Break 1 – London

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God’s Own Junkyard

London with a Local 

Taking on the city with a 10-year resident, I met up with the brother of one of my mother’s international friends.  We began with the tourist leading the Londoner to God’s Own Junkyard, a garage gallery on the outskirts of the city center home to hundreds of neon signs; if you arrive near the dumpsters of a questionable property, you’re in the right place!  The establishment was small, but impressive.  More than just a lot of light, many of the installments were composed works, a combination of individual, glowing pieces, to create inspiring, innovative, and eyebrow-raising art.

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“It’s always your favorite sins that do you in.”

Though there is a café area in the gallery, my new friend and I did not stay, opting instead for a greater foodie experience closer to town.

 

Camden: the Cosmic Culinary Capital of London

My guide led me to the neighborhood of Camden Town, a funky, alternative area of food and flea market vendors. Our destination was, specifically, the Camden Market, an international smorgasbord bordering Regent’s Canal.  Hosting stalls of every type of cuisine, we settled on splitting a Venezuelan shredded beef and corn bread sandwich and a Greek chicken wrap. The sandwich, from Arepa: Venezuelan Street Kitchen, was one of the best dishes I ate in London.

Next, we ventured into a store that I feel embodies the environment of Camden.  Cyberdog‘s storefront was preceded by a line to get in the door, which was flanked by two, futuristic, human-dog hybrids.  Neon lights, techno music, and cage dancers greet customers, along with the store’s least offensive merchandise. Floors below reveal risqué stock, justifying the “no photography” policy.

After visiting God’s Own Junkyard and this inexplicably bizarre but must-see store, I began to feel that the phrase “only in London” would be an appropriate label for many of my experiences on this trip.

Walking after our lunch, we took the Regent’s Canal Towpath from Camden Town to Primrose Hill in Regent’s Park.  On a clear day, one finds a panoramic look of London, but as typical of viewing experiences of my journey, the city fog took over and obscured the overlook.

 

Lights of London

While visiting a new city, I like to explore the same place during the day and during the night for a different perspective.  Each experience is beautiful in its own way.  I was able to end my third day in London with a return to Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye to enjoy these London landmarks illuminated along the River Thames.

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“Second star to the right and straight on till morning.”  ~ Peter Pan

 

Destination Locations

Peace, Love, London

A.J.H.

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February 21, 2016

“Excuse me,” she said.

I’m on the right side of the escalator, I’m not in the way, I thought, not even realizing she spoke in English.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, annoyed that a Spaniard was annoyed with me.

“Do you go to Maryland?” she asked.

My backpack. I was wearing my cheer backpack, with the school’s name and my own embroidered on the front pocket.

Finally becoming aware of my situation, I replied, with a smile, that I am a student at Maryland. She asked if I played a sport, and I told her that I cheered until I came to Madrid.  She explained that she’d know a school-issued athlete backpack anywhere, and shared that she was an ex-field hockey player at Michigan, currently doing a graduate school business program in Madrid.  We chatted about collegiate sports and the Big Ten briefly, and then she asked where I was from. I told her Pennsylvania, and was a little surprised when she asked, “Where in PA?”  Pennsylvania is only Pennsylvania to people who don’t live there.  To those who know, it’s PA.  Though she was from New Jersey, both of her parents were from areas of Pennsylvania that I was familiar with.  We were taking different trains so we had to cut our conversation short, but this 5-minute exchange on the walk through the metro station was a welcomed encounter with a stranger who felt a little like home.

It’s interesting to consider the communities you belong to.  I’m from Pennsylvania, I’m a student at the University of Maryland, I was a Big Ten athlete, and I’m an American.  While abroad, these groups can set me apart from the locals, but unite me with others on a similar journey.  Though everyday in Madrid is a blessing, reminders of home are an extra reason to smile.

 

On a semi-related note, what is going on on Maryland’s campus!? Armed robbery, burglary, indecent exposure… I have received more UMD Alerts while two months abroad than I have all of last semester!  I never feel unsafe in College Park, but I am concerned and confused at the amount of questionable activity at school.  Be smart and safe UMD friends!

 

Paz, Amor, Madrid

A.J.H.