I wasn’t expecting to fall in love. So when it happened with me and the city of London, I was defenseless.
We left the U.S. after the holidays bound for London on Norwegian Airlines. The flight was cheap and no-frills, but that’s what we wanted. It was perfect – that flight got us to the other hemisphere at a great price. We were to use London as a jumping point to other destinations in Northern Africa and Southern Europe for the winter.
Once in London, we spent the first day jet-lagged and recovering from the flu everyone on the planet seems to have this year. We were only in London for a mere five days, so that nasty little bug wasn’t going to keep me down beyond one day. Meds, sleep, soup. More sleep. (Spouse was sick and practically bed-ridden the last four days in the U.S.)
By the second day, I was up and ready to walk the city. That’s the best way to get to know a place, so that’s what we did – walk. It was so cold, and I was still a little sick. But I did it. The things you do for love, I guess. I was hooked before we barely saw anything.
Over London Bridge, on both sides of the Thames, up and down and back. We met an old friend of mine for drinks at the Red Lion near Westminster Abbey where he happened to be working that day. Then we took in a sunset at the Sky Garden (don’t forget to make your reservation – and I recommend you go just before sunset, then hang out in the gardens with a beverage until night falls).
The third day we did even more walking, all along the Thames on both sides. Through Tate Modern (where I could have spent a month) and the Borough Market, and over the pedestrian bridge to St. Paul’s Cathedral and down to Trafalgar Square.
By the fourth day, I was so ready to sit and relax on a bus. Enter The Original Tour.
As London prices go, this tour was rather reasonably priced at about $40 USD per person. There were several bus routes, and you have the freedom to hop off the bus at any stop on any route. The Original Tour also offers a few walking tours. We did the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, because that’s all we had time to do (the Rock Tour and the Jack the Ripper Tour looked great).
In addition to this ceremony at Buckingham Palace, we also rode two full bus routes, and we took a short cruise on the Thames.
All of the usual tourist sites were cool, but I want to go back and spend time in the not-so-touristy areas. I picked up a copy of Secret London – an Unusual Guide, in our Airbnb rental. There were enough gems in there to make me seriously wish we were staying way longer than five days.
But even more than that – I felt wonderful energy – an incredible vibe. It was as if I’d come home in a way. I felt like I’d been there before, maybe in another life. I was entirely comfortable there. Yes! Even in January, during blustery cold and dreary, gray days. It really didn’t bother me. And – we actually had sunshine for much of one afternoon during our brief stay.
Our Airbnb rental was perfect. It was in Greenwich, a short train ride into the heart of the city where one can vanish into the tube to get anywhere on the map.
The rental was a rehabbed row house, and I found myself often wondering about the lives lived in and around its walls. Did people freak out over World War II air raids? Did a family pick that row house for its proximity to downtown? What was it like before cars and television? On that last question, I felt like I could guess the answer easily because we had no wifi and there was no television (yet the flat perfectly modern in every other way, including a washer and dryer).
The flat was for sale, and I joked with Tedly that I might like to buy it if we had a pile of money and if we were going to stop living the vagabond lifestyle. Mexico is just a vacation away… I was only half-joking. Yes, I loved London that much.
Practically thinking, London is ridiculously expensive. Just as important: there’s so much more of the world I want to see. So no, I’m not really serious about wanting to move and settle in London now. But I would go back in a heartbeat — and I’d live there for awhile, instead of simply visit.