Despite it’s familiar tune, there’s nothing cliche about the view from the front seat of a red double decor bus in my book. How else can you experience, and perhaps the only way to appreciate, London’s traffic from such a unique vantage point where you’re practical hovering over cars, meters closer to the tops of skyscrapers, with a full frontal image of the road ahead. And because only tourists and visitors ride up top, how else can you enjoy random conversations with wide – eyed foreigners sharing the same semi-adrenaline rush?
Ironically, my last weekend in Italy was spent in London. When a good friend told me he was making a quick visit to London to see some old co-workers and asked me to join him, I debated heavily if I should. Do I have enough money for an out of country trip and I’ve been to London a few times, is it really worth another visit when I’m here to discover Italy inside and out? Money aside (something I tend to guiltily ignore when I’m stewed in wanderlust), it just seemed silly not to see a good friend when only a 2 hour plane ride stood between us. Carpe Diam.
The week leading up to it was a hot mess. I was wrapping up my teaching gig and had to work extra hours to make up for some schedule swaps. This, unfortunately happened often at this disorganized school, and I was usually the last to know, yet still expected to make up the hours. On top of that, like all last weeks, it seemed to dawn on everyone that it’s probably a good time for farewell dinners. This part I can’t complain about, I’ve never been treated to so many lovely meals in one week!
And then there was Andrew …
Remember that British Teaching Assistant that Rosaria introduced me to? Well we met up for apertivo a week after we meet and the more we got to know each other the more I liked him. I liked the way he didn’t know a word of Italian, but still managed to start up conversations with anyone who’d listen. They’d pretend to understand his English and he’d pretend to understand their Italian. I liked that he was a culinary genius and could list out ingredients with a single taste of a meal He’s tall , dark hair, light eyes, well-dressed and a passionate chef. In my book, that’s a done deal, plus let’s be honest here, I have needs.
Only problem was where would we “take it to the next level”? We both live with host families and depend on them for rides. So because I’m a control freak/ super planner, I approached this strategically. Well, when would be the best time? Hmmm, the day before I left for London, that way I can use an early flight as an excuse to stay in Civitanova. Where would we go? Well, a hotel is really the only option. How can I spin this without seeming to eager or inappropriate (it’s true what they say, on a scale of stuffiness amongst the EU nations, the English are up there amongst the stuffiest)? I know… I’ll invite him out with my friends and then let him know that I planned to stay in Civitanova since I have an early flight the next morning and didn’t want to bother my host family with staying out late and asking for so many rides. Then I’ll ask him if he’d like to get a hotel room with me. And because he’s 1) a dude and 2) not an idiot, I assumed he understood where this night could lead to and replied with a resounding : “That’s a great Idea!” It was a genius and convenient plan if I do say so myself. Not very romantic, I will admit, but that’s clearly not a priority for me.
That night was one of the best I’ve had in Italy. Not just because I got laid, but because I got to say goodbye to the amazing ladies that have become my good friends and travel buddies in Marche, and for the first time without worrying about a “curfew” in a city we’ve made our own. After some delightful appetizers at a new place and a mandatory gelato fix, we ended up at a cocktail bar that had some of the most unique cocktails I’ve seen. Seriously, the bartender, Matteo, could’ve taught any fancy Brooklyn mixologist a thing or two. My friends welcomed Andrew with open arms and he wasn’t at all intimidated by a bunch of lively Americans. Afterwards, we got a bottle of wine for our hotel room and let nature take it’s course. The next day I texted my best girlfriend back home with “I slept with a British guy last night and now I’m in London. The two are unrelated.”
London, a land that for me is scattered with familiar faces and places, and yet still has so much left to disclose and discover. Although it was not my first time on those glorious double decors, I loved that I could still be a tourist amongst the comfort of friends. Just days away from returning home, it was a good mental transition from the relaxing environment of Potenza Picena to the hectic lifestyle that awaited me back home in New York. I dragged my friend to the British Museum (why the hell isn’t all major Museums in NY free too?) and made him eat shepard’s pie at an absurd number of pubs we happened to stumble upon.
When he left, I stayed a couple of extra days to overlap my trip with a fellow American teaching assistant who also went with me on the Almalfi Coast trip. At the hostel we stayed at, we meet (surprise surprise), a small town Australian who had bravely packed up and moved to London at the ripe and fragile age of 18 years old. We visited the Globe Theater. Who knew Shakespere coined the terms “Good Riddance” and “dead as a doornail” or “foul play”!? We also visited the Sherlock Holmes Museum on the infamous Baker Street. I could tell that this was heaven for some of the super fans that traveled far and wide to see an iconic character brought to life. The nerd in me really wanted to be a Sherlock Holmes fan, so I could nerd out with them in solidarity. So I settled for nerding out at King’s Cross Platform nine and three quarters instead. Shout out to all my Harry Potter fans!
I left London with heavy heart. Although it marked the end of another European Era, I knew deep in my bones it was certainly not the last. It was a halfway home between a new, albeit temporary, life in Italy and an old one in New York, and more importantly a symbol of the growth I was bringing back with me.