You’ll find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.
being raised by an anglophile and loving british classics from the time i was a little girl, i have always dreamed of visiting london. i wanted to have tea, go to the palace, see the rosetta stone in the british museum, walk through the city and wear a chic burberry trench coat.
my long time dream was fulfilled earlier this month as my husband and i took a celebratory “2nd wedding anniversary-belated honeymoon-law school graduation” trip to the isle of all my childhood fancies and finally, finally, i have been to london!
having had such a built up idea of what london would mean, it took me a day to adjust to that which is a living, changing thing: the urban landscape that takes in new ideas, new ways of doing things and advances through time, rather than remaining, as perhaps less metropolitan places to live, a paragon of tradition and ageless standard ideals.
in the vast and cluttered schedule and demands on time from family, work, and friends, i had not really considered or had time to dwell that i, yes i, would soon step off an airplane into the gate at heathrow airport, and walk onto a train, and out into the streets of the fabled city of london. sleep deprived though i might have been, jet-lagged and whatever else, when i arrived in london i felt as if 20 some odd years of fantasy were swirling around me, and that, in some small way, i was returning to the constructed world of a little girl.
despite the fact that i felt, upon venturing outside of the hotel on that first night in london, that london was very much like my own city, and very much like other cities i have visited, i came to realize that london feels different from my city. it smells different. people on the street move differently, and of course, speak a common language but with so many cadences. it was hard to feel the differences at first–they are delicate. it wasn’t like being in continental europe–you could watch many of the same tv shows, find the same products in the grocery store, eat the same foods and understand (for the better part) those who lived around you.
but there are innumerable tiny differences that pull together to create a distinct urban space that we call london, that is different from vancouver, different from chicago, milan, and manhatten. little tiny things, like how businessmen riding the underground seem to shy away from suits colored black or charcoal gray, and wear blue and light gray suits. or how there is a proliferation of print media, free, handed to you as you walk down the stairs to catch the train home, and that after reading it on the tube, considerate londoners fold up their papers and stack them on the train for others to browse while riding along to work or home. and the unification of the color red: on signs, buses, telephone booths, and mailboxes gives london a well-matched feel, like moving, living art.
strangers will call you “dear,” “my love,” and “darling” when passing you in the street. tea will always be served with tiny, amazingly cute tea spoons. pints of milk are sold in tiny adorable little jugs, which come in partially skim and skim, not 1 or 2%. water will be still, or sparkling. and when you walk into a restaurant, you are not presented with the choices of brewed coffee or tea bags, you might elect to have full-leaf brewed tea with the same normalcy that diners serve cup after cup of black coffee. and everything will be wonderfully, fantastically expensive!
there is a sense of history in london unlike any american city. the streets you walk upon, the buildings you visit have been walked upon and lived in, in some cases, for hundreds, or even thousands of years. it is a place where modernity and history–real history– coexist and blend for an amazing balance of what has been, and what will come to be. the past is ever-present in daily life as a connection and a touch stone to humanity.
it is so large, and holds so much, that it is overwhelming to even thing what you could see, if you only had a lifetime to devote, and yet, london is just one city, in one country, in all the world.
a thousand little details collided to make this a trip of my lifetime, enough to almost, just almost, tempt me to forswear loyalty to my own, little, beloved city and strive to become a londoner.