Dear Friends,

If I ever tell you that I’m booking a trip on a Eurolines coach, because it’s cheap and they’re having a deal that “just can’t be beat,” remind me of my ten hour bus ride from Paris to London. Exhausting. Tedious. Butt-cramping. Yes, I’d taken the ride from Paris to London by bus before, but the difference was that my friend VP was accompanying me then. It’s amazing what a difference a friend in the next seat makes.

VP, a friend who’s more family than “friend,” moved to London almost two years ago and never returned to NY. When we wished her good luck and safe journey over tequila shots and back-breaking dancing at le Poisson Rouge in the Village, we knew she’d never return. I, for one, welcomed her departure, because it meant a cooler, hipper, “fancier” city to visit. “Go VP, go!”

* Last year’s trip to see VP and London’s sights.

* A previous trip to Berlin….

* and brunching in Copenhagen; I’ve so many pics with this girl, but let’s move on.

At 57 euros roundtrip Paris-London, there was no way I was choosing the train over the bus. Turns out that 43 euros extra on Eurostar would’ve been well worth it (100 euros more would’ve been worth it). Though extremely sweet, the 75-year-old man sitting beside me hacked after every sentence; I was sure that he was contagious, and am still living in fear of what I may have contracted on the bus. Semi-kidding.

Eight hours into the ride, after three stops for customs officials (one unplanned), we boarded the ferry. It was on the boat sailing into Dover that I knew that I was headed to a place that was expansive, inclusive, familiar, and yes, slightly unattractive (and by that I mean the people).

* A group of women playing a game on the boat, which required them to say “Call it” every few minutes.

* On the other side, a couple of men who were having the crisis after mid-life (what’s that one called?). I’ve never seen an almost eighty-year-old man with a diamond stud before. For the record, they were very nice.

* Gypsies everywhere, traveling in packs… flowy skirts and off-the-shoulder tops.

All bad things end, and the bus ride eventually did; however, I did need to hop on the #38 bus at Victoria Station to get to VP’s apt. On the way, we passed Picadilly ablaze in lights, Chinatown with red lanterns hanging in the streets, multiple theaters, one of which was showing Thriller Live, grand-looking homes with columns, and tons of scaffolding covering buildings, as London gets pretty for its Olympics gig next year. Friends, I saw many picture-worthy things, but was too tired to reach into my bag for the camera. I was tired, but thrilled. London’s alive, pulsating, throbbing with energy… and I understood why an eighty-year-old man would have a stud earring and feel young at heart; London vibrates, and it’s easy to love.

VP lives with a wonderful, energetic, delightful eleven-year-old who came to get me at the door, and when she showed me my room (which is usually hers), there was a chocolate on the pillow. It was then that I knew that although my stay would be short, it would be even more wonderful than I could have imagined. And guess what, we ate my favorite foods (for dinner and breakfast), and my favorite dessert (cupcakes!).

* A brunch to celebrate another friend’s birthday, VP’s upcoming wedding to possibly the nicest guy ever, and the fact that I was still alive after the bus ordeal.

*Walk leisurely and enjoy the casual vibe of Exmouth Market’s numerous sidewalk cafes. The weather, uncharacteristic of London, cooperated– sun, sun, sun.

On Monday, VP and I went to Brick Lane and walked into rows and rows of vintage shops. Fantastic shopping… though I didn’t buy a thing, it was nice to see the gowns/dresses/hats/bags/boots/shoes/everything!

* My friendship with VP is vintage: old, valuable, and wears well.

Friends, before you start sight-seeing, have a “When Haloumi Met Salad Wrap” at Breakfast Club, and think about your life– your loves, your friends, your future fun.

* Don’t wait.

See you soon,

Val