London has always fascinated me. More so for the simple reason that I’ve lived there an entire year, and yet, don’t have a single memory of the city or my time there. All I really have are my mum’s stories and a handful of yellowed photographs that put me in a pram in front of the Tower Bridge, in a garden filled with roses, or bundled warmly in a thick pink coat, waiting for my grandfather to take me for a ride on the double decker bus. Lucky for me, life hands out second chances in generous measures, and I got to experience London again — for the first time!
London held me captive from the minute I glimpsed down from the tiny plane window and saw the zillion pinpoint lights set against the inky black of night. But even this didn’t compare to walking down its unfamiliar streets with familiar names, gazing up at impressive structures in their Victorian splendour and watching the myriad red double decker buses drive hurriedly by.
While we did all things touristy, like take a spin on the London Eye, walk down the Tower Bridge, visit Westminster Abbey, chance a peek at No.10, Downing Street and gaze in awe at the Buckingham Palace, the really enjoyable moments were more random. Like watching a penny-picker jump into the fountain at Trafalgar Square – and get whistled at and shooed out by a bobby, watching passers-by feed the ducks at St. James’s Park, and simply photographing life on the streets of this majestic metropolis.
The biggest moment, for me at least, was taking that first, wonder-filled bite out of a scone. With clotted cream and strawberry jam and butter, no less! For years, scones, with their enticing accompaniments had been held somewhat sacred in my mind, a food fantasy inspired by Enid Blyton’s books that offered an intriguing peek into midnight feasts at St. Clare’s and Malory Towers, picnics on a private island and sunny, outdoor adventures. These books had been a huge part of my life, in a small town in India – and my escape into a more enthralling, alternate world.
Served elegantly, part of the famous afternoon tea, it was everything I had always imagined, and more. And the tea, was perfect.
But wait. There was more in London’s foodie line-up of deliciousness. The breakfasts were huge and hearty, and the fish & chips were to die for. The pancakes were soft and subtly sweet, while the tea was perfect, just perfect. Or did I mention that already?
On the flip side – and there usually is one – the weather was terrible. For someone from a hot, tropical country, it’s not the warmest welcome you can get. It was freezing cold, and wet, and thoughts of death by pneumonia may have crossed my mind more than a few times.
Now, when I look back at our time in London from the cozy confines of my couch in sunny India, what comes to mind is only everything beautiful and everything enjoyable about the city. They say the first time is always the best. I’m just glad I experienced that, twice over.