My roommate and I decided that there was only one truly proper way to celebrate the grand festive occasion we affectionately dubbed “Singles Awareness Day”: get chocolate and cupcakes. That’s right, this year, February 14th became a Treat Yo Self day and we spent the entire afternoon trekking around London to find some of our favorite foods.
The building where we live is on a fairly major road in central London and leads right to Kings Cross and St. Pancras, two of the major train stations in the city. Comparatively, St. Pancras is the focal point of the area, with the beautiful warm brown stones brightening up the gray London sky and the clock tower soaring over the other buildings. My roommate and I consider ourselves amateur architecture aficionados- we are by no means experts, but we can appreciate a pretty structure and even name drop a few of the more commonplace features. For instance, on our stroll last week, we pointed out the Corinthian columns around the perimeter and the gothic arches framing the doorways and windows. It’s amazing to see this gorgeous late 19th century architectural masterpiece in the middle of a bustling 21st century city, right across the street from a McDonald’s.
As we finished eating our “romantic” lunch at our favorite pizza place, it started to rain (shocker), but we decided to brave the weather and continue our quest for treats; after all, we were determined women on a mission. So, once the rain let up a little bit, we decided to take the route that passed the University of College London, which is the local university that NYU London is affiliated with. One of the most prominent buildings in that area is the Senate House Library, a rather scary-looking utilitarian structure that kind of looks like it can suck out all of your hopes and dreams and, fun fact, is where Hitler planned on making his headquarters if he took control of Britain. Even though I pass it every day when I walk to class, no matter how many times I see it, I’ll always feel slightly uncomfortable seeing it stare down at me from across the road.
The area of London where the cupcake and chocolate shops were located was Soho. I know, yet another fantastic moment of irony: I leave Soho (NYC) to come right back to Soho (London). But, unlike its American counterpart, London’s Soho is still very reminiscent of centuries past. As my roommate and I walked up and down many of the small streets, we found ourselves ogling over the old pubs and old-timey looking buildings. One barber shop, for instance, had a full-length bay window that looked like it just came out of Sherlock Holmes. Even though the streets were packed with hopelessly lost tourists and overly affectionate couples, my roommate and I were transfixed by all the gorgeous architecture above our heads.
In theory, she and I should be over that initial gawking at all these impressive buildings by now- after all, we’ve been in London for almost a month now and we’ve walked past many of these areas pretty much every day. But I guess, in a way, it’s kind of like that sense of childlike wonder and awe that Baudelaire talks about in his piece. Because, by no means should my roommate and I be considered anything other than amateur architecture fans, but, for us, there’s something so magical about seeing such magnificent structures. For me, the spires of St. Pancras and the size of Senate House Library bring back fond memories of constructing elaborate sculptures with blocks in Kindergarten and of creating giant sand castles by the water’s edge in summer. And it’s that nostalgia that keeps surfacing whenever I see some beautiful piece of architecture; I hope that feeling will continue to stay with me throughout the rest of my time here in London.
Oh, and, in case you were wondering, both the chocolate and cupcakes were pretty amazing.