May 12: Leaving London

Today was our last day in London. Emily and I went up to Camden for some shopping. It was a really cool neighborhood. We got there about an hour before the market opened so we took a walk up Primrose Hill because I had heard that there was an incredible panorama of London at the top. It was a hard climb but the view did not disappoint.

Then we walked along the Regent’s Park canal back into Camden just as it was opening. There were a lot of different shops, but I ended up spending most of my time in a vintage shop. They had a ton of different stuff, from deerstalkers to silk scarves to Soviet officer hats. I’m actually pretty surprised by the amount of communist apparel I’ve seen in London.

Then we had to hurry back to motor coach to our ferry. Ed told us all about the neighborhoods we drove through, and continued the conversation he’d been having with us about the social housing problems in London. It’s so easy for tourists like us to kind of distance ourselves from the realness of the city we’re trying to experience, and I’m really glad Ed gave us that perspective on the city. He also compared The Tower of London and “The Shard,” saying “there’s the scourge of imperialism, and there’s the scourge of capitalism,” while we were at the Tower, so he’s definitely my kinda guy.

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I can really see myself living in London. It felt right being there, and it felt more progressive and diverse than the places I’m used to. Plus, their public transportation is incredibly well designed, maintained and understandable. I know I keep talking about the tube but it’s probably the best system in the world and I can’t get over how they haven’t changed their logo since 1908. It such a clean classic design, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t get to see the design in transportation expo advertised on the back of our tube maps.

Then, with a little delay, we bid a tearful farewell to Ed (who’s birthday was slightly ruined by us), took the ferry to Calais and met our tour guide, Summer. On the ride into Brugge she told us about the immigration problems this area of France in particular were experiencing, which continues our streak of tour guides giving us a much clearer perspective on current social issues.

That night in Brugge we had an absolutely incredible meal and some great beer, Brugse Zot, which translates to Fool of Brugge. I’m very excited for this city. It’s very different from anywhere I’ve been. London felt familiar because of the similar language and culture, but Brugge feels acutely foreign.

Since this is our last day in the UK, I picked one of my favorite songs from here, Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis. It’s their biggest hit, and such an upbeat fun tune it’s little wonder why. Plus, it’ll lift the mood the my playlist a little.

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