It started with Apol telling me to visit her in Provence. Admittedly, I had a very vague idea where Provence is. They said, it is the provincial France, specifically located on the southern part. I contemplated on the idea, tried to do some math vis-a-vis my finances. It was impossible.
I told Apol, “Maybe next year...” not being sure of everything. Then I tried telling my friends about it. They got more excited more than I. It was when I got to be introduced to my travel agent a few months after that the plan became more concrete, at least the expenses. It was that time that I started doing feelers to my mom. Good thing that we, as a family started traveling together in and outside of the country.
You see, travel in my parents vocabulary when we were young is as vague as latin. It was never part of life. To actually think about it is totally absurd. My dad would often say, it is just a waste of money.
I hope to see the Eiffel from where I sit while writing this- First class TGV to Montpellier. Mont... what? I bought this Eurail pass from my agent before I left Manila. As advised by a friend whom I’m meeting when I go back to Paris before I fly back to Manila.
Way back in Manila, when I was still in UP (where I willingly flunked my French 10), I would see photos of paintings and architecture period styles and just wonder how they are built and made. Studying them and forcing yourself to actually appreciate and master each style with just pictures was doubly hard. I would only wish I can touch them or see them in real life so my memory won’t fail me.
It was last January that I told myself, I will not only visit Apol but make the most of the trip. After all, airfare to Europe is not cheap. The original plan was June. It was moved to August. I tried to make it August but the British Embassy did not allow me. They had my passport on hostage for two months making me almost lose hope. It was when my Schengen visa was given by the French Embassy that I decided to push thru with it regardless of my fluctuating finances.
As birthday gift, my aunt gave me a considerable amount for my pocket money. And my mom agreed to sponsor my airfare. With those on my sleeve, I’m ready to go. Except that I still have responsibilities to finish. And it reached the end of September for work to be done. To be honest, they are still not done but I don’t want to reschedule my ticket.
I arrived in London October 2 at six in the morning. The stories are true, London is cold and wet. My friend picked me up from Heathrow then we took the train to the nearest station where he lives. The initial sight of London did not disappoint me. Brick Victorian homes with remnants of Neo-classic adobe and the far too old Tudor. Then the train went underground.It was when we got off and took the stairs that I got awed by the city. The first thing I saw in central London was the Parliament, full in it’s Gothic revival grandeur. I almost bump into some Japanese tourists primarily because I can’t seem to remove my eyes from it. My friend’s place is just across the bridge over Thames. I told myself, “I’m the luckiest tourist in town!”
London. Aside from being cold and wet, and expensive!, the city boasts of the finer things in life- the height of urban living. It is a city that treasures it’s age while enjoying what modernism can give. The city that stands contented yet operating like a fully lubed clock.
The city of townhouses. In the central part particularly Westminster City is filled with multilevel thin houses built side by side with each other. On the ground level are mostly commercial establishments. If you look closer, There is either a gap between the pavements and the buildings (with rails) or the walkway is lined with glass blocks, just enough to provide natural light to the basement. Basements abode the city. Simply goes to show how old the place is. Maybe, once upon a time, the ground level was way lower than where it is now.
The train system is complicated. It carries the entire city from underneath. On the ground is a vast systematized routes for buses. Needless to say, you don’t really need a car to get you around the city. Taxi rides remain to be a luxury. And yes, who wouldn’t want to walk on old narrow cobblestone roads? With the cold weather, anybody from Manila would know what I mean.
One thing about the city that struck me was the existence of theatre as an industry. Shows are being watched by walk-ins and well appreciated. Tickets are sold everywhere, posters and streamers are all over the city. To be a stage actor in this city is actually a legitimate job. Maybe paying better than others. I was told that once upon a time, Manila was like that. Before the advent of the now deteriorating movie industry. If only for that reason, I would want to live in London. Now, stage plays in Manila are nothing but required field trips to high school students.
I watched four shows in London from the planned six. Not bad I thought, considering the ticket prices. Thanks to Rob who shouldered almost everything.
I reached Montpelier midnight as scheduled. I will be writing more about France soon.