Two weeks, are you sure?
When my wife and I told people in early September that we were planning on spending two weeks in London, many responded to the news of this long-time planned trip with: “Are you spending all that time in London?”
Err, yes, why, is two weeks too much to pass in one city?
Actually, subtract two travelling days, and you have exactly 12 full days that we planned to spend in the great capital city.
Nevertheless, we did try to not sound too eccentric by saying, “Oh, we’ve planned two day trips outside the city.” People did seem a bit mollified with that bit of news and eyebrows were lowered.
Well, we never took those two day trips. Two outings were eventually replaced by one in our plans, and when the time came to take a day trip to Cambridge, Naomi felt that she couldn’t endure two one hour train rides in one day.
I was fine with that; I will visit Cambridge one day, and elsewhere, my next visit to the U.K.
When the time came to leave following a remarkable stay in a remarkable metropolis, I mouthed to Naomi while on our final ‘tube’ ride to Heathrow Airport, “I don’t want to go.” She smiled and understood; the 12 days that we spent walking about this great city felt, to me at least, about 12 days too short. That’s how much I love London.
In the following week or so, I’ll be sharing my observations collected during my time there (I took copious notes). Today, we start with the very first day, straight off the plane and on our very first tube ride to the first of two accommodations in the city.
A Quiet Ride
The first morning, laden with all of our baggage. Luckily, as Heathrow Airport is where the tube line begins, we have no trouble finding a place to sit; the subway is empty except for other travelers.
At each stop, the car fills up, and Naomi and I cling tenaciously to our seats, our baggage filling up the rather narrow space between us and the seats facing us on the other side of the car (all seats face inward instead of forward as you would find in Montreal).
We are witnessing the morning commute from the London suburbs to downtown. It is Tuesday morning. Men are outnumbered three or four to one and what is eerie about this trip is how absolutely quiet and still everyone is.
One the seats opposite to us, everyone has his or her face in a device. Our side is device-free and I occasionally whisper something in Naomi’s ear; whisper, because I don’t want to disturb the silence.
The car now is soon bursting with commuters, following half a dozen stops, most standing stoically around us, swaying with the motion of the subway. Some are trying to read while standing; one man in the corner is trying to sleep standing up, his head bobbing up and down in slumber. I notice how youthful everyone is. Err, where are the old people? (Not working?)
Yes, we are all strangers to each other, but I have trouble imagining a métro ride in Montreal being so quiet.
I try to keep my shoulder bag from crushing a woman’s leg in front of me by constantly pulling it into my body. There is a recorded woman’s voice announcing the tube line, where its final destination is and, of course, each stop as we approach. The sound quality, unlike what you find in Montreal, is perfect: “Next stop, South Ealing.”
It won’t always be like this, of course. Many rides on the Underground will be lively and “normal”.
During our stay, Naomi and I will do much travelling on the Underground (and an Underground line called the “Overground”), with only a few excursions on a double decker bus, but this first ride stands out as surreal and special, one that I won’t soon forget.