September 6th, 2012 | Posted by Shannon
Tomorrow, after seven weeks in the UK and Ireland, I head back to France then Italy. Then home.
Right now I am in London. And let me tell you, I am totally and completely enthralled with this place. Because London is expensive it never made it into my plans, but now that I have been here, I don’t see how I cannot come back really soon.
I love cities. Love them. I love small cities, I love big cities, I love kind of beat up cities, I love cities that look like fairy tales. So I knew I would love London, but what I didn’t know is I would be walking around for five straight days with my mouth hanging open from the awesomeness of it all. London is an all-beat-up fairy tale. Peter Pan meets Bomb Damage. Yes, it is awesome all right.
I have walked. Walked and walked and walked. Yes London is quite spread out but I have this weird tic where I think I can walk everywhere. So my first two days, Saturday and Sunday, I walked myself out. I must have walked at least ten miles each day, maybe more. Later in the week I got a little lazy and only walked five miles a day or so. I went to the National Portrait Gallery where I looked at paintings of the Tudors and also the Olympic athletes and even the people who are putting the Olympics on – like the caterers. Really cool photos of caterers. The National Portrait Gallery is so big that I couldn’t see everything in one day – I had to go back. But that is OK and you know why? It is because ALL THE MUSEUMS IN LONDON ARE FREE. FREE. I love, love, LOVE when the museums are free because I truly believe that art is for the people and if the museum is free, obviously more people are gonna see the art. I would gladly pay more taxes for free museums. Plus all the museums have really great bars in them, where you can get a glass of wine looking out over the rooftops…
I’ve eaten LA street tacos in a hip place called Wahaca, while trying not to tell the couple next to me you don’t eat tacos with a knife and fork. I listened to Big Ben ring 5 o’clock, and the bells of St. Paul’s Cathedral which rang like there was a royal wedding or something, and for what seemed like hours. I tried to stand completely still for five minutes in a room full of Rothkos at the Tate Modern, but failed. I’ve walked in crowds where I thought I would go crazy and alone down medieval streets in the old Roman part of town. I drank in the oldest pub in London and at the top of a tower. I looked up a lot, at the architectural styles of several centuries, sometimes on one single city block. I am even entranced by the ugliest post-war architecture here, which means that we are still in the honeymoon phase. “Wow, that is really ugly!” I say to myself happily, skipping down the street trying not to run into someone texting in front of me.
St. Paul’s, viewed from bar at the Oxo Tower, is surrounded by this ugly/beautiful architecture. I could not take my eyes off it. A shaft of light broke through scattered clouds and St. Paul’s lit up in the most glorious way imaginable, shining like some kind of rosy colored beacon in the middle of all these drab office buildings. Hundreds of people work down there and they also drink down there because the all the pubs – and there are a ton of them, let me tell you – are all packed at 5 PM.
The paralympics are going on, and there was a real circus at Piccadilly Circus on Sunday. Acrobats, tightropers, kids dancing around on balls, a woman floating around under a giant balloon. London has done a fantastic job with lots of free events, like the circus and also many places to watch the games on giant screens around town. And if you are trying to figure out how to get somewhere, there are legions of helpers in pink vests who are there to point you in the right direction. I can’t stand and stare at a metro map for more than 20 seconds before someone in a pink vest approaches me to ask if I need help. Even if I could figure it out on my own, how awesome is it that someone is there to help?
There are so many museums here, so many parks, so many pubs, so many perches to sit and watch people walk by. I had five days but I need five weeks, maybe five months. So, its on the radar – a longer stay here, in this most amazing of cities.