thoughts on london

I have been in London for three weeks.  I have come and gone over the years for a few days here and there but not for an extended period of time.  The last extended period of time was in college when I spent a semester abroad living in South Kensington while taking classes in the City near Shoreditch.   A lot has changed.

Vast amounts of wealth from the Middle East and India is something that I noticed more than anything.  Walking through Mayfair on any given night you can easily see 5-6 Rolls Royces on the streets.  Lots of women with burkas carrying Gucci bags and wrists adorned with diamond gold watches.  Money seems to flow like water.  Glitz and cash galore.  You don't see that in NYC.  London appears to be a portal for the rest of Europe and the Middle East.  On one hand, I look at how much time, energy and money our country is giving to the Middle East as well as India and take pause.  The people I see on the streets certainly come from these areas of the world and I wonder if they care about their fellow countrymen who have not had the success or education that the foreigners (themselves) in London have had.  Are they giving back to their country?  On the other hand, perhaps these foreigners have fled their country and have found success in London as many people have in the US.  So it is not for me to judge but I can't help but wonder.  The full on burka, seeing only the eyes of the women underneath and just getting a peek of the wealth under their robe makes me uncomfortable and I am not sure why.  This topic has definitely been one we have discussed many times since being here.

I love all the parks in London.  There seems to be a park at every turn, down streets, in squares.  Almost a found refuge from the bustling of the city.

I love how they call the bathroom "the loo".

I love the tube and the unsaid rules.  Stay to the right if you just want the escalator pull you up and the people who want to run upstairs should stay to the left.  Very civilized.

I love the locals pubs and how people hang outside at lunch and drinks pints of ale. 

I find it frustrating that everything is only sold in stores that are made for each individual item.  You can't buy a notebook at a pharmacy or grocery store.  Drugs and shampoos are for the pharmacy.  Food only is for the grocery store.  Advil is only for the pharmacy.  Very old school.  

I love the easy access to Europe.

Walking down the streets is frustrating.  Nobody seems to have any feeling for their space.  Maybe it is because they drive on the other side of the street than we do. 

London is huge.  Food here was god awful 30 years ago and a lot has changed since then. 

The museums are fantastic.  Cultural is everywhere.  Theater is huge.  Restaurants are abundant.  Neighborhoods are defined.  In many ways, it feels like NYC.  English is spoken which is a huge plus for Americans. The access to transportation and cultural activities is similar to NYC.  But at the end of the day, as much as London has changed dramatically since I spent an extended amount of time here which was during the Thatcher years, culturally we are very different.  I can't give specific examples or point to one particular thing but the Brits are a very different animal.  All sentences end in questions.  Words and explanations are different.  It is a very good thing.  You might see a Gap here or an American Apparel and anything you can buy here you can basically buy in the states but it is different.  Thank god.

I am very ready to go home.  It has been an interesting three weeks.  I feel I am on vacation but not on vacation.  Sort of in limbo.  The place I had to rent because the place I rented six months ago was flooded, leaving me with very few options, is "ghetto" as Jessica called it.  That probably made a difference.  Great location, weird place.  Was supposed to be a time for me to be myself while Emily went to school which didn't happen so that changed everything.  I do love that we all got to know London and where everything is.  Can't beat that.  I like London but not sure I love London.  

It was an amazing opportunity to be in London for three weeks and parts of Europe for two more.  I miss my bed, my pillow, my kitchen and my dog.  My clothes are so gross that I might consider burning them.  I miss having some structure.  I miss my friends particularly one friend who is hard to live without.  Lots to think about now that we are leaving.  I liked how Emily put it.  She said that the opportunity to go to school for three weeks in London among peers from all over the world was eye-opening.  Different walks of life from a variety of educational backgrounds.  It put her in a position to glimpse at the world at large.  After all, as the world gets flatter, these are the kids she will be competing against around the world.  To see the kids mental drive, energy and competition level from different countries gave her a lot to think about.  That is really what these trips are about.

Seeing all our kids take a step back and see the world at a very different angle is a privilege.  These experiences are life changing.  Re-visiting this trip around our kitchen table six months from now is really what is of interest.  Taking a step back and realizing what we saw, what we learned and of course what we ate, is what the adventure is all about.