“A Friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of Nature,” so mused Ralph Waldo Emerson, big papa of the Transcendentalists.
You may find yourself flying through the sky over ice-capped Himalayan peaks, or at the mouth of a glistening Holy Ganges; surrounded by California’s magnificent redwoods, or laying under the sun on one of Hawaii’s milky white beaches … but you’ll never feel so blessed as in the company of a good friend.
(Of course, the ideal situation is: good friend + gorgeous surroundings + nature’s highly underrated masterpiece: fresh local grub. But out of the clouds, and back to the subject at hand …)
Walking past Brixton station, it’s 1 am. To my left, the ominous church where a drum and bass night called Mass once went down. Booming basslines and clumsy walks down winding stairwells. Nineteen years old, without a friggin’ clue.
I can’t believe it’s been five years since I lived in London.
It wasn’t as though I didn’t want to come back. I’d just never really had the cash to pull it off. Ever since I’d left, my life seemed to be a series of incredibly dramatic events. They were exciting, horrendous, lesson-filled, reactionary times.
So it’s especially heartwarming to come back to my second home this time, with my feet on the ground, at least, relatively speaking!
I visited with everyone I could possibly see, spending two or three solid days and nights with each homey, moving around like a proper tramp, with my surprisingly heavy backpack (I’m such a girl when it comes to packing!).
It was a good time to practice non-attachment, to the past, to expectations, to the comforts of a less travely-existence :o)
But mostly it was a good time to relish in that unique love shared with very old homies. (Yup, the older I get, the cheesier I get. There’s just no fighting it!)
We saw fabulous art as often as possible – lawd knows I didn’t get enough of that in the Middle East!
Munched on all manner of delectables, from Tomato Wheat Crunchies (purchased for my arrival, I can’t believe you remembered, Chippy!) to gourmet meals of lemon sole atop fennel and white wine risotto, accompanied by a raspberry spinach salad (hells yeah, Mr. Graham).
Stepping into someone’s unique corner of the world, you can really get a sense for the ins and outs of daily existence. It’s nothing like a window through which you peer, as with Skype or the occasional phone call. You actually get to walk beside them, down windy shortcut roads. You see where they spin records, meet their new pets, and have the honor of a roast with their legendary mother.
Too-rare, these shared moments on familiar ground …
Some of it was a surprise (the newly refurbished Victoria Line, the preparations for the Olympics, how settled-in everyone’s become). But what was surreal was not the nature of this mad 10-person 14-day extravaganza of 5 years of catching up and non-stop uber urban exploration.
What was surreal about it all was its familiarity and comfort.
Having lived in two states and two countries in the last five years, I can honestly say I’d be comfortable living anywhere. But this … this was a return home. Like my visit to Hawaii. And I know I’m a very lucky lady for having had these experiences.
Top five things I did in London you might want to try on your trip (keeping in mind, I didn’t really go as a tourist …):
5. Tripped around Shoreditch and had a tipple in Café 1001 (avoiding the food all together!). Get your ass a few blocks outta hipster central to Broadwick Market and the surrounding canal bits.
4. Saw loads of free art at the Victoria and Albert, Natural History Museum and the Tate Modern. Mmmmm, soak in the inspiration …
3. Ate some tasty grub at Hawaii’s very own Kua’aina burger joint. Don’t hold back on the pineapple! If casual sammitches aren’t your thang, I highly recommend a picnic in any of London’s most excellent parks (sorry, no fine dining suggestions from this rolling stone!).
2. Checked out a few new acts at the Lexington in Angel and Camden’s very own Lock Tavern. The music scene in London is much more accessible than in many other major cities – and you won’t be sacrificing quality for quantity.
1. Strolled Southbank along the Thames where a food truck market lead us to many a bridge to choose from – take one across the way and take in the propriety of Westminster. Top the night off with a proper Ale, cuz yes, we are that old now!