Pack Your Bags: The Scent of Departure

Perhaps your departure is usually the wrong kind of fragrance (stale cabin air and microwaved food) — but The Scent Of Departure is better than that. TSoD knows you miss Abu Dhabi, Toyko and Bali before you even set foot on your return flight, so they kindly captured the essence of these major destinations in perfume for you. London/LHR will remind you of strolls through Hyde Park with its notes of moss, jasmine and bergamot. Istanbul/IST is a cross between the pink peppers at the spice market and the sweet lokum stuck in your teeth. And LAX transports you straight to the Cali coast with the bright scents of grapefruit, gardenia and amber. Best of all, the $45 price tag will still leave plenty of room in your suitcase for extra souvenirs.

 

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In spite of the weather, this is London’s time to shine.

Krista Westerlund is our spiritual + historical correspondent. This dispatch examines and arrives from the present center of the world’s attention: London.

Standard bustle in Trafalgar Square. all images © KW.

Ah, London. City of contrasts and competing visions. It is difficult to discuss such an iconic city with so much variety, so much grandeur, and so much touristic appeal because there are simply so many ways that you can enjoy visiting it. There are as many Londons as there are people who visit or live in the city. The tremendous diversity is the beating heart of London‘s urban charm. This year London is experiencing a unity and pride that has probably not been felt in decades. 2012 is a year that is synonymous with London. Andy Murray may not have won at Wimbledon this summer but Britishness has not been so lauded in years and never before in this fashion. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Summer Olympics games are aligning to make this summer a celebration of the city.

London has been riddled with social unrest, class tensions, and the legacy of its imperial history as a center of global commercial and political power. Various societal malaises have plagued the city, many of which don’t require mentioning because they have dominated headlines. London has been through a lot of bleak times. There has been a sense of an identity crisis in the city as it struggled to cohere its substantial history with the change brought about by fundamental shifts in the global geopolitical order. Economic and societal woes have been in lock-step with London for many decades as it faced a decline in global significance and, at the same time, a rise in cosmopolitanism. Regularly spending time in the city over the years, I could not help but be swayed by its charm because no matter how difficult things get, it remains a vibrant, fascinating and transformative place. In 2012, London is palpably different though. Some may consider events like those that London is hosting this summer to be trivial. They may think that money spent on things like concerts, sporting events and parades should be suspended when the world is in such economic upheaval, but they are like lights in the storm. They are moments that make life worth living and London excels at those. That is perhaps how the city has been able to retain its magnetism in spite of the difficulties that have beset it at various times in both recent and more distant history.

The rafters of Covent Garden.

As the eyes of the world turn to London, the city correspondingly comes together. The city that emerges after this summer’s festivities are over will still face serious challenges. However, it will do so with more identity and more confidence. There will be more union in that Jack at least as far as the metropolis is concerned. So of course, I suggest that you go to London in 2012, but then again, I suggest that you go there at any time. You didn’t have to attend the actual Jubilee events nor do you need to watch the Olympics in person (congrats to those who are though) in order to get into the spirit of London this year. Visiting a pub (or your nearest imitation if you really can’t make it), raising a glass, and toasting with those near and dear to you is as quintessentially British as anything and, alcohol aside, it is the warm communal spirit of merrymaking and connecting with others that is essence of London. That is the reason that the city endures through all of its incarnations and tribulations. It touches upon the profound social nature of people, which is why it so excels at hosting events like those of this summer.

Go on then, and celebrate London wherever you are. Cheers.

Let the games begin.

 

fellow travelers: Anywhere But London

fellow travelers is our chance to shine a spotlight on greatness from the internet’s travel community. It is not our list of poputchiks. Just some wanderers who we consider outstanding.

Not a black cab in sight: Wheal Coates, Towanroath. image via

anywhere but london is your official British contrarian correspondent: taking the showcase of the 2012 London Olympics and turning it into an excuse to promote (a) fab non-London spots in the UK and (b) gorgeous imagery thereof.

What better way to show some patriotism than to direct people past the usual Big Ben circuit and instead toward Cambridgeshire and Cumbria? As you can see, their official spokesmodel is quite persuasive, and elegantly attired as well.

Can't argue with that hat. image via abl.

Keep up with ABL as they count down 150 days to opening ceremonies by highlighting a different spot in the Isles. You can drunkenly harass the Tower guards later — for now, go get lost in the Chiltern Forests.

RoadReads: “The World of Charles Dickens, Complete With Pizza Hut”

Please sir may I have some more (flume ride tickets)? image:Immo Klink/NYTimes

Its existence raised a number of questions. Who was the park’s target audience? (“Dickens-loving flume-ride enthusiasts” seems like a small, sad demographic.) Was it a homage to, or a desecration of, the legacy of Charles Dickens? Was it the reinvention of, or the cheapening of, our culture’s relationship to literature? And even if it were possible to create a lavish simulacrum of 1850s London — with its typhus and cholera and clouds of toxic corpse gas, its sewage pouring into the Thames, its average life span of 27 years — why would anyone want to visit?

Sam Anderson voyages from A Taste of Two Cities Indian restaurant to Little Dorrit’s Piercing Studio for the NYTMagazine (read it here).