First of all, I wanted to thank everyone for all of the encouraging comments in my post about feeling alienated as an expat. It became so clear to me that feelings of alienation are just so human. It can come as a result of radical changes in location, or more subtle things, like growing older, becoming a parent, changing professions, etc. It’s so human to not feel at home at many points in life, in our countries, in our bodies, in our communities… Anyway, it was good to “chat” about it in the comments, and helped me to process it all and continue to move forward through it. If you are feeling alienated in life right now, for any reason, I would like to encourage you to go read the comments!
Now, on with this post! Believe it or not, since we arrived here seven months ago, we had never been to London! That seems so ridiculous to me, especially considering that we are a two-hour drive away. Honestly, we had gotten the impression that going to London is a very, very tricky thing to do. You can’t drive there, they all told us. You can’t park there, they said. It’s crazy. It’s expensive. It’s a big ordeal! In fact, Americans in the area usually go on base and pay a very big amount of money (in my opinion) to take a bus in for the day, so they don’t have to deal with driving or public transport. We had thought that we should drive to the outskirts, pay for a day’s parking near a tube station and then ride for an hour on the tube to the city center. Then it would probably be prudent to spend the night, since there were so many logistical issues to take care of, subway schedules, etc. Can you see how all of this added up to thinking that it would be SO hard to just go? We had talked about it so many times, I had asked so many people about the best way to go, and it all seemed ridiculously complicated. Surely, I thought, it can’t be all that bad. I’m from Los Angeles, after all.
Finally, I had had it! I exclaimed to Jeff, “I think we are being big babies about going to London! Let’s just go, do our best for the day, and drive home! I don’t think it has to be this hard!!” We made the plan to go on Saturday, opting to park near a tube station an hour out. I took my usual trip to the butcher’s and told him our plan. He made a face when I told him we’d be taking the subway. I assured him I’d ridden the subways in Paris, and that it couldn’t be that bad. He shook his head and insisted that it really is almost as bad. Then, he came out with a piece of information that changed everything. “Why don’t you go on Sunday? There’s hardly any traffic, and you can find free parking in the city center.” Wait, what? Readers, did you know this?! Does anyone know this? He explained where to find it (near St. James Church) and told me he has a customer that is a professor working in London, who let him in on this secret. Plus, he added, it’s much quieter on a Sunday, since there aren’t any football games. Sold!
So, we put it off for a day, and went! Traffic was perfectly smooth, and we made it into the city center very easily within two hours. Once we found the parking spots (there were plenty) and got parked, there wasn’t much to it! Our original agenda was a bus tour, The Eye, maybe the Thames cruise… I was looking forward to all of that, but the biggest thing on my mind was having some good sushi and shopping at Anthropologie. Well, when we got there, it was cold and raining steadily. Frankly, the weather was absolutely miserable all day– the freezing rain and wind never let up. So we scrapped our tourist ideas, and decided to settle for walking around, Anthro and sushi.
We found the store. I was so excited, I could hardly stand it. I am a very difficult-to-please shopper, and definitely missed shopping at Anthropologie when I was in Germany, and since I’ve been here. But when we got there, it was closed! I looked it up online, and read “Store Hours Mon- Sat…” I was dumbfounded. I called the store, and no one answered, and there was no directory listing for hours. I smiled sadly at Jeff, and said, OK, let’s find some good sushi. He kept giving me these really sorry, pitying looks, and I kept telling him I’d be OK as long as I got to have some good sushi… Well, long-story-short, we walked around for two hours in the rain asking for recommendations and checking our phones for directions to a number of closed sushi places. In the meantime, refusing to believe that an Anthropologie in London would actually be closed on a Sunday afternoon, when all the stores around it were open, I did a little more digging and found out that it just opens in the afternoon that day! Oh joy! In our wanderings, we saw a couple of places that caught my eye. In fact, I stopped and photographed one of them, making a mental note that I would have to come back to it.
When we finally gave up on Japanese food, we had already explored a good part of the area, and knew where we wanted to go! We went back to that little restaurant that I had photographed, and they said they would not be seating for half an hour, but we could reserve a table for lunch. So we did, and went across the street to a cool little place that specializes in cured meats and Spanish wines. We had some sherry and a mixed plate of really excellent meats, including some of the most buttery prosciutto I have ever tasted! I love these kinds of little places, and Bury St. Edmunds is woefully behind in the food scene (more on that coming soon!) Jeff and I both love eating at restaurants, and have always been lucky to live in places with a really great food scene in the US, and we also enjoyed the food in Germany. After only a month in Bury, however, we realized that we were paying big prices for major let downs every time we ate out. Now, we pretty much never eat out. We have our friday night trip to the pub, and that’s it. After spending less than £50 a month on eating out for the last few months, we decided to just enjoy the all the goodness we could in London. I would like to note that the prices were not higher there than in our city, either!
She had brought a bit of allowance to spend in London and decided that she’d like to use it to buy herself a treat. She ordered chocolate mousse, and savored every bite!
Oh, what a day of indulgence! The architecture was gorgeous, the food was wonderful, and we felt so lucky to be in such a big, interesting city!
It was just starting to get dark when we left. Never mind the traffic and wrong turns that led to a three hour drive home in the pouring rain– we were SO glad we went, and can’t wait to do it again. On Sunday, of course!