Last weekend, I went to London to be a complete tourist and to visit Logan (you remember, the convict who convinced me to break into a villa). On Thursday afternoon, after a long week of business presentations and schoolwork, I flew from Nice and traveled backwards in time to London, landing in a new country just 45 minutes later. When I first arrived, I was pleased by (1) the cute British accents everywhere, and (2) the amount of English being spoken. Finally, I was able to eavesdrop on conversations in English!
I spent Friday afternoon with Gianna & Michelle – two exchange students from France – to catch lunch at Ed’s, a 50’s diner, and to walk around Camden Town. For those of you who don’t know, Camden Town is a section of NW London with a distinct “alternative” flavor. Here, indie rockers with 2-foot spiked mohawks sit on the curb smoking cigarettes, punks with stud belts abound, and tattoo/piercing parlors make up nearly every other store. It’s a cool place to be, with vintage markets and an underground feel. Gianna, a student of London, showed us a famous clothing shop, Cyberdog, which is more of a techno rave than a clothing store. Inside, dance electronica blares, employees with blue hair fold clothes, and dancers in elevated cages rock out. We got our taste of futuristic fashion and headed outside for something a little more subdued, mulled wine.
After getting my fill of urban streetkids, I walked to Regent’s Park to meet Logan. He had been rehearsing his Shakespeare drama in the park earlier that morning (while I was in Camden), but now I waited for him to get out of acting class. Logan forgot to mention that the park gates lock after sundown, so I conveniently got trapped inside Regent’s Park. Don’t worry, I broke out of there real quick (I’ve gotten used to hopping fences over the past few months), and met Logan coyly standing across the street. We walked the 45 minutes to dinner, but let me say, Chipotle was the burrito at the end of my tunnel. Later that night, I met Logan’s friends from the British American Drama Academy (BADA) and together we went out to Pacha, a nightclub near Marble Arch. Unexpectedly, I saw my first fashion show and, on the catwalk, we danced the night away.
Saturday was a day full of sight-seeing. Within a span of a few blocks, I saw the Big Ben, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace. It felt like everything iconic to London was clumped in one quarter, right along the Thames River, there for the (picture) taking! It was a typically brisk winter day, but the sun was still shining and led us to St. James Park. We smiled at the people playing fetch with their dogs; laughed at the people being attacked by enormous swans, geese, and pelicans; and carved our initials into a tree in Green Park. It was the only tree in the entire park with its leaves still in full bloom.
When my unusually small legs could no longer bare the strenuous walking, we took a respite and grabbed a cup of jo at Caffè Nero. Rachel, a friend from AU and student of BADA, came to meet us in Trafalgar Square. We admired the massive Christmas tree in the center of the square, as well as the odd street performers behind it, and entered the National Gallery. The National Gallery houses an extraordinary collection of Western European artists — including Turner, Cezanne, Renoir, Monet, Degas, Manet, and Van Gogh — free of charge.
Later that night, over fish & chips and Strongbow cider, I was able to reunite with Eric and Jose, two of my boys from OASN, our a cappella group. It felt so right. Back at Eric’s flat, I kicked some people’s ass at pool and foosball (not really) and caught up with yet another friend AU, Andrew. From there, we went out to another club, got our groove on, and befriended a Scottish transvestite. Lizzie, if you’re reading, I think you rock too!
Overall, London was a whirlwind of a trip. It’s a real cosmopolitan city with so much going on and so many different walks of life. As the largest city of Europe, it’s no wonder everyone finds a place here. But what’s more, London teems with a regal essence. It’s like you’re walking on history. Certainly, London is one place to keep your eyes open. And as long as you look the right way, you’ll see that double-decker bus coming your way.