Last Thursday was Thanksgiving, and I had the pleasure of spending it with an old friend of mine. He made me salad with turkey that was ready when my plane landed, which was really sweet of him to prepare. Turkey isn’t particularly popular outside the states so it’s difficult to find in Europe.
Thanksgiving was probably one of the harder days I’ve spent abroad. It was difficult to open snapchats of friends and family enjoying each other’s company, but Missing Thanksgiving helped me grow to love American traditions more than I did when I left. College students in particular spend a lot of time studying and criticizing things that are going wrong on our country. We consume too much, our politics are pretty messy, our environment is hurting, and we tolerate a lot of inequality. These issues are real, but there are a lot of really great things happening in the US as well. For one thing, we know how to cook a good bird and enjoy the simple pleasure of one another’s company over a home-cooked meal. The US has a lot of great traditions that bring people together despite our differences, and this is in my opinion the most important part of any culture. I have to admit; the US is pretty great in many ways. I’ll definitely appreciate the next Thanksgiving I spend in the US.
Despite the absence of Thanksgiving, I had a great weekend in London. My friend had to study a lot, so I spent the majority of my time touring London solo, but this had perks. I walked around Trafalgar square, Hyde Park, the National Gallery, the British Museum, and a lot of other tourist attractions. I loved the British Museum. It was so incredible to see a culmination of the entire world’s history in one place. African culture, Indian culture, Native American culture, Egyptian culture, Roman culture– everything. It’s incredible. I don’t know that much history right now but I hope to know more if I ever get the chance to return. I also had the chance to catch up with Gianluca and grab dinner with him a few times, which was a lot of fun. (He never has his name spelled correctly at Starbucks, haha).
This was my first mostly “solo” adventure. I think travelling solo is something everyone should do at least once. It forces you to do less talking and more observation, which is often a good thing. It also allows complete independence in choosing things that you might not otherwise do with someone else. For instance, I was able to see “A Woman of No Importance” by Oscar Wilde in a playhouse. I’m pretty sure I was the only one in that theater below the age of 50, but I absolutely loved the play. Oscar Wilde’s sense of dry humor really makes me laugh. Also, theater is a huge part of British culture and I was glad to have such a unique experience. The British accents weren’t fake! If I hadn’t travelled alone, I’m not sure I would have gone to see something like this. That was probably my favorite part of London.
Other parts of touring solo weren’t as fun. When my feet got tired and my hands got cold, would have loved to share a spiced cider with someone in one of the many cafés I stopped in. My boyfriend, who is a history major, would have loved to tour the British museum with me and explain the Roman history I saw. Hyde park was incredibly beautiful, but it was somewhat lonely to walk through it alone. It was harder to enjoy the wonderful things I saw without sharing them.
Since I have begun travelling more, I have a better feel for the type of tourist adventures I prefer. For me, having some way to understand what I am looking at makes a big difference in my experience as a tourist. The London eye Ferris wheel seemed cool, but ultimately, I skipped it because I didn’t see the value in looking down at another big city. On the other hand, the bus tour I bought was amazing. The tour guide was an ex-Broadway actor with a hilarious dry sense of humor. Apparently, the Sweeney Todd residence is an actual address on Drury lane. You know, the guy who chopped up his Barber-shop patrons for mince-meat pies. Now, it’s a McDonalds. “No comment”, said the tour guide. He also explained that the queen can’t go from the “monarchy” side of the city to the “financial” side without a personal escort from the mayor of the financial side. Historically, this was supposed to prevent the monarchy from meddling with the financial institutions of the city. To this day, the priority and importance of the financial sector of London plays a big role in city life. Although London is filled with the same tall buildings, shopping, and fine cuisine that you might find in any big city, there are a lot of details like this that make it unique. The secret to understanding a big city as a tourist is to find ways to understand a city at a deeper level than its “big city” qualities.
Still, there’s never enough time. If I could have stayed longer, I would have seen another play or musical and spent more time in Hyde park, which was beautiful. It’s really hard to get a good feel for a city, even though my stay in London was one of my longest trips. My time in Madrid is also coming to an end and I’d like to spend the rest of my time enjoying it. I’ve come to love Madrid to much!
“‘Sta luego”, as the Spaniards say-