by Anna Maria D’Andrea
Recently, fairly recently, try as short as 3 weeks ago, the bright British City lights of London were to become my new home, well at least for a little while. I was determined to embark in this new adventure head held high and with fierce soldier like determination. Unfortunately as of recently, fairly recently, try as short as 3 weeks minus one day I no longer left the lovely island of Montreal and decide to start a whole other chapter of my life: find a job and find an apartment. Obviously the first needing to precede the latter. Oddly enough I find it to be quite exhilarating to have absolutely no clue where my life is going, no precise direction, no point B but rather many interrogation points all smiling at me.
Being one hundred per cent Montrealer, one hundred percent of Italian descent and almost one hundred percent British adoptee I decided it may be about time that I tackle here, the major points of among the most fascinating cities I ever laid eyes on. This may come as a surprise to many, as all my articles always have to deal with Italy; rest assured my heart always lies within the hills of my peninsula; however as of recent my short love affair with Shakespeare’s home has definitely left its mark on me. It also needs to be mentioned that the late riots perturbing London’s street have also been a driving motor to push me to finally share this experience with you all.
It was quite honestly a last minute trip. A long lost friend had invited me to visit him in London over a few glasses of bubble celebrating the New Year in Benevento. Before I knew it, I was on the first flight out for what was planned to be a three days trip to London. Not one day more, not one less. I figured three days were more than enough to get a sense of the city, indulge in some partying and make a quick trip to Buckingham palace and salute our dear Queen. I also shyly admit, as many, I had a very stereo typical image of London and it’s British in my mind: tall, blond, cold. Nothing to do with my warm southerners and not interested. After a rather tumultuous flight with Ryan air (note to self: never again) I finally was introduced to Gatwick airport. True to form, everything worked like clockwork and I was well into the city a short hour later.
My first impression of London: lights. They have conquered the city! In a dark February sky, all seemed as clear as day. Millions of people walking past each other, with each other, in a great waltz within Piccadilly Circus. This city had a great energy about itself that as tired as I was all I could think was: where do I even begin? The big billboards dressing Piccadilly seem to gaily announce that you have just entered the epidemy of modern civilization and yet its frame is hundreds of years old. Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dickens, Browning all graced this city and I can now see why. London is simply inspiring. The noisy music emanating from pubs and stores alike tell the tale of a lively city but yet old Victorian buildings remind you that there is something more to this city than just beer and dancing. I smile as I admire the black cabs speeding by the red telephone booths and it is no wonder to me now that Clark Kent chose them to magnificently transform into superman, they are simply endearing.
Needless to say my three days trip ended into a two week one with several missed flights in between. I just couldn’t leave. London makes your head spin and much like a drug you just can’t get enough! It is only after a few days of late late dancing, and late late rising that I was able to break free of my London comma and actually start touring the city. Accompanied by a very dear Tuscan friend (as any good Italian you always search for others!), I start by paying my respects to the Queen and examine the future home of our dearest Kate and William: Buckingham palace. Much like the stereotypical image of the British I had in my mind, the Queen’s home was imposing, cold, arrogant but breathtaking. It dompts you into a respectful silence with its long gray walls adorned by pretty arches. It is fully closed off by a high elegant steel and golden fence, and you have the distinct impression of being an outsider looking in, longing to get in. Tearing my eyes away, I find placed right in front of me the glorious Victoria Memorial dedicated to England’s longest standing sovereign. It is a tall white marble statue figuring Queen Victoria herself and various statues representing: Justice, Truth and Charity. It is a pedestrian area therefore it is guarded by a vast number of tourists and locals alike who in comparison seem so small, almost like ants.
Buckingham is really strategically placed for us fellow tourists, once you are done admiring the palace you can pass along to the memorial and end your day in grand St James Park. Miles and miles of green drastically contrast the grey buildings surrounding it. It is the perfect place to picnic and sit a while and let your sore feet take a breather. London is one of the cities in the world that has the most expansive metro (or tube as the British call it) system in the world, you can travel virtually anywhere with it. However, as for most European cities, you always need to arm yourself with a good pair of runners as walking is inevitable and to be honest too pleasant that you will not want to escape from it. My second point that I need to make here is that London is unfortunately ridiculously expensive therefore it is actually much cheaper to buy some groceries and prepare a quick picnic than to eat at a local restaurant.
My first excursion ended here with tired legs, exhausted eyes and with a few needed drinks with some local friends at the Zoo Bar in Leicester square…