That's how I found myself in London in mid-June, spending five days visiting my younger cousin Emily, who's been living there for the last nine months or so. She had to work most of the time I was there, but we got a weekend together & some quality time in the evenings. I spent my days wandering the Square Mile on my own - no real plans or itinerary, just looking. Here, 25 short takeaways from my first - but surely not last - trip to England.
- We may all speak English, but it sure doesn't all sound the same. The meaning of this menu board in Borough Market, for example, is almost wholly lost on me. Bacon & cheese? OK, got that much, but... what is this thing, actually?
- I'm a sucker for kitschy souvenirs.
- Public transportation is about the same everywhere, or at least everywhere I can understand the language. Move quickly, look like you know where you're going, carry a map in your pocket, & don't ask people for directions if they look like they're in a hurry.
- The British are serious about this tea thing. This picture, for example, was taken in a neighborhood pub.
- The British are also serious about bizarre flavors of potato chips. This isn't even the weirdest one I spotted! These are on par with Canadian ketchup chips & "all dressed" chips. Except than I got back to the States & found steak-flavored chips, so maybe we're catching up?
- Starbucks is reliable everywhere. And I am predictable everywhere.
- The queen really is looking great these days.
- Three people asked me if I was Canadian. I suppose this is because some Americans are identifiable as such no matter where they go, & others blend in slightly better.
- You've never seen true bling.
- London's Tower Bridge is, fortunately, not falling down. In fact, Tower Bridge appears quite sturdy. Also, there's nowhere to go if you get caught in the rain while crossing a bridge.
- Every Chinatown is the same. I assume that no Chinatown is anything like China, but I do appreciate the consistency.
- Remember how the steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car in
British vehicles? Yeah, I didn't remember that, either, & I probably
would've been flattened by a bus or seven if the streets of London
hadn't been kind enough to remind me which way traffic was coming.
- If "Beefeater" is not the absolute best job title, I sure don't know what is.
- Gummy candy in America does not matter. I've always considered myself a bit of a gummy candy connoisseur, but when I tried Britain's offerings in this culinary category, it was like I'd never had a piece of gummy candy in my life. Rowntree's Randoms are the work of some sort of fantastical taste bud magician, I swear to you.
- It's easy to think you won't be like every other tourist. It's even easier to be like every other tourist.
- Foreign money is hard. And mathy. Luckily, if you pick a slow time when there isn't a line (sorry, a "queue") piling up behind you, most cashiers are willing to help you figure it out. If I got ripped off, at least it was done to me with a friendly smile.
- Buckingham Palace is sort of underwhelming. Also, gaudy. Like, it was pretty cool to be at Buckingham Palace, but... man, it was a little bit of a letdown. White House me any day - though I do appreciate this solid fencing.
- Day drinking is more delicious when your beverage comes with a colorful bendy straw.
- Forget Disneyland. THIS IS THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH. I'm going to devote a whole post to it, I think, but for now, suffice it to say that this was one of the most exciting places I've ever been & even if I hadn't seen anything else while I was in London, this alone would've made it worth the trip.
- Christianity gets all the coolest sites, you know? Gimme a historic church over an historic synagogue any day. Sorry, my fellow members of the tribe, but this one is what it is.
- Urban art: It's not just for Brooklyn!
- I couldn't figure out how to get into the Ministry of Magic, damn it.
- Big Ben is situated stupidly. It's right outside a tube stop, such that when you come up from the subway, OH, HEY, THERE'S BIG BEN. The result is a lot of rubbernecking tourists clogging up the street, the sidewalk, the escalator out of the tube. Not that fun. I took this picture, wandered down the road to snap a photo of the London Eye, & then immediately exited this part of the city for an area less overwhelmingly crowded.
- Seeing London & all of its famous sites in person was incredible - but spending time with my cousin, who I've never been particularly close to but have a surprising amount in common with, was infinitely more important to me than any building or landmark.
- Not checking my work email for an entire week is simultaneously the most stressful & most freeing thing in the word. I should definitely do this more often.