If you don’t have at least one story that begins with “remember that one time…” you have not lived. My entire year in London is filled to the brim with special memories such as that. For the third installment of the Cheers Madame! series between myself and Selena of Oh, the places we will go! we thought we would throw in a bit of a plot twist: she would write about Paris, and I would write about London. For those of you new to the series, Selena is an American expat now living in London, and I am an American ex-expat once upon a time living in Paris. Catch up on Part 1 and Part 2 of our collaboration to see how we’ve played up the rivalry between these two cities. We’ve had a riotous good time here!
Now, just because we love to play up that historic animosity doesn’t mean we don’t both love both cities. Selena has had some very special times in Paris, and I in fact lived in London for a year before I moved to Paris. Therefore, it holds a special place in my heart as it is the first international city where I was ever a true expat. And they spoke my language… that was fabulous!
In that year I formed many special memories. Sure, I hit the tourist hot spots. I ticked those boxes and took my photographs. My most special memories however undoubtedly consist of the more mundane daily events. Walking into my laundromat and the lovely attendant remembering me and helping me fold my sheets. The guys at my local wine shop getting to know my tastes and recommending bottles they knew I would like. Going to a pub quiz at the same location every week, and winning a free Sunday roast every single time (it was the consolation prize for coming in last place…). And cups upon cups of tea. That is a part of British culture I have since carried with me anywhere I am. I’m even sipping on a cuppa right at this very moment, my 8th of the day. Not all English Breakfast mind you, or I’d be up until next Tuesday. But if there are any problems in the world, a hot cup of tea can start the ball rolling in the right direction.
I remember my first High Tea, all proper and sophisticated at The Lanesborough near Hyde Park Corner. So posh for us little university students, but we tried our best to look and act the part. I remember buying boxes of my favorite herbal teas at the organic grocer by Portobello Road, near where I lived. I didn’t drink coffee you see, so tea was what kept my thin Floridian blood from freezing in the wet British winter. And scones… fresh from the oven, with clotted cream and jam. Yum… there’s something about a good brew of traditional English tea that Starbucks just can’t touch.
I do realize that my “special memories” of London might not be connected to visiting the sights (did that), having late nights out in the pubs and clubs (did that too), but rather an indulgence of something to distinctly British that it can’t help to leave an impression. Because for me, travel is not about checking the highlights off the list. It’s about opening your mind, being introduced to something new, and hopefully absorbing parts of that experience to take with you when you move on to the next place. For me, a hot cup of tea will always and forever remind me of England, and that fabulous year I spent as a student in London. It made me feel like maybe I wasn’t such a fish out of water, and I could also fit in with this cosmopolitan European capital. More so than any photo in front of Buckingham Palace, although I do have one of those too…
Now it’s your turn!! Add your link below (open until November 29) and share your stories!! We are dying to hear about your own experiences in our two cities, whether it be London, Paris, or both! Also, don’t forget about the #CheersMadame Twitter chat in which Selena and myself host a discussion on our two favorite cities, taking place at 12pm EST/5pm GMT. Hope to see you all there!