London, England’s shining star. The modern city that still manages to create romanticised images of the past as it blends the old with the new. Walking along the river bank with its restaurants, bars and shining silver buildings looming over me, I turned back and looked up at Tower Bridge. As someone who is fascinated by history I couldn’t help but hope that Apple would soon be adding a time machine feature to the iPhone so that I could go back to the old London, Elizabethan London, when the likes of Shakespeare and Marlowe were local’s and little Artful Dodgers wandered the streets to pick a pocket or two. Alas, that day may never come, so I faced modernity head on with my entourage in tow. There were ten of us in total, here in the capital to celebrate my graduation. After five years studying I was excited about finally accepting my degree, but nervous about being up on stage, all eyes on me. I am the sort of person that likes to be heard and not seen, I’ll leave the stage for the actors, thank you!
Coming to London without seeing the famous landmarks, however, would be inexcusable, no-one should go home without saying hello to our Ben at least once. So, on our last day in the city, we made our way down to South Bank to soak up the atmosphere. When the sun graces London with its presence it sure does add a touch of magic to the streets. Performers show off their talents, there are people dancing in the street and everyone seems to have a smile on their face. Well, they do before midday at least, for that is when the streets start bursting at the seams, and trying to find a space on the pavement to take a step proves difficult. There was only one thing for us to do to avoid the congestion, escape to higher ground, or a higher platform at least.
Enclosed in a capsule on the London Eye, suspended in the air, the separation from the crowds below was a welcome break. Our eyes were taken on a tour through history as we followed London’s heartbeat as it zig zagged its way through the city. Afterwards we attempted to walk across Westminster Bridge, fighting against the current. It occurred to me that this bridge turns into a daily version of the Serengeti migration. As we ducked and dived through each tiny bit of space we could find the approaching wildebeest pushed us apart. Individually we made it out alive, just. Bewildered, exhausted, the three days of hectic, fast paced, city life started to take its toll. It was time to leave before admiration for the capital turned into loathing. But, just as the jungle was about to devour me and make me turn my back on London forever, I heard the calls of the Tibetan community from across the other side of the bridge. ‘Peace and compassion,’ they shouted, as they handed out stickers and stood, beaming smiles on their faces, with signs welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It was as if the universe had sent me a sign. For amidst the chaos, the noise, the traffic, and the flood of people, there right in front of me was peace, calmness, serenity. It was the perfect analogy for my current situation in life; behind me was the never ending daily grind, the busy circle of working and studying. But in front of me was freedom, the calmness of sitting in nature, the serenity of watching Buddhist monks chant and meditate. I looked across at their happy faces and smiled, with peace in my heart. It was time to say farewell to London, time to say goodbye to routine, my home, my friends and family. I am ready for the next journey, my real journey, to begin.