I always told myself that as soon as I got my first big girl job, I was buying a plane ticket and jetting off to Paris for my first vacation. So I set out to make that happen. And when I found out that a coworker was going to be working abroad in London for a couple of months during the same time, I jumped on the chance to stop and see what London was all about along the way.
The timing couldn’t have been worse. I was just ending a five-year relationship and moving the accumulated remains of three years of cohabitation into a place that was nearly twice the price of my previous rent. Plus that up-front cost of three month’s rent wasn’t friendly on the wallet for a girl with no safety net. Then the weekend I had planned to move (five days before heading out of the country for ten days), Hurricane Irene set out to destroy NYC, trapping my ex and I in our tiny one bedroom apartment that was brimming with tension, packed with boxes upon boxes of shit.
I ended up moving on a weeknight after work, just days before I headed to Heathrow. The previous roommate hadn’t moved out yet, so I dumped all of my shit in the living room and crashed on the couch for a few nights. I packed my bags and set out for the UK, leaving a mess of boxes in the living room for my new roommates to push into the bedroom once it was empty. I bet I made a horrible first impression on my new roomies.
Putting my messy New York life on hold, I set out on a Friday evening redeye to London for a long weekend. I’d like to think of my 72 hours in London as sort of a tease. I stayed in East Putney, so most nights were spent heading back early before the trains stopped running. I got to see some of the main tourist attractions, but I really feel like I missed out on the heart of London culture. I didn’t even have fish and chips while I was there. I did, however, have sushi. And steak. And beer.
Let me preface this story with another: Thanksgiving day in 2010 I went to see the Jets play and ended up sitting next to a lonesome Brit from Bristol named Greg. We chatted throughout the game, and thanks to Facebook we kept in touch. When I knew I was heading to London I let him know, and he came into the city for a couple days of hanging out.
While we were out for drinks one night we were mid conversation and Greg’s words came to a halt. He mumbled something along the lines of “bloody hell, hold that thought” (totally a guess, his British accent made it hard to decipher) and ran to the other side of the bar like there was free beer up for grabs. Confused, we looked over and were just as quickly trying to figure out whether he knew the guy he’d run off to so quickly, or if he was just having a conversation with himself in a mirror.
Since we were all a few drinks in, this was the most amusing thing in the world. We made the guys swap friends and we spent some time hanging out with new Greg before parting ways for the evening.
The rest of my time in London I spent wandering around by foot, checking out the traditional touristy stuff in downtown London: Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, St Paul’s Cathedral, and I added Millenium Bridge and Tower Bridge to the list of bridges I’ve walked across in my life. Typical tourist sightseeing experiences. One day in an attempt to kill some time, we stopped in at Founders Arms for some chips with garlic mayo, garlic bread and a lovely view.
It was inevitable that I’d have at least one rainy day while in London. So after getting soaked walking across Abbey Road 478 times, we decided to spend a few hours in the British Museum until the rain let up. That place was amazing. I could live there. Since I studied at an art school, the majority of the museums I’ve been to have been art museums, so this was an awesome change of pace. Beforehand I had no idea what was even in the British Museum, so it pretty much blew my mind. A Moai statue from Easter Island. Marble sculptures from ancient Greece. The Mummy of Cleopatra. So many things I’d read about in school were right in front of me. All of a sudden I found myself wishing I had paid more attention in school.
I’m aching to go back and explore more of what London has to offer. I want to catch a home football match. I want to have afternoon tea. I want to spend a Saturday browsing through the Designers Makers Market. I want to check out all of the vintage shops and boutique markets I’ve been researching and writing about for the past year at work. I want to get a feel for all of the different neighborhoods. And eat a tasty snack from Lily Vanilli.
Get ready London, I’ll be back.