I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to Mayfair.

I finally made it to London earlier this month, tagged along on one of my partner’s business trips. Nine days of walking the streets, getting a feel for the city, soaking up the culture, the sights. I walked from South Kensington to Soho. Islington to Shoreditch. Central to Belgravia. Mayfair to Maide Vale. I walked so much that one evening my knees buckled and I had to stop at the Savoy for a Grey Goose martini. OK, three.

English friends warned me: London is terribly expensive and gloomy.

American friends warned me: It’s a low-rise more expensive New York with ugly people.

All I could think was, “Miss Piggy in The Great Muppet Caper!!!”

By the time I arrived on a BA flight form Hong Kong at four thirty in the morning, I was expecting “City of the Walking Dead” or surly, disheveled Oompa Loompas in Burberry trenches. Our room wasn’t ready when we got to the hotel so we walked down Piccadilly. Let me tell you, it was “City of the Walking Dead“.

The tube station had just opened and people who had stayed out all night were staggering back to the metro. I saw one girl slump down near a guardrail and vomit, a guy smash a bottle on the street, and a man fast asleep on the sidewalk in a sleeping bag. We walked back to the hotel. This is London?

After a hearty breakfast, we stepped out again and walked through Green Park, the fall leaves cracking under our feet. The sunrise had brought out the runners, baby strollers and jet lagged tourists whose rooms were also not ready. We passed Buckingham Palace, walked through St. James’s Park and watched the beginning of the Armistice Day commemoration. This was more like it.

Over the coming days there were reunions with old friends: the girl who saved me from drowning in Palau Tioman, Malaysia and her family; my partner’s former work colleagues who got married and now have a family; a surprise Tokyo reunion of friends who had also lived in (endured) Japan.

I met a new friend too, well new friend of sorts. She had worked for the company that helped my partner and I move from New York to Tokyo seven years ago. And while I’d never actually met her, we had stayed in touch over the years via email and facebook. Strange how you can feel you’ve been friends with someone for over seven years without having met them in person.

And while it was all very very, most of my time was spent alone. I visited the Tate Modern, the National Gallery and Harrods. Read the FT while dining at several Indian and Lebanese restaurants. Walked up and down Marylbone High Street, popped into this great bookstore, Daunt Books, where I picked up Diane Keaton’s recently published memoir. Strolled along South Audley Street, passed the US Embassy and some very stately homes and embassies.

People warned me that Londoners could be rude. I didn’t find that. Well once, this crusty old white guy tending bar at a pub in Notting Hill. People warned me that London was gloomy and wet in the fall. While it’s true that during the colder months the sun just hovers above the horizon and never really rises, the light it shines makes the city mysterious and romantic.

I knew London was multicultural but was amazed at just how multicultural it was. Half the people were not white. Me and my multicultural “what the hell is he?” face fit right in. I knew London had a lot of wealthy Saudi and Russian people, but again, was amazed at just how much money they had. These people aren’t old money tasteful rich, they’re new money showy rich, pretentious posers in Prada and Pucci.

On my final evening just before heading out to the airport for a late night flight back home, I had a martini at the Palm Court Lounge. Nine days had flown by so quickly. Our room at the Park Lane was big enough to feel like I had been staying in a small apartment. I didn’t want to leave. London was beginning to feel like home.

I’d come here to check it out, see if it could be our new home. I’d arrived with few expectations other than to see Miss Piggy climbing a wall and riding a motorcycle. Now I was convinced this should be our next move. Possibly.

On the taxi ride back to our flat in Hong Kong, I was stunned again by the audacity of this city. Skyscrapers rising above hills, mountains rising above skyscrapers, the harbor threatening to wash it all away. The ferries, barges and bridges linking everything together however tenuous. The beautiful chaos. Maybe I’m not ready to leave just yet.

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