England is the country where we spent the most time. 4 nights total. And it just happened to fall on the weekend, which we were so excited for. Before heading to London from Dublin, we stopped over in Liverpool for just one night. It was really to cut our trip to London in half, but this city ended up being one of my favorite destinations of the trip so far. It was filled with an atmosphere that took pride in the fact that their local club is where The Beatles first started playing, and you could certainly sense it. The location that our hostel was in was perfect, right on the alley crowded with pubs and cafes that had bands playing Beatles' covers left and right. If you have time to briefly stop in Liverpool, I highly suggest it. And going to Cavern Club, where The Beatles first started playing live is a must.
So I've been hesitant to write this blog and have sort of been putting it off because I really didn't know where to begin. Upon entering London, we were aware that the city was under critical threat for terrorism after the Manchester attacks had happened the week prior. We were fully attentive and extra cautious of our surroundings, but that didn't stop us from taking in the beauty that this city has to offer. I'll start with the positive. London is the one city on this trip that I can really see myself living and residing in for a long period of time. I know I said this about Dublin too, but that was more in the sense of a brief duration.They say London is like a cleaner NYC, and it really is. They literally had maintenance men washing the sidewalks. There was barely any trash lying around, no foul smells and the "tube," or metro system was so easy to navigate and comfortable to travel on.
Within a few days span, we saw all of the main things to see and do in London. Buckingham Palace, Big Ben (which is the bell inside the clock tower, not the tower itself), the London Eye, Tower Bridge, British Museum, and many many more. The sights to see in London were absolutely beautiful. I recommend doing them all, and making good use of your time in this massive city. The cool thing about London is you stumble upon so many cute little markets, boutiques, live bands, festivals and anything spontaneously enjoyable that you can think of. London was one of my favorite cities in this sense, that there is never nothing to do. You can google what's happening in London and find dozens of flea or food markets, live shows and performances on any given day. This is how we stumbled upon the Borough Market.
It still gives me chills that my friends and I visited the London Bridge and the Borough Market just hours before the terrorist attack happened last weekend. I am still in shock that it happened while we were physically in London, and that myself and the people around me were in danger without even knowing it. We ate at the Borough Market for dinner that Saturday night, tasting the many cheeses, breads and olive oils that local vendors had to sell and share with Londoners. Little did we or anyone else know of the tragic events that would take place in that same market 4 hours later. I was out at the club with 2 other friends when I connected to wifi and saw a message from my cousin who is an NYPD officer. He informed me that there was an incident on the London Bridge. I can still feel my heart sinking to my stomach, knowing that my other friends were scattered out on the town or still making their way back to our hostel. I quickly googled and saw what happened on the London Bridge, before anything happened at the Market. A few minutes later, I saw the follow up incident that was occurring at the Borough Market, where I ate dinner earlier that night and which was located just 1 mile away from my hostel. I frantically turned my cell phone data on to receive a flood of texts from friends and family at home in the States making sure I was okay. We were still out on the town and no taxi wanted to take us home since our hostel was located 1 mile from the Borough Market, where people were getting stabbed and injured. 2 long hours of waiting passed and we finally got back to our hostel safely. Upon arriving there, you could feel the fear, unity and pain all in once in that hostel lobby. It was 2 AM, the news was turned on and people were crying, trying to get ahold of their families and mourning the tragedy that just happened along with those who were affected by it. Needless to say, we were all safe by the end of the night and I am eternally grateful for that.
Being in the center of an attack like that really opened my eyes to a few things. First off, unfortunately with the world we live in, terrorism and violence is something to always be aware of when traveling, especially in big places like London, Paris, Rome, etc. Always keep your eyes peeled and fully aware of your environment. Sometimes things are completely out of your control, but having a sharp sense of your surroundings is always a benefit. Next, do not let acts of terrorism and violence stop you from seeing the world. I cannot say this enough, and I started saying this before it even happened. Yes, this was an extremely frightening situation to be in, but it could have happened anywhere. London is named one of the safest cities in the world, and it still is. There is so much beauty left unseen in an individuals life span because of fear. Franklin Roosevelt once said, "The only thing to fear is fear itself." Don't let your fear of something happening keep you from experiencing the greatest wonders and many opportunities that this world longs for us to have.
I'm going to wrap up on a positive note by saying that after the attacks, we were a little on edge to continue doing things. But we quickly realized the resilience and strength that the city and people of London have. I'll never forget the words that the taxi driver who got us home that night of the attacks said to us. There were minimal words exchanged for the duration of the trip home because of the fear in the car. But before closing the door he said, "excuse me miss?" I looked back in the taxi to hear his words, "I love my city. London will always be a wonderful and safe place."
The following day, the city was back up on its feet while still mourning the tragedy, but pursuing life as they knew it. It was an extremely terrifying yet life-changing experience to have been there for this specific weekend. Seeing the determination and patriotism spread through the people and the streets so soon after catastrophe was a rare and special occurrence. Strength, resilience and unity are all very powerful forces, and this city extended me the privilege of experiencing all of it at once. Continue to keep your thoughts and prayers of those affected by the Manchester and London attacks, and keep a positive outlook on the world despite the tragic occurrences. There is still beauty and love everywhere. Until next time, London.