The past few days I’ve been happily trotting around London for a training trip with work, blissfully unaware of the chaos that reigned unchecked in my absence from Italy. Case in point—my boyfriend’s mother, who tripped and broke FIVE of her bottom front teeth, or the bizzare earthquake that rumbled through Florence accompanied by several baby aftershocks. Friends broke up with their significant others, others quit their jobs, and I returned from the hustle and bustle of England’s most cosmopolitan city finding that in just a few short days, everything had gone ass-over-elbow instead.
Before we go any deeper into what happened in Italy while I was away, let’s start off by saying this—I was more excited about visiting London in December than a fat kid in line at a Las Vegas buffet. Have you guys ever seen that “Friends” episode where every 30 seconds, Joey blurts out “IT’S LONDON, BABY!”? Yeah, that’s me.
Anyway, the entire morning before our flight I was like a little kid at Christmas with ants in my pants. I must have taken about 20 pictures at the airport even BEFORE we got on the plane, which thoroughly embarrassed my co-worker, but I was just SO EXCITED. It’s London, baby. And then, I got off the plane and immediately changed my mind.
Here’s the thing—I’m a small town girl. I grew up in California, but in the suburbs surrounded by lots of grass and places to ride my bicycle. And then I moved to Europe, which opened up my mind in a whole new way, but still—I live in Florence. If you’ve ever been here for more than 3 months, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a small town, where everybody knows everybody else and you float around in your security blanket because there’s a pretty good chance that even if you do end up face down in the Arno, at least one person will recognize your disgusting bloated corpse after you wash up along the dams at Ponte Vittoria.
London, on the other hand, is a whole different universe. I stepped off the train at Victoria station and into a sheer madhouse of bodies all rushing past me, elbows held out aggressively from their bodies to check the never-ending tide of people crushing in around them. Shrinking back from the waves of chaos, I stood timidly in the middle of the train station, anxiously looking around for my co-worker, who was fearlessly charging ahead through the masses of people, confident in her knowledge of the city seeing as how she had already lived there and knew the ropes. I, on the other hand, spent the next 3 days alternately bemused, shocked and thoroughly bewildered as I attempted to keep up with the mayhem.
In the few quiet moments before the sky lightened enough to feel like daytime, I meandered through the neighborhoods near our posh Kensington hotel, admiring the classic white Victorian buildings and soaking in the English charm. This was what I had been hoping for, not the panicked feeling I got every time we had to brave the hoardes of people while taking the tube.
After a whirlwind few days of meetings, parties and pubs, I was more than ready to be back on a plane heading to Florence. Although I had enjoyed my brief glimpse of the city, the sparse daylight hours and stressful atmosphere of London’s city streets had worn me out. And then, of course, I just had to go through security at London Gatwick and fall into the 21st century a.k.a shopping Wonderland, where not even the joys of getting felt up by the airport security lady could compare to the glee I felt when I saw all the mini travel-sized toiletries lined up before me.
Seriously, Italy–is it too much to ask to stick in a Boots or a Waitrose’s every once in awhile? You sure know how to break a girl’s heart.
I’m not quite sure how I’d describe my feelings towards London after my all-too-brief encounter with the city, but I do know that I’d like to go back and continue exploring it one day. For now, though, I’m perfectly content to be sitting on my couch at home in Florence with Zola at my feet, with a BBC documentary on TV and my Cadbury’s chocolate in hand.