Holiday review 2 - London
Saying goodbye to my family this time round was the most difficult since I first moved abroad, mainly due to the knowledge that I wasn’t leaving them in the best of situations and I felt bad for not being able to stick around, and made it worse by the fact that I didn’t know when I was gonna be back next.
But London was calling, and I was excited to answer.
The flight was a piece of cake compared to what I had been through on my way to Europe. I landed earlier than expected, the Gatwick Express ride went smoothly, I cried on the Bakerloo line.
After a good night’s sleep on Seba & Lucia’s couch, I felt refreshed and ready. As opposed to when I was in London last time, when I missed it so freaking much and I COULD NOT WAIT to be there, this time round I went in with no expectations, and I was really curious to see how I would find it.
Final response: I must have finally adjusted to the slow languidness of the Kiwi pace of life, because I didn’t handle London’s rhythms very well. I did everything I wanted to do on the first day (Brick Lane, Beyond Retro, Foyles, Whole Foods, Paperchase), wore off the initial enthusiasm and proceeded to have a panic attack on the Tube the day after.
In spite of avoiding rush hour and not being physically squeezed in between suitcases, pushchairs and strangers’ armpits, I still got emotionally paralysed and found myself clenching my fingers around the train pole so hard my knuckles went white. I could feel my heartbeat speeding up, my hands shaking, cold sweat rolling down by back.
I had to take it easy on my second day, stopping to catch my breath in several occasions and making sure I wasn’t gonna pass out.
I’d forgotten how overwhelming London life can be. Even as a tourist, simply surviving morning to evening requires a draining amount of energy. I found it hard to be surrounded by so many people who seemed in a constant hurry to get somewhere, and I was scared to realise how quickly I adjusted to it, also elbowing my way down the streets, getting annoyed at pedestrians for not walking fast enough, rushing in spite of not being in a rush at all.
At the same time though, I wasn’t able to keep up with it. In spite of starting off each morning full of plans and good intentions, I often ended up having to retreat back home at mid-afternoon just to get some peace and quiet.
I found a safe place at the The Coffee Tree, a cosy cafe where Lucia is a regular; we had breakfast there every single morning and talked about therapy, underwear, and being inept at applying makeup (however I should mention our conversations were often interrupted by the unignorable urge to pet Dadley (also a regular).
I spent the weekend with my two favourite mommas and their hilarious kid, went to feed the deers at the park, watched Big Mouth, and mostly just tagged along to their routine. Chilling with them and avoiding the madness of The Big City made me almost forget I was in London, which helped me find my mental balance again.
The rest of my stay was devoted to wandering around museums, exploring places I had never been (hello, Dalston), enjoying the unexpected beautiful weather and seeing friends old and new.
Overall, London is ever changing but always the same. I still wandered around familiar bookshops in Charing Cross Road, gagged at the abrupt stench of rubbish, vomit and urine in Soho, teared up in Southbank, sniffed the same old smells at the museums in South Kensington. My journey on the Tube was still made more pleasant by musicians who in Welly would perform at San Fran and here busk underground.
London still feels like home to me, yet I wouldn’t be able to live there right now. I love to visit, yet I don’t feel like a tourist. I still wish I had regular access to it every six months or so, yet a week there was more than enough.
Visiting London made me realise I don’t want to be there right now. As much as I miss my friends there, was I to move back I would never be able to live the life I have here. I would never have the time I have here, to do all the things that I have been postponing for years and that now I’m finally doing. London can really be brutal in this sense, sucking all the energy out of you, forcing you on eternal commutes, funnelling all your savings in rent, tossing you around in between eight million other people.
I don’t know when I’m gonna go back next and I’m ok with it.
(Just kidding, I just found out there’s a Spice Girls UK tour next year so I guess that’s settled.)