The United Kingdom is often hailed as the “gateway to Europe,” a monicker that typically refers to London’s longtime status as a hub of international trade.
For me, England served as a kind of limbo between two places I call home: outre-Manche from France and across the pond from the United States. A gateway in that it marked a space of movement—both physical and psychological.
My last week in Europe was one of transition. Despite my best attempts to prolong my time in France, it was time to prepare for the next chapter of my life. But not before some final adventures.
First up was Cambridge. As quick as a high-speed train ride through the Chunnel, the tables were turned and Natalie (of last hurrah in Paris fame) was suddenly my host.
On the train ride she did her best to
freak me out about prepare me for the pomp and circumstance I would soon encounter as the guest of a Cambridge University student. Hours later I sat tense at Hall—fancy formal dinner where everyone wears gowns reminiscent of wizards’ robes, where you stand as a text is read in Latin before you’re ceremoniously served the first of three courses, where you really wish you had paid closer attention to that brief etiquete section of Kappa Alpha Theta New Member Education all those years ago…
The stresses of Hall soon waning, I settled into a relaxing few days at Cambridge.
I got up to my usual shenanigans: poking through cemeteries, marveling at Gothic architecture, climbing to the highest point in town.
And on my last day Natalie assembled a group of friends for an afternoon of punting on the River Cam. (Though there is no photo evidence, I did successfully propel and steer the punt without capsizing us!)
The next and final stop on my meandering journey home was London, where I was graciously hosted by Kelsie, a fellow KAΘ Whittie (Kelsie, did you pay attention to that aforementioned etiquete lesson???), and her fiancé James.
Kelsie somehow managed to fit all of my London objectives (and the list was long) into two days without making us feel like frazzled tourists.
We balanced museums (Natural History, Victoria & Albert, British, Saatchi) with markets (Portobello, Camden, Borough) with scavenges in charity shops. And we strung it all together with scenic walks and double-decker bus rides.
And I was treated to home-cooked meals on the daily. (Thanks again, James!)
In England I was in flux, suspended mid-passage. A long moment spent in English-speaking Europe with two cosmopolitain Americans. An intersection of the narrative of my months abroad with those of two others.
On Sunday, June 9, I left Europe through its gateway.