Shaun Fitzpatrick and Emily Brill, two of last semester’s editors, are exploring England. Follow them and see where their travels take you.
I never planned to fall in love while in the U.K. Long distance relationships just never work out. But the heart wants what the heart wants … and my heart wants Edinburgh, Scotland.
Having done some travelling by this point (some of it with you), I’ve gotten to see a couple of different cities. None of them, however, hold a candle to Edinburgh for me. For the most part, I’m not a city person. The people are rude, the food’s too expensive and I never feel clean (I’m talking to you, N.Y.C.). Edinburgh, however, totally changed my perception of what a city could be. Sure, it had all of the conveniences of a big city — except instead of glass and chrome, it had classic European architecture and, oh yeah, a freakin’ castle. In one city, I was able to see an original copy of the First Folio, the café where “Harry Potter” was written, and more museums, galleries and historical sites than I could wrap my head around, and while looking at the famous rolling hills of Scotland in the background.
But you might be thinking that all cities have cool stuff to offer, right? Maybe, but how many times can you say that you’ve been in a city where people were actually legitimately friendly? For the most part, the Scottish were some of the nicest people I’ve met, especially in a big-city atmosphere. They were always helpful and willing to talk, even if we were just stupid American tourists.
Emily and Shaun in London. (Photo courtesy of Alec Plasker)
So what about you? Did you find your true love yet?
. . .
Like you, I grew up with a troubled relationship with cities.
I’m from rural southern N.J., so my initial reaction to the “concrete jungle” — be it N.Y., Philadelphia or D.C., the first three cities to which I was introduced — was a combination of awe and fear.
I’ve been trying to consciously mold myself into someone who likes cities over the past few years. I’d like to live in a city one day, so I hoped my country-mouse fears — “Oh no, my neighbours are people and not trees now; that must mean they want to rob me” — would give way to a cosmopolitan outlook and genuine appreciation of urban life over time.
Each time I’ve gone into N.Y.C., I’ve inched further out of my shell. I’ve started to walk faster, think faster, whip out Yelp to appraise nearby restaurants faster. (It’s nice, when asked, “Where do you want to get food?” to not need to respond apologetically, “Well, there’s only one restaurant within 20 minutes of here…”)
But even though I’ve started to enjoy my trips to cities, my reaction to London caught me off-guard. I loved it.
Something about the city instantly captivated me. It could have been the street art, swathing walls of shops in Shoreditch. Or the outdoor markets in Notting Hill. Or the sense of respect for the past, but urgent grounding in the present in South Bank. Or the multiculturalism and chaos of the West End. Maybe even the Underground. (Was I once nervous about taking the subway? It hardly seemed that I had been, as I tapped into the Underground terminal with a borrowed Oyster card and newfound nonchalance.)
When I left London, I missed it. I craved the buzz of activity, the onslaught of people and the things to do. I planned a trip back the next weekend. When I returned, my reaction was the same.
I didn’t need to try to enjoy my jaunt to the city. I just did. I didn’t need to make pains to feel comfortable. I just did. And I left having found the sense of appreciation for city life I had always searched for — without even looking for it.
It might have been London that did it. But I’m reminded of something a man told me the second day I was here. I was eating lunch in a crowded café in Oxford’s covered market with a British couple. They were living in New York — she, an NYU professor; he, a banker — and were back in Oxford on a business trip. He asked me how I liked N.Y.
“When I was younger, I was always afraid of it,” I said, honestly. “But now that I’m older, I’m getting used to it, and I kind of like it.”
He chuckled. “Well, that’s education, isn’t it?”