Thursday, March 13, 2014

London 3 - Embrace the chaos

This was the day when my DH was in a conference to well into the night, so I explored on my own. Exploring a foreign city on your own should be something that everyone does at least once. At least when I do it, it is a time of great self-reflection and self-discovery. 
It can be very scary to be surrounded by the unknown and unfamiliar (which is why you look both ways 5 or six times and then RUN when you are crossing the street in England). It is very confidence building to know you transverse foreign cities in stride (or at least pretend to).

This day, will be a day I long remember. It was one of those days where you discover the truths right in front of your face, when you learn where you need to make the changes in your attitude. A day, where I learned that you have to "Embrace the Chaos" - but more on that later

The first thing I did was something I did not do when I first went to London (when I was 13 years old), and that is to visit Buckingham Palace and St James Park. 

Canada gates

At around 10am the sky cleared in it was a magnificent day.

Canada gates
 Basically I did not have a plan. There are so many thing to see in London that I decided that any one of would be splendid and walked around the palace and the parks surrounding it.

Old Buck house
The royal gates, unicorn and all

Duck pond St James park
I sat in front of the duck pond on a bench in the sunlight and knitted for a while while checking my email. It was very relaxing, travel is more relaxing if ever so often you take the time to breathe. But soon it was time to meet my lunch date in Convent Garden, so I started walking back to the underground. On the way, I past this building and did the touristy thing and snapped a photo because the Royal guards were in front. (You can't do that at the Palace, they are way behind the gate at the Palace.)

St James palace - clock tower house

A marvelous building
One of advantages/disadvantages of being an expat is that your fellow expat friends are always moving. It is am obvious disadvantage if they move away, but sometimes while you travel you can reconnect with them. A friend of mine, who I wish I knew better, just recently moved to London and she was able to meet up with me for lunch and a spot of bead shopping. We met in Covent Garden which is a beautiful neighborhood (although not very garden-y) but I was too busy chatting to get photos. The bead store was fabulous and huge so I will post this image taken from their site and link to their website

Then we meandered our way into China town for lunch. Lunch was just what I needed. The food was good but the conversation was priceless. The thing is, that most of the expats I know in Madrid are either younger than me (more energy and optimism) or are busy with their children. Being able to talk to a like-minded fellow expat my age was...amazing. She has been reflecting on the expat life a lot recently and at that lunch she gave me my new mantra: "Embrace the Chaos". She had been thinking on it, and good part of culture - is expectations about how things should be, and they should be done. What is unthinkable in one culture, can be acceptable in another culture. Even little cultural differences can make it hard to adjust to the new culture. 

Culture structures your life within your society, without that structure life can seem very chaotic and not make much sense, hence "Embrace the Chaos" being a good mantra. We all have no real idea how our lives are going to be in 5 years. Truth is, life changing events happen all the time. The trick is to figure out how to embrace the change and let it take-you-where-it-will rather than fighting it. It is the fighting for what you think is right, even though in the grand scope of thing it is not really a big deal, that uses up all your energy, that makes you feel like an outcast. Being a happy expat it a lot about letting your expectations of how things should be go, and trying the new.

After I left Adele I stopped in a John Lewis (it is a department store and they have yarn, although I did not buy any), and then made my way back to the underground and to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

I went to the V&A because it is known for housing some of the best textile and design collections in the world. Luckily, I marched right up to the information desk and asked where to find them (it is a huge museum), because...bad news...those collections are not there anymore. The good news for everyone else is that apparently there is going to be a new museum just for Textile and Design, but it is not open yet. I probably should have gone across the street to the Science museum then, but the helpful information people told me where to find that medieval textiles and I wandered up to look at tapestries, pillows, rooms of gold and clothing. What I saw was not bad, I had just been excited to see actual knitting (and a knitting lab) in a classy museum like the V&A.

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