10 October 2014

A Small Eternity in South Kensington

I love waking up on Friday mornings. They hold so much promise for the weekend ahead.

This morning I got up early and edited some assignments to be submitted online this afternoon. I had oatmeal pancakes and maple syrup for breakfast and got ready for my only lecture of the day. I made some hot chocolate, I’ve been bringing it to class so I can warm up after walking across campus to my lecture rooms. It’s not too cold yet, but there’s an autumn chill, and it’s nice to bring a treat to class.

After my lecture, I stopped at the bank and met up with my flatmates. We’d agreed to venture out into South Kensington today to check out the museums and get some lunch. I hadn’t been into Central London since I arrived here, so I’ve been dying to get out and do some exploring. I was particularly excited about South Kensington because that’s where I spent the most time when I was here a year ago, so it was kind of like returning to an old haunt, in a way.

The weather was perfect today: warm and sunny, with a slight breeze that was just chilly enough to cool you down when exiting the crowded underground stations. We walked to Barnes Station, about twelve minutes away, and took the train to Waterloo. I love taking trains, and I hadn’t been on one in so long. I’d forgotten how big Waterloo Station is. The first thing that I said when we hopped off the train was, “I’m suddenly feeling very small.” It’s not just Waterloo, Central London has that effect. It’s the same sort of sensation one gets when they look at the stars at night.

We switched onto the underground lines and made our way to South Kensington. Thank goodness my flatmate Alex knew how to navigate because Elise and I were so overwhelmed. I mean, we could have figured out where to go and what to do, but if we didn’t have Alex, we’d probably still be there figuring it out. Like any other metropolis, London isn’t exactly patient with new learners. It’s important to keep up the pace and learn as you go.

Once we arrived in South Kensington we started walking to the Victoria and Albert Museum just around the corner. We saw a telephone box, the first one since we arrived, and took some photographs by it. Generally, I don’t do that sort of thing, but I was glad they made me do it because it is a bit symbolic in a way. Though I will admit, I will always prefer candids to “posed pictures”. The timing was perfect because we got a double-decker and a black cab in the driving by in the background.

The museum was unbelievable. For one, the building itself was so impressive, just architecturally. I mean, we hadn’t even entered yet and we were already so in awe of it. We went inside and allowed ourselves to get lost. We tried navigating through the exhibits, but it was difficult not to get lost in the labyrinthine corridors and staircases. We saw sculptures, tapestries, paintings, photographs, costumes from theatre performances, some of the world’s oldest and most expensive jewellery, and classic pieces of fashion from all eras. You can walk into a place like that and learn anything you’d like, for free. We passed by people writing and sketching in the galleries. It’s all part of the experience. If I lived closer, I’d probably go to a museum every week. The next one I’d really like to go to is Tate Modern.

After the museum, we walked back towards the station because there were a bunch of little food shops. We settled on Pret a Manger, where I had the most delicious mozzarella-pesto toastie (AKA: grilled cheese). I just love the little food shops in London. Pret a Manger is pretty famous all over Europe, but we don’t have those sorts of shops in the US. Generally all take-out is fast-food and is therefore quite bad for you. Everything in these shops is made same-day and heated up for you on the spot. There’s free wi-fi everywhere, too. Such a plus, especially for the girl still struggling without a mobile phone plan (fingers crossed for next week).

As I mentioned before, I’m rather sick, so I wanted to get something warm to soothe my throat. We went next door to Starbucks and I got a little pumpkin spice latte, my first of this season. I see how they can be addictive. Just one today and I’m already thinking about where I can go to get another. Must be the combination of cream and pumpkin.

We decided to go to Harrods after lunch, so we circled back the way we came. On the way, we passed Muriel’s Kitchen, which is the cutest little tea and cake shop I’ve been to so far. I had gone there with my grandparents and my aunt when I was on a short vacation in London about a year ago. It was such a strange feeling to walk by Muriel’s again, like I was running into one of my old ghosts or something. If I had seen my former self and revealed that I would return to this spot again in one year’s time, but as a resident of London and official uni student, I don’t know if I would ever have believed it.

Harrods was exactly as I remembered it. Elise had never been, so we pointed out the distinctive gold and emerald awning out as we approached the building. We meandered throughout the store, up and down different floors, looking at this and that. Harrods is more of a symbol than a practical place to shop. You walk in and you’re just bombarded with this overwhelming sense of opulence. You can have anything at Harrods. You can walk out an entirely different person, if you please. It’s the epitome of luxury, and I think everyone could stand to be dazzled by a bit of gold and glitz every once in a while. I’d like to go back again when I get a chance, maybe for Christmas, so I can see the lights.

Around five or so we decided to head back home. The ride home was much more hectic because it was rush hour and everyone was getting out of work. It’s that unfortunate timing when you jump on the tube and you realise there’s hardly any space for your handbag, let alone a place to put your hands to steady yourself as the train jolts to a start. It got very hot very quickly, and it was a bit confining. I’m always amazed at how quiet it is on the tube. Everyone’s pretty courteous, no one tends to break the silence. Even walking between platforms and changing lines, you’re in a crowd of people but really the only noises you can hear are the shuffling of shoes and the grinding of escalators. The Underground is such an bewildering place. It can come off as being a bit cold and mechanical, like a machine, with all the people as the moving parts. But then you hear a child laughing somewhere or someone playing smooth jazz and you remember that there is so much above you.

We made it home before it got too chilly or too dark. Today was one of the best days I’ve ever had. I missed Central London so much. We were only gone for a few hours, but it felt like a small eternity. The more I go out and about, the more I feel that this is the place I am supposed to be. Ever since I arrived, I’ve had this longing to go out and get to know the city, and today I finally got that chance. I’m becoming more comfortable getting around. There’s just so much to do and see, there’s always something going on. The idea that I could wake up tomorrow and decide to go anywhere or see anything is just too much for me, I can’t wait.

Lots of Love,
Miss Monica Jean