Trafalgar Square Christmas Cheer
Photograph by author
It is January, not the best time to take a trip to London. The cold comes and goes; and on a good day, 45 degrees is not so bad if you dress properly. Of course, the first semi-warm day and I decide to “layer.”
It is my husband’s last night here. I have to make somewhat of an effort, don’t I? By which I mean: jeans, a hoodie, a jean jacket, and boots. But they are really cute jeans – the type that require 3-inch heels to accommodate the longer cut that impresses slendering height. And the hoodie is a purple, synthetic, snuggly fit Armani with an oversized hood and white detailing on the cuffs. I’m not a label whore, but that’s got to count for something…
After rearranging the contents of our bags, we head out around 3 pm. We begin our excursion at Trafalgar Square, all the while snapping pictures and trying to climb the lions. (Admit it – it’s sometimes fun to play the blatant tourist). Then, a quick “oohing and ahhing” at the 10 Downing Street entranceway, followed by a snack across the street.
At 5pm, we stop in for mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The space feels blessed. Its cross-shaped intersection mends above the second largest freestanding dome in the world. On lookers and parishioners muse in the spirit of Christmas. Organs and reverberating hymns fill the cavity. The location has been a holy site since 604 A.D., although the edifice has been destroyed and reconstructed a handful of times; the latest design architected by Sir Christopher Wren, after the Great Fire of London.
As night falls, we go to Leicester Square. A carnival has pocketed the space for the holidays. Bumper cars, a giant rotating stick that looks like it has two spinning wheels on each end (complete with slack-jawed figurines), cotton candy, dinging bells, and popcorn air dance with our senses. Even the English have taken a break for the holidays, releasing the stick momentarily. We take a spin in the bumper cars. The cars are faster here and you can really feel the jerk upon impact, so we take another. This time, I drive.
We end the night at a cafe – a perfect day.
The Morning After
I wish I could say the same about the next morning, but I can’t. My body burned and pounded.Great – down with the flu on the first solo day of my trip. And I have to change hotels again – the downside of getting hooked up with friendly rates in decent accommodations. But I mustn’t complain. Otherwise, I would be on a plane home, with the dollar being in a more terrible way than I am at the moment.
After checking into my new accommodations, I head for the Indian restaurant across the street.
“May I please have some Dal?” I ask, as I rest my arms on the white tablecloth.
“And…” the waiter prompts.
“…and Nann, and make that a large Dal?”
He continues staring through me. “That’s it,” I squeeze out, “Look, I am sick, and I can’t eat anything else.”
“Then you’ll have to take it to go.”
“That’s fine,” I quip and shift into my chair sideways; my eyes blurring out the triptych of windows on either side of the restaurant’s facade.
“Hello,” I say instinctively to the only other customer in the room – a small, unassuming woman with silver hair and olive skin.
“Where are you from,” she asks, taking note of my accent.
“Why are you here – holiday?”
“No, I’m here searching out stories about South Asians in London. Their stories begin about a generation or so before that of South Asians stateside…thought it would be an interesting comparison. I am a writer,” I said in jumbled order. Hey, I am sick over here. She nods. “Actually, I would like to hear your story if that’s okay. Do you mind if I come sit with you for a moment?”
With that, my conversation with Joyce began.