A brief, haphazard visit to another place--full of seemingly random, disconnected experiences--may provide as accurate an impression as an extended one based on prior research and preparation.
I've never been to London before and, to be blunt, this place has not been anywhere near the top of my mandatory Euo-travel list (unlike, say, the German-speaking lands or Scandinavia, which I prefer). I also had to make a conscious effort to disengage myself from historic geopolitics to the best of my ability in order to fairly judge this city as such. Admittedly, this was no easy feat: for one, its currently promoted colonial anticolonialism is rather amusing.
At the same time, London managed to defy some of its most obvious stereotypes: expecting chilly, gloomy weather, I was met by sunny skies and near-summer temperatures, certainly less moody than the mountains of the North American Northwest amidst which I currently hide...err...reside. (Don't let the hipster effects applied to my mobile photographs below fool you!)
Despite numerous social engagements, the latter provided me with sufficient opportunity to simply walk through the streets, coffee in hand, and take in the city. Old urban areas that grow somewhat organically and in which every building seems to differ--as opposed to strict overarching planning--make such investigations more exciting. They also highlight popular architectural styles or even individual elements throughout Europe and the outliers like Russia--one of several aspects of a shared cultural spirit. I was surprised to find the kind of fence ornamentation that immediately teleported me to my beloved Moscow. I guess this aging Leviathan has some redeeming qualities after all (wink!).
Time constraints worked in my favor, too. I stopped by a museum I truly wanted to see rather than the ones that I felt obliged to visit. A portrait gallery? No, dinosaurs and megafauna! The 19th-century organization of the Natural History Museum, housed in a beautiful neo-Romanesque Waterhouse building, also reminded me of the traditional-style zoological displays in Moscow. I was particularly impressed by the bones of numerous plesiosaurs--as an open-water swimmer with the fear of the unseen things below--and, of course, a giant prehistoric sloth (which I promptly recruited into my imaginary and ever-growing army of horrifying beasts that both protect me and do my bidding!). One complaint: the realistic, moving T-Rex model, simultaneously delighting and scaring countless children--and me--ought to be updated with some feathers. I'm sure David Attenborough, after whom one of the museum areas is named, would agree!
My favorite part of the London experience? The seemingly ancient maple trees with multicolored bark in every park of this rather green city--like many other European urban areas and unlike some of the particularly suffocating North American "boxes of concrete."
I even met my old friend, the Moon, of the Hunter variety in its near-full phase, which I did not expect to be perfectly visible in the middle of this metropolis. It brought along a slightly belated birthday present: a lunar rainbow.