The World Photo Tour just entered London. But until discovering this overspilling melting pot of life, culture and cultures, my road to England’s capital started in Milton Keynes.
I have never been outside Romania until the age of 25. Well, except for a Metallica concert in Sofia (Bulgaria), but that was only for two days. When I moved to England, in Harrogate, as I was driving through from Dover towards the M1, London struck me as the monster-city that it is. And it’s size and busy life still fascinates me. As I was walking south, starting with getting closer to Milton Keynes, I could feel its pull. The ever more busy motorways, the fewer and fewer villages, like a civilisation silence break from what was to following, and sometimes, even the people not so eagerly willing to share their time or knowledge with a fellow traveller. But that wasn’t the case as I had a really good host in Milton Keynes.
George, the Romanian guy I spent a night at in Milton Keynes, actually wanted to join me in my walk to London. I didn’t want to disappoint him whatsoever, so I resumed my questions regarding this to a simple Are you sure? and a warning in regards with the pain involved. He took the challenge enthusiastic, packed some lunch and we then went offsky. A bit late, a bit too late, as it was already half past three when we set off and we were looking at covering no less than 22 miles in that day. We were heading to Luton, at some Lithuanian folks, Justine and Evaldas, who were waiting to see the strange appearance in the middle of the night. But until then…
As we walked out of Milton Keynes, I had the chance to take some more photos of this amazing place I was telling you about earlier. The odd-looking buildings – even the church has a special, unique architecture, the grid-street-print, everything breathes fresh and Orwellian in the mean time.
We started off in force. And I could see the enthusiasm in George: the constant chatting, the fast walk, the smile, his happiness of actually doing this. Usually, when I start walking, once I get in my rhythm I keep it like that until the very last step I take in that day. Which wasn’t necessarily the case two days ago. Having a partner was interesting for me as well. I didn’t want to push him too much, as I knew what 22 miles can do to your feet. But at the same time, I didn’t want to start strolling. So it was a new challenge for me. And I came to the point where I had to encourage him. Oh, poor George. I don’t want to show you a picture of him after that days walk. :) I know I don’t manage people really well, but I did my best in getting in Luton on time while not becoming a ruthless dictator of marching. I do know now that when I will be joined by someone again, I need to make sure they are up for it. Well, either that, or take walking with somebody as a time of vacation, relaxation, holiday… But as much as I hurried, I did have to stop as we went from Dunstable to Luton, crossing the M1 in the middle of the night. Just for one shot. The day ended there and then for me, although we still had some 5 miles to go.
Once at Justine and Evaldas place, we fell asleep in an instance. In the morning, after a rich breakfast with fresh carrot juice, I paid a visit to BMS, giving the guys there the artwork for a little flag I will carry with me soon. After the previous day, I knew George would not follow me to London, so Evaldas gave him a ride to the railway station. After that, it was chill-out mode for me, as Evaldas took me around to show me a little bit of Luton. A little bit of town centre, a little bit of Asian quarter, a good chance for me to play taking some street-level shots. In the Asian quarter we emptied an Indian sweets and cakes shop, as we stuffed ourselves with pera, gulab jaman, laddoo, with berfi and with bundi and with a lot of other Indian sweets with names I cannot remember. But I do remember the taste. And oh my, they tasted great! Having all those exotic sweets on a bench in the middle of the Asian quarter, with all the street life around, with all the languages spoken around, it really felt like being on a different continent for a while.
Pause: I do not understand, at all, the burka. And neither do I understand why women have to walk a meter or so behind the Muslim man. Saw this all around me and it was quite a strange feeling.
Later in the evening, Justine, Evaldas’ girlfriend, studying cinematography at the Bedfordshire Uni, joined us and we then went at the Uni, for a film on the last day of Growing Pains – Images of Youth in World Cinema Film Festival. After an introduction chat with Jack Thorne, co-writer of This Is England ’86 and This Is England ’88 with Shane Meadows, we watched the film. It was brilliant: I laughed and I cried. Submarine it’s called, and if you get the chance, do go and see it! Ah, and the soundtrasck is great!
After the movie, a bit of funky jazz followed at La Dolce Vita, where I was introduced to a new interesting offer which they have there. When the waiter brings the bill he tosses a coin: heads – you pay, tails – you don’t. You can use your own coin for this, or their 1.700 years old Roman coin. They only do this one day a week, and Friday night wasn’t our lucky day to go there. But the music was good! Back home, we indulged in a very long and interesting conversation on travel, the world, life, people, love and everything else.
Until the day I set off from Luton, the longest I walked in a single day was 24 miles. To London I had 29, which is a little over 46 km. With my mind set to walk for two hours at a time and then stop and have a break for 15 minutes, I said goodbye to Justine and Evaldas who, at the very last minute, decided to have a go at my backpack.
And then I walked. And I walked. And then I walked some more. Through Saint Albans and over the M25. And right as I was crossing over the busy motorway, London welcomed me with hail rain. I saw the cumulonimbus clouds forming throughout the day, and it was a bit warm, but I didn’t really expect anything like hail. But I did expect what followed, as the reward came quickly – a rainbow like few I saw in my life. Once I got close to Harrow, my Romanian friend, Cezar, came and met me on the road, then took me at some other Romanians, Catalina and Marius, as he couldn’t host me, but he did went to some lengths finding me a nice place where he and Zuzu joined me for some food, some drinks, some chat. From the car, London is great. It was great a year ago as well, when I travelled on foot from Harrow to Stratford in the middle of the night and then I wished I had a camera with me. But here I am again! Tonight I will be ready.