Thanks to studying for my Step 2 board exam in the middle of wedding season, I only scheduled myself 10 hours to explore London! 6 hours after landing the first day, and 4 hours the morning before the wedding ceremony.
I do seem to enjoy darting around excessively and unnecessarily before my friends’ weddings (I ran a quick half marathon before last September’s wedding), but the strangeness of this habit is not lost on me. How much can I really get to know a city if I’m mostly just moving around with my camera? And why did I choose to spend my valuable time abroad in such inauthentic fashion, working hard to misrepresent my trip through a few photos?
Without further ado, some photos! Click to view in theater mode.
I saw lots of Chinese people in Chinatown celebrating the 20 year anniversary of Hong Kong and then lots of Muslim people filling Trafalgar Square celebrating the Eid Festival marking the end of Ramadan. And if there’s anything that the English are good at, it would be occupying grass lawns. Everywhere there was grass there were citizens just lounging on them. With picnic blankets, without picnic blankets, without clothes. Sitting with friends, lying down with books. Even without grass, people were sharing benches or dipping their toes in fountains. I play spectator because I can’t authentically join their experience anyway. Better to play anthropologist.
However, I guess I could have joined the tourists filling Regent Street, or milling around in the National Gallery, or being hipster in Camden Market. I could have even joined the Potter fans at Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross! But I didn’t. I don’t care too much for a photo of myself clutching the half-vanished luggage cart or for artsy Instagram snaps of the stylish foods I select to represent my life choices. Besides, I had places to go, things to see, and very little time to do it.
So I ran by the Kensington Palace Buckingham Palace, 10 Downey Street, Westminster, Parliament and Big Ben, the Eye, and a few other landmarks both new and old. There’s some irony in spending July 4th weekend in England. Over there, they certainly don’t have a “Lost American Colonies Day,” do they? Unfortunately, I didn’t step inside any of the landmarks, which I regret. There’s so much history to witness and feel firsthand, but in this case I opted for breadth over depth.
Instead, my experience was dominated by more physiological concerns. With drinking fountains (bubblers?) few and far in between, I dropped by the local Sainsbury’s or Tescos or M&S for quick drinks and little eats. Turns out dairy is so heavily subsidized that milk is cheaper than bottled water. Better for oral rehydration too! And boy do they love to butter, salt, and pepper their sandwiches.
Believe it or not, I did all this without internet access! Gasp! Well, that’s a blatant representation because I had saved Google Maps and Spotify playlists on my phone and I was doing all of this to carry around my DSLR, but still! I’m frequently beholden to my internet image, and in London it was liberating to dart through a city of strangers with no one waiting on me.
At least, until I come back and post this three weeks later, ha.
The next morning, thanks to jet lag or something, I got startled awake at 5 am London time (which doesn’t make sense because it was midnight in New York, but i dunno), so I did the only logical thing and ran to the Tower Bridge, passing Trafalgar Square (double rainbow!), Parliament/Big Ben, the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Millennium Bridge and the Tate, the Tower of London, and Leadenhall along the way. I love experiencing a city alone when it’s quiet and empty. It’s like I can hear the echoes of the city’s own voice without the clamor of crowds drowning it out.
Or because I’m unreasonable and like running to much. Or because reasons. Whatever. Then there was a wedding, and it was wonderful. =)