Falkirk Wheel, Panoramic view.

Falkirk Wheel, Panoramic view.
Image by Cameron Lyall, GNU license Wikimedia

08 June 2011


Going through Heathrow customs was one long de Botton flashback. We survived a red eye flight across the Atlantic, had a smooth touch down and transition through customs. The one thought that stuck out in my head was "That's Helvetica font" on all the customs signs. I looked at the people around us and wondered why they were traveling. For some it was obvious, the backpackers with their backpacks, the business men in suits with briefcases, families shepherding children--the mothers as bleary eyed as I felt, fathers mulling over the duty free liquor purchases. The bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label is so much cheaper here...

Our bed and breakfast has a great deal of character (when character means is older, though nice, with a room smaller than the dorm room I had to myself shared by three people--none of whom can change in there at the same time). We've figured out the Underground system and that food in London is expensive. Some of our conceptions of normalcy have been challenged, wifi is scarce and the cars drive at you from the right. The streets signs are not always in plain sight. I imagine the planners of the city already assume you (as the pedestrian/driver/boozing stumbler) know where you are going instinctively--and if you're a cabby that's probably true. I figure since we've been in this country half a day we are now entitled to describe to these people how they've been doing it wrong all this time.

Of course, I jest.

It doesn't feel real yet (whatever real means). In our red eyed haze London feels like another city, one populated by people who have jobs, who work, who have their own concerns and desires. For these people London isn't an exotic locale, it is home. To me at least, London feels like Chicago, a big city I've been to before and trust. Now if only they'd put the street signs near the street and not on the buildings I'd feel better. Maybe when we wake up tomorrow it'll hit us that we've come near 5,000 miles across and ocean and two continents. I joked with my friend that this summer I'm going 5,000 miles away to find myself, because even though my 'self' is the closet thing to me, sometimes that anchor seems the hardest thing to find.

Hopefully the girls will also learn to trust my sense of direction...but I won't cross my fingers on that one.


salvo said...

Uh, um, Ross, after your travelmates visit the Boudica statue under Big Ben, you won't be referring to them as "girls," big boy.

tcsalvo said...

Resist the urge to buy that blue bottle of Johnnie Walker, no matter how cheap; you'll find better soon. Seriously, London can be expensive, but I've always enjoyed picnic meals with good (inexpensive) bread and cheese from Marks & Spencer.

Amazing, too, how an old city like London can accommodate both the historical and the modern.