I said this about Saint Malo, but I mean it even more now: I could live in London forever. After a month of living in Paris, London felt like home. Never before have I been to a city and immediately felt confident that I could live there forever. I visited at a time in my life when English, even when spoken with an accent, is the most welcome and familiar sound. So much so that I felt like I had to readjust to it, after only a month in Paris. When I approached the customs officer at Heathrow airport I instinctively said “bonjour,” to which he said “hello.” It sounded strange. This lack of a language barrier brought a lot of advantages, and it felt easier to blend in. It was much simpler to ask (and receive) directions, or just strike up a conversation with locals.
We spent our first afternoon walking around in the cold and getting hundreds of pictures of Big Ben. I assume that’s what Londoners do everyday.
We went to a pub that we learned was across the street from the hospital in which penicillin was discovered. There was a large group of friendly English-speaking hospital workers having a going away party for a co-worker. A friendly nurse shared with us a brief history of penicillin and its relevance to London, as well as some helpful travel tips. Just the usual English pub conversation.
I had become very sick and feverish in our travels, and was relieved at the ease of finding some good medicine with its description in English. It was one of many stops at Tesco, and if Philadelphia has made me love Wawa, London could certainly make me love Tesco (Krispy Kremes!).
We spent at least an hour in King’s Cross station so our group could get pictures at Platform 9 3/4. It’s been completely commercialized, and half of a Hogwarts cart is now protruding from the platform. There was a long line, so despite my closet Harry Potter fandom, I was too cool to get a picture at the platform. We got a good one of our friend Shannon.
Later, we went to Parliament, and got an EXCLUSIVE V.I.P. TOUR, that was 10 pounds and open to everyone. Our tour guide took us through the building and gave a history of each room as well an explanation of how certain aspects of government work. It’s obviously very different than that of the U.S., and it was really interesting to hear about it. The palace is also extremely beautiful, with gold and beautiful paintings everywhere.
The next day we got a Big Ben breakfast at Raffles, a restaurant that came highly recommended. It was a typical English breakfast with eggs, sausage, bacon, beans and toast. What else could you want? We walked through Hyde Park to check out Speakers’ Corner, a historic place of congregation and open-air discussion. Anyone is allowed to make speeches, and anyone is allowed to contest those speeches. It was a very interesting environment, and, regardless of whether or not I agreed with them, I was mesmerized by some of the speeches. There was a an old Scottish woman advocating racial purity, a young man saying that all women should stay at home and have a bunch of children, and an older man preaching Catholicism. There were a lot of strong opinions and a lot of crazy people which equals good times.
It was sad to leave, but I know I’ll be back. It gave me an interesting perspective on Paris, and made me realize what I like and what I dislike about it. As much as I love it here, something about London felt like home. I miss it already.