Each year, colleagues ask why I travel to London on my own dime, when I can easily justify a business trip given that I attend a conference and spend a day or two in one of our regional offices whilst there.
But the beauty of my time in London is just that. On my dime, it’s my time. Free to spend hours at a time reading a book whilst enjoying high tea in Covent Garden, or wandering through the Museum of Natural History, pouring through books at Waterstone’s on Piccadilly or merely taking in the people all around me whilst sitting on an anonymous bench in Hyde park. This year, I decided to go old school, spending time in the Natural History Museum, the British Library and even the National Portrait Gallery. The Tate and Tate Modern can wait until next year.
For whatever reason, this trip was about reconnecting. With former colleagues I haven’t seen in at least 3-4 years and revisiting some of my favorite museums that never lose their mystique or appeal. I also wandered throughout the city more this time around, without an agenda or a place to be.
No, no, that was not meant to be salacious in nature. Truly.
Along with making a career change, traveling for the better part of the last six weeks, the mid-point of the semester for both kidlets, our eldest is in the throes of applying for college.
Or rather, she and her fellow class of 2015’s are in the homestretch of testing; here in the U.S. it ranges from the ACT, SAT, Subject specific testing, Early Decision applications, letters of recommendation and for other students like her that are “candidates for admission” to one of the four U.S. Military Academies, a battery of physical fitness exams, applications for congressional sponsorships which each require yet another layer of letters of recommendation. This is in addition to their every day studies and the various graduation requirements depending on the state in which they live in and or even the school district.
Add into the mix the enormous amount of pressure they are under from parents, their own expectations, the “competition” of their peers, some have part-time jobs, or full-time jobs, various home-life situations, sports or clubs or dance or, or , or…and of course, the fact that they are 16, 17 or 18-year old’s with raging hormones.
The work they are doing just to apply to college makes my head spin. And begs the question I’ve found myself asking other parents in similar situations. “I don’t remember it being this hard, do you?” Granted, I applied to college eons ago, and yes, I remember taking the SAT’s, once. Not multiple times or with the benefit of going to an expensive and intensive prep course. For my classmates and I, the majority of us knew we were going to go to college. For the majority of the majority, it was going to be college at one of the various in-state options and for others it was going to be the alma mater of their parents or grandparents and for a select few, it would be a school that was recruiting them for their academic and or athletic prowess. We looked at colleges by browsing the college catalogs in the high school counseling offices. No internet, no college fairs etc. We simply requested the application information via old fashioned snail mail and sent the same applications back the same way.
Maybe it’s a matter of looking back through rose colored glasses but I really don’t remember having to jump through so many loops or being pushed one way or another. Other than “you are going to college, not if”. In talking with several other parents, from a wide spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds, they remember it as I do. Almost a simple, what can you afford and apply there. That’s probably over-simplifying it but you get the gist.
What about you? Do you remember your senior year in high school, especially those educated in the U.S., being so rife with pressure and a double booked schedule just to shore up your resume to apply to college? I guess I just don’t remember it being so hard.
The trains were running on time that day and without fail, the train pulled in and I tried not to scan the crowd. I tried to be nonchalant, as if it were every week night that I met him. There, at the train.
And then my eyes met his cerulean blue eyes and the next thing I knew all decorum flew out the proverbial window as I stood up on my tip toes to kiss him…
Fellow Bloggers and people in my real life alike often ask what it is about London, that resonates with me? I don’t know the answer to that. No, wait, that’s not quite accurate. I don’t know that I can articulate what it is about Central London but it’s definitely a state of mind for me. Not unlike Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind
Truthfully, it’s not about England, or the other, even more amazing places throughout Britain or the United Kingdom. It’s definitely central London. I’ve friends and colleagues that are definite Anglophile’s and that isn’t me. I wish I could say it was but it’s not. No, it’s even more base than that. My entire being feels different the moment I step off the jet way and head towards immigration at LHR. It’s as if an electrical current is running through my veins and my soul sighs “ah, it’s good to be home.” There is no rational explanation but that feeling, the feeling of being right where I belong started from my very trip across the pond 13-years ago.
For a while, I worked in an organization where I traveled the world quarterly, which meant I was in London four times a year for a week. Granted, my free time was limited to the walk from my hotel to the offices in Soho and back. If I wasn’t too exhausted I would take my time walking back, take in central London at night, stop at any one of the numerous eateries for a bite or hit a museum that had late hours. I’d find ways to get out of the obligatory office dinner and drinks at least twice in a week to either take in a show or to simply immerse myself in London. Even after I moved to a new role in a different organization, London was never far from my mind.
So much so that instead of joining girlfriends for long weekends in Vegas or Napa, for the past 5-years I’ve set aside a week each September for a solo trek to mecca. I still have work accountabilities, and I make time for family time via Skype but with the time difference and my insomnia, I have entire days in London.
My personality shifts when I’m in London as well. Shifts may be too strong of a word. Maybe it’s more of an attitude adjustment. I feel more alive, I have more energy, I walk everywhere and I feel sexy. Not sexy as in come hither sexy but confident. No one knows me in London, well okay, that’s not true but it’s not like walking around the city I live in or even San Francisco or Los Angeles where I’ve lived etc. But in London, I am anonymous. Not invisible but anonymous.
As Ann St. Vincent knows, I had an appointment at Agent Provocateur during this past trip. While I’ve lost over 130-pounds and kept them off for the last 4-years, I’m still a bit too ample (or curvy as polite people will say to me-lol) to purchase some of the delicious items they have for sale. That doesn’t stop me from making an appointment each year and finding something to spend way too much money on, but I can assure you that I don’t know that I could do that here in the States. My state of mind whilst in London is one in which I don’t feel as if I have to shrink to belong in a store. Or perhaps it’s the more open culture in Europe in general?
Another store I adore is Coco de Mer, outside of San Francisco or New York City, I can’t think of any large, metropolitan city in the U.S. where you will find a beautiful and classy BDSM boutique amongst the high end shopping, boutique hotels, salons and eateries such as Coco de Mer in Covent Garden. While I may giggle a bit to myself whenever I cross the threshold, I never feel judged as I browse their offerings or when I step back out into the bustling sidewalks on Monmouth. The same can be said when scheduling a service at the Ministry of Wax (Hollywood all the way) no overriding feeling of needing to apologize in advance for being a plus size gal.
And of course, there are the book stores, the museums, the various walks of life every where. It’s the rush of life every where around you.
There is something to be said for confidence. For feeling good about where you are at that moment. For me, London personifies all of this for me…
The past 4 weeks have passed in almost a blur in which even in the rare moments of free time; true free time not dealing with the office across time zones, or spending family time via Skype or calls in the middle of the night (my time), or work in the time zone I was in at the time; I was mentally if not physically exhausted and just didn’t have the energy to post or keep current on the blogs I follow consistently. Oh, I “liked” posts here and there and even occasionally commented. But about three days into my extended travel over several time zones, for the first time in any of my travels, I had to simply focus on where I was at that time. Ok, that and I had eaten my way through the mini-bar in my lovely hotel in London. I not only spent way too many pounds, I gained a few too *smirk*.
Just started going through the pictures snapped since September 1st and realized I’ve traveled round-trip, from home to someplace back home, every weekend since Labor Day. Oy.
Each trip has provided lasting memories. But London. *sigh* London…