Day 375 - London Calling

Trip Start Nov 07, 2010
Trip End Jan 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
Dan & Fay's Flat

Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Foggy old London town. I never in a million years thought I would make it here.  Having met so many travelers along the way who hail from this perpetually grey isle, there's no shortage of friends to see or incentive to make the journey.  It was more a pipe dream than anything, to hitch across Europe from the gap that separates Istanbul from Asia, and make it to the furthest most Western country I could possibly be.  After leaving the sunny shores of southern Spain, a short flight from Seville to Gatwick plops me down unceremoniously amidst a cloudy storm.  It’s a fitting welcome to this drab but colorful place.  The weather may be unceasingly dreary, but the people and the city make up for it in their witty and appealing sense of taste.  A long train ride to the Northern boroughs takes me to an epic meeting of two long lost friends from Laos who still mean the world to me even after eleven months of time and space.  These plucky Brits, Dan and Fay, like wandering and free spirits caught up in the rush of life, love and seizing the day, have gladly agreed to give this lone traveler a place to stay.  We see the city at night and the lights at play, dancing blue circles across statues in Trafalgar Square and reflecting off the stone facades of Victorian buildings that stand like great accented walls of a fortress that surrounds you every which way.  The avenues are packed with bright red double-decker buses and black monotone cabs that hark back to a simpler day of this city’s existence, when the industrial revolution was at hand.  Around every corner, the buzz of London calling, alive - cars honking, tires squeaking and thick accented voices floating into the night sky.  We saw all the major sights there were to see, from Westminster Abbey, the grand Parliament building and the luminously blue London Eye.  This city has such a distinct feeling of old, in the grizzled faces of grey chaps squaring up to the pub, the elaborate styling of West End theatres and the architectural splendor that evokes stories of notable local writers and poets, and who can neglect to mention the ubiquitous red, white, and blue Tube running serpentine tracks below the bustle of the city above.  It all screams out, "London!" the minute you step foot into the maze of smoggy streets and perfect green Victorian parks.  I have a week to explore and get a sense for this great city - a place I’ve never been before, but feels like home - thanks to the welcoming embrace of good friends and cold pints in the warm radiance of a fire’s glow.  The last stop on a long journey, but it feels right to end it here, amongst the seed of my homeland, the spark of revolution that led to a great democracy.  The oddest part about it all is hearing my native tongue, snippets of conversation and words, or phrases that catch my ear at each turn.  I’m still not used to being in a place where English is universal, and it’s an odd sense of eavesdropping and quizzical curiosity when I find myself smiling at a strangers remarks about their knob of a husband, or the embarrassing doldrums of their last sexual encounter.  I guess it’s a good start to readjusting to Western life, for my inevitable return to the shores of America where I’m destined to fly.  For now though, I just sit back and enjoy the experience.  The pies and pints, fish and chips, Yorkshire puddings and late night trysts, it’s all like a dream, so surreal at the end.  My last week along this spontaneous journey, and I couldn’t think of a better place or better people for me to spend it with.  Whittling away the long days in the twilight of one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had.

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