WE went into London today.
We took pictures of Big Ben, in front of Buckingham Palace, walked through Westminster Square where we also took pictures in front of a Mandela statue (as well as catching the tube at Westminster station), walked through Covent Market, passed by the street/area where the Jack the Ripper shmit went down (don’t remember the name), and, finally, stood across from the Thames. We also passed by parliament buildings, and maybe one or two other stops that I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting right now.
I really enjoyed it, though you may not be able to tell from the pictures (which I’ll post eventually). I think the jet lag finally caught up with me: three hours of sleep on the plane, five or so the first night, two hour nap yesterday, followed by three hours of sleep last night may also be the culprit. Or a combination of both. So in a few of the photos I’m pretty sure I look dead. It also didn’t help that about half the day was grey with rain—experiencing London weather to the fullest!—so I was also bundled into my sweater (hoodie up and everything) in some of those.
There were like three or four rainstorm showers, followed either by the warmth of cloud-covered sunshine or the sun actually coming out, but with a frame of ominous dark cloud cover never too far behind. I used “rainstorm shower” because each time it rained, it lasted no more than ten or so minutes, but it really came down each time, sometimes with minatory rolls of thunder punctuating the downpour. It reminded me of the flash storms in the southern states (well, from what I’ve experienced in GA and FL, as I guess I can’t really speak for all of them).
Anyway, my impressions:
Despite the rain and chill (which I’ll get back to), I really liked this place.
When I went to Chicago, I was enamored by the talking buses and the feel of the place. It’s got a smaller population than New York, and, I’m pretty sure, more square mileage (or that could just be how it feels because of the population) and an openness that I never really associated with cities. (I’m pretty sure the wind helped with that impression of openness.)
I felt similarly about London (immediately categorizing things that made it different to New York, that also made me like it). It felt more populated than Chicago, but less crowded than New York. At one point, when the rain came down out of nowhere, we went into a Pret (because everywhere else was either packed or didn’t look tasty), and the quiet bustle of the place reminded me of home. There was a low hum of conversation, that let you know you were in a city, but everything was quieter overall (not just in Pret) than I was used to.
The streets were narrower, and the sidewalks felt wider, or at least, wide enough that we weren’t held up by tourists, or slow-moving people, etc. I think London has a slightly bigger populace, but they also have more room. And, like Chicago, I could feel it. I can’t recognize a city just from a feeling, but I always know when I’m not in New York. However, with both Chicago and London, I was able to feel… something about them.
The London underground was also a pretty nifty place: the oyster (the equivalent of metro) cards that you have to touch to the machine before going through the turnstiles (is that what they’re called here?) rather than swiping, and then you also have to tap the card on your way back out (like in D.C.). The doors of the trains stayed open for a good amount of time (so there didn’t seem to be a big rush to get on) and the announcements were generally clear. The “mind the gap please” even sounded extra polite here with the accent. And their “crowded” didn’t feel crowded to me. They say that it can get worse, so perhaps it has to do with timing. But, except for what I’ve heard of Tokyo and Hong Kong, I struggle to believe that another city can feel as crowded as, or surpass New York.
The buses also speak (I think this is a thing in every city but New York), though getting onto them was definitely an experience. You enter from the left side, touch your card, and then have to turn right to get to the seats. So basically, the reverse of what we do in the States.
Everything’s done on the reverse here, it seems, and its definitely disconcerting. (Seriously, even the water’s opposite: hot on the right, and cold on the left.) America’s younger, yes, but the Brits are definitely doing it wrong.
In my last post, I talked about my desire to move here. After having gotten out, and actually visited parts of the city, my resolve has only strengthened. So I’m going to work toward studying abroad here in the fall of next year, so that I can see if this is really something I would do. Or if its just the honeymoon phase of being in a new place, and one that I’d been dying to visit for so long.
Whenever I read about the weather, they talk about how mild it is. Today, with temperatures in the 60s, my aunt said it was fairly warm. I thought it was pretty cold, but I’m also coming from 90+ degree weather so… that’s probably relative. But it would definitely be another adjustment, having a perpetual chill in the air. Some transplants say it seeps into your bones… sounds kind of ominous. But I do also like the idea of relatively mild temperatures year round. I tell my friends often that my ideal temperature range is around 60-80. London will help me see if I really mean that.
With that said, I also can’t imagine myself not living in New York. Its my city. Perhaps I’ll get to know London (or some other English city, or an area just outside of it) as well, but it may never really be the same.
Ah well, I’ve only been here two days. I’ve a got more yet to see. I know this is something I will continue to obsess over in the back of my mind, but nothing can be done now, at least until next year.
I would’ve uploaded this on actual day three, but my laptop’s dead, and I’m way too lazy to get the charger. I don’t think day 4 will consist of anything too special so I’ll be back eventually. Perhaps to tell you all about Paris — our goal’s to visit there on Monday.
Okay, till next time
PS. I slept for like, eight hours. I feel like a brand new person!
PPS. Since I took so long to upload this, my aunt just told me we’d be heading “into town” today, so I’ll be back with more observations about that.