Saturday, November 9, 2013

5 days in London, a whole new perspective

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Sorry ... I've been negligent. Not that I've been so busy I can't find 30 minutes to write something ... maybe just feeling a bit out-of-routine? We just finished a week of an intensive communications course, so we're all buzzing a bit. No, they don't let us relax for a second here. Definitely an all or nothing attitude, which is a great thing.

I spent 5 days in London, returning to Barcelona last Sunday. The intended purpose of the trip was to learn more about various marketing roles in a company, as well as network. And to a degree, I accomplished that. But as these things usually go, the things you get most out of an experience often stray far from their intended purposes. We met with several multinational companies, a few that were leaders in their respective industries. Yet I didn't feel myself drawn to any of them. Why was that? The part of the trip that was most meaningful to me was 1) obviously visiting London for the first time, and getting a feel for the city and people, 2) seeing my friend (who just moved here to study), and 3) realizing how lucky I was to be living in Barcelona.

London is enormous. I roomed with a classmate in a house we booked over airbnb, and the size of the city was evident the very first day we did company visits (on 3 hours of sleep). We had just finished midterms and were on evening flights - he arrived first in Luton, and I didn't arrive until well past midnight in Stansted Airport. We paid our landlord to come pick us up, and the drive was ridiculous - motorways closed everywhere, and we didn't end up at the house until 3am. Living in Zone 4 in West London, with the companies we had to visit in East and Central London meant that each trip on the Tube took at least 75 minutes. Factor in the terrible weather (the city lives up to its reputation for constantly being grey and wet), and you have a cranky, muddy guy who shows up at presentations. After nearly 3 months of perfect weather, it's so depressing to only see grey, windy skies. Is that why Londoners always seem in a foul mood? And the drunks! My goodness, the abusive, racist, disgusting drunks. It's one thing to develop a culture of drinking (look at the French) - it's quite another to consistently see alcoholic behaviour being passed off as some sort of English charm.

But at least I did get to see my friend. So excited to hang out in another continent, another city - both of us on this graduate school journey. She took us out to this speakeasy-style bar called The Nightjar. Photos to come. We had a free day on Saturday, so I took advantage and got some culture. Went to a Dürer exhibit at the Courtauld Gallery, then walked along the Thames to see the Parliament buildings, Big Ben, and London Bridge. A great day, capped off with a wonderful dinner at a Loire specialist restaurant. Plates of traditional dishes, and most memorable, a few different natural wines from the same region. By far the most exciting wine experience I've had in the past 12 months.

Trying to select the cheapest flight option, I booked a 7:40 am flight with Ryanair. Since the Central Line was closed all weekend, I had to catch a bus to Stratford Station, and then a coach to the airport. And since I had no clue how reliable things were that early in the morning, and since I was desperate to leave London, I took a 2 hour power nap and got up at 2:30 am. Packed and left for the airport. And I was glad to leave that early - took me a solid 2 1/2 hours to get to Stansted, in 5C weather. Hung out in the airport for another 2 1/2 hours until I finally was allowed to board. Peace out London.

Arriving in Barcelona, coming down the ramp, I was totally basking in the bright sunlight, the warmth of the breezy air coming off the Mediterranean ... and I felt home. The first time I've ever felt that way about this place. I was home. Coach to Plaça Catalunya, and then a short metro ride home. Jumped into bed for a nap and damn, it felt SO good to be back in my own bed, under my own covers. This whole time I've been out here, I've never thought once about wanting to go back to Toronto. Is this to say that it's been replaced as my 'home'? Not at all. But we try our best to make we're we are as comfortable and as close to home as possible - we all want to be mobile and worldly people, but deep down, we all need a place to come back to. Travelling is exciting and eye-opening, but yeah, I'm glad to be home.

DF

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