Here’s a bit of life advice: live somewhere awesome so all your friends will want to visit you. It’s working out well for me. This month, at least two old Rice friends will be popping over to London for a day or two, and a friend from elementary school will be here on spring break with her family. But the parade of guests started with a bang this past week, with my two best Rice friends, Rory and Michelle.
Now, London is a huge, amazing city filled with wonders, so you can only do so much with six days in London. But the only things we really didn’t do were go up the London Eye, tour Parliament, and buy William and Kate commemorative booklets. We did the usual stuff – St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tate Modern, Regent Street, Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, Buckingham Palace – and some unusual stuff – like shopping for gigantic bottles of champagne at Fortnum & Mason…
…taking tea at the Park Lane Hotel while being serenaded by a harpist…
…and trying desperately not to giggle while perusing “socialist bookstores”:
We did so much walking of London that I walked somewhere new every day – and I was the tour guide! On Sunday, though, we made a detour to Canterbury, thanks to a set of round-trip train tickets. We spent the whole day in the tiny town, first popping in to its farmer’s market (remarkably businesslike – that is, for serious shoppers rather than people craving free samples) and then catching our lunch reservation at Deeson’s British Restaurant. Deeson’s would be enough to convince anyone that English food is good, but that will be the subject of the next blog post.
Afterwards we attended choral evensong at Canterbury Cathedral. There was some snappy, even thrilling, music, a fantastic reading from the Gospels in diction so clear that no interpretation could possibly be necessary (something about good diction makes meaning clear more than any amount of thought or Cliff’s Notes), and of course, a stunning setting:
All this was so much we just had to retire for the evening to a Canterbury pub called the Dolphin, which serves independent brews and extremely strong (also delicious) cider–not to mention a scrumptious plate of fried brie, red onion marmelade, and salad.
It’s not always the sightseeing that’s the important stuff, though. I hadn’t seen either Rory or Michelle–let’s call them my best friends–since September, and the meeting was natural, like we hadn’t been gone a day. Now, isn’t that a great feeling? Too often one of two things happens: you spend hours catching up because you know nothing of each other’s lives, or you don’t really say anything because there’s nothing to talk about. Luckily for us, neither of those things happened.
I feel like the first extreme must have happened much more often back when the world was “bigger”–that is, when there was no e-mail, chat, or Skype. Nowadays I know people with the opposite problem, folks who live hundreds of miles away from each other yet, because of the ease of communication these days, run out of things to talk about. Heck, it’s happened to me. So has the other danger–simply growing apart. If anything, the band being back together for a week just served as an ecstatic reminder of why the band got together in the first place. We’ve all grown this year, but in a weird way we’ve grown neither apart nor closer–we’re growing in parallel.
Of course, we all did get a lot closer during their week in London. Mostly, I mean that physically:
This was probably a fire hazard. But you know, now I come back to my room and there’s nobody in it, and that’s almost sad enough to negate the pleasant fact that the two air mattresses and suitcases are gone. I’ve been strangely productive since their departure, maybe on some kind of high. That’s what friends are for. Sometimes you run around having fun, sometimes you eat together, sometimes you trade jokes, and sometimes you go thousands of miles to see them, but all the time, the really important thing you do is make sure they know that you’re always going to be there. Or at least on your way.