Thursday, 29 October 2015

London was a slap of fresh air in my face

A couple of weeks ago I travelled to London for the first time. You always read the name next to New York, Paris, Tokyo and other super capitals of the world. You see it in movies: tourists trying to make a Royal guard laugh (no touching), everyone walking fast under their umbrellas in the rain, and the Big Ben overseeing all the madness.

Imagine the possibilities of randomly running into a friend 

I've realized by now that I am a small city person, I get bored in villages and stressed in metropoles, so for me, Dublin is what the warm oatmeal plate is for Goldilocks, but meeting a new place is always exciting.
So I arrived, alone and for five days, having the privilege of staying with great people I haven't seen in a very long time and that happened to be living in London.

I have to admmit that for the first half of my trip I was overwhelmed. The distances too long, the prices too high, the crows too big, and I've never been a skilled map reader so, being without Wi-Fi most of the time and using an old school paper map to get by was a challenge.

I assure you, it was more colourful in real life

The people were surprisingly kind, except if you were standing in the left side of an escalator, and everywhere I went there were the same three or four food-on-the-go chains. Yes, there were good restaurants, but I was on a budget and actualy on-the-go, as I wanted to see and do as much as possible, so for the duration of my trip, I sticked with a diet of sandwiches and prepacked sushi.
A course I was taking absorbed most of my time, but I was able to see the London National Gallery and Tate Modern. I'm not an art expert, but I enjoy visiting art museums and staring at pieces that catch my eye, trying to identify what's it about them that atracts me. I've also went to the beautiful St. Paul's Cathedral, to Hyde Park (were I had the chance to share my on-the-go avocado wholegrain sourdough toastie with a squirrel) and to Spitafield Market. 

Just sharing with the locals...

Spitafield Market

National Gallery [In the back] 

In that last place I made the only shopping I allowed myself to do in the city: a hand painted shirt with a little cottage lost in a forest of pines. I had to have it. Near that, I also visited the famous Cereal Killer Cafe, a place that only serves bowls of cereals (but they have tons of options).
Of course I went to a pub and had a pint with the classmates. A very drunk local guy approach the table and he was allowed to stay and make a fool of himself by talking a bit of nonsense and attempting to stand and dance on his chair.

I'd say one of the most "travelly" things I did was visiting The Monument, a 62 mts tall structure which happens to be the tallest isolated stone column in the world (thanks Wikipedia). 

The Monument

I say "travelly" because it was really out of my comfort zone, in fact, I don't know what got into me -I'm a person that is scared of heights and gets vertigo in shopping centre's balconys- but I was walking by it and decided that I wanted to see London from the top (who doesn't?). I paid my 4 pounds ticket and started going up the winding stair, looking out from the small and frequent windows that reminded me that every step up I took, I was on a deadlier distance to the ground.

I just kept looking to the centre of the spiral

Thoughts of the thing falling apart with me inside it, of a person running and bumping into me accidentally (or on purpose) pushing me to the floor, tempted me to stop and go back. And it wasn't just because it cost me 4 pounds that I kept going... when would I get another chance to do that? The fact that I could hear children laughing on the top only made my fear seem more irrational and silly.

So I decided to stop overthinking things and then, London and I got along better... I rolled my eyes to people standing on the left side of the scalators, found my way around without asking and for a moment, I got why people love living in very big cities where everything happens at the same time, where you are anonimously free yet constantly tracked, and where trends come and go faster than you can even find out about them.

London is beautiful and exciting, fun and scary, punctual and messy, friendly and hostile, and just like the mushroom in Alice in Wonderland, it can make you feel big or small depending on which side you choose. 
I went back home with a cute shirt, a souvenir from the museum, a pinecone from Hyde Park, a bunch of overpriced subway tickets, and the slap of fresh air I badly needed.

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