Sunday, October 14, 2012

British Birthday

It's now been almost a week since I arrived in London, and while I can't say that I feel completely at home, I am starting to get my bearings and feeling less clueless. I can walk around my neighborhood without a map (for the most part), have been "successfully" navigating the train/ Tube/ bus system, and usually remember to look to the right before I cross the street.

By far, the best market I have ever been to. I've been three times already.
This past Saturday was my birthday. I'm not big on birthdays, at all, and very rarely do anything to "celebrate" arriving one step closer to middle age. In fact, I find that birthdays can be sort of depressing. There's an anticipation that a birthday should be a special, unique day in some regard, when in actuality (at least for me) the day is often just like any other day. An ordinary day is usually just an ordinary day, except when an ordinary day is supposed to be a special day, in which case it's kind of sad.

Which is how last year, alone in Houston on a work trip on my birthday and feeling sorry for myself, I ended up treating myself to a WAY too expensive, completely impractical, but absolutely adorable pair of patent leather, tortoise-shell, 4-inch heels that I've probably worn three times. And that pair of shoes was a downgrade. I really had my eyes on the $800+ Christian Louboutins, even tried them on and absolutely would have bought, except they just didn't fit right. For once, thank goodness for misshapen runners' feet.

This year, I don't have the cash to blow on frivolous purchases to make myself feel better, but I knew a birthday alone in a foreign country had the potential to be far more depressing than a brief work trip in Houston. I was dreading the day, and just kept telling myself, "material things will not make you happy. Especially with the dollar to pound exchange rate. DO NOT BUY ANYTHING."

I am way too highly amused with IPhone panoramas. This is Parliament,.
Tower of London. Fake animals.
So imagine my relief, both emotionally and financially, when I discovered on Friday morning that I didn't have to spend the birthday alone. I found out that Larry, one of my best friends in Chicago, happened to be in town for work. He was leaving early Saturday morning, so I declared Birthday Eve to be the real time for celebration, and headed in to London early Friday afternoon. While Larry finished up work and the obligatory after-work drinks with the boss, I walked the town, checking out new neighborhoods, soaking up the British idioms, not getting hit by cars. I went to the Tate Modern Art Museum, in an attempt to feel cultured and mature, but 10 minutes in, realized (just as I have every other time I've tried to do this) that there's clearly something about modern art that I just don't get.

This?? Don't get it.
Nor do I "get" this performance art, which was just a mass of people running through the museum lobby.
It took me an hour to find Larry's hotel, but once there, we set out on foot and explored even more neighborhoods before settling in for drinks and dinner in Soho. We made it to midnight so that I could have an official birthday drink, then bid adieu, and I headed home feeling full and a little drunk and really quite happy. I've only been overseas for a little over a week, but it's been almost three months since I left my life as I knew it in Chicago. It wasn't until I spent a few hours with a friend, catching up on what's going on back in Chicago, how our mutual friends are doing, even how the neighborhood has changed, that I realized just how much I've missed my former life. Travel is fun, and every day is a grand new adventure, but still, there's no place like home. It was great to have a taste of it.

Drinks at Hix, thanks for the rec, PStas
On Saturday, the actual birthday, I slept in without guilt, went for a long run on a crisp fall day, kicked through fallen leaves, discovered an absolutely charming little park not far from me, and got rained on (that's a positive thing, I LOVE running in the rain). Perfect.

Charming neighborhood park.
This guy was waiting outside my door when I got back from my run. We had a staredown. I won, but on the inside, I was terrified.
Then I went back into the city, this time to hang out with one of my friends from my original home, Columbus. She's an old high school friend, here getting a masters' degree, and I went with her and some of her friends to the symphony, the weekend's attempt #2 to feel cultured and mature. Then I realized I'd had far too much culture and maturity for 1 weekend, so we counteracted that with this meal, eaten outside on a picnic table in a neighborhood that I can only describe as Hipster-times-about-a-million. So much for culture and maturity.

Overall, despite my fears, this ended up being a lovely British birthday weekend. I'm a lucky girl, being able to hang out with not one, but two good friends in a course of 48 hours in a city thousands and thousands of miles away. And I didn't buy anything frivolous, unless you count the sausage sandwich. It's a birthday I'll remember for a while.....and in a good way, this time.

Cultured, mature, and highly amused by this street name




  1. What you have labeled as Parliament is actually St. Paul's and the Millennium Bridge, taken from in front of the Tate Modern, a few yards away from where that one guy sells roasted nuts.

    1. Haha, whoops. It did seen a bit small for a Parliamentary sort of place. #badtourist