“The best bribe which London offers to-day to the imagination, is, that, in such a vast variety of people and conditions, one can believe there is room for persons of romantic character to exist, and that the poet, the mystic, and the hero may hope to confront their counterparts.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
For those who understand the title’s reference: 1. this is probably why we are friends, and 2. I am speaking not of the biggest idiot in the room, but of my favorite city. Rome, I mean no disrespect. We’ve become quite close over the past few months, I love you, you’re the first European city I ever traveled to, your art and history are unparalleled and you feed me wonderfully. Hell, our communication has even gotten better these days. You’ll always have a special place in my heart. But my God you’re dirty, you never do things when you say you’re going to, and frankly, you creep me out sometimes. But London…I belong in London. Look at me: how much sense does this picture make? I’ll tell you: all the sense in the world. A year or two is about the maximum Rome and I could go before we really started grate on each other’s nerves. London and I could be happy together for a lifetime.
This past weekend was my favorite weekend of this semester of incredible weekends (besides Eric weekend, but that’s his fault not London’s.) London is unequivocally my favorite city I’ve visited, and the one I want to return to first. I had no choice but to treat the four days I spent there as if I would have, at some point, a significant amount of time to explore it. There’s just, like Paris, too much to see in four days. Except unlike Paris and like New York City, this fact left me feeling invigorated rather than rushed and ultimately unfulfilled. Why such a strong love for a city that Italians look down on, a city without the culture of incredible cuisine I’ve been accustomed to, a city which, when I scrolled through quotes about London, had more bad than good? You could blame it on the weather (I froze in Paris), except you can’t, because it was cold. Really cold. And cloudy except on Sunday. I mean, it’s London. I will give some credence to the explanation that hearing people speaking English all around me was one of the most unexpectedly wonderful feelings. I immediately felt more comfortable, more at home, thrilled to be able to eavesdrop on strangers once again. Besides, I love the English language and I don’t care who knows it.
“The English language is like London: proudly barbaric yet deeply civilised, too, common yet royal, vulgar yet processional, sacred yet profane.” –Stephen Fry
All that, and I haven’t even mentioned the beauty of the British accent. Little kids shouting things like, “Everyone’s running!” “Uncle Joe are we going to Trafalgar?” and “Cheers!” brought me infinite joy. I’ll also attribute some of my love of London on the children running around everywhere. I don’t know why, but for some reason there seemed to be exponentially more kids running around in London than in Paris and Rome combined. Am I crazy? Maybe, but that’s certainly what it felt like. And it was wonderful.
The Thames. Let’s talk about it by way of comparison. I had drawing class today underneath Tiber Island, right up close with the Tiber herself. Our professor very helpfully informed us that the best way to depict water is not with wiggly lines, but with reflections. Unfortunately, there are no reflections in the Tiber. The thing is a cesspool. The Thames looked like you could go for a swim in it. In the heart of Rome, the Tiber is about 300 feet across. The Thames? 700. It was magnificent.
I know London isn’t exactly known as the food capital of the world, but I could not have been happier with what I ate in London this weekend. Starting with chamomile tea, clotted creme, and the most amazing scones I have ever eaten. Are we not the most adorable little wannabe Brits you’ve ever seen? But actually my first meal was Mexican—fajitas at Las Iguanas. And it was a magical Mexican food reunion for all of us. The next day (just before the feast pictured here), we ate sushi, and it too, was magical. Saturday we went classic pub food with cod and chips and beef pie. But that night, Lily and I stumbled upon Dehesa, a Spanish/Italian tapas place that was so delicious that I’m about to recount exactly what we had word-for-word from the menu: “1. Grilled & Marinated Lamb Leg with Spiced Squashes, Cavolo Nero, Brown Butter and Capers, 2. Cornish Crab and Prawn Croquetas with Crustacean Aioli Confit, 3. Something solely referred to as Classic Tortilla, which was basically a frittata with cheese and potatoes and onions, and 4, the holy grail, Old Spot Pork Belly with Rosemary Scented Cannellini Beans.” It all got a little bit out of control, particularly that hunk of crispy pork belly. (Eric it reminded me so much of Longmann & Eagle! Anyone else: Go to Longmann & Eagle.)
Unfortunately I have no pictures to illustrate this, but THEATER. Next best thing to New York, and we took full advantage. Lily and I were so enamored with A Chorus Line on Friday night…that we went to Mamma Mia on Saturday afternoon. We had to sprint back to our hostel and get ready in less than an hour, and it was so worth it. Highlight and the worst part of A Chorus Line was Paul’s speech, which left me crying throughout the entire (fairly upbeat) second half of the show—a reminder that fiction has the sometimes frightening power to bring me to my knees at any moment. Mamma Mia however—apart from “Slipping Through My Fingers,” was as jubilantly ridiculous as expected, and left us giggling and drunk on life before Booze Cruise.
Mom, I neglected to reveal the name of said Notre Dame study abroad boat party when we spoke….but alas, the truth comes out. Booze Cruise. In any case, it was a fantastic time. Danced for three straight hours, so that’s never bad.
Let’s be cultured again shall we? British Museum. We were feeling so much animosity after being in Athens and watching the poor Acropolis Museum’s video about the Brits blowing up their temple and then stealing all its parts. Acropolis Museum video: “Elgin jacked our marbles, and we want them back. Stat.” British Museum video: “The parts were acquired by Lord Elgin and generously given to this glorious museum.” Something along those lines anyway. But truly, seeing them displayed there got to me a little more than a little bit. Also the Rosetta Stone was just hanging out there, and Katie Buck knows hieroglyphs…jealous?
On Sunday, after waking up bright-eyed bushy-tailed and feeling like I could conquer the world (it’s funny because it’s not true), we made our way to Buckingham Palace, where I was more enamored with taking pictures of adorable children than the royals. But it was still cool. Then, for the absolute perfect ending to the weekend, we went straight Winning London up in this joint. (We had watched it four days prior in preparation for our voyage.) Sadly, I do not mean we made out in an air duct, though that would make all my childhood dreams come true. Instead…
“Do you want to see my favorite spot in the whole of London?”
Admittedly, I don’t think I’ve spent enough time in London to affirm young Lord Browning’s sentiments, but the Peter Pan statue was a definite high of the trip. The entirety of Hyde Park was gorgeous in fact—it was a beautiful day, seemingly the first in awhile judging from the Spring-ish excitement in the air. We meandered along “Long River,” took a look at Kensington, watched little kids play with swans, and sat down near Peter Pan you know, to think. Hey, if it came out of Jesse Spencer’s mouth I believe it.
Just as I was in the midst of falling in love with a wobbling toddler in a sweater with elbow pads, an older gentleman (I don’t think you’re allowed to call a British male just “man.”) walked up to the statue pushing his very elderly mother in a wheelchair. He said, “I thought you might want to get out and look at the animals,” which to be honest, I had not even noticed were covering the base of the statue. He helped her up the stairs counting, 1, 2… at a staggeringly slow pace, and proceeded to walk her around the statue of the boy who didn’t want to grow up, pointing out each animal in succession. The only next logical step in that moment was to pretend to be taking pictures of Lily so I could photograph them. I had no choice. It was worth it.
It was just one of those serendipitous moments that I had the pleasure to witness, to pretend I was a part of for just a few minutes. And call it me magnifying something that was really no more than a coincidence (it’s what I do), but that right there was the moment that solidified my love affair with London. It was already pretty rock solid, but that put it over the edge. And I didn’t even know what would happen next. The mother-son pair made their way over to the river (this litte statue sits right next to it by the way), and looked out at the birds perched all the way across. My original infatuation, elbowpad toddler, did the same. With his mom. And alas: my favorite picture I’ve taken in Europe.
“Slipping through my fingers all the time…”
Oh London, I’ve fallen so hard. In the throws of Booze Cruise myself and another of your admirers had a bit of a gush session, during which she described you as “self-assured.” Just now, another friend (with a personal bias, but he has a point) called you “arrogant.” My thought is that both are true, and for me, that only adds to your appeal. We’re a match made in heaven, and I promise I’ll be back.