My third week in London has just begun and I have become accustomed to certain senses of the city. Beautiful sights, aromatic smells, pleasing sounds, delicious tastes, and warm feelings have settled me into London life while keeping me more and more full of life.
When people think of landmarks of London, Big Ben probably comes into mind more than not. Funny enough, while Big Ben has been in an extensive procedure of restoration that covers it almost entirely with scaffolds, London has so much more for the eye to behold. In my first week, I was instantly struck by London’s fusion of modern and historical architecture.
There are classical Roman styled structures that remind me of Washington, DC, then there are experimental, intriguing, and odd-shaped structures like The Gherkin. Despite the appeal of the modern architecture, my favorite structure is St. Paul’s Cathedral, often referred to as renowned architect Christopher Wren’s masterpiece.
Wherever I venture to along the Thames, St. Paul’s instantly captures my attention, standing tall and proud as it even did through World War II bombings of the city. St. Paul’s is not only a beautiful site itself, but also a provider of one of the great aerial overviews of the city from the Tower Bridge to the London Eye.
Another one of my favorite sites is Queen Mary’s Garden in Regent’s Park. When I went off roaming through the large park and wound up engulfed in roses, I could not stop taking pictures. There are bunches of colorfully bloomed flowers that even shine through unexpected light rain showers. I have also loved the cities that my group has been on day trips to: Greenwich and Oxford.
Greenwich was structurally beautiful inside and out, taking me away from the fast pace and congestion of the city for a calmer aside. Oxford was also stunning and heart flutteringly familiar with its famous scenes from Harry Potter.
I have also been engulfed by the art museums and galleries from the Tate Modern to the art of the Queen’s house in Greenwich and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Lastly, I have been swooning at the street style of the fashionable people in the city as well, using the bold style for inspiration as well as drawing material. Needless to say, my camera roll is far more full than it was before.
Coffee would have to be one of London’s smells I love the most because I need it almost every day. However, I love roaming around the corner and taking in the aroma of fresh mozzarella, or going into a bakery and whiffing the fresh pastries and confectionary. London is also a city that welcomes greenness.
There are trees along the streets and flourishing covering buildings, then there are also plenty of parks and gardens in different areas. You can literally stop and smell the roses. While London is no grass field of fresh air, it never feels like the city is completely suffocating and suppressing me.
There are also several major food markets. One day I went through Borough Market and had to prevent my nose from convincing me to have a second lunch. Another day, on the way to a Brick Lane bagel shop, I literally had to stop breathing because the smell of a barbecue stand was to die for. If I let my nose and eyes be more ambitious than my stomach, I may run out of pounds and gain them.
As a major city, London naturally comes with sounds to accompany the sights. Despite being from a quiet suburban home and mountainside university, I do not take dislike toward the sounds of the city. There is a reassurance and liveliness in the honks of cars, even if they startle me when I cross the street at the wrong time.
There is also this feeling of wanderlust when the next tube train zooms in with a giant force of hot wind and screeches to a stop. There are music players on the streets and posted in the stations as well.
Also, being in a theatre program, I have enjoyed the sounds of actors boldly proclaiming lines from the National Theatre to Shakespeare’s Globe.
The most reassuring sound of my placement in the world would have to be the accents though. Being in a group full of American students, I am often surrounded by comfortably comprehensible voices. However, when we are outside of our own (loud) Americanness, there are British accents, as well as many more of the diverse city. Amongst the British accents are subsets of dialect and specific natures of speaking.
It is essentially like how regionalism and upbringing effects the range of American accents from New Yorker, to country, to valley girl. Outside of the varying British native accents are many foreign tongues, which truly define the multicultural being of the city. Nevertheless, I enjoy bashfully voicing my American accent and interacting with British accents. While our languages are the same, the are at the same time quite different in vocabulary and enunciation.
When people think of food akin to England, fish and chips is first to mind. My first day here I had the traditional fish and chips with mashed peas, which was good as always, but it is not necessarily a life changing meal. Still, as a multicultural city, there are countless restaurants that provide many different tastes.
My street is full of Indian restaurants, one of which I had a delicious Biryani. On my street there is also a great nitrogen ice cream spot which is aesthetically pleasing from my eyes to my taste buds. On Brick Lane I got a coconut pastry for 90 pence and I am craving it again.
In Oxford’s Covered Market I saw a Greek gyro in passing and knew I had to have the seasoned French fries and chicken wrapped in pita. The other day I tried a pizza chain Pizza Express that was so good that after a few bites, I proclaimed that I would pay the price to return. I have also been eating away at a bag full of foreign chocolate that my new British friend got me.
My feel of London is more of a sixth sense as opposed to touch (because touching everything in the city is not the most practical/germ-free approach). There are some objective differences, from the household machines with button push toilet flushing and or our door that locks fifty times.
There is the swipe of my Oyster card that grants me access to the next tube to somewhere amazing. There are the sometimes close quarters of a busy and bumpy train as I grasp onto the poles for stability. There is me picking through unfamiliar coins to put together a sum of pence.
However, all in all London has given me a feeling of amazement beyond my five senses. The excitement refuses to die. A rainy day still transforms into a breath taking night at the theatre. A lonely afternoon turns into a heart warming roam around a park or sit down at a cafe. A tiring day of touring leads to beautiful walls of art and history.
I am falling so in love with this city and growing so inspired that it may be best for me to leave in two weeks so that I can step out of the unending wander and astonishment and give my energy time to be put to fair use. I may have come to London only to be taken so many other places.
I did not know how London could get better at the end of week one, but in week two it did. I am still pinching myself unsure if all of this is 100% real, but I have a feeling that there is only more to come in the third round.