When i was booking my flight to Ethiopia, i chose the one with the longest possible layover, which was through London. I had about 10 hours. Not a leisurely visit, but more than enough for a good afternoon.
I lived in London briefly from 1994-95 and loved it, but have not been back since. The idea of being back there was exciting and actually being there was awesome. In some small way i was able to tap into the excitement of young me arriving in London for the first time. I couldn't stop smiling and i just wanted to walk around and see everything.
Of course though, i didn't have time for everything, so i planned a strategic walk past some key sights and old haunts. I took the train to Westminster and caught a glimpse of Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, before walking up to Trafalgar Square.
I was struck by how lovely everything was and how thoroughly British everything is. Almost to the point of cliché. The architecture, monuments, flags, black cabs, red phone booths and double decker buses, chip shops, mind the gap, and every wonderful variation on the British accent you could imagine. Delightful. Trafalgar Square was teeming with people, but the inside of St Martin-in-the-Fields was serene.
The streets were busier than i remembered and there seemed to be more advertising and you can't smoke everywhere anymore, but all of the stuff i cared about was the same. I wandered in all of the squares and parks i passed, enjoying the flowers and sculptures and meandered through the streets, enjoying the bustle.
Then, i turned down a street and was met with the Dunhill shop. For those of you who don't smoke, it is a famous tobacconist shop. I went in and it was beautiful and i suddenly became very conscious of the fact that i looked very shabby. I apologized for my attire and immediately began prattling on about cigars and Dunhill and the man working there - with a posh accent and nattily dressed in fine tweeds - could not have been nicer. I picked a Partagas from the walk-in humidor and settled into the lounge, for a smoke and espresso.
The only other guys there were two very handsome and super fancy looking young men, smoking Cohiba Behikes and playing cards, immaculately dressed. We chatted a bit and then i was on my way and discovered that there are in fact 3 more cigars stores on that block. If i hadn't had a plane to catch i would have spent all day there, but instead i walked past Buckingham Palace, through Piccadilly Circus, the theatre district, Leicester Square, Soho, and Chinatown, before ending at Covent Garden. I didn't really do anything; i just walked and took everything in. Finally it was time to head back to the Airport.
It was wonderful to have that whirlwind walk through London. It brought back many memories and i saw so many things that i could spend a lifetime exploring and never tire of. I would live there again in a moment.
Anyway, now i am on a plane bound for Ethiopia, where i'm sure nothing will remind me of anything, but there should be much to explore.