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Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Tale of One City

It's been rather difficult to figure how to write about my trip to London over Thanksgiving. For years, London has been my heart: I left the country for the first time to go to college there, fell in love for the first time and saw a bit of the world. I feel I grew up there and returned to the states a different boy. I had never been so happy in my life.

But I'm not 20 years old anymore. I've changed, London's changed; it's awfully commercial now. I'm not 32 either, when I last went back 10 years ago, just enthralled to be there again, to revisit some places and relive some memories. This year I did go back to look at my dorm at the Park Crescent Mews off of the Great Portland tube stop. It's a residential building now. I also returned to The Albany, a local watering hole across the street. I went to visit my school, Regent's College in Regent's Park, but couldn't get in past the gates. I needed a student pass, which I obviously didn't have any longer--so I stealthily snuck in through the back entrance, past several guards to get to the grounds. The staircase at the Royal Academy of Music which I used to climb several times a week when I took voice lessons isn't nearly as grand as I remember it.

Despite the sometime feeling of bewilderment, Baby and I created some really exciting new memories too this year in London--so perhaps what I'm really writing about is two tales of one city.
Apart from seeing a great production of Breakfast at Tiffany's and snagging two last-minute tickets to the extraordinarily fun and gorgeous musical version of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Baby and I naturally found some wonderful meals. Baby took me to J Sheeky, his favorite restaurant in London, where we supped on oysters, Dover sole and fish pie, and I took him to my favorite restaurant, London's oldest restaurant, Rules. We had even more incredible Frenchman's Creek Rock oysters from the Duchy of Cornwall, Roe deer terrine, onion soup with welsh rarebit toasts, bloody good lamb chops, and Steak Diane with herb butter and a sticky toffee pudding to top it all off.

Since Baby had to work, I spent a truly fabulous Thanksgiving day single-o at Harvey Nichols, taking myself to lunch on the 5th floor. The prix fixe was a damned good deal (about $40, including half a bottle of wine) where I treasured a Fourme d'Abert (a gentle blue cheese) & pear tart, mushroom risotto and chocolate mousse with pistachio crisps and a drizzle of pear coulis. Later that evening, we all had cocktails with Amy Sacco at her newly opened Bungalow 8 in the chic St. Martin's Lane hotel, and then a proper feast alongside her as well at Bedford & Strand. Roast parsnip soup! Beef and onion pie! And of course, turkey with traditional trimmings. We also shared the treacle tart with clotted cream.

When I try to sort my feelings about this unexpectedly conflicted journey, I suppose it is the boy I miss, the one I used to be, who was some years ago emerging as a young man. I guess I realized too when I was in London that there are certain things better left simply relegated to the past. I'm not 20 years old anymore but when I think about when I was, and am flooded with all those memories of the London that I so cherished, I finally might have realized I don't have to hold on to or try to recapture the past; instead know now that for having just lived it, yes, I will always be thankful.

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