January 14th, 2009 9:05pm
I’ve officially been in London for 10 days and I have managed to settle into a routine. I can tell it’s routine because I’ve found myself stretching every last second into the snooze button, rushing out the door without breakfast, and walking a mile a minute along the London roads so as not to be late to class – again. The Underground doesn’t exactly help, although it does provide a great excuse for why I’m late. Unfortunately, being one in a class of five doesn’t make for the most inconspicuous arrival and the tube can only be blamed so many times, even if the Metro line is a lurching, stuttering, perpetually breaking down pain in the ass.
But to be fair, it’s actually quite convenient. It’s almost impossible to be truly lost in London as you all have to do is wander until you see the blessed red circle with the blue line slashed through it pronouncing “UNDERGROUND” in hard to miss white lettering. Genevieve and I went out on Sunday to explore South Kensington, get a bite to eat, and view the ice sculptures at the Museum of Natural History. Dinner at a little Italian restaurant with my chair backed right up into my neighbor’s (really, it was great knowing every time she shifted or tossed her hair as I could feel it whip me in the head) gave us our very first experience with an actual English server. Thus far, everyone else had clearly not been British, which to tell you the truth, may be a good thing. That famed English politeness? All lies. Well, probably not completely, but I seem to have run into all the people who haven’t yet discovered coffee. Or alcohol. Or Prozac. Or maybe they simply had discovered far too much of it and I ran into them on the day they decided to give it up.
But to get back to the story, we ate and after deciding it was sufficiently dark enough to view the ice sculptures we set off for the museum. Because the thing about ice sculptures is that they’re always better in the dark. Anybody who has seen them would know this. In fact, most everything looks better in the dark when the imperfections are hidden, or in the case of grand buildings or art, when all else is forgotten in the illuminated grandeur of that which is being spotlighted. London may have gotten this memo on buildings, but clearly they have yet to realize the same is true with ice sculptures. By the time we arrived, not only were the 4 sculptures cast in shadows, but the outdoor exhibit was gated off and closed to the public. Because here’s the thing nobody tells you before you come to the huge metropolis that is London – the city doesn’t seem to fully realize that it is a city. As in, 24-hour-service, late night shops, a city that never sleeps, etc., etc. Instead, shops close at 6 o’clock on a weekday. Seriously. It’s kind of ridiculous, actually. And yet, one more reason why I love London. Yes, it’s huge and its transportation attests to that, but with a pub on every corner, a coffeehouse down every lane, apartments built over marketplaces, and squares plopped down in the middle of all this, you could virtually live in one city block and never have to leave. It’s lots of little small villages jam packed into a very small space that has been jumbled up into one very large city. And for all the reputation the British have for being staid and uppity, it’s complete crap. Walking to school could be a dreary experience, what with all the stone and concrete everywhere, but the monotony of brick-faced, flat apartment buildings is broken by glossy -sheened red, blue, and green doors and stoops of varying patterns and color. How could anyone with a grass-green door be considered staid? I only wish that the British would discover shutters and window boxes.
But seriously, Sunday evening. So, the ice sculptures being a bust, we decided to take a stroll and see where our feet took us, and hopefully work off the 25 lbs. of Italian food we had just consumed. We managed, quite without knowing where the deuce we were, to see the Royal Albert Hall in all its rounded, illuminated beauty, the gorgeous white-washed, black iron-wrought fenced £2 million flats of South Kensington, and a decked-out Harrods with enough lights on its face to put the Griswold’s house to shame. Even with such fascinating landmarks, without a map, we couldn’t have told you where exactly in London we were nor did we know how exactly we were going to get home. Which brings me back to my original point - we didn’t care that we didn’t know exactly where we were because it didn’t matter. All we had to do was keep an eye out for an Underground sign and we were home free. Interesting enough, we happened upon the same station that we’d emerged from. We’re still not entirely sure how we managed to come full circle after walking for a good hour and a half or so, but it all worked out in the end. The city is still romancing me, so it’s hard to say if I’ll still be so ga-ga in weeks to come, but with a list a mile long of places I have yet to see, I think it may be some time before I get over the honeymoon. If, in fact, I ever do . . .