When in London, I can’t help but overindulge, especially in Covent Garden. Before my eyes is a feast of colors, culture, and people. Yes, the people! I love the them the most. I’m fully entranced by the street performers putting on magic shows, executing magnificent acrobatic feats, or making music. I am absorbed by the swelling crowds of tourists who swarm around these performers with their camera phones pointed at the action. An ocean of swirling dialects and diverse colors crash around me like waves. Swimming through them, I am eventually channeled out into open space spotted with the more local folks who are on a mission in the city. They walk with purpose, with determination, with confidence. Lining benches and any free steps are groups of visitors from where I can only imagine to be every corner and crevice of the world. Some groups are shaking in the brisk air, unprepared for the chilly weather, while others gather at coffee shops for some liquid gold to warm them. The people provide the tone and their culture, the flavor, against the grey backdrop of London architecture. Brick roads meet stone buildings and blend effortlessly into a matching sky. There is the occasional splotch of color on a building, usually clay reds but sometimes vibrant blues or pinks. Crisp corners and defined outlines shape the structures, breaking form only by the supporting round pillars that reach up into arches. Flowers in crates like garnishes dot the paths and nature can be seen on doors framed with foliage. But another treasure lies in the heart of the square. It is in the apple market where past and present combine. The market seems to beat with intensity and throb with opportunity. The old style of the outdoor market has found its way inside in a space that produces a feeling of openness as well as crowdedness. It is here where all the smells and sounds seem to gather and present themselves like a main course to me. It is here that I smell fresh cookies mixed with Chanel perfumes and the odor of sleep deprived travelers. It is here where the calls of children and hollers of street performers blend over the low rumble of conversation. Every sound takes on vibrant colors that swirl around me, and every sight I can feel move through me. Each sense tingles inside, overwhelmed after being starved for so long. It is here, among these senses and the people that I feel at the heart of London and finally satisfy my cravings.
He often wonders, if it’s obvious that he is not from here. His look, his walk, what will give it away today? Hopefully, he believes, that one day the only foreign sign will be the reflected wonder that flickers in his eyes as he looks in awe at the city of London, trying to comprehend its novelty. The same glinted gaze that only he knows about when reading a book on a park bench in Brenton Cross. When quiet hangs in the open like fog, trapped between emerald green grass and the smoggy ash sky. Or the same senses that tingle through him when he finds himself just enjoying his walk down Oxford street. With no destination, no concerns, absorbing every detail, and feasting on everything the city has to offer. Walking through puffs of cigarette smoke, past pubs bursting with the clamor of conversation and clanks of business, and by the brightly lit signs of theaters, he begins to fade into the people. He acknowledges the beauty and bliss in all these moments. As time goes on the mundane actions of his old life like transportation, shopping, studying, working, all become lively and exciting adventures in his new environment. He begins to wander less. He starts to know his way and walk with a more determined step and confident gait past confused tourists and stride for stride with the locals. Finding his way to his usual coffee shop for a steaming cup of tea or his favorite pub for a cold beer and chips becomes routine. He keeps beat with the city. However, it is not above him to occasionally ride the tube to an uncharted destination and get off. Here, he explores with a naïve composition. He gets lost, resorting back to unsure movements, but along the way passes the fresh smells of restaurants undiscovered by him, extraordinary and breath-taking architecture, and he begins to become over-taken by the feeling, the spark and tingling of his senses, as if he is uncovering the city for the first time.