Saying goodbye to the lush green countryside of Ireland and making my way toward the busy streets of London, only just a week after landing in Dublin, I quickly found myself at the brink of a new adventure in England.
London is enormously, unbelievably, vastly huge. With a cart full of suitcases and a unintentionally conspicuous outfit of wedge heel moccasin boots (thankfully comfortable enough to wear with my injury), a gold and white cotton and sequin dress, and a plush white sweater, I made my way cautiously through security, at once stunned and overwhelmed by the bustling commotion of Gatwick airport.
Looking around nervously for familiar faces, instantly I saw my very close friend, Richard, waiting eagerly in the crowd- who was nice enough to meet me at the airport, and let me stay with him and his roommates for the next few days, and again, after my travels in Germany. We greeted each other with warm hugs and smiles, happy to be reunited again, after meeting through a travel group in Asia, and traveling together for several weeks earlier in the year.
First taking the train from Gatwick airport to Central London, we then took the London Underground Railway (known by locals as simply, “the tube”) to make it to our final destination in Leyton. After making our way up and down several sets of stairs with luggage, and through various halls and corridors of the Underground Station, we were spontaneously attacked with several gusts of mysterious wind blowing from no clear direction. I found this sudden ambush a bit alarming-and involuntarily jumped in shock, but after looking around for an expected reaction of surprise in the hoards of people around me and finding nothing but blank focused stares, (as well as no reaction on the faces of my friends) I came to the conclusion that this must be quite normal, and continued through the claustrophobic tunnels packed with busy Londoners, only to finally make my way onto the tube, which greeted me challengingly with a burst of fiery heat.
Over the next hour on the tube, I peeled off the now suffocatingly restricting layers of clothing from my body (that had been barely keeping me warm just earlier that morning) as I desperately tried to find a way to cool myself in the scorching hot underground rail car. Just as I began to adjust to the overwhelming heat, we arrived at Leyton station.
Continuing on the way to Richard’s house, we plodded along steadily through Leyton for the next half hour (lugging the three zebra suitcases behind us), passing a variety of oddly named services and collaborative shops such as “Accident Claim and Bollywood Movies” and “International Communication and Fine Leather Goods”. Several streets and strange shops and corner markets later, we finally made it to their place-which would be my new home for the next couple of days-and I collapsed on the couch, amazed by how far we had traveled from the airport, while still remaining to be in London.
That night I fell asleep early, surprisingly exhausted from such a short flight (though I had left painfully early in the morning from Dublin to make it) planning to start up my sightseeing early the next morning. The next day I woke to bright sunshine streaming in through the windows of the apartment, as my visit was immediately met with delightfully unusual sunshine in London, and I was rested and ready to explore the city.
My leg was still sore and aching, and my coach advised me at this point to purchase a foam roller to treat my injury, something that should be commonly found and easily available in such a large city. So Richard I set off on a mission both to see the city and find a foam roller, after I took another few ibuprofen to ease the returning pain, preparing myself for the half-hour long walk to the tube station and the inevitable few miles of walking that would be required to properly see the sights of London.
Taking a tube to Central London, over the next few days, I made my way through both St James’ Park and Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square and lastly, to Harrods, where I intended to buy a foam roller at the sports center on the top floor. Not hearing much about Harrod’s before, I was instantly astonished by the immense size of the building as well as the intricate detail in exterior architecture and lavish adornment, then on the inside-by the grandeur gold patterning covering the walls of each meticulously organized room, and the scale and detail and overly adorned decoration of the elevator taking us up to the top floor to sports and athletics.
The sports and athletics floor was sectioned off into several areas: tennis, football (soccer-once again, if you are a confused American reading this) weight training, cycling, golf, hunting, and finally, running. I was particularly impressed with the lavishness of the golf section, selling both crystal-encrusted golf bags, and a Hummer golf cart-which instantly made me wonder if such items as these were actually ever purchased, or were just displayed on show for the store’s bragging rights over how ridiculously impractical ( but cool!) their products could be. And as dazzled as I was by the treasure trove of high-end sports equipment, I was there only for the sake of practicality-to purchase a foam roller in order to heal my leg-and I thought to myself that if Harrod’s has all the best new fitness equipment (and certainly gaudy and non-gaudy versions of each) they must have a foam roller!
And so, I approached the sales counter in the least flashy corner of the Sports and Fitness floor, the running section. Two guys in their early twenties were chatting idly behind the counter, their arms hunched over the cashier desk in boredom, both pairs of eyes wandering around the room, unfocused. It was slightly strange and seemed a bit silly how dressed up they were, in slick black trousers and crisp white shirts, undoubtedly confirming to the strictest of dress codes-while their casual banter and slouched positions posed a delightful contradiction to their uniforms.
Upon noticing my need for assistance, immediately both men straightened quickly, asking with a slightly affected air of charm how they might be able to help me. As I asked them if their store carried a foam roller, I was met with instant looks of puzzlement by both, as they had clearly never heard of what a foam roller could possibly be. I tried to explain to the best of my ability what it was-a cylindrical piece of foam about two feet long with a diameter of at least six inches but no more than ten…and both young men appeared to still have no idea of what I was talking about, but pretended to steadily understand what I might mean.
I tried once again, explaining exactly how it is used, why it is used, and put forth every small bit of loose unorganized information I had about foam rollers to give them the best idea possible-and finally they came to the conclusion that their store did not carry foam rollers at all, but that they would try their best to find a store that would.
I thanked both clerks gratefully, and after a few phone calls and their attempts over the phone to explain exactly what I had of this strange contraption to a couple of nearby sports stores, I was given a number and address of one store by the name of John Bell and Croyden, that promised to carry the elusive foam roller for fifteen pounds-and soon I was off to continue my mission.
The next day I was back on the tube, then back on the street, and Richard strode alongside me, as I hobbled around the streets of London, looking for John Bell and Croyden to find a foam roller-and after about thirty minutes of searching, we reached our destination.
Indeed, John Bell and Croyden did have a foam roller, but the only one they carried was intended for Pilates rather than treating injury, and was thirty-five pounds rather than fifteen. However, I was desperate, and they had (for the most part) what I needed. I purchased the foam roller, and with only the evening left, packed my things for Germany, hoping for a swift recovery.