Tuesday, October 17, 2006

London town

I got my first impression of London as a seventeen-year-old tourist. I'd never visited a giant, cosmopolitan city before, but I felt immediately at home there, alongside the international population, the gritty urban streets, the miraculous public transportation, the graceful monuments, and the drizzly spring weather. I dragged my friends around behind me for the two days we had to see the city, absorbing everything from St. Paul's to the Peter Pan statue in Hyde Park.

A few years later, Jeff and I spent four months there in college, ostensibly studying art and architecture and politics. He watched a lot of English Premier League on his host family's TV, and I sampled the culinary delights of half the entries in Let's Go London's dining section. I saw at least two plays a week. I wanted to stay forever.

Since then, I've traveled all over the United States and Europe. I've gotten older and fussier when it comes to where I sleep and what I eat and what I think is beautiful and what I judge as kitsch. Last year, we concentrated on seeing European cities that were new to both of us, and I'll admit I was a little concerned as we planned our most recent long weekend in my favorite city on earth; the last time we visited, it was 1998. Both London and I have changed since then.

But I've never fallen for a city the way I fell for London almost twenty years ago, and I'm happy to report that the adoration stuck. The sun shone every day and we didn't see a drop of rain. Though there were plenty of other (mostly American) tourists everywhere, we never felt like we were fighting crowds. We visited some old favorite haunts, saw a couple of shows, and ate our way through a litany of delicious cuisine - fabulous Indian vegetarian buffet lunch, late-night modern Middle Eastern, coffee shops, fast bites, classic fish and chips, French frites, and even the maligned steak pie. I devoured it all. Security measures are more prominent now, but after living with US travel restrictions, I hardly noticed them. The red buses and black taxis are more modern, the city's cultural institutions have spilled across the river, and the Queen is letting people visit her houses now. I shopped at Marks & Spencer, and brought back my favoritie British treats.

It was a perfect London weekend. You really can go home again.


Erin said...

Glad you had such a good time!
I slept in Lakeville, CT last night and am in Albany, NY tonight. I'll trade :-) However, I did manage to eat a peanut butter cup sundae at Friendly's and have talked to some great students, so it might be a good trade!

Brian said...

I just got back from LA, which one would think might carry some of that same cosmopolitan charm, but when you can't see the towering sky scrapers only a few miles away because of smog, something of the charm is lost...I'm so jealous--er, I mean glad that you had fun! Gives me hope for my (eventual) return visit. Dont you just love pret?