London has been our temporary home this summer, and even though I have the first flutterings of homesickness for dear old Virginia, I will miss the joys of this great, sprawling city.
Things I’ll miss about London/the English way of life
All of the glorious, beautifully maintained public parks. Really. I don’t think any city wins at the park game as much as London does.
Pubs and pub culture
Well-behaved off-leash dogs everywhere
Tea! It’s ubiquitous and well made and consumed on a near-constant basis. Unlike in Virginia, I don’t have to explain to anyone what I want when I order tea.
Walking everywhere, the preservation of walking culture, the delineation of trails and country paths
Preservation of history, architecture, and art throughout the city
Endless variety of things to do, see, and eat
Every imaginable international cuisine right at your doorstep (or, at least, an hour’s walk away)
The friends we’ve made (and reunited with) here
Things I won’t miss about London/the English way of life
Fish & chips. So overrated.
Sweltering daily rides on the Tube
Having to ride the Tube every day in general. (Although I vastly prefer it to the NY subway system! So much cleaner and quieter and more reliable)
Feeling like you are breathing in black clouds of toxins every day on the street. I am eager for that clean Blue Ridge mountain air.
The weather! (We had a gorgeous sunny, 80-degree day in Wield; then the next day, it was misty and rainy, and the Brits we were with literally walked out the door into the cold fog and said, “Oh, thank God, the weather is back to normal.” They’re insane.)
Walking behind people who are smoking and being unable to pass them
How outrageously expensive everything is (we can’t really complain, compared with actual Londoners, but it still was shocking)
Guion and I have been talking about London customs we want to adopt in our life when we get back to Charlottesville. For instance, we realized that we are really lazy about walking places. We live very centrally to many things, and yet we’ll choose to drive instead of walk 45 minutes. A 45-minute walk in London is no big deal. Other aspects to adopt: taking advantage of all of the hikes and parks around us; training the dogs to behave themselves better in public; and acting like tourists in our own city (e.g., we have lived in Charlottesville for six years and have still never been to Monticello. I know).
London, you’ve been grand. We hope to come see you again soon.
We feel the darkness of America from afar, but we are still enjoying our last month in London.
This past weekend, we were able to visit two green spaces I have long wanted to see—Richmond Park and Kew Gardens—and see Buckingham Palace for a hot second, Trafalgar Square, and the National Gallery. Photos ensue.
It’s hard to believe that it’s July, that we’re already in the final month of our sweet summer sojourn in London. This month, we have particularly enjoyed a bit less international travel and a bit more local travel: getting to see more London museums, parks, and neighborhoods. Despite my true nature as a small-town-loving woman, I have developed quite a fondness for this sprawling city. Some recent photos follow.
We were delighted to host Win and Tracy for the weekend in London. We had a full (and fortunately quite sunny) weekend with them, including a marvelous dinner at Dishoom (thanks, Granddad! We love you!), an afternoon at the Tate Modern (including the newly added wing), and a day exploring the gorgeous Hampstead area. Photos ensue.
I will share a few photos from our weekend in London with Grace and Jack, but I feel like I can’t post anything without saying a few words about Sunday’s massacre in Orlando.
I am so heartbroken and grieved for our country. We are such a disaster right now. I grieve for the LGBTQ community in Orlando and in the United States at large. I have ignorantly and naively believed that homophobia is passé, that we have progressed beyond such hatred and bigotry, and that gay people can finally exist, on the whole, in freedom and safety. Sunday was a horrific reminder that they cannot and do not.
And our country cannot and does not dwell in safety — but rather wallows in paranoia — because we are ignorant. Because the NRA lines the pockets of our legislators. Because we have chosen to believe that more assault rifles, legally, in the hands of civilians is a virtue. Because our elected officials would rather give people on terrorist watch lists access to guns than curtail the expression of the sacred (and I declare, fraudulently interpreted) Second Amendment. Because we would rather prop up a military state controlled by a reality TV star-cum-tyrant than live in freedom. We seem prefer this world of terror to the humanist and democratic ideals that the United States of America was supposedly inspired by.
Racism, fear, and ignorance will never make America great again. Trump and the Republican party seem to believe that they will.
But I can only hope — with no small degree of desperation these days — that the majority of Americans will look to Orlando, will look to the monthly mass shootings, will look to the faces of refugees and imprisoned black men and transgender people in North Carolina, and say: We reject fear. We choose freedom.
Thought: Perhaps part of what makes city-folk aggressive is the anonymity of urban life. I was thinking about this while watching people gripe and shove on the Tube (a few weeks ago, a large woman actually pushed me, as in, a hand flat across my back, into someone else so that I’d get out of her way). In little Charlottesville, I wouldn’t attempt much public rudeness, because the chances are strong that I could run into that person again. Maybe she is my postal office worker. Maybe she is my future financial adviser. But in the big city, cause a scene, yell, or shove, because you’re a free agent; no one knows your name; you will never see these people again. You’re not accountable to anyone. Anonymity, I surmise, tends to make people assholes (see: almost every comment section on the internet).
Correlated thought: And YET. I think London is an infinitely more polite city than New York? So far? At least, it is quieter. People stick to a strong sense of silent decorum on the morning commute.
(The title: Love this line from Mrs. Dalloway. I think, if I recall correctly, it’s from Septimus or Lucrezia looking at newly sprung flowers in Hyde Park.)
So on a summer’s day waves collect, overbalance, and fall; collect and fall; and the whole world seems to be saying ‘that is all’ more and more ponderously, until even the heart in the body which lies in the sun on the beach says too, That is all. Fear no more, says the heart. Fear no more, says the heart, committing its burden to some sea, which sighs collectively for all sorrows, and renews, begins, collects, lets fall. And the body alone listens to the passing bee; the wave breaking; the dog barking, far away barking and barking.
Ever since I read Mrs. Dalloway for the first time, perhaps 10 years ago, I have been dreaming about Hyde Park. (And Regent’s Park, for that matter, which we now live just a few blocks from.)
On Sunday, which was gloriously sunny and warm, we walked about five or six hours, starting at our flat and then to Hyde Park, through the park, then to lunch in South Kensington, and then to the Victoria & Albert museum. And then home. Exhausted and a little sunburned and very happy.
(As a preemptive warning, all of my post titles are probably going to be lifted straight from Mrs. Dalloway, which I am currently re-reading for the fifth time. I am suffused with emotion! It is everything I remembered it to be and more, particularly because I am actually living in her pulsing city.)
This is our neighborhood. It is immensely charming.
These gardens are the grounds of our neighborhood church in St. John’s Wood.
Looking forward to our first full weekend together in the city!