Monday, November 17, 2014


London is...Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, the Beatles, Shakespeare, the Thames, London Bridge, the Queen, the neo-Gothic Parliament, the Tube, Petula Clark singing "London is London". At least it was all this and much more in my mind before I got there. And obviously one week only allowed me to scratch the surface of this multi-layered metropole. Although in the end all big cities are somehow the same: multicultural financial, commercial and artistic hubs, filled with tourist traps and charming corners, packed with museums, immigrants, designer and souvenir shops...and amazing food from all over the world. I had a very weird feeling as many sights reminded me of North America, obviously it's Canada and the US that took after Britain, but it depends what you get to see first.

I could list a whole amount of things I wish I did when in London, like go out more at night, explore the immigrant neighbourhoods and the greener surroundings. On the other hand I did many other things that filled my heart with joy, especially that my partner in crime was my mom, to whom I promised this trip a long time ago.

Trafalgar Square
She studied English at the university, the Beatles are her favourite band, Shakespeare her favourite writer and her thesis dealt with science and pseudo-science in Chaucer's work. It was my dream to fulfill her dream and take this trip together. Turning 40 there felt like it was just the right time, 40 years also after she finished university. Not that she's satisfied now, I found out that Russia and the Red Sea corals and fish are still next on the list.

University mates, friends from Canada, Barcelona, a British ex-employer and a doctor friend from the cruiseships all live in this Babel Mecca now. Two of my Romanian friends there met me in Lisboa while travelling. So it was a great opportunity to see them all, catch up and eventually introducing them to each other, as three are Romanian single moms. Helping people becoming friends is one of my greatest joys. It all started with a college friend offering me accommodation responding to a Facebook announcement; last time we met at night on the street in Padova back in '99.

Saint James Park

Of course museums and luxurious beautiful shops like Fortnum&Mason are great sights, but somehow you can find similar ones in every other historical big city. If I was to make a top of the things I enjoyed most I would say theatre, the parks, the markets.

To me there's no theatre like the English theatre; lately I tend to favour more and more nature over buildings and I found the local markets to be lively and different, especially Camden Lock and Borough Market. I'm pretty sure I would have enjoyed the immigrant East and South areas but time was short and temptations plenty.

Borough Market
Camden Market

Plus, one of our best decisions was to visit Canterbury, host to the most important Anglican cathedral nd to Chaucer's colourful tales.

Whistable is a charming seaside town just half an hour away that was totally worth the detour even considering the sudden rain, that threw an amazing light over the sea. With all those North American reminiscences hitting every now and then, the lobster shack and the beach huts made me think of Cape Cod.

The green landscapes of Kent looked picture perfect, just like the charming XIX-early XX century looking shops, coffee shops and pubs. I felt respect for tradition and a certain way of doing things. People were mostly polite and cheerful, quite accommodating I would say.

English gastronomy may not be famous but I've discovered a whole variety of beers, great dairy products, cheeses like Stilton and Red Leicester and of course amazing oysters and real salmon, that I miss so much in Portugal where we only get some fake farm-raised Norwegian variety.

All together it was oh, so charming indeed! I'd definitely go back there for another round.

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