When you’re a Canadian kid who ends up studying English literature through two university degrees, London, England is one of those places that seems as familiar as your hometown, even if you’ve never been there.
You watch the Royal Family members marry and mourn in the iconic churches; read about the bridges and streets and the Thames River in everything from novels to plays.
My background is not English but many of the culinary habits of England imbued my Canadian childhood life. My mother usually drank tea, not coffee. We often had a roast beef dinner on Sunday night. A big brunch-breakfast here in Canada is mostly the same as the infamous British “fry-up” of bacon, sausage, eggs, bread, broiled tomato and baked beans.
I’ve wanted to travel to London for many years and, finally, a wonderful opportunity arose. Friends we met in Toronto a few years ago have “fractional ownership” of a furnished London hotel-style apartment. They were unable to use all their allotment this year, and generously offered weeks to us in fall 2017. We cleared the time, booked discount flights, and off we went.
It was different from a holiday where you are in a place that challenges your comfort and familiarity at every turn: where the language is different, the food is different, the climate is different. What struck me over and over was the feeling that I’d already been here before, or seen this before – as indeed I had, in my imagination when reading, or spotting the recognizable buildings I’ve viewed in news reports or in other people’s travel accounts.
Westminster. St. Paul’s. Buckingham Palace. Tower Bridge. Trafalgar Square. We saw them all many times, in different lights.
So come along on Teahen Tales’ “London Calling” journey and explore both the well-known, and lesser-known, sides of the city to whom Canadians like me are tied by what we’ve read, what we’ve eaten, and by how our country, a former British colony, remains kindred to England and its ways.
Main photo: The Union Jack atop the Houses of Parliament (formerly Westminster Palace), seen from the grounds of Westminster Abbey. All photos by Kelley Teahen.