. An information booth attendant explained all the colorful lines on the platforms and instructed me to follow the pink line to my destination. Personally, I am not inclined to ride trains and this was my best experience. In that of getting lost and easily being able to get back on track no pun intended.

Not to drag on about the trains but I found the people on them absolutely beautiful. There were so many lovely faces of different colors and shades. There were suits, models, musicians, shopgirls etc. One girl was squatting and putting on her makeup with such grace. I was being thrown about the train having to stand and straddle my luggage and this magic person was teetering in flats with a compact in one hand and pointy kohl in another. Just this alone made me want to be in London for like forever.

The Body Shop is not the niche brand boutique I shop at in my hometown. It is world wide phenomenon that thrives in London. In fact, I think I saw it just about everywhere in the little bit of Londontown I traveled. 

In conclusion...

I really imagined I'd come right back considering I had a six month visa unlike most peoples 90 day "pass". That expired in November but I have proof that I got it and on my birthday at that. I did describe to her what I saw on the Underground in all the people. I just noticed this hushed camaraderie among a rainbow of fascinating people. She sort of destroyed that notion that London was beautiful. She described it like others - that it was too busy, overran and cold. I never sensed that. In fact, in that tiny span of foot travel I felt like I really belonged. It may have been culture non-shock and I was never on the actual street longer than a minute to cross to another side as advised by the lady at Kings Crossing. I did surmise that London, well the UK in general was the site of the original man. The Brits really know how to take lifes simplest traditions and make them pop. I sort of surmised this on the plane with a great many of various age and class white British ladies and East Indian three generation Englishmen. The beauty of greed had really melted the entire pot and I loved that. On that British Airways bus - a delicate combination of sweet mums that bawled there puffy coats under the seats, rowdy grrls with nose piercings with harem pants and beautiful tawny men in turbans who spoke highly of their heritage. They all came together at tea service and dinner. They all just aligned in pride. Seriously, just the concepts of high tea and royalty and even the English language are so simplistic. Thank goodness for the blending of so many cultures to share the heirloom, style and pomp. My main takeaway was that we as in Americans couldn't even find the joy in taking coffee without over complicating it with graphic design and mission statements and regionalistic flair. Thats just coffee, imagine everything else.

What will I do when I go back

I'd just want to see the Ron Mueck room at the Tate. Then I'd like to have a Tennants on tap beer which is Scottish but quite British in style. If I could pack in a curry takeaway or fish wrapped in newspaper I'd do that too. I guess if I could go anywhere else in the UK I'd go see Stonehenge. Then life would be complete, right? Maybe I'd be just as prideful about doing things first and right then. And simple. And colorful. And beautiful. 

No comments: