A London Moment I Almost Forgot
Today Sarah Elizabeth from SEDiva Abroad is taking over the blog, Sarah is an American living in Cork, Ireland which is a place I have recently visited and fell in love with. She writes a lifestyle blog where she shares her expat life and travels. She is here to tell you about her rather different experience in London. Go and check out her blog SEDiva Abroad.
I don’t remember my first night in London too well. I hadn’t been partying to hard or anything like that. It was Christmas time, and a couple of friends and I were headed to London for two days. After a four hour delay on the 40 minute flight from Ireland to London (grrr RYANAIR!!!!!), we finally landed in Gatwick and hopped on the train to town. But it was too late for me, it would seem. I was already sick.
It had been coming on gradually while we sat in the stuffy airport, but the altitude and recycled air of a stuffy airplane finally clinched it. When we landed in London, I took a couple of ibuprofen to try to abate the impending fever. We checked into the hostel, my friends – a guy and a girl who barely new each other but for me – were ready to explore the neighborhood hot spots, but I could only stay in bed.
My first (and only, thanks to RyanAir’s ridiculous delays) day in London, I woke up feeling worse. After a dreadfully feverish night that included the last of the ibuprofen and the wearing of a hat and gloves in order to keep warm from my pretend, it’s-actually-the-fever-doing-it chills, the thought of exploring a new though incredible city actually made me shake even more.
But my friends wouldn’t take no for an answer. They dragged me by my ears to the local pharmacy and bought me some coffee in a red Christmas cup, and off we went around the great city of London.
There’s something between a stress and a numbness that can occur when bustling around a city such as London. There are very few cities like it. I used to live in New York, and I just remember that after a few hours of shoving my way through the crowds, I could become inexplicably numb to the whole process. Nothing could phase me, and everyone was a blur. Now in London the millions of people pushing past each other on the frosty winter morning brought that familiar feverish haze over the experience, all the more poignant while cowering beneath an actual fever.
But it was beautiful. Amidst the throngs of workers rushing and tourists ambling, we strolled along contentedly through the streets, enjoying the city like a long-lost resident rediscovering her favorite haunts. I was weirdly grateful for the fever as we passed St. Paul’s and ambled over the Harry Potter bridge (I don’t have a better name for it, I’m dreadfully sorry). It made me take it easy and enjoy the oddly clear English morning; it forced us to walk slowly and sit often to people-watch. The fever was my excuse for buying an extra snug wool scarf to keep warm while traveling, and it was my reason for getting consistently delicious takeaway coffee at each charming little shop we passed. It was my reason for sitting on the stoop of St. Paul’s and gazing into the morning sun, and it was my reason for catching my breath as I watched the sun set over Big Ben across the water, perched happily on a bench in the Christmas market with some mulled wine and my woolen scarf. Have to keep warm after all.
That night, as we made our way back to the hostel, talk turned again to going out. The thought of drinking made we want to crawl right back into bed again. But with the promise of an early night and thoughts of my last and only night in London, I suited up and joined the friends on a trek to Camden Town. With a ginger ale in one hand, my friend and I sat in the back as the bar rattled with live jazz. We chatted about ridiculous things – our day wandering through the Christmas Market by the Eye, long-distance relationships, cheese – while the singer poured her soul in the song on the stage from what felt like a million miles away, though the decibels told me differently. I still felt like every bad word combined into one miserable human being. But it was epic. The unexpected experience of being perfectly lucid (well, as lucid as a fever will allow) in a Camden Town speakeasy was ridiculous and wonderful all at once, an opportunity for reconnecting with old friends and for really seeing London in all its random glory.
London will never give you what you expect. After living in the quietness of Cork for a year, I was after a city. I wanted the hustle and bustle and everything that went with it. And I got it, but not at all in the way I expected. Desperately sick, I was convinced of my utter loneliness in this huge and beautiful city filled with chattering and laughing while my friends explored and I lied motionlessly in bed. But in spite of everything, or maybe because of everything, London exceeded all expectations. I suppose that’s what it does, isn’t it? London exceeds all expectations – by defying every single one of them.