Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Banner New Year!

New Year's Eve in London... What could be better... Starting the next 365 days of my life in a land and culture filled with creativity and history, abounding with new friends, old friends, and unexpected surprises. I arrived at Heathrow on Tuesday morning, after a relatively quick flight from JFK. After all of the traveling, jet lag, partying, and dehydration I had been battling illness since landing in NYC over a week earlier, and was practically falling asleep with my suitcases on the Tube ride to my friend's house. Throughout the day, I never managed to rest or eat very much, so as the excitement of New Year's Eve began to build, I was tragically unaware of how little I had prepared myself for a night of raucous festivity. My good friend who lives in London is a girl I met in Paris two years ago when we both took the TEFL program together. Many of us from the same group have kept in touch since then, and I have been profoundly lucky to have seen more than one since my time back in Europe. This lady in particular became a wonderful confidante, as I practically lived with her my second month in Paris while dating her roommate at the time. The same man was somehow cosmically placed in London at the exact moment I was this week, and I saw him for the first time in two years that night as well, adding to the mix of revelry, reunion, and let's just say it... ridiculous confusion. No matter the outcome, it was admittedly an evening I cherish wholeheartedly, with adoration for the loved ones I was miraculously able to see, and hope of many sweet reunions in future.

The next two days continued as only my dear friend would allow them to be... full of adventure and alcohol ; ) New Year's Day was spent in the main by nursing a hangover and chatting about the previous evenings events... Who was there, who wasn't, who kissed who, who drank too much, who went home too early, etc... By dinnertime, I seemed finally able to function again, and we all ventured out for a lovely group gathering at a Greek restaurant where I had my first taste of lamb! In all my recollection, I really don't think I have ever had lamb before, and I considered it a must on my list of culinary adventures this year. Tender and succulent, accompanied with pieces of chicken as well, and over a bed of rice, I was quite pleased with the outcome. We managed to hit another bar before heading home quite early, but continuing to chat with a small group until about 4am. That unfortunately made me a bit tired for my plans to tour around London the following day, but it was valiantly accomplished come what may! 

My friend of 32 years who I visited in Ireland this fall was also in London at the same time, so we made arrangements to tour the Tower of London in the afternoon. Though I studied abroad at the British American Drama Academy over ten years ago and have seen most of London's main events both then and since, I have never actually gone into the Tower. We had a really delightful Beefeater as a tour guide, and the weather was surprisingly sunny and clear after two days of torrential downpours. We were not able to see the crowned jewels, as the line was beyond comprehension, but other than that were very happy with our experience. After that, we both realized we were in dire need of sustenance, and since I insisted on going to a traditional English pub, it took us a while to navigate to something appropriate. We also had plans to meet some of her friends as well as mine for dinner at an Indian restaurant later in the evening. I left it to my delightful host to choose a spot, so Irish Dancer friend and I had several hours to kill before dinner time. This allowed us the opportunity to shop, check out St. Paul's Cathedral, and traverse a very large stretch of Oxford Street with all of its lights and festive decadence still in tact. Dinner was a thoroughly lovely affair, great company, really excellent food, and this time I had venison meat for the first time in what was basically a spring roll. After that, my London friend and I met her boyfriend and some others in a bar in Leicester Square. We didn't stay here long, however, as we quickly realized it was a touristy mecca that felt a little too brothel-like when we saw a poor wasted girl practically falling over the guy she was with and approximately ten people watching as a total douche bag tried to take a picture while lying on the floor under her skirt.... the things people do amidst drunken debauchery... But the evening ended with my friend and I bonding once again over some herbal tea, a happy finale to a crazy couple of days...

I took the Eurostar home to Paris the following afternoon, before which I had the opportunity to pop through King's Cross Station, where my memories and fondness of Harry Potter always abound. Over ten years ago, I took pictures there while studying abroad and three of my friends from Connecticut had come to visit me. It was particularly appropriate because those three friends will always and forever share the closest bond with our mutual love of sweet sweet HP. At that time, there was no specific place allocated for HP pics, and we had our own fun pretending to walk through invisible barriers and pointing between platforms 9 and 10. Since then, King's Cross has been totally modernized and even since two years ago, when I took a picture at a small Harry Potter spot built outside the station, things have rapidly changed. Now there is a whole area and workers dedicated to a Harry Potter picture spot, long lines of fans waiting to be photographed with Harry's scarf and trunk, you have to have a train ticket to even get between platforms 9 and 10, and an entire store was built to sell Harry Potter merchandise... Though I value anything honoring the HP world, I admit I think I prefer the older more "realistic" magic of the station 10 years ago...

As I took the train from London to Paris, I was able to reflect on the past two weeks, even the past year, and 2014 resolutions... Seeing so many amazing friends and family, meeting lovely new people, and reuniting with others I had no idea I would see, is always incredibly bittersweet. I love traveling, I love being abroad, but I do wish I could collect all the people I love around me wherever I am sometimes. As one of my good friends put it, though, I have been able to create an even wider network of loved ones via my travels and I have no doubt I will continue to see them all when the time is right. Now I look to 2014 with a very clear slate ready for creativity... What to do this year, where to live, who to see, where to travel, what to create... Love continues throughout... Here's to 2014 : )

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