This last weekend I decided to test the water outside Ireland. I was hesitant at first, much like dipping my toes in cold water before taking the plunge. I had already begun to associate Ireland with the familiar and drew comfort in that. Even when I traveled around to other places within Ireland such as Dublin and Belfast there was a familiarity within each place that instilled confidence within my untraveled self. No matter what reservations I had about travelling alone to London I knew I could not let this opportunity pass me by. It came down to one simple fact: London is too close to Ireland to not travel to. So I took the plunge into the icy water and emerged with a seed of confidence that will only be nurtured as I continue my travels.
One of my reservations was a fear that London could not measure up to Belfast. The city, in which I had, in only one day, grew a strong connection to (as my last blog provides testimony to). Throughout this week I continually tried to compare the two in a futile attempt to answer this very same question. I did come to a conclusion finally. I realized: why do I have to compare them. The two cities are individuals and I had been trying to push them into a standard to allow for a comparison. I was never happy with the product because each city has its own personality that is completely separate from the other. It is the individuality that I feel in love with within each city and once I tried to compare it was the individuality that fell away. Where Belfast was an old man with a little boy heart, London was a pretentious old woman that to the public is proper, but secretly hides within a spirit of fire.
Due to the time constrain the first place I went to was the Buckingham Palace. I had heard about the changing of the guards and I knew it was an event that I needed to see. The changing of the guards happens at 11:20 and I believe only happens daily during heavy tourist times. I arrived early in the hopes of getting a decent spot to view the procession. I will always remember my first view of the palace. It was just one of those moments that you know as soon as it happens that it was destined to become more than a memory. It surpassed a mere memory and became ingrained within myself deep enough to leave a lasting impression. My first complete look of the palace and the fountain, as cliché as it is, literally took my breath away. I felt my lips whisper the words wow, but I had no words to actually udder the sound. I have not had much exposure to such beauty, although I know there are places in the world that easily surpass the Buckingham Palace it won’t matter because it will be one of the few palace (Belfast included) that has opened my eyes to a broader world. It will not matter what I see later in my life these places will hold a special place within myself for acting the part of a gateway. The palace was gorgeous in its ostentatious way and the surface of the old woman was visible in every inch of this place. The image only solidified when the procession of the changing of the guards started. When the music started up I physically straightened my spine and titled my head up so not to feel out of place.
Underneath the pretentious surface hid the heart of fire whose heart beat was driven by music. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to stop at the Hard Rock Café. Within the unassuming café housed the history of generations of legendary musicians borne within the very city I found myself in. The sheer amount of talent that was created within the giant city gives testimony to the spirit that lurks under the polished veneer. The Hard Rock Café paid tribute to all legendary artists of rock such as the Sex Pistols and KISS by mounting memorabilia for all to appreciate. Underneath the gift shop was what they called the “vault” that had within it all imaginable types of memorabilia from famous rockers where anyone could go down and tour for free. It was a stark contrast from the palace and it was the contrast that highlighted the complexity within London and only cemented the notion that London contained a spirit of fire.
These places I am visiting house an incredible amount of history especially when compared to the United States that gives the appearance of merely a teenager in company of the world. It is the history the gives these places such a distinct personality that allows the cities to easily be personified. The old man and the ostentatious aged woman slowly took shape as I toured each city. The layers were continually added with each new discovery leading to, in itself, a discovery. I realized the layers added a complexity that is found within all humans. It was the complexity and humanity within the cities that enabled me to form a connection to each city and fall in love with the individuality that was found within.