Genevieve Rice is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An English Literature major at Anderson University, she is studying abroad in London this semester.
In this week's post, Genevieve explores London spontaneously and shares her first impressions of the city.
In the past few days, I have discovered that the best way to get to know a city is simply to get lost in it. Take the back alleys and go down the strange side streets, and then make yourself find your way home through common sense—or with your phone. Over the past week and a half, I have tried many different ways of touring London, but I enjoy getting off the tube and picking a direction, then following my gut reactions to the streets that I am traversing. This method always leads me to find the most fantastic things, from a new favorite coffee shop to a fascinating museum. This is how I spent my weekend as I attempted to orient myself in this sprawling city. We only started classes last Monday, so many of the CAPA students utilized the first four days in London to introduce ourselves to the city. Each day revealed something new about this city that I am calling home for the next three months.
On Friday, I started by exploring a little around the CAPA London center on Cromwell Road. The building is surrounded by museums, cafes, and shops. My first objective was to check out some of the museums. I must admit, at this point we were using the overrated method of exploring, but out we went anyway, to explore the Natural History Museum, where we discovered a treasure trove of knowledge from a walk-in womb—yes, a womb, furnished with an adult sized fetus—to a selection of animatronic dinosaurs. The wonders of the Natural History Museum taught me that London’s museums can offer more than an education, but can also prove to be marvelous places to sit, relax, and take a break from the fast pace of the streets. Sometimes, the rest that is required before going to another class or hightailing it across the city for my internship can be found in the 30 minutes to an hour that I spend admiring the architecture or exploring the quiet exhibits.
Saturday’s discoveries came in fast succession. Most of the day was spent on a walking and bus tour that was organized by CAPA, but the evening proved to be the most revealing. We had ended up in Covent Gardens, a square that is populated with pigeons, tourists, stalls, and street performers. At one corner of the square, a superb rendition of ‘Here Comes the Sun’ by the Beatles was being performed by a cigarette-scented man. The other side of the square boasted a magician, whose main trick was insulting people passing by in such a way that they suddenly became inclined to stop. I must admit, I was one of the people who stopped and clogged up the street. But in my defense, the magician was hilarious. He, and the three other magicians performing nearby, kept saying the same phrase: “Relax, relax. Look where you are and let yourself stop and smile.” This is the second thing that I discovered about London. It is crazy and loud, but sometimes you should allow yourself to be entertained. Let yourself smile and be silly, because a new city can be overwhelming and the trick is learning to have fun in the craziness.
The last day of the weekend was undoubtedly my favorite. The afternoon consisted of meeting up with a friend and then picking a bus to see where it took us. We found ourselves in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which is undoubtedly my favorite area so far. The peaceful streets were devoid of non-locals despite being only two roads over from a busy road. We walked and chose streets at random, reveling in the uniform house fronts and trailing vines that dressed them.
We eventually stumbled upon a café that had all organic milk and even better, a mini garden with tables in the back. It was during this afternoon that I discovered that London is impossibly multidimensional. What I mean by that is it has layer upon layer of culture, ethnicities, and lifestyles. To embrace London is to recognize that it is living and breathing alongside the people who create it, so no matter how long I explore it, I can never fully know it.
This first weekend was a whirlwind of adventure, travel, and walking. I know that the city has so much more to teach me about what makes it unique and how to live alongside the craziness. If I have learned anything about living in London in the past week, it is that living in a big city is insanely fast-paced, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t enjoyable. The beauty of London is accepting how it never stops and finding peace amidst the turbulence of a city that breathes.
Genevieve's journey continues every Monday so stay tuned.