Freedom Day in London | EUROPE TRIP

April 25, 2014

Day 4- London

It was our last day in England and we were allowed a free pass to explore the city as we wished, to spend endless hours in parks or watch three musicals in a row it we wanted, whatever tickled our fancy.

While attending musicals would have been great for me but disastrous for Mom,  I came up with a brilliant plan but it all had to seem spontaneous and relaxed because a  ‘free’ day isn’t about meeting schedules and time to the second. It’s about letting it happen.

Our first stop was Abbey Road, the Mecca for any Beatle fan.  After passing by the little Beatles themed shop at St. John’s Wood station, it was only a short walk away and before we knew it there was Abbey Road Studio, a gated white house to the left. The studio is closed to the public and just as well. I might have fainted if I set one foot inside.

Like ourselves, fans settle for leaving their appreciation for the Beatles on the walls of the gates. Some doodle John, Paul, George and Ringo’s faces while others write down a few verses of their favorite songs. Prepared with a permanent marker in my purse, I wrote down thanks. Thanks for the words, for the inspiration, for the funny and sad stories. Thank you for being my teachers and my friends. Thank you for the music.

We could have left it at that, but my aunt thought my late father, her brother, should stay as close to Abbey Road as possible. And now he always will be.

If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have known what music is capable of. Life would have been immensely grey without knowing ‘Norweigan Wood’ ‘I get by with a little help from my Friends’ and our song ‘In my Life’. Without him, so much would have gone by unnoticed. Yet, if someone were to ask me which is one the greatest gift my father gave me, I would say the Beatles and all the memories that are played to their melody.  So thank you, Dad. Thank you. Always.

We couldn’t leave without attempting to recreate the iconic picture, all of us walking coolly to the right. But after getting the direction wrong, Mom taking my place as Lennon and also stopping in the middle to smile at the camera, I was disappointed at my ‘crew’ and we called it quits.

Soon it was lunchtime and we headed to Covent Garden to check out the activity. With quaint shops, gastropubs and street performances in every corner, Covent Garden is one of those districts that no matter how many times you’ve been there, there is always something new to enjoy and explore. I always find it so familiar when I recognize shops and places I have seen since my first visit to London 8 years ago. I always remember a pub called The White Lion where I had my first pint at the age of 16. I remember with every detail the taste of the chewy cookies from the tiniest shop called Ben’s Cookies, wedged into a little corner in the Covent Garden Market. In that same building I never forget to look down to the first level where you always see a gigantic pan used to cook  an enormous paella. Even though it’s irrelevant to Covent Garden’s vibrant energy, I always search for these things, like little treasures I left behind and I want to make sure they are still where I left them.

Once again, I was in luck. The square was invaded by tons of tent booths selling all kinds of food, refreshing drinks and pastries. Even if you weren’t hungry, it was just as fun to walk by slowly and notice all the delicacies they were selling- freshly squeezed lemonade, tubs of olives stuffed with peppers or cheese, soaking in brine and olive oil and thick slices of cheesecake and poppy seed muffins drizzled with lemon glaze. The sizzling sound of grilled meat being tossed with peppers and onion meant to be stuffed into a soft roll made my mouth water. After walking by all the tents, we were starvin marvin.

Mark and I opted for that grilled meat sandwich and savored it as we strolled by Jubilee Market. They were selling every type of trinket like journals bound in aged leather, glass clocks, vintage necklaces and band T-shirts. I found a black Abbey Road tee for nine pounds. It was fate. I couldn’t leave it. But my people performed a small intervention before I walked away with three new journals and five bracelets and ten tops. I have an avid love for useless things.

Afterwards we went to experience London Eye, a must for every first timer. I had been on it two years before and I was immediately filled with regret I hadn’t done this on my very first visit to London. It was an experience that for some reason brought out my inner child. Maybe it’s because it resembles the biggest ferris wheel ride you will ever be on, but it had helped me appreciate the city more. I wanted Mom to have that as well.

The queue for London Eye was long but we were told not to worry. It moves quite fast. Before we had time to worry about how long it would take, we were given 3D glasses and taken to a room to watch a short film about the construction and meaning of London Eye. The observation wheel, which looks like a huge white bicycle wheel with 32 capsules, was added to the city to welcome the millennium and eventually became a symbol of London like the Eiffel Tower for Paris. Frankly, there is no better way to observe the city than this.

We were lucky it was one of those rare sunny days in London because as we ascended slowly in the glass and steel capsule, we were able to see every bit of the city. The forty minute ride seems slow, giving us enough time to stop all the buildings illustrated in the guide we got beforehand. As it keeps moving, the panoramic view broadens and if you are lucky, you might get to see up to 40 kilometres in all directions, as far as Windsor Castle. Even though it was a bright day, I wasn’t able to spot it.
By the time our ride was over, it was almost time for dinner and I had this amazing idea to get my family to try proper Indian Cuisine. But that is a whole other story. Really. Click here to know all about it.

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