Sixteen years ago, I had my own September 11th, one that signaled a different kind of beginning. It was September 11, 1993, and I flew from Rochester, New York, to New York City to catch a connecting flight to London. I would be spending the fall sememster of my junior year there.
When I boarded my flight that day, I knew the trip would create a whole new life for me and that the stamp my blank passport would receive on the other side of the Atlantic would be the first of many. I met one of my dearest friends who was also flying from Rochester to London to participate in the same study abroad program. She and I have now been through three marriages, one divorce, two childbirths (and another one on the way for her!), one death, countless apartments, and several movies, both good and bad. Obviously for many reasons, that first trip to London was transformative.
Seven years later, in August 2000, I was 27, living in Seattle, riding the dot-com rollercoaster, and my boyfriend and I flew to London to attend a college roommate’s wedding, which was taking place in Birmingham. Four days before the wedding, we were wandering around Westminster Abbey, where Issac Newton rests in the walls and where Elton John serenaded Princess Diana’s coffin, when my boyfriend decided to propose. We announced our engagement from an Internet cafe in a Tescos. More than nine years later, our daughter took this photo of me and my former boyfriend, now my husband of eight-plus years, sitting outside Westminster Abbey, which unfortunately was closed today.
It meant a great deal to us to show our daughter London. I lived here as a student, returned to become engaged, and then was fortunate enough to return again, this time as a wife and mother. London is a city filled with the ghosts of giants. Elizabeth the First, who I considered the First Lady of PR (does anyone really believe she was a virgin?), ruled here. Shakespeare dreamt here. Victoria mourned here. Darwin and Dickens chronicled their interpretations on survival here. There is not a continent on the globe untouched by London’s influence.
I love London’s gray aloofness. I love that this city gave birth to so much literature. I even love its food, where your day starts with this, a protein-packed punch that makes you want to walk the streets for hours in the bitter cold:
And your day ends with this, a platter of protein and trans fats that puts a smile on my face every time:
In between breakfast and dinner, we showed Anna one of our most favorite cities, from its underground railroad to its giant ferris wheel, to some breathtaking night time views of Parliament and the London skyline 450 feet above the Thames.
We’re only two days into a week-long trip, so there is much more to come. We’ve got afternoon tea, ice skating, the London Tower, a play about a snowman, and certainly more plates of pub food and traditional English breakfasts. Already, Anna has learned that cookies here are called “biscuits,” cotton candy is called “candy floss,” a term that makes her giggle, french fries are “chips” and chips are “crisps.” The English pound continues to pound the US dollar, so it doesn’t take much to feel like we’ve blown a fortune. Perhaps if the US dollar had some actual worth here, I would come back more often instead of every eight to nine years.