My excursion to London this summer came as a pleasant surprise. Amidst traveling through the UAE, the opportunity arose to visit London with a friend for a couple of days. I hadn't been to London in 8 very long years. When I was 16, I studied abroad there for a western civilization history course with Experience England. In a way I feel a real closeness to London. I experienced a lot of firsts while being there at such an impressionable age. That was probably where my real love for traveling alone developed. There was nothing more exhilarating than eating lunch at a cafe near Oxford Circus with me as my only companion. I think the only way to really ever know yourself is to be your own best friend. I've made a real commitment to being that ever since.
When I arrived in London this past June, my survival instincts were really put to the test. Having only packed for 40 C weather in Dubai, I became a layering master in London pretty quickly. My travel partner wouldn't be arriving until later that day so I was left to my own devices. After taking the tube into the heart of the city, I got off at Oxford Circus only to feel completely disoriented and overwhelmed. Thank goodness for the kindhearted security man at Mango who helped point me towards my hotel. Once I checked in and dropped my luggage off, I immediately grabbed the courtesy umbrella and hit the streets. I think what surprised me most was how unsurprised I felt, as if I had never left. But most great friendships work that way don't they.
In the span of three days I managed Picadilly Circus, Leicester Square, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square, British Museum, Covent Gardens, St James's Park, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, River Thames Cruise, Tower of London, St Paul's Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, Tate Modern, Rippley's Believe it or Not (yes I did it!!), Portobello Market, and Kensington Gardens. Needless to say, by the end of the trip I had nothing left to give. The highlights definitely had to be running into a high school friend on Oxford Street, the National Portrait Gallery (I heart Alex Katz), and Portobello Market. But above all, there is nothing like the feeling of rekindling a lost love with something or someone who shaped a great part of who you are.