I’ve decided to start a new tradition on my blog: Throwback Thursdays to my fondest memories, which obviously includes my advedntures. I’m doing this partly to record things for myself, so I can remember each experience like my favorite book… savoring it for a different reason each time it crosses my mind. I’m also writing these posts to encourage any of the people who stumble upon this blog who do not have a passport to change that. I hope by reading you get one and use it. Travel is the most valuable thing I have ever spent money on. It is priceless, and it changes you. I like to think I am a sum of all of the places I have been in my life and that I carry a little piece of each of them everywhere.
This Thursday, I decided to write about one of my older adventures during my first European experience. Year 2011—has it really been that long since I’ve been to this gorgeous city? Even though we (we being myself and some of my Teaching Fellows cohort) were only there for four days that time was long enough to ignite my love affair with London. To this day, it remains on my list of places to go among places I have not yet visited. Here’s a little recap that might help you understand why:
- London is full of interesting characters.
After we flew into Gatwick Airport, we took a bus into the city. On the way there, we saw a gentleman with possibly the coolest Mohawk I have ever seen. I’m talking a good two feet tall, perfectly gelled, and jet black. On our quest to document everything on this trip, one of my friends took a picture of this man. Just like clockwork, he raised his middle finger to us, the crazy American college kids giving Europe a run for its money. The picture turned out beautifully, and I will post a copy if I ever get my hands on it.
In addition to the first British person we interacted with, our bus driver was a fun person to talk to, but for different reasons. He was extremely hospitable and asked us a lot of questions about living in the States. Then, a small group of us encountered a man at a hotdog stand (seriously the best hotdog I’ve ever eaten) who was able to discern that our accent was from the South. It amazed me how much more citizens of other countries knew about us than we knew about them. I vowed to change that and thus began my curiosity about other cultures and lifestyles. Besides the two fellows I have already mentioned, there was the restaurant owner who scolded us for being part of “the McDonald’s Generation” (ew! I rarely eat there), the gentleman doing cool contortionist tricks in Piccadilly Circus, and the women in St. James Park dressed in intricate clothes and embellished hats to celebrate the Queen’s Garden Party, a rare event. Let’s also take into account that there are over 300 languages spoken in London alone, which gives me a lot of people to meet on my next excursion there.
- London is full of some of the most iconic places in the world.
The London Eye, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park… the list goes on and on! I think I would need at least a month in London to see everything I’d like to see. However, I was lucky enough to get a lot on my list checked off in the short hours we had to sight see. While I loved almost every place we visited, I’d have to say that my top three were: Westminster Abbey, Café Diana, and Abbey Road.
Westminster Abbey was a must-see for me. Not only had the Royal Wedding taken place there a few months prior, but it is also the burial site for Jane Austen and Geoffrey Chaucer, two literary greats whom I have read for years. I felt like a little girl in a story book. This feeling extended when I got to dine on a lovely lunch of fish and chips at Café Diana, a cute hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Notting Hill dedicated to Diana, Princess of Wales. Every inch of the wall was covered with pictures of my childhood (and present) idol whom I’ve always admired for her free spirit and her activism. An honorable mention for one of my favorite places in London is Kensington Palace. When I was there, Diana had had a recent birthday, and people adorned the gate of her previous home with letters and gifts in her memory. I did tear up a bit in case you were wondering. Finally, who can make a trip to London without walking across Abbey Road and taking the obligatory Beatles photo? Not me, that’s who! It was worth every honk of a horn and curse word from locals to get to do this; we just thought the guy with a Mohawk was friendly. I even signed my name on the white wall that can be seen on the Abbey Road cover. Talk about leaving a mark on London! The Abbey Recording Studio actually has a camera that captures a live feed of people walking across the road. It is perhaps the single greatest thing I have ever seen on the Internet. Everyone’s steps seem to get a little wider as their feet hit this particular set of pavement. I can only imagined what I looked like doing this.
- I shared that time with Colby
Sappy, I know, but one of the reasons I look back on London so fondly is that I got to spend that time with Colby (and some of our good friends). It was incredibly nice to have a shoulder to sleep on during the plane rides. Seeing all of the places I listed above with him made the moments even sweeter than they would have been if I were on my own. Let’s face it—it would have been much more meaningful to have Colby with me in Paris when I put our lock on the Lover’s Bridge and threw a set of keys into the Seine River. Speaking of rivers, I will never forget one of the most perfect kisses we’ve ever shared, which was on top of Tower Bridge overlooking the Thames River. That moment in particular is one that I will never forget, nor will I forget the delicious caramelized nuts we split afterward. This trip was also the first time I realized that a passion for traveling is something Colby and I have in common, making us the perfect match for all of life’s adventures. Bring it on, world!
- I left London without having tea and crumpets.
I think the only thing worse would be leaving Africa without going on a safari or leaving this city without walking across Abbey Road. I mean really… who leaves London without the first sip of tea or nibble of a crumpet? Obviously, I do. Thankfully, I did not let the legacy of fish and chips slip through my fingers, and the prospect of snacking on some of England’s delicacies makes me excited to go back one day. After all, I do enjoy eating my way through each country I visit; bring on high tea!
So there you have it. Four days in London and ten days total in Europe further fueled my love for traveling that begin in Nassau, Bahamas during my senior trip. Since then, I’ve been restless in the best way, yearning for the kind of bliss that only seeing the world can bring. My hope is that all people have this kind of experience at least once… the kind that leaves you breathless with the deepest since of nostalgia and sweetest kind of longing. London, I love you!