So London! Home of dear Queen Elizabeth. I actually caught a glimpse of the Queen when she was in Winnipeg, and now it was my turn to visit her homeland. From Barbados we flew on a double-tiered plane and had a very pleasant flying experience with Virgin Atlantic. I actually enjoyed listening to the flight attendants on the intercom because everything they said was with a British accent. Flying east basically meant we were fast-forwarding through time (AKA losing 7 hours), so we missed our regular sleeptime. This was when I was first introduced to jet-lag. We got to Gatwick airport early in the morning (approx. 6am) and customs grilled us like an English breakfast. They asked really personal questions (things my friends don’t even know) and didn’t make us feel welcome at all. But apart from that cold welcome, London was all-around awesome. I have never been to a city so clean. Not a scrap of garbage was seen on the streets- their citizens evidently take pride in their city and without tourists, their pigeons would probably have gone the way of the Dodo due to lack of food. (It’s also possible that the city’s maintenance crew is well staffed.) And although there were a lot of people everywhere, the city ran in organized chaos. For instance, it was understood that slower traffic kept right on escalators. There also seemed to be an abundance of police officers who effectively handled crowd-control, but would also graciously pose for photos with tourists (see said tourists below).
I had always heard about European fashion out-styling anything I would see in Winnipeg, and I had prepared myself to see life-sized, magazine-paper doll versions of models strolling the English streets, tossing their hair in the wind, winking charismatic-ally while flashing perfect smiles. I’m kidding – I didn’t expect everyone to be smiling. In all seriousness, the majority of people I saw were very stylish. Not only were they stylish, but they all seemed to dress in a similar fashion. I guess that’s what happens when a city actually follows the same trends, at the same time. Flying in from Barbados my wardrobe was bright and tropical. I felt like a neon-sign walking through the streets of London. Everyone (and I’m not just exaggerating) wore neutrals. If they wore a bright color, it was a small statement piece like a shoe (yes, just one shoe) or a purse. Bustling corporate fashion had definitely replaced laid-back beach fashion: Hello “Neutral and stylish,” goodbye “tropical and tacky.”
What were some widespread trends? – The 50s flapper look, flowers and floral prints, lace, ribbons, ruffles and pastels. Unlike the service workers in Barbados, London employees were mostly friendly and extremely nice. We also didn’t have to pay additional taxes on anything. If a purse was 10£, it was 10£ straight up. Mental math was so much easier when we didn’t have to calculate taxes. Many times I referred to money as “dollars” and they never hesitated to correct me.
I also have never seen so many briskly walking men in crisp, dark suits. Maybe it was assumed that such a large global city would have a high level of its population working in the information sector (hence: suits), but wow was it prevalent.
And man, were some guys preppy. Don’t get me wrong, I like preppy, and these London boys were executing it to a tee… a polo tee. Their looks were pulled together with perfectly quaffed hair; preppy sweaters all preppy-like, sprinkled with prepper; wide-rimmed, name-brand glasses; and man-purses. They probably called them “messenger bags,” but it didn’t matter what they were called because most men toted them around anyways so who would make fun of them? (Remember the Episode of Friends with Joey and his purse?). In Europe, these bags serve both a functional and fashionable purpose.
Shopping was fun- There was so much to see. The prices were reasonable, and Oxford street was just quite neat to explore – store after store with restaurants and more strategically situated stores. One store, Primark, was simply amazing. I had met this Russian boy at our hostel (his name was Leo) and he knew the city fairly well so I was asking him for recommendations on sights to see. I had asked him if he knew of any supermarkets and he instantly suggested Primark because it was a huge, popular store with cheap but nice merchandise. We ended up going there and it turned out to be a clothing store (supermarket/department store, tomatoe/tomato... or the lackthereof). But it turned out great because it was everything he had described it would be, just minus the foods and household goods I was expecting.
But that’s enough for now, so what’s the lesson from this post? Life works better when there’s an orderly system and we follow it, littering is connected to the level of consideration you have for things outside a stone's throw from yourself, and some people think supermarkets are super markets.