“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” -Samuel Johnson
“Hey, you know Samuel Johnson? Fuck that guy.” -Truman Capps
I’ve been in London for just over two months now. At the time of this writing, I have exactly two weeks left before I jump on a plane and fly back to the United States. To be honest, I’m looking forward to it.
I’ve seen Big Ben and Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. I’ve had lunch in St. James Park and made faces at the guards at Buckingham Palace.
I’ve hung out in Trafalgar Square, had dinner in SoHo, and thoroughly perused the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, British Museum, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Imperial War Museum, and the British Library. I’ve taken a stroll through the Tower of London and across the adjacent London Tower Bridge.
I’ve taken the obligatory tourist picture straddling the Prime Meridian at Greenwich. I’ve ridden a boat down the Thames. I’ve seen 10 Downing Street.
I got as close as possible to Battersea Power Station. I’ve seen three productions at the British National Theater and two at the Globe. I’ve eaten enough fish and chips, bangers and mash, and chicken tikka masala to choke a donkey.
I had wanted to visit Slough, setting of the original UK version of The Office, today so that I could see the building from the opening titles that is ostensibly the headquarters of Wernham-Hogg Paper Company. But I did some research today and discovered that a trip to Slough would take an hour and a half, one way, requiring multiple bus transfers and the purchase of a train ticket that would cost several pounds. Then, once in Slough, I would take a picture of the building that was shown at the beginning of every episode of a TV show I liked, then turn around and spend an hour and a half making my way back home.
Having not done it, I feel sort of stupid, because really – do I have anything better to do? I’ve exhausted my tourism opportunities in the city (save for the changing of the guard, which I’ll see tomorrow, and the London Eye, which I’ll ride in my last week here, if at all), so my last couple of weekends have been spent kicking around Harrow or doing homework, with a fair amount of time spent daydreaming about whatever my internship situation winds up looking like for the summer.
But that’s the thing – I’ve been a tourist for so long now that I’m kind of getting sick of it. I miss just being a resident. I miss not feeling the need to pull out my camera every time I see something interesting. “Wow, the Steel Bridge looks pretty nice today… Eh, why take a picture? It’ll be here tomorrow. In Portland. Where I live.”
London is a gigantic city, and I’m not going to be the dumbass who suggests that I’ve seen everything it has to offer in two months. There’s undoubtedly more stuff to see in this city – fascinating little museums, street markets with free samples, red phone boxes with interesting pornographic leaflets in them – but I feel as though I’m almost fed up with seeing.
Every cathedral is very impressive for the first few seconds after you walk into it – it’s a massive indoor space with light shining through stained glass. They were designed to be impressive sensory experiences. What the original architects didn’t bargain for was the fact that one day, the people seeing cathedrals would be study abroad students who see at least two cathedrals a week.
And museums – oh, the museums. I’ve had so many maps and audio guides thrust into my hands, wandered through so many dusty rooms wondering “How much longer should I stare at this arrowhead?”
Because of the short duration of my study abroad session in England, I’ve been forced to dive headfirst into pretty much everything. I haven’t had time to space out my museum visits over several months or get acclimated to the city at a reasonable pace – not that I wish my study abroad excursion was longer (for reasons I’ll cover in a later update).
Essentially, my time here, while it has been a life changing, kickass experience that I wouldn’t give up for the world, has also been essentially one big culture binge, and going on a two month binge of any sort is bound to burn you out eventually, be it heroin or English history.
Heroin will probably catch up with you a little faster.
Truman Capps has not gotten burned out on the deep fried foods, though, as tonight’s dinner proved.