After a great and freezing three days in Edinburgh, Luc and I caught a sleepless overnight bus to London. There we were staying with our friend Emily, who was Luc’s roommate during our year in Granada. Her parents live in an adorable flat in Battersea, in Southwest London. It was such a treat to see her again after a year and a half, and to be welcomed by such a warm family over the holidays. Since I´d already visited London during my study abroad year in 2011, I wasn’t in a rush to see all the famous sights during my stay, so these four days were really relaxing and centered around family and friends–exactly how I’d hoped they would be. Here were the highlights:
Having dinner at Emily’s sister’s house, where they’ve just remodeled their kitchen and wanted to show it off. And understandably! Those marble countertops, that instant hot water tap! I don’t know how a kitchen so big fits in crowded London–we ate chicken pot pie and fine French cheeses at a table that could have easily accommodated 25 guests.
Meeting some of Emily’s high school and university friends, and grabbing drinks with them at the local pubs.
Instead of braving the massive crowds and chilling rain, we rang in the New Year in a much more relaxed and enjoyable fashion. We cooked dinner at Emily’s house for a small group of friends, then headed to the neighboring pub to meet up with more people, order more drinks, and countdown to 2014.
I’m still not sure if this is a highlight or a lowlight, but on New Year’s Day Luc and I decided that a perfect rainy plan would be to see the Museum of Natural History. Everyone in London had the same idea, since of course it was a holiday and no one had to work, so we waited in line for over an hour in the pouring rain, with wind gusts so strong that everyone’s umbrellas crumpled into pitiful heaps. I include this as a highlight because it was one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever witnessed—all of us helpless in the face of the elements. (And the inside of the museum was cool, although we spent half the time drying our jackets under the hand blowers in the bathroom.)
On the last day I was in London alone, as Luc headed up North and Emily returned to Granada. I spent the one sunny day walking around for hours, popping into a few museums (like the Tate Modern, before promptly remembering that I hate modern art), watching a few impromptu magic and break-dance shows along the South Bank, and ordering afternoon tea at a charming restaurant called Albion. I think it was meant for four people, but somehow I nearly managed to finish off four pastries and a pot of tea by myself. Oops, at least I walked there. . . .
When I visited London in 2011, I tried to see all the city had to offer in two days. Needless to say, most of my time was spent underground, taking the tube from one monument to the next. I liked the city, but was underwhelmed. This time around, I really appreciated the simple things of London, like its beautiful suburb-like neighborhoods, its many parks, its mind-blowing black taxicab tradition (where drivers can’t use GPS, and have memorized every route in London), and entire aisles in the supermarkets devoted to microwaveable Indian food. I finally realized what all the hype is about, and it doesn’t have anything to do with Big Ben or the changing of the guards.
These trips are beginning to destroy me–after I visit each city, whether it’s new to me or I’ve been there before, I unfailingly get the sensation that this is the place for me, I need to move here now, I can’t spend another year of my life NOT settled down in ___ (insert European destination here). It happened with London, and of course it happened during my final stop of the vacation: Amsterdam, coming up.
*Thank you Tim, Derinda, and Emily, for being such fantastic hosts in London!