Final Explorations, Memorizations and Jubilations
I turned in my final paper the second week of May and was suddenly face-to-face with my final few weeks. Five months in London summarized by a ‘tour de force’ of markets, palaces, barbeques and pageantry. After saying goodbye to my parents in early May, I began a farewell tour of sorts: I returned once more to all of my London favorites, ventured out of the city to Brighton, and attempted to soak up every moment in the city that had become home too easily to leave it so soon. I lost count the number of times I just wanted a simple night with friends and a pint at our nearby student pub. I spent hours during rainy afternoons inside the National Gallery and other museums reconnecting with the art I visited my first week in town. (And noticing with amazement how far the Olympic countdown in Traflagar Square had progressed during my time.)
I spent a (thankfully beautiful) day in Brighton on an IFSA trip in mid-May. In the end, I wished I’d spent more time there; the city has a quirky quality to it that reminded me of the Hampden section of Baltimore. We spent our morning on a tour of the immense Royal Pavilion that is truly one of the most indescribable sights of the last five months. It’s majestically and imposingly beautiful and awe-inspiring, instantly dwarfing you once inside. We wandered through street markets, found an amazing ice cream shop in an alleyway and shared a pin with fish and chips on the Pier. I felt a bit like my worlds were merging: fresh off my parents fantastic visit and reminders of weekends on the Jersey shore piers and Baltimore, my day in Brighton was the first time I felt torn across the ocean, longing both for home and for more time in England. It was spectacular and bittersweet all at once.
I finally visited Kensington Palace once back in London and spent many hours walking the Gardens and Hyde Park. During a rare gorgeously sunny weekend at the end of May, I picnicked for hours in Reagent’s Park and on Primrose Hill with my flatmates. I spent many nights socializing with amazing friends, including a successful 80s night (Truffle Shuffle! As in the Goonies!) at the student union’s nightclub. And even with my last couple weeks counting down, I met a wonderful new friend (turned flatmate) Sarah, who helped me discover my inner cat lady and quickly became one of the people I knew I’d miss the most. I planned coffee dates on almost a daily basis to see friends and caught myself staring out windows on buses just watching the city move around me.
My last weekend was marked by the most impressive party of all: Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. The Friday eve of Jubilee weekend, I had an amazing time at a barbeque with mostly theatre gathered at my friends, Jack and Jo’s, house. It was strangely ironic to spend my last Friday with the first people (outside of my flatmates) to make me feel so welcome in London. It only occurred to me the next morning, as a pondered over my cereal, that I didn’t know any of the them at the beginning of 2012 and yet, I now cannot imagine what my life abroad would have been like without them.
Sunday found Sarah and I in the rain along the Thames, watching the River Pageant and joining in with the spontaneous chorales of ‘God Save the Queen.’ It was completely worth the soaked state of our clothes just to see the flotilla pass among the sea of Union flags in the crowd. The amount of pure patriotism and pride during the weekend was incredible; it felt like a local Fourth of July parade in America, multiplied by millions of people situated on the river. The same happened as Lauralyn and I tracked the Queen’s carriage along Pall Mall in the rain on Tuesday before seeking shelter in a Leicester Square Starbucks and doing more of that staring out the window I mentioned earlier.
I spent those last few weeks imprinting London onto my memory. I wanted to be able to recall it all, from the sights and sounds of the city to the conversations of my friends at the pub and the specific aroma of Borough Market on a Saturday morning. But as I waved a last goodbye to my fellow theatre tech, luggage helper and great friend Claire and moved through Heathrow’s Terminal 3, I knew it was time to go home. I was ready to go home to family, good pizza and Hopkins. My farewell tour had successfully filled my memory with illustrations of London, so that even as I left that wonderful, dreary city below during the ascent, I definitely didn’t leave it behind.
Keep an eye out for the last edition of this study abroad saga, as I reflect on my first month Stateside, coming soon.