November 19, 2010

My UK Trip: Cosmopolitan London and Minding the Gap!

Posted in English, Places, Reflections at 9:15 am by Rou...

Usually when I go to a new place, I go with a previous mindset and certain expectations… May be that was one of the reasons I didn’t really like Italy when I visited it last year; because I was having too much expectations… Not wanting to get disappointed, and learning from my history, I went to London with hardly any expectations at all… and for some unknown reason to me, I didn’t think that London was a nice place to go in the first place, that’s why when we were planning our trip schedule, the original plan was to go for 4 day trips outside London out of the 9 days we were staying… (Which eventually ended to only 2 day trips that I will talk about separately)…

The interesting thing I noticed before I left was the fact that everyone I talked to gave me a certain view of the place I was about to visit… each one was linking the city to something… a personal reflection, perhaps to what s/he liked most or needed most… I have no idea… So, either ways, some told me London is the city of fog… other asked me never to miss a musical there (which I didn’t thank God, but this is another story)… some told me London is the city of museums… others told me the city of rain… some told don’t miss entering Harrods or walking in Oxford street (I have to admit that Christmas Lightening there is awesome)… others told me tea tea tea… some told me parks… others told me don’t miss the Arabic signs of stores in Edgware Road… some said… London is the father of system… others told me: simply you’ll feel like home…

But the truth is… and out of my very own personal experience… London is more of a bits and pieces of everything… one of the most cosmopolitan cities I’ve ever seen (and I know I haven’t seen much), where you do not feel estranged… it has this ability of making you get used to it in no time at all… and in a matter of a few hours, you will truly feel you are home…

London also has this amazing ability of accepting the other…
Those of you who know me, know very well how fascinating Paris was for me… When I wrote about Paris last year, a dear friend of mine told me “Paris has bewitched you”… it was true… but a few days ago, I was telling my brother that I would love to go to Paris many many times, as much as I can… but I don’t think I can live there… London is different… you can easily fit in… Perhaps the language border wasn’t an issue like Paris… I don’t know… but this is how it felt…

London is definitely the city of fog and rain (lucky me, being the wintry weather person I am), it’s not an option that you walk without an umbrella… whichever was the season… but not only this… for, somewhere in-between the rain, you can smell the touch of deep-rootedness and nobility in every street, every building, every palace, every museum… everywhere around you…

Yes, it is the city of museums… at a point you will wonder how on earth can I skip one to give time for another… From Madame Tussauds to the Natural History to the British Museum to Victoria and Albert Museum,,, the list is really long… And as usual, an eye-catching scene had to stop me, infront of the National Gallery this time, where two men were standing on stairs busy cleaning every single detail of one of the statues in the hall infront of the museum…

London, and England in general, is the place of parks indeed… the nature there is one thing you cannot miss… Be it in the city itself or the countryside… but this is a different post as well…

I loved the House of Parliament and the area surrounding it… and its view from the London Eye was one good thing… Changing the Guards at Buckingham Palace was one remarkable experience… and seeing Penguins in London Zoo was my gift for that day, for it was my first time ever to see them for real, and I was astonished from the fact that they can actually exist without ice! 🙂

A boat in the Thames would give you the best view of the Tower Bridge, but cannot be compared to a stroll by the Thames in the walking area surrounding the Tower of London till you reach the Tower Bridge… A long walk… that I so much wanted to do by the Nile… but never got the space… sadly… except in Minia perhaps…

I also learned that I had always mistaken the name of Tower Bridge to London Bridge… don’t know why, may be it was that song we used to sing when we were young: “London Bridge is falling down!”, but anyways, to my own surprise, London Bridge turned out to be a very normal bridge with nothing special at all! 🙂

One of the things am glad I didn’t miss while I was there was visiting the very famous “Fortnum and Mason” of Piccadilly… the huge store has been there since 1707, and let me tell you that as much as it is expensive, it has the most delicious tea varieties I have ever seen or tasted in my entire life…

One of the funniest things London is famous of is the streets signs for pedestrians… the “Look Right” and “Look Left” signs are really interesting… The thing is as we all know, driving in England is different than any other place, driving wheel is on the right side of the car… but this affects the whole system… so you will find the fast lanes in streets is on the right not the left, and the streets directions are the opposite… so if you are crossing a street where you should normally look left because cars are on your left, you’ll find that in London the cars are coming from your right, and hence, they remind you with this sentence on the street that you have to look right… the funny thing is that I used to look right, then subconsciously look left again! 🙂


And talking about the signs written to remind people of things… there’s this very famous phrase that even if you missed reading, you cannot miss hearing… “Mind the Gap”… When you use London underground, and in certain stations, this phrase is written on the ground infront of the doors of the trains, accompanied by a warning to passengers that say: “Please mind the gap between the train and the platform. Mind the Gap! Mind the Gap”… London is very famous of this “Mind the Gap” phrase to the extent that you can find it on mugs and T-shirts in souvenir shops…

At first it made me smile, then for some reason, it brought sadness to me… for it touched this part inside of me that was reminding me of the gap between my country and this place I was in… and how huge the gap was… unfortunately…

Anyways, that was long…
Tomorrow then,
Rou…

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2 Comments »

  1. Mermaid said,

    I was actually intimidated by “Fortnum and Mason” fa I didn’t get inside 😀 But I used to watch its fascinating window :))

    Mmmm…. yes, London is very cosmopolitan indeed. This has its advantage of course. Diversity and richness. But I would prefer a city that has only “some” diversity. But you know, although it is such a cosmopolitan place, it still has its identity 🙂 I was talking with Nahla two days ago and I told her that the Brits are “royalty” 🙂 3omrek shofty sha3b kamel “royalty”? 😀 Begad it is not about being civilized like the rest of the Europeans, they have a noble, royal air keda about them.

    Eda, I didn’t see “mind the gap” on souvenirs 🙂 I didn’t feel this affinity with the tube maybe coz I used it only 3 times or so. I used to use the bus to enjoy the view 🙂

    Waiting for the rest of the series 🙂 Me enjoys 🙂

  2. Rou... said,

    I used a similar words in describing them above… “somewhere in-between the rain, you can smell the touch of deep-rootedness and nobility in every street, every building, every palace, every museum… everywhere around you…” 🙂

    The bus was very slow, I only used it once… the tube was perfect for me!

    you missed a lot by not entering Fortnum and Mason… but you saved a LOT of money too! so i guess after all, lucky you! 😉


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