My experiences with the beautiful city of London, England were facilitated by my husband and another woman. Several, in fact.
I wasn’t trying to snoop when I found his journal, some parts barely legible in testament to what a great time he had backpacking in Europe during the summer of 2004. I should have left it unread, as our relationship was in its budding stages at the time it was written, but could you have put it down were you in my shoes?
Come on, don’t lie now…
Her name was Jessica.
Luckily they didn’t find each other (and I didn’t find her) until almost the end of the journal, so I relished living in the head of the rather quiet, reserved man I love for most of an afternoon, seeing London through his eyes. It left me thirsting for more, scrawling “London” in hopeful letters on a business envelope destined to hold all my spare dollars until I’ve saved enough to see The Square Mile for myself with him by my side.
The usual suspects received honorable mentions in his notes: soaring Big Ben spotted from the top of the Eye of London Ferris Wheel, the Thames River which boasted a curious collection of macabre bones along its bank, even a thumbs up for the Tower of London (despite being closed for security reasons) due to the presence of the queen – he snapped the loveliest picture of her dressed in yellow by scrambling on top of a nearby wall.
London teems with people of different ethnicities, more than we see here in our self-imposed suburban cultural monotony, and few wear baseball caps or garbage sacks, in sharp contrast to what can be found in the big cities of the U.S. The Victoria Station, a frothy people-watcher’s paradise, launches tourists all over the lustrous city. The line to see the Crown Jewels was likened to that of Disneyworld, but my husband of zero patience ranked them worth the wait. Amazing. Regent’s Park on a Sunday afternoon in June, while home to over four hundred acres including such sights as Queen Mary’s gardens, offered greater interest to be found in the people surrounding the elegantly beautiful walking paths and fountains. For a young man from Tennessee, the allure of so many languages spoken around him added a textured layer of richness to the landscape.
London offers a feast for all the senses that’s sorely lacking in souveneir plastics or even masterful photographs. Her visitors must be seen, her flowers smelled, her languages heard. The interactions with others drawn to this fairytale city complete with castles and princesses sets this crown of England apart from other world destinations. Until you’ve scrambled atop your own wall to glimpse a queen, puzzled over your own mysterious bone, or tossed a wayward ball back to a child who thanks you in a language different than your own, you can’t really say you’ve lived.
So start your own envelope and relish the experience that is London. You might even meet Jessica. If you find her, tell her I said hey and I don’t hold a grudge.
Why should I? I got the guy.
Long live London. Can’t wait to meet you for myself.
Images are property of Justin Coulson (dear hubbie), unpublished elsewhere, available for use, all taken June 2004, applicable captions as follows: 1. Girl reading outside the British Museum, 2. A quick glimpse of the Queen of England outside Buckingham Palace, 3. Tourists congregating outside Buckingham Palace, 4. View from the Eye of London, 5. Justin Coulson during backpacking expedition in London, with Big Ben in the background.