Oh London! How I have missed you. I was last here in 2014 with my best friend Cecil on our way to India for a 3 week adventure. While we only had about a 10 hour layover, we hurried to the Heathrow Express into Paddington station. In such a short time you can’t do a lot of what London has to offer but what you can squeeze in by just getting off at the Waterloo (or Westminster) station can easily fill several hours. Cecil had never experienced London despite being raised in Leeds as a young boy as his parents were immigrating to what would eventually be America. Coming up the steps into the warm sunshine and light breeze on a partly cloudy day, the excitement beaming from Cecil’s enchanting smile. We hopped into line for the Eye, boarded one of its cabins and ventured around its circle with great views of old London. Where it’s hearty history lies.
From there we crossed Westminster Bridge to take in the beauty of “Hey look kids, there’s Big Ben, there’s Parliament.” After holding our gaze there and Westminster Abbey for about 30 minutes and taking several photos we trekked up to Trafalgar Square. Feeling the growls of our stomach we headed into a pub to grab traditional English food consisting of Fish ‘N Chips and Bangers & Mash. Chased down of course with a couple pints of the finest hops and barley. Sadly, after that his brief experience with London was now just going to be a memory. Our flight would soon take off to Dehli for an entire new set of memories.
Now, I am back almost 3 years later and although the chill of the air causes me to pack in an entire different way, my burden is still light as compared to that day’s layover on our way to India. This time into Gatwick and taking the express to Victoria (I should have taken London Bridge) I switched trains on New Years Eve in the hustle of the hurried pace of a city headed to their destinations before the fireworks would begin at the London Eye at midnight. Arriving at Canada Water station, my friend Chris would scoop me up at a nearby cafe and we were on our way back to his flat. After catching up a bit and getting settled, we would head out to grab pints in the city. We would exit London Bridge station and find a nice sidewalk alley eatery serving Chorizo Paella which I happily enjoyed. Again, chased by a pint. It was cold outside but the warmth of the charm of the city helped blanket me from the chill.
From there Old Thameside Inn was calling us inside its warm interior to enjoy a couple pints along the Thames. Across Millennium Bridge we wandered past St. Paul’s Cathedral, where I visited in 2008, on my most recent excursion to this merry city. Finding it a bit more difficult on this side of the river to find an open pub, we did fall into Smiths on Smithfield and enjoyed a couple more IPA’s. Then it was time to fill our stomach’s again and crack on. Hopping the tube back to Chris’s neighbourhood, we would both enjoy a pizza at Plough Way Cafe. Afterward, we headed to his rooftop viewing party of the fireworks at the London Eye. While we were far away from the epicenter of London’s celebration, there was no escaping the awe of what your eye would see from afar while enjoying the company of many new friends. The breeze would pick up and the colder air sent everyone down from the roof about an hour later. Many of us stumbled down to the ground floor to continue the party in an apartment of a couple nice enough to allow that many people to imbibe and enjoy the good tidings of new year amongst friends.
London has a uniqueness about her. A distinct aura blended equally between the modern and nostalgic. It’s architecture and history lies beautifully between yesteryear and its magnificent present.
London never fails to warmly embrace me no matter how cold or biting her temperature is. The diversity of thought, color of skin, and accents are always a pleasure for me to experience. When I leave here I will begin to have my mind wander back to it, missing it even more, once again.
Big Ben, London