London has come and gone. We were there from September 29th to October 4th — I now write this from Sligo, Ireland.
I find London exhilarating, fascinating, and exhausting — in almost equal measure. The jumble of buildings from midieval churches and towers to 18th century Palladian homes, built in a crescent shape along the street (think Mary Poppins…), to new skyscrapers in daring form (the Gherkin and the Shard) — exhilarating! The multitude of languages spoken by passers by, overheard conversations from others who speak English with various accents, people in every form of fashion from burka to avant-garde style — fascinating! And being jostled from every angle, having to dart in and out of oncoming groups of people, enduring traffic very close at every corner, hoping that the car speeding towards you will stop at the Zebra crossing, walking 22,000 steps in one day — exhausting!
We have stayed in the same area of London at the same hotel every time we have visited. The Russell Square neighborhood is very familiar. If I have even 15 minutes to spare, I love to step out of our hotel and just start walking. It’s never boring, always interesting.
But walking through the streets of London is a solitary activity. In any city, for conversations with locals or other interesting people, I recommend taking some laundry to the local self-service launderette!
Over the years I have had many memorable conversations in many countries at the laundromat. There was the lavanderia in Florence, Italy, where it took at least five people speaking five different languages, and a lot of sign language, to help each other figure out how to use the complicated washing machines! I remember la laverie automatique in Lyons, France, where I heard all about a French gentleman’s travels through the USA over the last 20 years. The laundromat in Bath was presided over by a friendly proprietor who cheerfully removed clothing from dryers and washers, making way for the next person’s load, all the while keeping up a patter of conversation with many of the locals. In Stratford I met a couple who were living on a houseboat and came ashore to do laundry. In London, the kind proprietor lent one of our students 1£ for the dryer because she had run out of money.
You’ll notice that this topic is in keeping with my theme of “water” — cleansing, renewing, refreshing water. Ah, clean clothes! Some day I may write a book all about my adventures over the years doing laundry abroad. Not only do you emerge with enlarged wardrobe possibilities but you may just make a friend and experience a bit of community!