*Please forgive the quality of the photos. I am uploading to and editing only my iPad (tons of cool apps, but still not Photoshop). Hopefully they look okay on a computer screen! It's strange, being in a city that exists in my mind only as a highlight reel, snapshots of iconic landmarks that grace walls worldwide and lists of things to see before you die. Every time I travel I have this idea of how it will be to move about a city and see things I've dreamt of. And every time, it's different than what I expected. Not bad, just different.
It's like I have to take all of those snapshots down off the bulletin board of my mind and tack them to the city that unfolds before me in all directions, the city where they belong. Then I must fill in the rest, the in-between spaces where seemingly mundane falls in the shadow of monuments and majestic structures. But this is what I like best.
Don't get me wrong. I loved seeing Big Ben for the first time. We were driving from the airport to our hotel around 12:30 and all of a sudden, there it was, so perfect and glowing, like it was cut out of the midnight sky. When we took off on foot the next day, past the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, it was hard not to get a little star-struck. I was walking along and so aware of the majesty looming before me, representing so much history, so many stories. It's like they deserve this undivided-attention recognition, just for their beauty alone.
I love those moments, I really do-- when something you know only as a photograph suddenly forms in front of you, becoming a living entity, with a breath that draws you closer, as if it has secrets to tell and you stand there, a little unaware of the chaos flowing around you, and you become that splinter in the river, everything naturally weaving around you as you listen, being filled with stories and possibilities and awe.
As magical as that is, there is something equally enchanting about the streets, the veins that connect so many wonders. They carry people and life and an atmosphere unique to, in this case, London alone. The crazy and confusing winding roads, the whirring of taxis and buses driving way too fast, the crowds of locals and tourists alike, the rollerbladers skating to wicked beats, the daring and never ending cyclists... All at once it was a hurried rat race and relaxed stroll-at-your-own-pace.
The first two days in London, my family was pretty tired from walking all day and I know they would have liked to take a cab back to the hotel. But I prefer walking the streets that zigzag back to where we started. You hear too many languages to count and smell the foods of the city. You see the fasions, the pastimes, the entertainment. Sure, sometimes the people are so thick you can't see a path through them, but eventually they thin out or you take a side road. My favorite is the street that runs with the river. In more popular areas, there are so many people and so much to see. But after a while, the crowd and noise fades, the street becomes tree covered, and it's everything you imagined a walk home in London would be, beautiful and peaceful as the sun sets behind Big Ben.
More to come! :)