For the first time EVER, I actually unplugged for nine whole days. I went to England with my 17 year old son. He picked our adventures. We did a lot of 17 year old boy stuff: Abbey Road, Platform 9 ¾, etc., but the best thing we did was make friends.
We met Nabil Elouahabi at a tapas bar, after sitting next to him and asking “How’s the coffee?” His response was, (paraphrased): “The coffee is great and so is life. How can I connect with you and your son and your country to make this a better world?”
Seriously, I’m not kidding.
This stranger led us through the parts of London we would never know. Then he knocked us down and took all our money and sold my son into slavery. (Just kidding but really I was kind of wondering….)
He took us into the Moroccan neighborhood in which he grew up. He showed us his mum’s flat. He introduced us to small business owners who helped us eat lunch for far less than the $75 US that was the norm in the tourist areas. (And the Morrocan hood had better food too.)
He told us his friends jokingly named him “Cappuccino” for his propensity to chat over coffee. In short, we connected and learned lots about not just the logistics of our different lives, but what each of us thought. And, he wouldn’t even let us buy him a meal, not once. Even after several meals together.
Turns out he has been in several films I have seen, my favorite being the Sum of All Fears in which he played an evil Arab. (He said typecasting was here to stay.) In reality he was comically not evil, thus I knew he was a brilliant actor.
Later in the trip we met Keiran and Roshin, a brother and sister from London who explained how best to get service in a pub. (At the bar? Or does the wait staff come to the table?)
The two of them promptly moved to our table, and we had dinner together. They were determined to let us know everything we needed to know about their city and country. Eventually we ended up at another far more active pub, what I’d call a full-on bar, complete with trolling by both sexes. Later, at a table in the basement of a building older than my long gone grandfather, we sat with young Britons who were delightfully engaging.
We found that the shopkeepers, bus drivers, pub owners, Tube riders, people on the street, … EVERYONE was fabulous. We even went to an incredibly old church near Stonehenge, and the priest, seeing I had no hymnal, walked over to me to share his. They had a copy of the Magna Carta in this place, guarded by a volunteer elderly gentleman armed with a name badge. He begged us to stay and talk more.
England, you are brilliant. I hope we host visitors so well!