Traveling to London is like visiting an old friend – someone I’ve long wanted to get to know better. Each time I see the grand lady, I discover another aspect of her history and culture. Oh, I see her flaws, such as when her motorists yell at me for
daring to step on the crosswalk, or when I’m nearly mowed down by serious-faced, very fit commuters streaming into or out of the tube. In her midst I’ve had many days in September when she drops a load of heat and humidity on me and pretends she’s Rome. (Did I mention there’s no air conditioning in the tube? Oh yes, so I did.)
My first visit to Rome is like discovering a stylish and fascinating friend of the family who is somewhat unpredictable and who has a lot of skeletons in the closet. Some days he is so intriguing I love being with him, other days I
wish we’d never met. But in the end, I am fascinated and decide to keep him. He doesn’t believe in air conditioning either, but then I encounter another of his treasures or I experience one of his cleansing rainstorms and I forgive him.
Each city gave to me and took away. Both the gifts and the challenges added to my life because, as Robert Hughes says about Rome, “It makes you feel big, because the nobler parts of it were raised by members of your own species.” Amen.