Home away from home. That’s how I would describe my weekend. Spending less than two full days in London reminded me of the life I left back in December.
Friday morning: Travel time
Per my usual self, its a race against time to get everything in order before my 11 a.m. train to London. After almost an hour of trying to print my train ticket, I hurriedly jammed a dress or two, a pair of black skinny jeans and a toothbrush into my weekend bag making sure to leave room for any purchases I will undoubtedly make at Topshop. There are so many thoughts running through my head as I prepare for my trip. The truth is I am more excited about seeing old friends than about visiting the city itself. So with a half empty bag and a whole heart, I'm out the door and on a train to St. Pancras station.
As I sit in a window seat, I look out to freshly snow covered plains and freezing grape vines. Living in Paris, it’s easy to forget how much more there is to France outside of its capital. As I look out the window, I make plans to spend a weekend in the countryside near the water. But that has to wait. For now I’m off to Londontown.
Friday afternoon: 'Ello poppit
London is very different from Paris or the States. It’s kind of a funny city actually. When I hear the woman overhead in the tube say “Picadilly Line, mind the gap” I think I’m in a Harry Potter movie. I expect her to say “Sixth floor, Department of Mysteries,” but she never does.
I arrive at the Boston University dorms in Kensington barely three hours after leaving Paris. My friends are anxiously awaiting my arrival and bombard me with hugs at the front door. We monopolize the front entrance hugging and laughing because our excitement cripples our ability to multitask. I didn’t realize just how much missed the beautiful faces of my best friends until I saw them.
After a solid ten minutes of hugging and chatting, as all girlfriends do, we finally step out of the entryway and into the kitchen for a quick bite. I sip on coffee as the other girls recount their Thursday night. We seven girls sit around the kitchen table excitedly talking over each other just like back at home. For the first time since coming abroad, I am reminded of the Boston I left.
Friday afternoon: I can't be stopped
Topshop. All Saints. Topshop. Don't even get me started...
Friday night: The London Bridge is falling down
I slip into my new beaded white crop top from Topshop before making myself a Gin and Tonic to start off the night. My go-to drink is even more fitting tonight. When in London right? The London girls inform me that we're going to a drum and bass club tonight. Um okay? Usually clubbing isn't my scene but again, when in London...
My friends and I make our way down to South London and find ourselves walking under the arches of the London Bridge. We find the club, built into the stone-walled arches of the bridge, with dozens of people huddled near the door. You can hear the bass pounding from 20 feet away.
After a short wait, a lazy security check, and an expensive cover charge, we make our way inside. The interior of the club isn't much different looking than exterior. The stone walls deepen the grimy underground look that the club was going for. The two dance floors are crowded with people following the beat of the overpowering bass. This place is not for the lighthearted tourist looking for a generic night, which is what makes it even better.
Now usually, I don't dance. I just don't. My awkward, neurotic personality does not translate well onto the dance floor. But tonight, everyone is on their own dance floor doing whatever they want and moving in whatever way feels right. I find myself letting loose--a rarity, as one of my friends pointed out the next morning. By the end of the night I'm on the bass speakers dancing freely to the heavy beats and watching the chaos from above.
In the early hours of the morning, the girls and I call it a night. We run down the arches of the London Bridge, half-deaf from hours of dubstep resonating in our ears and infiltrating our brains. When we get home, the girls fall like dominos into their respective beds and I doze off to a continuous humming in my ears.
Saturday afternoon: Roaming evocative streets
“You’ll like this place,” my friend told me. “It’s very you.” Instead of going to Portobello Market with the rest of my girlfriends, I boycott the generic tourist destination and flee to the seedier outskirts of London with my British friend. Needing more time to recuperate from last night’s marathon, we don’t set out until mid-afternoon.
As I step of the Camden Town tube stop and into the fading daylight, I am once again reminded of home. This time it's a different home: San Francisco. Camden Market reminds me of a combination of Haight Street and the Mission, a little touristy, a tad dirty, and very eclectic. Stores selling records, punk clothes, and rave paraphernalia litter Camden High Street. I bought a double LP at a record store for 3£ by some british band I made sure I didn't know. Some people collect shot glasses as souvenirs, I collect records.
My friend and I walk down the bustling main street, full of people who would fit in very well in San Francisco. My nostalgia has me wondering further down the street as the sun sets and the cold winter night begins, so my friend and I grab a pint to warm up before heading home.
Saturday night: Pints on pints on pints
It is common knowledge within the group of girls that tonight is going to be a calmer night. So we go to O'Neills pub in Soho, a four floor Irish pub right off Piccadilly Circus. While last night was one aspect of London nightlife, tonight is a different one. I spend most of the night on the fourth floor terrace drinking pints of Caffrey's and London Pride, while keeping warm next to the heater and making friends with a crew of Irish boys.
Despite our initial plans to call it an early night, my friends and I make it home later than planned and stay up for another couple of hours, talking around the kitchen table. We cook pasta and eat chips, just like any regular night back in Boston. We stay up because we know that if we fall asleep the weekend will be over.
Sunday morning: Goodbyes
Another late start to the day, due to deep late-night conversations, the crew rolls out of bed and stumbles over to a small british breakfast joint. Everyone has the tell-tale signs of an exhaustive weekend: oversized sweaters, bar stamps on each hand, and blood-shot eyes. We piece together the weekend over plates of huevos rancheros.
After paying the bill, we drag our feet out the restaurant door and towards the tube station trying to prolong our time together. But the time finally comes for us to part ways. As much as we wish it wasn't, time is ticking and I'm running late for my train.
The goodbyes ensue. I maintain that this is not a goodbye but a "see ya later." As I give my last goodbye hug, I wipe a tear from one of my friend's faces. We all know it's ridiculous of her to be crying, but we understand that this weekend has meant more to us than every other weekend abroad so far. With that in mind, I head off to my train, with a heavy bag and a heavy heart.